“I am offering you life or death . . . choose life then . . .”
Put in so many words, who wouldn’t choose life?
Why was it necessary for Moses to warn the Israelites (and us) not to be “drawn into worshiping other gods”? Why would they have wanted to?
There were really no atheists back then. Everybody was religious. Religion was a way of coping with the insecurities and uncertainties of everyday life. It provided rituals and rules that gave the worshiper assurance that he/she was doing everything possible to curry God’s favor – charms, amulets, incantations, statues, sacrifices – you name it. They might not work, but at least you had done what you could. Moses says “The Lord wants none of that!” “Choose life, then, so that you . . . may live in the love of Yahweh your God, obeying his laws, holding fast to him; for in this your life consists . . .”
“In this your life consists” – “holding fast to him”.
False gods for us are of two sorts: the first are such things as money, power, and esteem. It is not hard to see how these can get between us and holding fast to God. The second sort is much more insidious. It is often religion itself. We worship a God that too often we create in our own image. We figure we know God’s mind and will – what God wants. It is a source of tremendous security for us, just as the rituals of false gods were a tempting source of security for the Israelites.
At Sinai God says “you can’t manipulate me – no images, please – no rituals to get me to pay attention to your needs and wants. I know your needs and wants. I chose you. I care for you. There is nothing you can do to make me care more. But you must trust me – hold fast to me. If you seek your security anywhere else, you won’t find it. Life consists of holding fast to me.”
Incidentally, that is the message of today’s Gospel, as well.
“Holding fast” to God seems like losing one’s life. But it is not. It is
the only way really to live.
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