‘Choose Life to Keep Alive’
“I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive.”—DEUTERONOMY 30:19.
1, 2. In what ways was man created in God’s image?
“LET us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” That divine statement is recorded in the first chapter of the Bible. Accordingly, “God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him,” reports Genesis 1:26, 27. Thus the first human differed from all other creations on earth. He resembled his Creator, able to reflect a godlike attitude in reasoning, in demonstrating love, justice, wisdom, and power. He had the faculty of conscience to help him reach decisions that would benefit himself and please his heavenly Parent. (Romans 2:15) In short, Adam had free will. Observing the makeup of his earthly son, Jehovah made this assessment of his handiwork: “Look! it [is] very good.”—Genesis 1:31; Psalm 95:6.
2 As Adam’s descendants, we too are in God’s image and likeness. However, do we really have a choice in what we do? Although Jehovah has the ability to know in advance what will happen, he does not predetermine our individual actions and destiny. He never allows his earthly children to be ruled by predestination. To help us grasp the importance of exercising our free will to make right choices, let us first of all learn a lesson from the nation of Israel.—Romans 15:4.
Freedom of Choice in Israel
3. What was the first of the Ten Commandments, and how did faithful Israelites choose to obey it?
3 “I am Jehovah your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves,” said Jehovah to the Israelites. (Deuteronomy 5:6) In 1513 B.C.E., the nation of Israel experienced a miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage and therefore had no reason to doubt those words. In the first of the Ten Commandments, Jehovah through his spokesman Moses declared: “You must not have any other gods against my face.” (Exodus 20:1, 3) On that occasion, the nation of Israel chose to obey. They willingly gave Jehovah their exclusive devotion.—Exodus 20:5; Numbers 25:11.
4. (a) What choice did Moses place before Israel? (b) What choice do we have today?
4 Some 40 years later, Moses forcefully reminded another generation of Israelites of the choice before them. “I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today,” he declared, “that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Similarly today, we can choose. Yes, we can make a choice to serve Jehovah faithfully with everlasting life in view, or we can choose to disobey him and suffer the consequences. Consider two examples of people who made contrasting choices.
5, 6. What choice did Joshua make, and with what outcome?
5 In 1473 B.C.E., Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. In a powerful exhortation uttered before his death, Joshua entreated the whole nation: “Now if it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods that your forefathers who were on the other side of the River served or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are dwelling.” Then, referring to his family, he continued: “As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Joshua 24:15.
6 Earlier, Jehovah had urged Joshua to be courageous and strong, instructing him not to deviate from obedience to God’s Law. Rather, by reading the book of the Law in an undertone day and night, Joshua would be able to make his way successful. (Joshua 1:7, 8) And so it proved to be. Joshua’s choice led to blessings. “Not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made to the house of Israel,” Joshua declared. “It all came true.”—Joshua 21:45.
7. In Isaiah’s day, what choice did some Israelites make, and with what consequences?
7 In contrast, consider the situation in Israel some 700 years later. By that time, many Israelites were following pagan customs. For example, on the last day of the year, people gathered around a table spread with a variety of tasty foods and sweet wine. This was no simple family get-together. It was a religious ceremony that honored two pagan deities. The prophet Isaiah recorded God’s view of this unfaithfulness: “You men are those leaving Jehovah, those forgetting my holy mountain, those setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck and those filling up mixed wine for the god of Destiny.” They believed that the year’s harvest depended, not on having Jehovah’s blessing, but on appeasing “the god of Good Luck” and “the god of Destiny.” In reality, though, their rebellious course and willful choice sealed their destiny. “I will destine you men to the sword,” Jehovah declared, “and you will all of you bow down to being slaughtered; for the reason that I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not listen; and you kept doing what was bad in my eyes, and the thing in which I took no delight you chose.” (Isaiah 65:11, 12) Their unwise choice brought destruction upon them, and the gods of Destiny and Good Luck were powerless to prevent it.
Making the Right Choice
8. According to Deuteronomy 30:20, what is involved in making the right choice?
8 When Moses exhorted Israel to choose life, he pointed out three steps that they should take: “By loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:20) Let us examine each of these so that we may make the right choice.
9. How can we demonstrate our love for Jehovah?
9 By loving Jehovah our God: We choose to serve Jehovah because we love him. Heeding the warning examples from Israel’s day, we resist all temptations to commit immorality and we shun lifestyles that may cause us to sink into the world’s morass of materialism. (1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Timothy 6:6-10) We cleave to Jehovah and keep his regulations. (Joshua 23:8; Psalm 119:5, 8) Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses exhorted them: “See, I have taught you regulations and judicial decisions, just as Jehovah my God has commanded me, for you to do that way in the midst of the land to which you are going to take possession of it. And you must keep and do them, because this is wisdom on your part and understanding on your part before the eyes of the peoples who will hear of all these regulations.” (Deuteronomy 4:5, 6) Now is the time to demonstrate our love for Jehovah by putting Jehovah’s will first in our life. We will surely be blessed if we choose to do so.—Matthew 6:33.
10-12. What lessons do we learn from considering what happened in the days of Noah?
10 By listening to God’s voice: Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) Virtually all the people of the pre-Flood world were distracted and “took no note” of Noah’s warnings. The consequence? “The flood came and swept them all away.” Jesus warned that our day, during “the presence of the Son of man,” would be similar. What happened in Noah’s day serves as a stark warning for people today who choose not to heed God’s message.—Matthew 24:39.
11 Those who ridicule the divine warnings sounded by God’s modern-day servants should realize what failure to heed the warnings will mean. Of such ridiculers, the apostle Peter stated: “According to their wish, this fact escapes their notice, that there were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God; and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water. But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”—2 Peter 3:3-7.
12 Contrast this with the choice Noah and his household made. “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld, showed godly fear and constructed an ark.” His heeding the warning brought salvation to his household. (Hebrews 11:7) May we prove to be swift about hearing God’s message and then obediently heed it.—James 1:19, 22-25.
13, 14. (a) Why is ‘sticking to Jehovah’ vital? (b) How should we allow Jehovah, “our Potter,” to mold us?
13 By sticking to Jehovah: To ‘choose life and keep alive,’ not only must we love Jehovah and listen to him but we must also ‘stick to Jehovah,’ that is, persist in doing his will. “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls,” said Jesus. (Luke 21:19) Actually, the choice we make in this regard reveals what is in our heart. “Happy is the man that is feeling dread constantly, but he that is hardening his heart will fall into calamity,” observes Proverbs 28:14. Pharaoh of ancient Egypt was an example of this. As each of the Ten Plagues befell Egypt, Pharaoh hardened his heart rather than displayed godly fear. Jehovah did not force Pharaoh into a course of disobedience but allowed that proud ruler to choose. In any case, Jehovah’s will was accomplished, as the apostle Paul explained regarding Jehovah’s view of Pharaoh: “For this very cause I have let you remain, that in connection with you I may show my power, and that my name may be declared in all the earth.”—Romans 9:17.
14 Centuries after Israel’s deliverance from Pharaoh’s control, the prophet Isaiah declared: “O Jehovah, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are our Potter; and all of us are the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) As we allow Jehovah to mold us through our personal study and application of his Word, we gradually put on the new personality. We become more meek and malleable, making it easier for us to stick loyally to Jehovah because we sincerely want to please him.—Ephesians 4:23, 24; Colossians 3:8-10.
“You Must Make Them Known”
15. According to Deuteronomy 4:9, Moses reminded Israel of what twofold responsibility?
15 To the assembled nation of Israel poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses said: “Only watch out for yourself and take good care of your soul, that you may not forget the things that your eyes have seen and that they may not depart from your heart all the days of your life; and you must make them known to your sons and to your grandsons.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) In order to have Jehovah’s blessing and prosper in the land they were about to inherit, the people had to fulfill a twofold responsibility before Jehovah their God. They were not to forget the marvelous things Jehovah had performed before their eyes, and they were to teach them to future generations. As God’s people today, we must do the same if we want to ‘choose life and keep alive.’ What have we seen with our eyes that Jehovah has performed in our behalf?
16, 17. (a) What have Gilead-trained missionaries been able to accomplish in the Kingdom-preaching work? (b) What examples of undiminished zeal do you know?
16 We are thrilled to see how Jehovah has blessed our preaching and disciple-making work. Since the opening of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in 1943, missionaries have spearheaded the disciple-making work in many lands. To this day, early graduates of this school maintain a zeal for Kingdom preaching, even though they are advanced in years and some are hampered by physical limitations. One fine example is Mary Olson, who graduated from Gilead in 1944. She has served as a missionary first in Uruguay, then in Colombia, and now in Puerto Rico. Although somewhat restricted by physical problems brought on by old age, Sister Olson maintains her enthusiasm for preaching. Putting her knowledge of the Spanish language to use, she schedules time each week to join local publishers in the field ministry.
17 Now widowed, Nancy Porter, who graduated from Gilead School in 1947, still serves in the Bahamas. She is another missionary who keeps busy in the preaching work. “Teaching others Bible truth has been a special source of joy,” reports Sister Porter in her life story.a “It provides an orderly spiritual routine that has given structure and stability to my life.” When Sister Porter and other faithful servants look back, they do not forget what Jehovah has done. What about us? Do we look appreciatively at the way Jehovah has blessed the Kingdom work in our neighborhood?—Psalm 68:11.
18. What can we learn from reading the life stories of missionaries?
18 We rejoice in what these old-timers have accomplished and still accomplish. Reading their life stories is a source of encouragement to us because when we see what Jehovah has done for these faithful ones, it strengthens our determination to serve Jehovah. Do you regularly read such thrilling accounts published in The Watchtower and meditate on them?
19. How can Christian parents make good use of the life stories recorded in The Watchtower?
19 Moses reminded the Israelites that they were not to forget all the things Jehovah had done for them and that these things should not depart from their heart all the days of their life. He then added a further step: “You must make them known to your sons and to your grandsons.” (Deuteronomy 4:9) True stories have a special appeal. Youngsters growing up need good examples. Single sisters can learn lessons from the faithful example of older sisters whose life stories are related in The Watchtower. Service in a foreign-language territory in their home country offers both brothers and sisters expanded opportunities to be busy in preaching the good news. Christian parents, why not use the experiences of faithful Gilead missionaries and others to provide an incentive for your children to choose a life of full-time service?
20. What must we do to “choose life”?
20 How, then, can each of us “choose life”? By using the wonderful gift of free will to show Jehovah that we love him and by continuing to do our best in his service as long as he allows us that privilege. “For,” as Moses declared, Jehovah “is your life and the length of your days.”—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
a See “Joyous and Thankful Despite Heartbreaking Loss,” published in The Watchtower of June 1, 2001, pages 23-7.
Can You Recall?
• What have you learned from the examples of contrasting choices we have considered?
• What steps must we take in order to “choose life”?
• What twofold responsibility are we urged to fulfill?
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“I have put life and death before you”
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Listening to God’s voice brought salvation to Noah and his family
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