Moses said “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
As Moses prepares the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land. He makes it clear that the key for things to go well is for them to follow the Lord. He calls on heaven and earth as his witnesses. Which raises the question, “How do heaven and earth bear witness?
We know how people bear witness. They are called to the witness stand in a courtroom. They are asked to swear to tell the truth. Then they are asked a series of questions by both the prosecution and the defense. They bear witness.
There is also the informal witnessing that happens. Something significant happens in our lives and we want to talk about what happened.
That’s how people bear witness but how do heaven and earth bear witness?
Heaven and earth bear witness by never changing. Every day the earth spins on its axis. Every day the sun rises and sets. Every day the moon circles around the earth. Every spring the trees put out their leaves. And, as we all know here in Minnesota, every year, without fail, winter descends upon us.
The sun never gets up in the morning and says, “I don’t want to shine today so I won’t shine.” The moon never says, “I don’t want to orbit the earth today, so I won’t orbit the earth.”
So, heaven and earth bear witness by never changing.
As humans, of course, we are not nearly as consistent. We may start something and stick with it for a week or a month or a year but then we get bored or lazy and we stop. We may start out committed to the Lord as the Israelites were in Moses’ day. They followed the Lord faithfully at first. But soon after they settled in the Promised Land they turned away from the Lord and, as promised, God sent curses upon them.
We may hold back our anger for a while but then let it fly. And in the Lord’s eyes anger is just as bad as murder. We may hold back lust for a while but then it comes creeping back. And in the Lord’s eyes lust is just as bad as adultery. We may keep our word for a while but then break it. We are not nearly as consistent as heaven and earth. When we fail at being consistent heaven and earth bear witness against us.
And it is not just heaven and earth. It is also the law of God which says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39) As dependably as the sun rises and sets every day, have we consistently kept God’s commandments?
The good news is that God, for the sake of Christ, forgives us. And sometimes Scriptures puts that grace and mercy that we have received in Christ in heaven and earth language. Just as heaven and earth can bear witness against us, they can also bear witness for us.
The prophet Jeremiah says in the book of Lamentations, his compassions are new every morning: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23) In Christ, God’s mercies never come to an end they are new every morning.
As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love Psalm 103 tells us:
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12)
Psalm 36:5–8: “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”
In Christ, God gives us to drink from the river of his delights.
Jesus also called on the things of this world to testify to God’s goodness: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7)
So yes, heaven and earth with their unfailing consistency testify against us that we are not very consistent in following the Lord. We can do well for a while but then we falter. But the same heaven and earth that testify against us also testify for us about God’s unlimited goodness and mercy. In Christ Jesus God’s mercy soars higher than the mountains and is new every morning.