If you read Deut 28 you will start off with a nice happy face as you read the amazing blessings that the Lord will give his people Israel. And then your face will fall when you read the curses for disobedience. By the end you recoil when it gets worse than you can imagine. Without fail you remember those accusations from friends and families who are no believers
- I have no desire to serve a judgmental God like this
- So if I don’t love God I get cursed? What kind of “love” is this?
- Why would God bring all this onto anybody if He is at all good?
Why do they say this? Because when God lists the blessings, they are wonderful and abundant. But the curses? They are horrible!
- You will be struck with disease, famine and the sword
- The Lord will inflict you with madness, blindness and mental confusion
- You will become engaged to a woman and she will end up getting raped
- Your children will go into slavery and you won’t be able to do anything about it
- Your enemies will come against you and trap you in the city until they can break through and destroy you
- You will become so desperate you will eat your own children
- The most sensitive and refined man will fight to eat the flesh of his children and not share
- The most sensitive and refined woman who won’t set foot on the ground as she is so polished will heat her children’s placenta as well as the children she shares, and even this she will not share.
Ok, that’s horrible. And that indeed happened. We’ll talk about that another day. For now, why this chapter and these terrible blessings and curses?
Why Such Terrible Curses?
1) First this is typical treaty language of the day. A treaty was made between two parties with an agreement of blessings and curses. For those reading this, it wouldn’t be unfamiliar from a legal and political standpoint. If the treaty is honored, then many good things will happen. If the treaty is broken, these bad things will happen.
An example would be making a peace treaty between two nations that looked like this:
- If you agree to the terms our two nations can do business together
- We will make a trade agreement to exchange goods and both our nations will be blessed
- We will keep out tariffs low so that we mutually benefit
But if you take advantage of our goodwill
- And start murdering our people, make no mistake, we will retaliate in full force
- And start stealing from the land, will take that as a threat and deal with it accordingly
- And deceive us for your military advantage, the treaty will be off and we will be dropping bombs on you
Again, treaty language says if you do this, things will go well and everyone will be blessed. But if you take advantage of the agreement and goodwill, make no mistake, we are powerful and we will take appropriate measures
2) God is making a covenant here. It’s a special relationship that will bring an extra measure of blessing since the covenant is holy and sacred and with God himself. And it will bring extra punishment when something is defiled.
Think of this in marriage terms. When a person marries, they are making a covenant. If mutual love persists, there is great blessing. But if a spouse goes and hires prostitutes and chases other lovers, all heck will break loose. Now if they wanted to do that before the covenant of marriage, that was their choice between them and God. But when they freely and willingly enter into a covenant, there are expectations of faithfulness, love and loyalty. That’s what marriage vows are about.
3) The actions of disobedience and not loving God were about doing evil. Not just being neutral. Let’s go back to chapter 27 of the original terms of the covenant. If they violated the covenant, it would look like this:
- People making idols and bowing down to them (which typically led to sexual immorality and sacrificing children in those days)
- Dishonoring father and mother
- Dishonoring a neighbor
- Leading a blind person astray
- Who does evil to a foreigner, orphan or widow
- Dishonoring God.
Now imagine for a moment that you are married. And your spouse you discover is a murderer, has sex with animals, treat orphans and widow terrible, sleeps with your mother, kills your child, etc… Do we not think that this deserves some punishment?
Those sins are terrible. And they deserve justice. If people did not get justice, they would be angry with God. And yet, if God gives justice, they tend to write him off as being judgmental.
4) The covenant with God was voluntary
They did not have to enter into the covenant with God. God was going to provide them with special privelege and protection if they did, but it was completely their choice. It was a free choice. They could say no. But they knew the terms of the covenant beforehand and entered into the covenant freely with the Lord.
Again, this language was very familiar to the people of the day. It wouldn’t have been shocking, but expected. Moses was calling upon the Israelites to renew their covenant, and they were doing so freely. They would get an extraordinary measure of blessings as they were making the covenant with God, but if they defiled his holiness, he would have to by that same holiness take action.
God is not man’s doormat. He is powerful and we need to remember that. Not because he is judgmental. He isn’t in the way we understand judgment. But he is just. And that means violation to the weak and vulnerable (which is what the covenant was about), would be dealt with. He is not passive.