Blessings or Curses…You Decide

Our reading this morning is from Deuteronomy 30:9-20:

9″ Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; 10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. 11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘ Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. 15 “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 17 “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. 19 ” I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deut. 30:9-20 NASB)

THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
THANKS BE TO GOD

HALLELUJAH

Set at a time when the children of Israel are being prepared to enter their promised land of Canaan, our reading this morning is the summary of what is called “The Covenant of Obedience.” It began in verse one of chapter twenty-seven. In four chapters Moses rehearses before the people, in a variety of ways, the choice before them to obey the Lord and reap all the benefits of doing so, or to not obey the Lord and reap all the consequences of not doing so. American pastor and leadership guru, John Maxwell says, “Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.”

 The words bless, blessed, and blessing are used 12 times in these chapters, while the words curse, curses, and cursed are used 28 times. These are hard chapters to read. They lay out some of the most black and white writing in the whole of scripture. There are no grey areas in these chapters. There is no wiggle room. The blessings are magnificent in every way, but the curses are equally and oppositely magnificent.  One might wonder with the choices before them and the benefits and consequences outlined in such a graphic way, how could they not make the right choice.

Moses is now at the end of this journey and the end of his life. In fact, in the next chapter he gathers the people and says to them “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, ‘ You shall not cross this Jordan.’ ” It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken” (Deut. 31:2-3).

Moses has spent 40 years with this people, Israel, in the desert between Egypt and Canaan, on a journey that could have happened in a matter of days. He has not seen them at their best, because, frankly, the whole wilderness experience has been a cycle of disobedience and correction. Read the book of Exodus and tell me that isn’t so. They seem to repent only when the correction of God is more painful than the pleasure they seem to find in their rebellion.

Despite God’s correction of them, the Book of Deuteronomy is a testament of God’s love for His people, shown in His sovereignty over them. Few biblical books balance such hard-hitting theology with so accessible a literary genre as does Deuteronomy. But as much good preaching does, the preacher, here Moses, shares his heart with those he shepherds, laying a foundation for their future endeavors in Canaan. His words reflect his love for God and God’s people but, more importantly, God’s love for God’s people. Moses wants this new generation to hold fast to those things that will give them success as a nation in the land of their inheritance.

As John Arthur Thompson wrote is his 1974 commentary on Deuteronomy,

“The very considerable interest which the early Christians showed in the book of Deuteronomy provides some measure of its significance as a book of devotion and inspiration and a source of guidance for life. The sympathetic reader cannot fail to be challenged by the persistent demands throughout the book that he should acknowledge the complete and sole sovereignty of God in his life. Nor can he fail to be touched by the noble concept of God that underlies the whole book. Even though the great principles of Deuteronomy are expressed in terms which are at times strange to us in the twentieth century AD, we may grasp the principles and give them a present application. The results will be startling. Let the twentieth century man place himself under the sovereignty of God in every area of his life and he will have begun to understand the import of the book of Deuteronomy.”

The twenty-first century man would do well to grasp the principles in Deuteronomy and apply them as well. Let’s go back to our reading and glean what we can and see if we really can apply these principles to our twenty-first century Christian walk.

The first principle we see is that God wants to bless His people. We see that God wants to prosper us abundantly in all the work of our hands, in the offspring of our bodies and in the offspring of our cattle and in the produce of our ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over us for good, just as He rejoiced over our fathers.

In other words, God wants to bless your handiwork, whether that be a job outside the home, or the keeping of the home itself. Whether you are changing tires at the local auto shop, or changing diapers at home, God wants to prosper you. Whatever you do to make your house a home and keep your house a home, God wants to bless it.

God wants to prosper you in your children, the offspring of your bodies. That doesn’t mean just numbers. He wants to bless in quality, not just quantity. Any male and female of a certain age can produce children. That’s the easy part. He wants to bless the family unit with a quality of life that only comes when Christ is the center of that family. He wants to bless the family unit that consists of a husband and wife who are committed to love one another in a covenant with God and covenant with each other to love and raise their children in the reverential fear and admonition of the Lord.

Not all of us are cattle ranchers or farmers. So, for the rest of us, what might God be saying when He wants to prosper us abundantly in the offspring of our cattle and in the produce of our ground? I see this as increase in whatever avenues or interests we set our hearts and hands to. Psalm 1 says that the blessed person is like a tree that brings forth fruit in his season and his leaf does not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper. This is what God wants for us.

Many Christians want to stop reading Deuteronomy right there. And many preachers would gladly stop preaching right there as well. But because God is not finished, I’m not finished either. I must give the whole counsel of God. Just like the town crier whose duty it is to sound forth the news as directed, I must not hold back what some might say is legalistic, Old Testament rhetoric that has no relevance for today. Well, even though we are not under the ceremonial or civic laws of the Old Testament, the moral laws still apply and we can expand our definition of the book of the law to include what is said by Jesus and the apostolic writings of the New Testament. 

So, what does God say? After listing these beautiful blessings which He desires to bless us with, verses 10-14 add,

“10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.” “11 For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘ Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”

In other words, “Quit your whining. You know what to do, now do it!” Postmodern Christendom in America at times rivals the wandering Israelites in the amount of complaining and sense of entitlement that comes from some of its pews and is reinforced from some of its pulpits. “God, why should anything be required of us? You love us, right? And besides, we are Americans!”

God would say, “Yes, that’s right, I do love you. And you can thank Me that you are Americans who are still free to make choices, for “15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it” (vv. 15-16).

“But God, have you not read our constitution and how we honored You?”  “17 But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it” (vv17-18)

“But God, the Church is the ‘New Israel.’ Certainly, that lets us off the hook, right?” Huh? “19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them” (vv19-20).

Amen

Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: