Copyright © 2008, American Journal of Biblical
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
Why did God create you? God created us to fellowship with Him, to worship Him, and to share in his love and blessings. If this is the purpose of our being, what, do you suppose, should we be doing with our time, energy and resources? God laid down some guidelines for living a life consistent with our purpose. Before we place faith in Christ it is the written law that exposes our sin; afterwards it is the law fulfilled by the saving act of Christ on the cross and the indwelling Holy Spirit that convicts of sin. We learn and understand the concepts of law from our childhood. Why do people choose to obey the laws of the land? There are really two disparate motivations. First, there is the desire to avoid punishment: an inward, and selfish motivation. Second, there is a desire to treat others justly and with love: an outward and selfless motivation. Why should we choose to obey the laws of God? Both reasons for desire to obey are relevant to this question. God desires that our obedience would come from the heart, from our desire to honor and please Him.
What is the first law, consistent with our creation, that God calls us to observe? We are first to love the Lord (Deut. 6:5; 11:1,12,22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20). If we truly love Him, we will accept Him as Lord and Savior. If we do this, God has promised us eternal, abundant life. (John 10:10).
One argument people use when confronted with the Gospel, and God's requirement for obedience is "I don't want to give up the things I desire." Becoming a Christian is sometimes thought of as accepting an austere lifestyle where one must obey laws that restrict personal freedom. God's plan is quite different. First, obedience to His Spirit changes our desires leaving us free to live the abundant life that is promised, and second, God offers much more. This lesson looks at what God is offering us in return for our faithfulness.
And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth. Deuteronomy 28:1
Consider the following scenario: A massive movement of the earth causes another continent to lift out of the Oceans. The new found land is not under any government, so God's people lay claim to it and populate it, announcing that their trust is in God and that all people in it are free to worship God without persecution from the government or from each other. When other nations try to take the land away from them they attack with their mighty armies and navies and the attackers are defeated soundly by the few faithful who are not even trained for battle. Though the people may not be perfect, God lifts that nation high above any other nation on the face of the earth and protected it to the point that no nation dared attack it on its own soil. Does this sound familiar? Other than the tectonics of earth movement, we have just described the history of the United States of America.
Note that Deuteronomy 28:1 describes a promise of God, a covenant with His people. However, the promise starts with a big "IF". The covenant that God has made with man has always been conditional, a promised that is predicated on man's obedience to Him as the authority in the relationship. However, God is not an autocratic and spiteful God, but rather one who loves us more than we can understand, and his commands are for our good, not for His gain. The primary command to love to the Lord is a call to faith in Him, for we cannot truly love God if we deny Him. We can claim to love God, but our actions will betray us, and reveal our true nature. In the previous chapter, Moses invokes the structure of a ceremony that is to be repeated by the Jews after they have taken the promised land. In it he lists the blessings that come from making choices that are consistent with God's commands. However, it also includes a list of curses, or judgments against, acting on choices that are contrary to God's purpose.
Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.
These verses are to be recited by the leader of the ceremony, and the people are to responsively state, "Amen" at the end of each imperative. By doing so, they are stating agreement on a principle that they will need continual reminding. This command relates to the first two commandments that refer to the appropriate way to revere God. We have little disagreement that God forbids the creation of idols, objects made by man that are given authority. It is interesting to note that this statement also includes the forbidden practice of placing it in a secret place. We might think that the days of idolatry are over, but that is far from the case. An idol can be anything that we give inordinate authority to. Anything we might own or desire to own that we allow to come between us and God, or between us and the proper relationship we have with others can be an idol. Anything that we feel that we have to keep secret is probably an idol. To hold onto such an idol brings with it the knowledge of the sin that we embrace along with it, a sin that keeps us from a fulfilled relationship with God. For a Christian, that is the curse.
Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.
In the culture of the ancient middle east, those who were aged were entirely dependant upon their children for their basic needs. It was customary for the inheritance of the elder to be passed to the child when the elder could no longer work the land. The child was then to both care for the land and for his parents. The elderly would fall into poverty and despair if the child abused this law. A child would show that he despised his parents by such behavior. The commandment to honor mother and father brought with it a promise that the days of the child would be long upon the land. However, an inheritance received in hatred would not be blessed by God. In today's Western culture, there are personal, corporate and government retirement, annuity, and social programs to assist the elderly. It is not uncommon for children to turn their parents over to these programs and by so doing deny them the dignity, love, and support that they deserve. One cannot expect God's blessing when they despise their parents by failing to care properly for them.
Cursed be he that removeth his neighbourís landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.
The landmark referred to here would be a stone placed on a land boundary to affix the property ownership. The movement of a boundary stone could easily be done, and its movement might never be detected. This action would be stealing from the neighbor. Furthermore, the neighbor is defenseless against such an attack. As with the other imperatives, there is more involved here than moving a survey marker. There are other ways we can take advantage of others for our own personal gain, and any such action is cursed by God. It is a sin that separates us from God and removes God's blessing from us.
Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Similar to the previous verse, the action demonstrated here illustrates an action that injures the helpless. There are many ways we can hurt and mislead others. The misleading of a blind person provides no gain to the sighted person. Anyone who receives satisfaction from sadistic and cruel actions on others is certainly outside of the will of God, and is exposed to the curse of a loss of fellowship and the loss of God's blessings.
Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Those who are poor and powerless are at a disadvantage when dealing with those who are not. Those with the power often take advantage of those who are without, and for a child of God to do so is certainly inappropriate behavior.
Cursed be he that lieth with his fatherís wife; because he uncovereth his fatherís skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen. 21Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen. 22Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. 23Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen.
God has clearly taught us through his word that is plan is that a family unit be made of a father, mother and children. The scriptures teach that the marriage relationship is the appropriate and good venue for sexual activity, and all others are clearly contrary to God's will. Children of God are to live lives that are sexually pure, abstaining from activities that are ungodly. Again, one can expect to find God's blessings withheld when a lifestyle that includes deviant sexual behavior is embraced.
Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen. 25Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Not much elaboration is needed here!
Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
What is the cursed transgression of this verse? The same curse, the loss of fellowship with God, and the loss of his promised blessings, is applied to breaking ANY law. This is a pretty serious judgment. Based upon this, no person can live without being under a curse. Consequently, all people have sinned, coming short of God's requirement for obedience (Romans 3:23) and we all are in need of God's forgiveness.
And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. 3Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
Look at the blessings that God has promised on those who fully obey the Lord and carefully follow all his commands! To receive the fullness of God's blessing what must we do? We know that God looks to our hearts, and when a Christian's heart is sincerely devoted to obedience, God's blessings are not withheld from us.
Where will we be blessed (verse 3). In the culture of the ancient Middle East, the world was divided into to areas: the cities, and the country. This verse indicates that the blessings of God will be received everywhere when we sincerely seek to obey Him. This has interesting consequences for us. Often we find ourselves in circumstances where we think we have to go to some particular place to be in a place to be better used by God. God desires us to be obedient where we are, wherever that is.
Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
What blessing is identified in verse 4? God promises fertility, or fruitful reproduction of people and animals and crops. This one issue was the one which inspired most of the pagan worship that was attractive to the Jews. God promised to us those things which the pagans do so much to attain on their own through sacrifice and ascetism to idols.
Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
What blessing is identified in verse 5? God will provide, not only for our daily needs for food, but will provide enough extra that we will not be stressed over tomorrow's meal. The basket refers to what is being carried from the market to meet today's needs. The stores are used to supply for future needs. Often we hear a theology that says that our faith that we will receive our "daily bread" should be sufficient. If we have a strong and mature faith, that may be true. However, most of us do not have such faith, and God is gracious and merciful by also blessing us with the storehouse. God's promises that he will take care of tomorrow's needs. Christians know that, and believe that. How much easier is it though, when God gives good gifts to us, including enough that we do not have to continually rely on that faith the meeting of tomorrow's needs. Most of us have so much extra that we are in a position to help others, and God can use us to provide for those who do not yet have tomorrow's needs met.
Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
Where will God always be with us? God promises to be with us wherever we go. One of the things the pagans did was to make great efforts to attract the attention of their gods. Their view of their gods was very geographically limited, as they thought that the gods came and went within the areas of their own region much as people do. Remember the prophets of Baal who cut themselves and cried for a whole day trying to get their imaginary gods to consume their sacrifice (1 Kings 18:19-40). Where was God during all of this? He was there with them, and witnessed of by Elijah. Jonah also demonstrated his view of God was similar to that of the pagans as he tried to run from God's commission to serve as a missionary to the Assyrians (Jonah 1). God promises that he will be with us wherever we go. As we in the 21st century contemplate traveling to the stars, we know that were we to travel to the far reaches of the galaxy (the "Delta Quadrant"?) we would find that God is there with us.
The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.
What was the battle record of the United States in its infancy? The United States never lost a war, and very few battles. When did this country first openly rebel against God and start to turn to self centeredness and self indulgence? The degeneration of our culture started after the First World War, but particularly accelerated in the 1960's. This decade was marked with society's rebellion against morality, and marred with the first lost war, Vietnam.
Up to that point the purpose of our wars was to defend freedom. Since then, our way of living has turned against God, and the purpose of our wars is to force our new ideology on other nations. Can we expect God's protection on us as a nation any longer? God promises that if we will turn from our ways and seek his face, He will heal our land, so the answer is a confident, "Yes!" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
How can a barn, or storehouse, be blessed? The ancients would consider one blessed when their storehouse is full. God provides more than we can use. Also, God promises that everything we put our hand to will be blessed. What does this mean? If we are in God's will, and are obedient to Him, than all that we do will be in His will. All we "set our hand to" will be honoring God, and in a position to receive God's blessing. Again this is not an impossible task for a Christian who can listen to the comforting prompting of the Holy Spirit as we seek God's will in our decisions. An unsaved person cannot possibly be in God's will, and such a promise of blessing cannot be assured. Often we see evil people gain much of the power and riches of this world. However, Christians should not be swayed into thinking that worldly power and riches will satisfy. It is rare to find a rich, non-Christian who is truly living a life that is blessed by peace and joy. However even the most destitute Christian can praise God for the few things they do have, and be blessed by Him.
The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. 10And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee.
In verse 9 God promises to make us a Holy people. What does this mean? That which is holy is separated out for God's purpose. We don't have to look back with much effort to see Godly people who sought to be obedient to God. This includes the Pilgrims, the Mennonites, and other well known groups; even the Anabaptists who later became the Baptists. The purpose of the Church is unchanged from God's intended purpose for the Hebrews.
1 Peter 2:9. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:
The purpose of the Church is to serve as a holy nation of priests who serve as intercessors for God in this world. It is the responsibility of the church to show God to those who do not know Him, doing so in praise that is obedient to His call. This was the same commission given to Israel, who as we have learned, were unsuccessful at doing so under the law, as we would also be. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer that we can serve as God's priest, as he intends. This is one of the reasons why Christians are a nation of ministers. All Christians are called to be ministers of the gospel, serving each other, and ministering to the lost world. This is God's purpose for the Church. He has placed in the hands of man the responsibility for the salvation of all of the people of the world.
And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee.
Verse 10 describes how the rest of the world looks upon such a people. Though it had been the motto of all Jews after the dispersion to utter the words, "One day, Jerusalem." with every Passover, since the forming of the US, it has been the motto of millions all over the world, "One day, America." seeing this nation as a land that trusts in God and provides freedom of opportunity to all under a constitution which was based on God's Word. Every year this country accepts many thousands of immigrants seeking for this freedom.
Are these people afraid of the United States? No, they are not. The word that is translated in the King James Version as "afraid" carries with it the connotation of awe and respect. One does not fear the powerful benefactor, but has a respect and awe that comes from a position of humility. This is the way we should fear God, and is similar to the way the Church would be seen by the lost world if they, indeed, did serve as a nation of priests.
The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity--in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground--in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you. 12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.
If we maintain our faithfulness to God, what does He promise? Moses, basically, summarizes the blessings that God promises to those who truly seek to obey Him. Would any person not like to be part of a people who are blessed as described here? When we perceive that our lives are not blessed, but cursed, where should we look? Often we will blame our circumstances, blame other people, or even blame God. However, when we look into our hearts and observe how disobedient we have really been, we might come up short on criticism and condemnation of God, and attain a realistic perspective on our own behavior. Are we truly living for God, or are we living to please ourselves? Are we generous with our resources, giving to others and to God's work, or are we hoarding it all for ourselves? Many people live lives that are lacking in peace and joy because their energy is expended on hard work for selfish means. Hard work that is expended to meet the needs of others, always blesses the worker. Why do we sometimes forget that? A parent who works 80 hour weeks to buy the nicer car or the vacation home may be neglecting the need of their children by making themselves unavailable, replacing their time and love with purchased things. Much can go wrong when we turn inward and turn our eyes off of God's purposes in our lives.
Clearly, God has given us a choice. We are not puppets on a string. We can choose to reject God, and in doing so, reject God's blessings. We must be careful, however, in recognizing what it means to reject God in the manner in which these verses describes. First, as a people we can certainly expect this. Where do you feel the church is headed? What signs of curse do you see evident in it? Many churches are suffering from internal strife. A pastor's average tenure is less than three years as they often leave from "burn-out" or are asked to leave by church members.
God's blessings affect all areas of the church, and the nations within which they are placed. No place is exempt. What affect is this going to have on the faithful people who live here? Many will find persecution, a tribulation that is exacted on them by those who hate God. Do we see signs of Christians receiving persecution? Where once being a Christian was expected of every statesman, it is now considered nearly impossible for a Christian to become a statesman of any influence. Christians are often treated as second-class citizens, considered ignorant and un-enlightened, rejected for promotion in jobs, etc. In some nations Christians are being persecuted by torture, prison, and death.
How can the faithful Church of God turn this world back to Him?
- Personal prayer
- Personal obedience to God's Word through study and application of what we know of His word, and sensitivity to His spirit.
- Personal witness of God to everyone around us, showing His love through our attitude and our actions.
- We can put support behind those government leaders who put their influence behind the Godly side of issues.
Let us choose the blessings, not the curses.