The God who Speaks: Life and Death Decisions

The God who Speaks: Life and Death Decisions

By Br Albert Elias Robertson, O.P.Deuteronomy presents the Law as something didactic, that to live in loving relationship with God we must appropriate the Law and pass it on. Br Albert considers how the life and death decision of Israel presents us with a daily choice.

Beginning Lent with Deuteronomy might strike us as slightly odd; beginning with a reading from the end of Israel’s wanderings, some forty years after their passage through the Red Sea, while in the Office of Readings, we have just started to read of the Exodus in a series of edited highlights which will take us to the Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent when we switch to Hebrews. But the words from Deuteronomy we read today should be ones that structures our daily life: ‘…therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days…’ (Deuteronomy, 30:19-20.)

When we hear the words of the Law in Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus sound different to the words of Deuteronomy. They’re the same commands, the same Law, but in Deuteronomy, the focus is on knowing and loving God. In order to know God, to live in an intense and loving relationship with the Lord, the commandments must be kept, the Law must be studied, and it must be passed on to the next generations. The words of Moses’ sermon in Deuteronomy exist in a kind of perpetual present, the word ‘Today’ is used to describe events of past, present and future, so that when we hear Moses speaking in Deuteronomy, it feels almost like you are on the plains of Moab hearing the sermon for yourself.

Lent has come around again, and each of us will have different things which we have given up and taken up, different resolutions, different promises; and while Lent is a privileged time of penance and self-denial, it is also meant to encourage us to live these good resolutions year round, or as one blog post on Dominicana had it: practice makes permanent. Our lives as Christians should be ones where self-denial forms part of the structure of our life, so that we may regain through penance what we have lost by sin. But just as the practice of penance should shape our lives, so should those words of Moses, that call to repentance of Deuteronomy, and so too should we remember that, in the words of Lamentations (3:22-23), ‘the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness.’


The year 2020 has been declared a year to reflect on the importance of the Scriptures in our lives as Christians, coinciding with the 1600 years of the death of St Jerome and the 10th anniversary of Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of the Lord. Here you can find more information about activities coming up in the dioceses of England and Wales.

Br Albert Robertson was recently ordained Deacon, and is completing his theological studies at Blackfriars, Oxford.