April 6, 2015 Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68

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1 Women s Core Bible Study Blessings or Curses and Curses April 6, 2015 Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68 I. The Lord your God has made a covenant of commitment to you. Now you will hold a solemn ceremony of covenant commitment to him,(we heard about this earlier in Deuteronomy 11) A. When will this happen? 1. After you cross the Jordan (2x), when Moses won t be there. For the first time he joins with the elders in addressing the people. 2. After you have entered the land, this gift the Lord promised to your fathers, this good land flowing with milk and honey. In other words as you begin to claim this this great covenant gift. 3. Be Silent and Listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the Lord your God. (27:9) Moses and the priests renew the covenant identity of the people You now belong to the Lord. Don t talk, Listen to your God realize what a solemn and serious thing this is. You are a people for him. B. Where will this happen? In a dramatic location, on two mountains: Gerazim and Ebal with the Valley of Shechem between them, a place rich with patriarchal history: The Lord does not forget his promises! The people are about to claim what their God has promised them but first they are called to acknowledge that God has an absolute claim on them as his people a claim to their all-out love, total faithfulness and complete obedience. C. What will happen? 1. On Mt. Ebal you will set up large stones coated with white plaster and write very plainly all the words of this Law. (God s Word is here presented as imperishable, intelligible, reliable and obligatory. (Brown 263.) 2. On Mt. Ebal you will set up an altar of undressed stones as God commanded in Exodus 20:25. You cannot use a tool on these stones ( so you will not be tempted into making an idol Currid, 424) 3. You will offer two kinds of sacrifices: burnt (given entirely to the Lord) and peace (shared with the priests and the people) 4. You will hold a great celebratory meal. Rejoice before Yahweh your God. 5. You will divide the tribes into two groups of six. One will stand on Mt. Gerizim to bless the people and the other on Mount Ebal for the curse. 1

2 6. The Levites will pronounce curses on those who commit violations of God s law, in a loud voice, addressed to every individual Israelite. All the of you will respond with an Amen or so be it. - The laws cover a range of subjects idolatry, sexuality, justice, respect for authority they represent all the various aspects of the Law. - All of violations mentioned are individual and secret so they could easily remain undetected. All are self-serving, selfcentered the opposite of what s God desires -- a people who are God-centered and God-serving, who love the Lord with all their hearts and souls, and minds and who love their neighbors as themselves. - By saying Amen the people are calling down a curse upon themselves if they commit any of these violations. - The first 9 curses cover a wide range of violations of the law but the final curse makes it clear that all the Law must be performed: Cursed is the one who does not uphold the words of this law in order to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. - Cursed is the first word in each of statements. It links the sin mentioned. with the rebellion of the serpent. This links the fate of the covenant breaker with that of the serpent. Cursed are you (Genesis 3:14) - The people are agreeing with God that this is what their sin deserves just as we agree with him when we embrace the cross this curse Jesus endured is what our sins deserves D. What s at the heart of it? The covenant commitment of God s people: This ceremony was in essence an oath-taking, as the people reaffirmed their covenant allegiance. (Harman 239) They were going to formally agree to the terms of the covenant and embrace their role as covenant partners with God. But it s not just a business partnership. It s a marriage- a commitment of love and faithfulness on the part of God s people in response to his love and faithfulness to them. E. Did this covenant ceremony actually happen? Yes! Just as Moses commanded. (Joshua 8:30ff) II. Back to the present : Moses addresses the people on the subject of blessings and curses. In chapter 28 there seems to be a deliberate change of scene. We are no longer listening to the description of the anticipated occasion across the Jordan... we have moved from the future back to the present. Once again we are with Moses 2

3 in the plains of Moab listening to another pattern of blessings and curses. (Brown p. 267) Or as other commentators think, these are the actual blessings and curses spoken from the mountains an antiphonal description of two futures. A. The blessings: Moses describes a future of great blessing that will pursue them and overtake them and engulf them with goodness. 1. Obedience to the Law is the repeated condition for these blessings. (verses 1, 2, 13, 14) But they aren t earned blessings. They are the joyous fruit born out of the marriage of God and his faithful people. God pours out his favor on their faithfulness. 2. The blessings (verses 3-6) are paired opposites expressing the totally of life. (Harman 243) Blessed in the city/blessed in the country, blessed when you go in/ blessed when you go out. 3. They include an all-encompassing promise that their enemies will flee seven ways and that all the peoples see that you are called by the name of the Lord. 4. There will be a blessing on the ground, on their beasts, on all the work of their hands, as well as their own bodies so they will abound in prosperity. 5. The blessings are an honor and a glory that God will bestow on them in the eyes of all the other nations. : Yahweh will establish you as his holy people, as he swore to you, if your keep the commands of Yahweh and walk in his ways. All the peoples of the earth shall see that the name of Yahweh is proclaimed over you. B. The Curses: Moses describes a dreadful future that will come upon them where curses will pursue them and overtake them and engulf them. All the blessings will be reversed. His motive is to prevent this from happening. They are about to enter a land given over to Baal worship and they need to fear the Lord. 1. These curses will be a direct result of their disobedience. But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statues... that all these curse will come upon you and overtake you. 2. But it s not just their actions, it s their heart: Their cardinal sin is a spiritual one. It is not simply that they have disobeyed God s word; they have abandoned the covenant God. (Brown 268) 3. The first six curses simply reverse the blessings. As with the blessings, the curses will touch all areas of life; Cursed in the city/ cursed in the country; cursed in your coming in/cursed in your going out. 4. Instead of abundance there will be devastation. 5. They will suffer the same devastating defeats in battle that 3

4 their enemies would have experienced if they had been obedient. 6. Instead of numerous offspring they will be destroyed until they are few in number. 7. They will suffer the very plagues God brought upon Egypt to secure their deliverance. 8. Twice Moses repeats that there is no savior or none to rescue you. 9. They will be expelled from their rest and will find not place to rest the sole of their foot. 9. These curses will be signs and wonders the same words used to describe God s actions of deliverance they demonstrated not only his power but his love for Israel. These will testify to his power to bring judgment on his faithless people. 10. The closing words describe a state that is worse than being slaves in Egypt: You will offer yourself for sale to you enemies but there will be buyer. 11. Instead of great honor and glory there will be great dishonor and shame like a adulterous wife divorced and sent away. C. Which did Israel receive? Blessing for obedience or curses for disobedience? 1. All the sad judgments described in these verses actually happened in Israel s fragile history. (Brown 270) Jer. 11:8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not. 2. Mercifully, however, that is not the end of the story. (271) Are we still in this same situation? Do we live in the valley between blessings and curses with the outcome contingent on our obedience? III. A New Covenant with blessings and blessings and blessings and no curses! In Galatians Paul seems to have these chapters in Deuteronomy in mind as he addresses the Galatians Gentile believers who are being persuaded that their status as God s people depends on whether or not they keep the Law. This is Paul s argument: A. The problem with the Covenant of Law is that it depends on us and there is a profound inability in us to fulfill the requirement of obedience to the Law. By the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16) B. Anyone who puts themselves back in the situation of Deuteronomy 27 4

5 and tries to keep the Law in order to be justified and gain the blessing of God will inevitably find themselves cursed instead. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. (Galatians 3:10) (Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 27:26) C. Why would you go back to that situation you foolish Galatians and set aside what God has done for you in Christ!?! I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21) D. You need to get a clear grasp on your situation! 1. Christ has removed all the curses from you by becoming a curse for you. (Galatians 3:13) He has taken away your shame. 2. God has declared you righteous (justified you) not because you obeyed the law but because you put your faith in Christ. Gal. 3:24 The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 3. God has established you as his people and poured out his blessing on you. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14) 4. The Spirit is an honor the Lord bestows upon his sons and daughters. He clothes us with his own glory and causes us to bear fruit. The beauty of this covenant is that it doesn t depend on us it all depends on Christ and comes to us by faith in Christ. Being a Christian is all about joy: the joy of forgiveness, the joy of the resurrection, the joy of seeing others come to Christ. How do you get this joy? By understanding both the law and the gospel. Both are good and holy. Both are from God and deal with our standing before God. But they have radically different functions. The law demands perfection and not just external but loving the Lord with all your heart. The Law says, Do this and live. In response we try to make ourselves acceptable to God by obeying his command and we fail. But the gospel says, Christ has kept the law from the heart. He has paid the penalty for your sin on the cross and through faith in him you will live! We have so little joy because we water down the law so it doesn t really mean what it says. And we water down the gospel so our salvation isn t really as big as it is. You have to accept the full demand of the law along with the full glory of the gospel. 5

6 In Christ God s love for you is unconditional and unchangeable. When you are shocked by your sins and shocked by God s love in Christ then you will be full of joy. (Jack Miller, Saving Grace, p. 74) Discussion Questions: 1. Do you tend to live as if you are in the valley between blessings and curses with the outcome depending on your performance? 2. How is the law a guardian (tutor) to lead us to Christ? (Galatians 3:24) 3. How is the Holy Spirit a blessing that exceeds all the blessings described in these chapters? 4. What is it like to live with a sense of blessing? (Galatians 4:15) Bibliography Block, Daniel I., NIV Application Commentary Deuteronomy, Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Brown, Raymond, The Message of Deuteronomy, The Bible Speaks Today Series, Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, Craigie, Peter C., The Book of Deuteronomy, The New International Commentary on the OT, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, Currid, John D., Deuteronomy, Evangelical Press: England, Harman, Allan, Deuteronomy The Commands of a Covenant God, Christian Focus Publishing, Ltd: Great Britain, Packer, J. I., Knowing God, Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove, Thompson, J. S., Deuteronomy Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Intervarsity Press: Donners Grove,

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