Deuteronomy 28 - "Blessings & Curses"
In chapter 27, Israel was supposed to have representatives from each tribe split up and stand on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. They were to recite blessings from Gerizim and curses from Ebal.
One commentator said, “Blessing and curse are the rubrics under which all OT history is written” (McConville, 409). I would argue that they are the framework for how to understand Scripture. I was going to focus only on the concept of blessing today, but that would not be faithful to the whole chapter. So I am forcing myself to also discuss cursing.
Today I want us to consider the following issues: What blessing is. What cursing is. The Key Difference between them.
(1) Deuteronomy 28.1-14—What is Blessing?
Life with God resulting in fullness and abundance. I would be unfaithful to Scripture to not say that there are physical signs of God’s blessing. In an effort to correct what’s called the Prosperity Gospel (which we’ll talk about next week), we can oftentimes think that all the blessings we have in Christ are merely spiritual. It is vital to note that physical blessings should not to be equated with God’s blessing.
BUT NOT Equated with merely physical prosperity. This is a sinful and horrible teaching today. In fairness, it’s replete throughout this passage—particularly vv.11-13. This is always the danger, though. We trust what our eyes see rather than what only the eyes of faith can see. James writes in chapter 5: Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
You can have wealth. That’s not the issue. It’s what do you do with wealth and all the other blessings in your life? The prophets indicted Israel for hoarding their wealth rather than using it for its intended purposes. This is what can subtly happen if we make God’s blessings equal to simply physical wealth. But it is clear that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. So what is “blessing”?
A thermometer of your life. Physical blessings are given by God to show where your true treasure is. Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is. Money and wealth and family are tools. God wants to know what you value. Do you want to see the Kingdom of God manifested on earth as it is in heaven? God wants to free us from the tyranny of money being supreme in our lives. He wants us to see that physical blessings are intended to be used to show that God is more valuable than having a certain number in the bank account. To show that our security is found elsewhere.
Blessing is a result of the True Blessing of life with God.
Blessing comes with a warning, though. Remember just a few weeks ago in Deuteronomy 8.17: Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers.
There is a great danger that you forget God…you forsake him. God also knew this.
(2) Deuteronomy 28.15-24— What is cursing?
Quite simply, it is in forsaking the Lord. V. 20: Because you have forsaken me, the Lord. Just like the blessed life is a result of life with God, the cursed life is a result of a life without God.
The curses listed are God’s actively reversing all the blessings he would bestow on his people. It is the intensification of the curse in the Garden. That it would sprout thorns. He is at pains to topple over those set against him. //
Friends, this didn’t happen overnight. It came through negligence. It came from day after day of neglect to their communion with God. Do you think as Israel was standing on banks of Jordan River, seeing the Promised Land with their eyes, getting ready to receive the blessing promised for generations…Do you think they thought: “We better enjoy it while it lasts because we’re going to experience more curses than blessings?” We ought never forget that you and I are not only prone to wander…we slowly drift by not paying heed to our relationship with God.
What we need to realize that is you and I are at risk of forsaking God. We must never presume upon God’s mercy. Too often we take his love and blessing for granted. And over time, instead of using the blessing to enlarge our hearts by giving them away—by serving other people.
What you most value will reveal itself in what you spend your physical blessings on. Listen to Isaiah 55: 1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
—There is a true and lasting food that physical food points to.—
Jesus said, Luke 12:33 "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Give away all that you have to preserve your soul.
Remember we talked about how the Law was a physical pointer to a spiritual reality? Circumcision. Temple. Blessings. The blessed life is primarily defined as communion with God. Jesus himself—No place to lay his head. Man of sorrows. Acquainted with grief.
Hear him say: Whatever may come, thirst or famine or crucifixion…knowing him is the blessing. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. May the Lord bless you and keep you.
(3) The essential difference between blessing and cursing is the Referent. The King. If you continue to live your life as though you are in control and you try to manipulate people and be angry with people because they don’t listen to you. You are building your little fiefdom. And God will have no rivals.
The biblical understanding of blessing is meant to expand your life. Blessings God gives you were never meant end filling your cup. In the Garden of Eden: God blessed Adam and Eve and said: Be fruitful. And multiply. And fill the earth.
Gen. 9:1 God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Gen. 12:2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
Sin shrinks your life. It shrinks and shrivels your heart. The blessing of God is to be like God. To expand. To fill the earth. He wants more for you than you could ever imagine. He wants you to know him in all his fullness. To make your life bigger than it is. In dying to yourself, you find that your life multiplies.
We haven’t yet experienced being swept up and along by God into a land that you do not know. To be carried by the Spirit of God into a Land of Promise. To taste of gardens you did not plant or tend. To live in houses you did not build. To receive from the hand of God because you’re so bent on proving your worth. You’re so bent on being in control. How do I know? Because this is the human condition. And until we can die like a grain of wheat, we will never know the life on the other side.
Don’t be content with being cold toward the things of God. Be warned. If you continue to live your life without reference to God and his ways, you will forsake him. And in forsaking him you will be cursed.
I wanted to talk about both blessing and cursing in order to be faithful to the text. BUT the chapter is not completely balanced is it? There are 14 verses speaking about blessing. The rest of the chapter talks about the curses for disobeying. And these blessings at the beginning are right after a litany of other curses. It’s almost as if God knew what was in Israel’s heart before they even received the promised inheritance.
He knows what’s in all our hearts. A desire to usurp his authority to do whatever he pleases. And yet. And yet, he is relentless in his pursuit of you. When you are faithless, he remains faithful.
The Apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy twice regarding cursing in his letter to the Galatians. In ch. 3 He quotes Deut 27.26: All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
And then he writes: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The promise to Adam and to Noah and to Abraham was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Jesus bore the curse for all those who no longer rely on their works, but lean on him. To change our hearts from cold to hot. From calloused to feeling. From shrunken to expanded. From death to life. The Blessed Life Beholds Christ.