16 “This day the LORD your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
17 “Today you have proclaimed the LORD to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice.
18 “Also today the LORD has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments,
19 “and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.”
We are a people who love to commemorate things. We have holidays to honor our laborers, our mothers and fathers, our sweethearts, and even days to honor famous heroes from our country’s past. On a personal level, we mark birthdays and anniversaries, and perhaps even note down the dates of our conversion, communion, baptism, or anointing into God’s service. For veterans and their families, the US holiday called Veterans Day is especially poignant, but few remember why it falls on November 11th.
Nearly a century ago, nearly all of Europe was at war. What started as a border war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia quickly escalated into a huge war of aggression that involved all of Europe and even America. Finally, Germany and its allies were defeated and the war ended as the major powers signed an armistice at the palace of Versailles near Paris on November 11, 1918. By tradition, for many years after that, cities in Europe and America would ring their church bells at 11 AM on November 11th every year–on “Armistice Day.” People started calling that conflict “The War to End All Wars,” but the next generation would see that name was but a vain hope. Today, even though it seems we may never be without war, we continue to honor the veterans of our armed services for the sacrifices they make.
Near the end of Moses’ life, just as the people of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, the old patriarch literally laid down the law one final time, calling all of Israel into covenant with the Lord their God. We don’t know the exact date of that day when God claimed Israel to be “His special people” (v.18), and it is not celebrated by any feasts or observances. But it is a special day, because it marked a turning point for Israel, a shift from being led to their promised reward to taking an active role in claiming that reward. It was a day when they truly became Israel the nation, the people of God, as opposed to just “the Israelites.” It was a day when they truly knew that they were no longer slaves but free men and women, a people who could choose their destiny and who that day chose to love and serve the Lord their God. Yes, it was a special day indeed. Too bad it didn’t last.
Within a few generations, the people would allow their faith in God to become diluted by paganism and greed, and they would fail to follow the explicit directions of the Lord. The land that God had promised to give them, the enemies that God had sworn to defeat for them, the blessings that God had prepared to rain down on them–all that would be lost, and the people of Israel would struggle for generations to wrest the land of Canaan from the grasp of its pagan occupants. Every few generations, a leader would rise up to lead Israel to victory, but eventually, Israel would fall away again. Not until David became king would Israel be united and victorious, and even that peace was short-lived. If the people of Israel had kept the covenant they swore with Moses that special day, then perhaps the armies of Israel might have actually fought a “war to end all wars,” but they were a stiff-necked an rebellious people, and so they continued to struggle for that which could have been theirs for the asking.
We are no better than those ancient Israelites. There was a day nearly two thousand tears ago when a Man was hung on a cross to finish the salvation of all mankind, and on that day all who love the Lord and make Him their God became His sons and daughters. On that day, Satan was overthrown and death was defeated once for all, so that all who believe on Jesus as Savior and Lord can now taste eternal life. Yes, that was a momentous day, a day that ended the war between Satan and God, a day when all humanity should have celebrated the peace that was proclaimed.
And yet, while we honor the day, we do not honor the covenant that was sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We continue to look back to Egypt, to serve the pagan gods of lust, money, envy, sloth, fear, and war. We forget the price that was paid to free us from slavery to sin, and many refuse the Holy Spirit that has now come to those who cleave unto Christ.
But this day could be different. This day could be the day when we truly proclaim the Lord to be our God. This day could be the day when we truly start to follow His statutes, His commandments, and really obey His voice. This day could be the day when, with all our heart and soul and mind, we truly love the Lord our God and become His special people. Through Christ, we have become a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)–part priest, part king, all serving God. This day could be the day when we truly start living up to that title, when we praise the name of the One who called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
This could be that day, but it will mean nothing unless tomorrow is a similar day. It will mean nothing if the next week is not the same as today. In fact, this day is just another day in our lives if we will not tomorrow honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us, if we will not truly live as God’s special people every day. If we simply go back to the old status quo, then the day of Christ’s sacrifice and the day of His resurrection have no meaning at all. It is as if those days had never happened, just like that day the Israelites stood in the land of Moab on the east side of the Jordan to receive the Word of the Lord.
Will today be that special day, that day when we finally and utterly give ourselves to the Lord? Will this day be the one when we become a holy people to the Lord our God? Is this day going to be one to remember and mark on our calendars? Or will this day be just like any other in our lives, a day of mundane work, half-hearted faith, and precious little obedience to the Word of God?
19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;
20 “that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Because Jesus Christ is our life and the length of our days, this day and every day, let us choose life.
Almighty Father, we praise the name of Jesus, who died that we might live. We raise up holy hands and seek Your will and Your Word, turning to You alone as our Savior and our God. This day, Lord God, I give myself to You. Please, forgive my sins and banish all my doubt and rebellion. Lead me only in paths of righteousness. Let my life always, every day, be honoring to You, Lord Jesus. Amen.