Reading Deuteronomy 28 can evoke a duality of feelings. The chapter has 68 verses, the first 14 verses talk about the blessings that God would shower on Israel for obedience towards Him and the rest of the chapter, verses 15-68 lay out curses for disobedience and reading that can sometimes truly feel overwhelming.
In this chapter Moses exhorted the nation of Israel with a choice. If they fully obey the Lord, they would abound in blessings in their home, in their field, in all their undertakings and He will exhort them above every nation and make His name known through them.
A question that often arises reading such text is whether these blessings and curses apply to us today considering that we are in a new covenant with Christ. I am not going to be getting into that today. But I do believe in the consequence of living either honouring God or otherwise and I just want us to look at this passage from that perspective.
I do like the fact that in the chapter, the blessings are laid out first. That is what God wants for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
He wants to shower those blessings on us. That is His heart’s desire and He rejoices in it.
Jeremiah 42:31 “I will rejoice in doing them good.”
God’s blessings do not mean an abundance of possessions. We would falter to restrict His blessings in terms of monetary abundance. In Mathew 5, scripture lays out those who are called blessed as the ones who exalt God and hold within them characteristics that are reflective of Him. Blessed are the humble, pure, merciful and meek, not the rich and famous. Wealth is indeed a blessing but it does not comprise the entirety of God’s blessings. We as Christians have received the greatest blessing, Jesus Christ himself.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)
The stipulation ‘if’ in verse 1 clearly takes a pivotal role in receiving those blessings. Again, the choice was in Israel hands, followed by the words ‘Obey Fully’.
For us: The choice is our too, to choose Him as our Lord and saviour, to walk in obedience to Him and grow in our faith and live a life of Christhood.
Obey Fully – Like Israel were to fully obey the Lord, we cannot obey the Lord in certain areas and give into our sinful desires in other area. Each of us will have areas that we have weaknesses and those are the areas that can be stumbling blocks for our growth, areas that allow Satan to get a hook into us leading us towards actions done or words said that will grieve the Father. Those are the areas that we have to especially pray for and put in a little extra to stay strong on Gods path.
I am not going into the details of each of those blessings or curses. But I just want us to focus on the fact that the Lord wants us to live a life of obedience to Him. He does not demand perfection or a life devoid of any mistakes or sins. But He wishes a heart that is devoted to HIM, a life reflective of His grace, mercy and love. A mind steadfast on His words and His ways, to see Him being pre-eminent in our lives, being fully committed to Him and giving Him the glory.
Our God is a loving father, so to read those verses detailing the curses as a consequence of disobedience can feel a little harsh. How are these terrible realities consistent with the love of God?
Our God is loving but He is also holy and just. His ways are right and true.
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
He is a just God; he cannot overlook wrong and does not shrink away from the punishment of sin.
We cannot just choose the reality of the blessing and at the same time shy away from the truth that there will be consequences for the choices we make.
I must admit to always reading the curses part of this chapter quite swiftly and never dwelling on it too much. But this time as I read it, I did not look at those verses with a less than favourable lens but instead it reminded me that God’s favour on us protects us from so much. Without the Lord’s grace, mercy and protection, we have absolutely nothing that stands between misery and us. God is our shield. We can take that for granted sometimes.
Let me reiterate again that the curses are detailed out in 54 out of those 68 verses in contrast to the 14 verses of blessings. Maybe we need to hear the warnings of turning our back on God in greater detail so that it sinks in a little bit more. But instead of looking at God as being harsh if we do not follow His rules, let’s think of His grace, mercy and protection that He lavishly bestows on us because turning our back to Him can make those 54 verses a reality.
Another perspective that I have always taken when reading this passage is to focus only on the blessings and the curses (God’s end of it). Maybe we need to pay more attention to what is tied to those; which is our obedience and disobedience respectively. Taking this perspective helps us be more aware of our actions in response to His love and grace when it comes to living a life that is pleasing to God.
For us: We are not to live, teach or share a watered-down version of the gospel that appeals to our sinful desires or makes us more acceptable with others in the world. Obedience to God in our everyday lives is not something that should be questioned or debated. The extent of our obedience is not to be bartered with or compared to. Obedience to God should be our first reaction, our first response, our default mode. It should not be easily swayed by or affected by the world, our circumstances or our emotions.
This chapter was a reminder of what dwelling under His wings keeps us from. God is serious about His love for us and that is why He sent His son to atone for our sins. Yes, those sins that He being a just and holy God cannot ignore. There has to be an atonement for those sins and Christ Jesus was that for us on the cross.
Let us not treat with any less significance the sacrifice made for us on the cross. That should be our motivation to live a life in obedience to Him, honouring Him. Let this scripture passage be a reminder that the ones who love Him, follow His will and God draws near to them. A blessed life is a life lived honouring and glorifying Him. God hasn’t changed, old or New Testament, He still requires our selfless sacrifice, our obedience and our whole heart. And we recognize that it all comes through His grace and mercy, not because we are amazing.