“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB)
I’m ecstatic that I recently purchased a set of books, a 10 volume theological dictionary just of the New Testament. And of course I want to pursue a current study trend of mine, repentance. The dictionary begins with the difference between repentance and remorse. But then spends page after page on repentance, both in the Old Testament and in the New. I’m loving this. But I’m also challenged by what I find.
Back in school I began the pursuit of a theory that all of Scripture was God helping His human creatures understand the definition of death. I believed that He was doing this so we could choose between life and death. Therefore, all of the Hebrew Scriptures would have this theme, and all of the Christian Scriptures would have this theme. See, we do dumb stuff when we’re young, we all do.
My attempt at simplification of Scripture has fallen on deaf ears and hard times. Much of Scripture simply refuses to conform to this theory. Undeterred, I press on in my study of Scripture with this theory in the back of my mind. I have found that life and death mean something different for God than they do for His human creatures. We think of it in biological terms (brain activity, respiration, growth, etc.). I believe God thinks of life and death in purely relational terms. So for us it’s only accidentally biological. The cessation of those biological functions signals the end of a set of relationships.
Anyway, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong, I find that this theory encroaches on my other studies, like repentance. In a sense, I’m beginning to see repentance as that process in our lives that reverses the decisions and repercussions made in the Garden of Eden. Repentance is becoming for me the choosing of the other tree.
In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is setting before the people a ceremony they are to conduct once they enter the land. The people are to stand on two mountains, write the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy on stones, and shout across the valley to each other reciting them. As Moses wraps up his instructions, he finishes with the words, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and the curse.”
In the typical Hebrew “parallel” literary construction, blessing = life and curse = death. Not hard to understand at all. But then we read further. Life is further defined as 1) loving God, 2) obeying God, and 3) holding fast to God. In other words, life is relational. And specifically, life is relationship with God. To be in relationship with God is being alive, and not being in relationship with God is being dead. Which means many people are biologically alive, but actually dead. I don’t know about you, but that sounds vaguely Christian to me (Ephesians 2:1-10).
So, the idea of repentance, this change of mind to agree with God, now becomes a reversal of that condition lost in the Garden. In the process of “being transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2), we live. The process is the choice of life, to love God, to obey Him, to holding fast to Him (faithfulness). How do we choose? In the choice of relationships, we choose our Master over everyone else. In the choice of time we choose to spend it with Him. In the choice of words, we choose to speak His words.
Our world view will become the world view of its Creator. Our “paradigm” will shift to align with His “paradigm”. It’s not adaptation, it’s realignment. It’s a return to the directions and definitions of where we started. Repentance is a return, but not a 180 turn in behavior. Repentance is a return to the life we were intended to live, and that results in a change in behavior. But it begins in the processes of the mind and the intent of the heart. As Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, and therefore the cross, we are to set our faces toward His throne, and therefore His face.
That was a meandering romp through theological thought. What’s your view through your knothole? Life and death, your thoughts?