What is the significance of Deuteronomy 30:19?

After establishing the terms of the covenant he was entering into with Israel, the Lord says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

This passage represents the most fundamental motif of the whole Bible: namely, the Lord seeks to enter into a covenantal relationship with people. He lays before them the terms of the covenant, spells out the consequences of keeping and breaking the covenant, and then lets them choose whether to enter into a covenantal relationship with him. He desires Israel, and ultimately all people (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), to “choose life.” But precisely because a covenant of love must be chosen rather than coerced, he also gives people the power to choose to reject his love.

World history functions as a probationary period to determine who will and will not enter into an eternal covenantal relationship of love with the Lord. In the end, there will only be those who say “yes” to God’s invitation and therefore participate in his eternal triune love (heaven), and those who say “no” and thereby choose to eternally separate themselves from the Lord (hell).

In passages such as this one, the point of giving people the choice to either accept or reject the terms of the covenant is to determine whether or not they will participate in the covenant (e.g. Deut. 8:2; Judg. 3:4; 2 Chron. 32:31). But if the outcome of the probation is already foreknown an eternity before he ever creates or calls anyone, there is really no point to the probation. Moreover, since the Lord explicitly tells us he wants all people to “choose life,” there is no explanation as to why he would create people whom he was certain would “choose death.”

If we allow that the future is partly open and known by God as such, and if we concede that to some extent it lies in the power of free agents to decide which possibilities will and will not be actualized, then the purpose for every probation the Lord puts us through becomes clear. Love must be chosen; the outcome of free choices does not exist until the free choice is made; hence the Lord is finding out who will and will not choose love.

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