Lessons for Today from the Old Testament: Choices
Every day and even every hour we are faced with making decisions. Some are routine and are just a part of our normal life. These are programmed into our being by past experiences and by learned behaviour. Every now and then however, something out of the ordinary seems to pop its head out and suddenly we are faced with a decision that is different and might have an important impact on our lives.
In reading the Old Testament we find that often important decisions led to either good or bad outcomes. In taking a closer look at some of the bad choices that were made, we find that they always led to a situation that was not good to say the least, and often even disastrous. The trouble with bad choices is that in retrospect, it is easy to see what they were, but at the time they may have even seemed right. Why then do people often make poor decisions? That is the important question!
Just two examples will help to perhaps answer this important question. Think of Lot and Abraham. The account is found in chapters 13-19 of Genesis and as these two family members grow their farming businesses it becomes obvious that they need to make and important choice. Abraham generously offers Lot the choice of where to locate. Either stay in the desert country of the Negev or move into the fertile plains where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are found. Lot considers the options and makes his choice, one that is going to have devastating effects to him and his family. It would at first seem to be a good decision but it soon proves to be anything but.
The whole story is not told but after some time Lot finds himself in a terrible situation. Visitors arrive at his door and the men of Sodom demand that he hand them over to be raped. He then offers them his daughters in the visitors place. At this time the future of the city is sealed and he is warned to take his family and flee, which he does. As they leave they are warned not to look back but Lot’s wife makes the fatal decision to avoid the warning and so loses her life. As we evaluate the situation several interesting points jump out at us.
Firstly, a seemingly good choice may not have the good outcome that was sought. Secondly, it is obvious that one bad decision can easily lead to another. Sin has that habit of compounding its effects and after a while takes control. The alcoholic is a good example of this. The only way to beat this disease is to avoid the first drink. The man or woman who becomes too friendly with a fellow worker can easily be tempted into being unfaithful to their spouse. The young person who takes his parents car for an “innocent spin” can end up in jail after hitting a bystander. And so the daily newspapers record the stories of events that unfolded. Often it was simply bad decisions that eventually lead to devastating results.
Another good example from the Old Testament is that of David. In 2 Samuel 11:1 we read the beginning of the story: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.” (NIV translation –used with permission) David however, stays at home and one evening when he cannot sleep he takes an evening stroll on the palace rooftop and sees the beautiful Bathsheba taking a bath. One thing leads to another and eventually David murders Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to try to cover up his sin. The long term results of this lust that turned into serious sin is a warning for all to avoid what John calls the “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does....” (1 John 2:16).
The examples of good and bad choices fill the pages of the Old Testament and continue into the New Testament.
Some lessons about choices:
Firstly as we look at the many examples that we can find in the Old Testament, we are reminded that everyone is given a free will by God. It was so with Adam and Eve and it is so with us.
Secondly we need to realize that good choices always lead to good outcomes and bad choices result in bad and often even devastating results.
Thirdly we need to see that sin is lurking at the door and waiting for opportunities to find a way into our hearts and minds and lives.
Finally we need to know that God’s voice calls us to always do the right thing. Often it goes against the way the world behaves and acts. At the same time good choices at every level produces good outcomes.
Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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Johan Smulders (author) from East London, South Africa on October 10, 2020:
Thanks Eric I appreciate your comment.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 09, 2020:
I like this a lot. Thanks for laying it out so well.