“If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your god will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.” - Deuteronomy 30:16
The many earlier chapters of Deuteronomy contain rules upon rules delivered from Moses to the people as directed to him from God, including, of course, the Ten Commandments. Moses, in this instance, is addressing the Israelites as they approach the Promised Land, recognizing that he will not go there with them. It is one of his final messages – something of a summary directive and thus of obvious importance. In a sense it is the ultimate “If, then” declaration.
We are all familiar with “If, then” statements. Perhaps you can recall “If you eat all of your broccoli, then you can have a cookie.” or “If you all just follow the things I have directed in practice, then this team will win the tournament.” On a grander scale, George Washington, before retreating to Mt. Vernon, voiced a number of recommendations to the fledgling United States, imploring them to be enacted in order to ensure success of democracy.
Should we interpret Moses’ statement in the same way – a guarantee? Maybe there is more to consider. Being “good” (following whatever social rules exist) has been central to maintenance of stability and growth for many varied cultures throughout history and around the world. Maybe God (through Moses) just wants the Israelites to “Be Good” and to follow the compass point of right living incorporated in humankind through creation, knowing well that if they do so that all variety of positive outcomes will naturally follow, including a valued relationship between God and His people. Being bad is destined to bring about in them guilt, dissatisfaction, resultant hate, separation from others – a whole variety of negative consequences that repeatedly and predictably take away from the potential for thoughts and actions of a positive nature, including the nurture of regular interaction with their Lord.
Maybe then all of us this day and on the tomorrows to come should pursue being good for goodness’ sake in the expectation that in doing so we can be liberated from the weight of violating rules, honestly accept the grace of God, and have plenty of time available to try to improve our world as demonstrated in the actions and teachings of Jesus. Pointing our lives in what we inherently know to be the right (“good”) direction, we can, like the Israelites with Moses, move with optimism forward with anticipation that the Promised Land is somewhere out there.