Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 30:1-20, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Romans 10:6-10
BY Kara Gause
I used to think of free will as a sort of choose-your-own adventure kind of thing. Remember those books? I always had the sense that maybe the stories would be stronger if the real author were to just choose the best ending for the protagonist, because surely they knew the best outcome and most “adventurous” route to get there.
When I applied that logic to my own life and relationship with God, a game of chess came to mind. If God knows all, including how this whole story ends, and will accomplish His ultimate will in the end, then do my choices really matter? Do I matter? (Incidentally, I don’t recommend pondering these things with the dawn, before that first wave of caffeine hits.)
Applying this flat, and admittedly, flawed logic to Scripture only weakens my relationship with God because there’s no relational aspect to it—and our God is very relational. That’s true today, and it was true when Moses and the Levitical priests were imploring with Israel to obey God and keep His commands. They laid out the blessing of choosing God and the utter destruction of choosing anything apart from Him (Deuteronomy 27–28).
Even in giving the provision of His law, He offered further provision: a way back to Him, should they choose wrongly and suffer the consequential curses of their choices. And should they “come to [their] senses” (Deuteronomy 30:1), returning to God and obeying Him “with all [their] heart and all [their] soul by doing everything” commanded of them, then He will “restore [their] fortunes” and His compassion will find them, no matter how far away they have strayed (vv.2–4).
Which begs the question: If one path resulted in complete blessing and the other utter destruction, what was the point of giving Israel the choice in the first place? Wouldn’t things be better if God just made them do what was right to avoid the curse altogether? In short: no, because that option is not consistent with who God is and who we are as His image bearers (Genesis 1:27). He is relational, and we are created to live in relationship with Him. We get to choose because things like real faith, love, devotion, and obedience cannot be forced; they must be freely given. He chooses us, and He wants us to choose Him back, to love Him in return.
So it was with Israel. The command to follow God’s law wasn’t “too difficult or beyond [their] reach” (Deuteronomy 30:11). They could choose life, not death, for themselves and future generations (vv.19–20). He later promises to give them, and us, a new heart that beats for Him, and His Spirit to help us choose Him over and over again (Ezekiel 36:26–27). He’s the path to righteousness and life (Romans 10:10). When we choose our loving God, that’s when the real adventure begins.