Meditations in Deuteronomy : 32 : Blessing or Curse
(Focus: Deut 11:26-32)
Deut 11:26-28 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse– the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known
Actions ALWAYS have consequences. That isn’t a spiritual law as such; it is just how life works. I eat too much food and I get fat. It can be applied to every facet of life: what we do has consequences. When it comes to the Lord though, it takes on a new dimension. Some people think God is a distant God who just leaves this world to get on by itself. Not so! The apostle wrote those familiar words, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7,8) There is the fundamental spiritual principle: you reap what you sow! What Paul’s verse doesn’t tell us is whether God will take action or it will just be a ‘natural’ consequence.
We say this in the light of a new subject that Moses is introducing to Israel. The detail of this will not come until chapter 28 but it seems fairly obvious from a glance at that chapter that what we are now talking about is a promise of intervention by God to match the circumstances. It is very simple; there are two possibilities: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” (v.26) Hullo, Israel might have thought, pricking up their ears, what is this? So he continues: “the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God.” (v.27,28a) There it is in its simplest form.
Even if we didn’t know what it entailed in detail, it is fairly obvious: a blessing sounds good and a curse sounds bad! The good follows obedience and the bad follows disobedience. The disobedience is likely to have another dimension to it: “and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.” (v.28b). If they turn away from God’s commands it is almost certainly because they are turning to the superstitious worship of their neighbours. If they do that God is going to act against them.
Silly and thoughtless crusading atheists and their followers of the twenty first century talk about a harsh God who acts spitefully against Israel, but nothing could be further from the truth. Whenever God acts through a curse, i.e. a decree of bad, it is part of His process to draw Israel back into a place where they can live in the good of all that He intends for the earth. It is only sin that stops us receiving this. Read the book of Judges and you see this happening again and again. In fact more often than not it is simply God stepping back from Israel when they turn from Him, and that leaves them vulnerable to the sinful desires and acts of their pagan neighbours who then come and attack them.
For the moment though, Moses is simply setting up what is to happen when they enter the Promised Land: “When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess….” (v.29a) Yes, this is not for now but for once they are in the Land. Once you are there, “you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.” (v.29b) He clarifies where this is: “As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, west of the road, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal.” (v.30) Within the land there are these two ‘mountains’ that are quite close to each other and so one party will go up one and another party go up the other and the one group will declare loudly the blessings and the other party, on the other mountain top, the curses. They are sufficiently close and creating echoes so that everyone will hear. It is also like they are declaring these things over the whole land. They are declaring God’s future conditional decrees over the whole land.
Yes, do note that in passing: they are decrees by God to bring either good or bad, and they are conditional on the behaviour of Israel. Be a godly people following all of God’s guidance and your inheritance is guaranteed good! That is a principle that is true for every person on earth. But the opposite is also true: be a self-centred and godless individual and your inheritance is guaranteed bad. The trouble is that so many people get so used to living with the bad, that they don’t even realise that it is bad or that there is a possible alternative! That is the folly of Sin!
So Moses had added yet a further command to all else that they have received and so that requires a further encouragement to be obedient: “You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.” (v.31,32) Every time there is a further instruction, there is a further encouragement to obey brought with it. Every instruction is to be seen in the context of going into and inheriting the Land. For us today, every instruction that we may find in the New Testament (and there are many) is seen in the light of all the good that God wants to bring us as the outworking of the work of Christ on the Cross. Let’s not let Sin rob us of it!