God Promises Us True Life – If We do the Hard Work of Following Him (Lenten Scriptural Commentary # 2)
by Erik Ritland
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
In today’s readings, Moses emphasizes the importance of following the rules that God Himself has revealed, the Psalm promises that those who do good will prosper, and Jesus predicts His death.
Readings: Dt 30:15-20/Lk 9:22-25
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
We don’t usually equate rules with freedom, but if they’re given by God, the rules will only help us prosper.
Even this early in Lent, we are reminded of the reason why we celebrate the season: to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus’ suffering and death is as scandalous today as it was when it first happened. We’re as shocked by it as the disciples must have been.
Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish.
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
(cf. Dt 30: 15-20)
We all know the story of the Exodus, how God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt. This story is a foreshadowing of Christ. Just as God delivered the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians, so Christ delivers us from slavery to sin.
Similarly, this speech was given to the Israelites, but it is equally applicable to all of us today. We have the choice to either obey his commandments and walk in his ways, which will lead to truly being alive, or to reject Him, which will lead to death.
This doesn’t simply mean our ultimate death, but little deaths every day when we don’t live the good life that God wants us to live.
If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
(cf. Lk 9: 22-25)
Following Jesus doesn’t simply mean “letting Him into your heart” via a simple prayer or lip service. It means actually following Him, as this verse makes clear.
The reading from Deuteronomy promises that we’ll be blessed if we follow God’s commandments and walk in His ways. This reading makes it clear that this doesn’t mean worldly blessings, but a profound peace of mind that God gives even when we are dealing with our daily crosses.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
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Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.