“Look here! Today I’ve set before you life and what’s good versus death and what’s wrong.
If you obey the Lord your God’s commandments that I’m commanding you right now
by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments,
his regulations, and his case laws, then you will live and thrive,
and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”
Deuteronomy 30:15, 16 (Common English Bible)
The beaches of Palm Beach County are some of the most densely nested by sea turtles in the United States. Sea turtles can be found in our waters year round, but in the spring and summer, large numbers of adults populate our beaches for laying eggs. Nesting generally begins in early March, usually leatherback turtles, with loggerheads arriving in significant numbers in May. Nesting continues into August and early September with hatchings of small sea turtles continuing through late October.
This is a familiar ritual for south Florida residents and tourist to our area. The female sea turtle crawls ashore during the cover of night to dig a nest, deposit her eggs, cover the nest and return to the water. It is this time that the female is out of the water that she is timid and vulnerable and can easily be frighten if disturbed causing her to abort the nesting process. One to three hours is required to lay approximately 110 ping pong ball-sized eggs. Trained staff and volunteers monitor our beaches each morning during sea turtle nesting season, identifying the nests and marking their location with yellow tape. Florida law protects the sea turtle – touching and disturbing nesting sea turtles is not permitted, including their hatchlings, and their nest.
The laws that protect sea turtles exist for one reason – to preserve life. Many varieties of sea turtles are endangered. Demand for sea turtle meat, eggs, as well as loss of habitat, commercial fishing, and pollution of the seas have contributed to their decline. Artificial lighting along our beaches is also a contributing factor. When babies emerge from the eggs they instinctively move in the brightest direction. Nature provides the moonlight to call the baby turtles out to sea where they live their entire life. When artificial lighting along the beach is brighter than the moon, the sea turtles are drawn onto road surfaces where they are killed by cars.
In this teaching from Deuteronomy we learn the one reason for God’s laws – to preserve our life. The most common assumption that is made is that disobedience to God’s laws results in God’s anger and punishment. That is not true. Simply, God’s laws are to us what the moonlight is to baby turtles: God knows which direction results in life and which direction results in death. God’s laws call us to live in such a way that the natural result is life. Ignoring these laws results in a natural consequence similar to what can happen when baby turtles go in the wrong direction and enter a busy road. Freedom to choose our direction in life is a gift from God. Yet, that doesn’t stop God from whispering in our ears, choose life.