Deut. 5:32 ¶ So be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Deut. 5:33 Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
The law of God is being presented a second time to the Israelites. They have wandered in the wilderness for forty years and it is time to cross over the Jordan and seize the land God promised to them, but they are also to understand what it means to be the people of God. There is obedience required by his people. We know that the Israelites were constantly drawn away by the distractions of foreign gods. Even in the wilderness, as God provided for them, they were known to look off into the distance and wish they had a different set of circumstances. God wanted them to understand that they were not to wander off into the direction of other people or other gods. This would lead them to destruction. Instead they were to follow God's decrees and commands and not turn away from them. If the people of God would do this, then they would prosper and live good and full days in the promised land.
Driving home in the dark on an Ohio back-road, the last thing you want to run into is a detour. Sometimes you have to back-up and regroup, or you just strike out trying another direction. The GPS is constantly telling you to "make a U-Turn," or "rerouting." You ignore the voice and you keep driving in a direction that you think will eventually take you home but in the meantime you may be in uncharted territory. If you're too close to the Ohio river, the hills and cliffs on either side of the bank block out the GPS signal and you are literally left driving blindly until eventually a new signal is acquired. However, by that time you might find yourself miles from your intended route.
Years ago Dr. Phineas Bresee said, "Nothing to the left, nothing to the right, straight ahead; Jesus only!" We are not supposed to get off the main path of life and stuck in the detours but somehow there are times when we seem to be attracted to the "stuff" out there and so we decide to take just a little side-trip that we think will really not make much of a difference. Sadly, I have seen the side-trip become the whole journey for many friends. They thought they were just taking one little journey in another direction and they'd be back but somewhere along the line they lost the signal and they couldn't find their way back and their life journey has been filled with ups and downs. Not only has it been filled with ups and downs but with pain and great sadness. So often these detours have to do with compromise when it comes to relationships. We marry someone because we want to -- we know they are not a follower of God, but they're just slightly off the path and somehow we think we'll just be there a little while until we can bring them onto the road with us. In the meantime they take us on a journey -- sometimes to the very gates of hell -- and we wonder how in the world we got there!
God was not being unkind when he commanded the people to not turn aside to the right or to the left. He knew the consequences of turning would be painful and detrimental to them. He knows that the detours of life will be painful for us. God loves us enough that he says don't compromise. The reality is that when we follow God; when we live by his plan, the likelihood is that we will live longer and prosper. Statistics show this to be a reality! Regular Church attendance is associated with longer life. Married couples are much stronger financially than single parents or divorced individuals. You see -- God knows what works and he loves and cares for each and every single one of his children that he gives us direction by telling us to keep on the right road! There are consequences for turning left and right. Maybe it's time that we ask God to lead us on a daily basis and that we refuse to follow the voices of the world calling out to us to turn off the path. And if we've taken that detour -- why not acquire the signal right now and return to the intended route. No detours -- I'm going with God!
Lord, please help me not to be tempted by anything that could distract me from the goal -- for you are the goal! Amen.