Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty-Seven Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Blessings And Curses
Verses 1-4: "Then Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying, 'Keep all the commandments which I command you today. 2 So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime 3 and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 So it shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall set up on Mount Ebal, these stones, as I am commanding you today, and you shall coat them with lime.'" In almost all historical and present cultures, the law, whether religious or secular, is known in depth by a few who have the education and training to make a living from it. Here we find the law was being revealed to EVERYONE, including priests, political leaders and what is termed "lay persons." Everyone—it was unheard of! The "lime" coating was a type of Egyptian plaster, undoubtedly discovered by Israel during their time as slaves in Egypt. The stones were large, so that no one who wandered by or sought them on a pilgrimage would fail to see them. And if this is a reference to the 613 laws given to Israel by the Lord, which included the 10 commandments, ample space on those large stones was needed to hold every word.
Verses 5-7: "Moreover, you shall build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones; you shall not wield an iron tool on them. 6 You shall build the altar of the Lord your God of uncut stones, and you shall offer on it burnt offerings to the Lord your God; 7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, and rejoice before the Lord your God." In Romans 7 and other places, Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul the Apostle, revealed the nature of the law. It was never intended to save anyone, for no one could keep it, except the One sent to lead us to freedom from the curse of the law, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah (Hebrews 4:15). Otherwise, 100% of us in humanity have sinned, and the law, when prayerfully studied, reveals our problem. God is our Judge and His judgment is: "Guilty as Charged." The "offerings" and "sacrifice" of these verses reveals another characteristic of our Lord—He is the God of Mercy who forgives the sinner. The Lord Himself became our "Sacrifice," as pictured by the "offerings" mentioned here. Hebrews 10:10-12 and its context examines the sacrifices of Deuteronomy and the other books of Moses, concluding about them: "They can never take away sins; but He (Jesus), having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God." He succeeded in keeping, fulfilling the law like we never could, and it is through faith in Him that we are saved from the curse of the law.
Verse 8: "You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly." One interesting aspect of humanity is that we communicate poorly. When two or more of us are talking, most think one thing while saying something else, and our understanding of what others say is often incomplete. God does not have that problem. David, the shepherd boy who became a king, recognized about the Lord that, "You discern my thoughts from afar" (Psalm 139:2). And the Lord communicates very well. If we don't understand God's Word, like I did not understand the first time I read it through, then we must pray! That's what I did. I reached out to Him with a simple prayer, like a babe reaches for sustenance, and God opened His Word to me, changing me into someone who not only seeks information, but is also capable of learning. God distinctly communicates with us through Scripture, as interpreted by His wondrous Holy Spirit.
Verses 9-10: "Then Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying, 'Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the Lord your God. 10 You shall therefore obey the Lord your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.'" Moses and the priests shouted out to the people, who were, no doubt, chattering among themselves, whispering questions to each other like, "What did he mean by that? Do we really have to do it?" The message to them is also the one appropriate to you and me: "Be silent and listen." And when you clearly get what the Lord is saying to you: Obey Him and do what He wants! In concert with His will, we are His people.
Verses 11-14: "Moses also charged the people on that day, saying, 12 'When you cross the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. 13 For the curse, these shall stand on Mount Ebal: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. 14 The Levites shall then answer and say to all the men of Israel with a loud voice," and this is the imagery presented here: The town of Shechem was west of the Jordan River, a city with Mount Gerizim on one side and Mount Ebal on the other. Six tribes, represented by the names of six of Jacob's sons, were to shout God's blessings for the people. Those tribes were: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin, and all of them were sons of Jacob by his wives, Leah and Rachel. Included were non-priestly Levites. As to the curse, God chose: Gad, Asher, Dan and Napthali, who were born to Leah and Rachel's maids, Zilpah and Bilhah, along with Reuben and Zebulun, a total of six more sons. You can see with your mind the two choruses of men, standing on the nearby hilltops, shouting out blessings and curses to the people, as the Levitical priests in the middle of the valley answered the call of those who stood on the hills. God has expressed Himself through this people called Israel, as recorded in Scripture. The remainder of this chapter contains curses that were to be shouted from one of those hilltops.
Verses 15-16 are contained within the ten commandments of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5: "‘Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’ 16 'Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" The first and second commandments specifically forbade idolatry, which was rampant among the peoples that Israel would be displacing. We are to worship God only. And to dishonor your father and mother is to distort and ignore God's plan for your life. I remember thinking, as a teenager, that I knew how to run my life better than my parents did. I was wrong, just like so many others have been wrong through the centuries, because we not only learn from our parent's wisdom, but, studying parents, as all children do, we can learn from their mistakes. We are to look, listen, love and learn.
Verses 17-19: "'Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 18 'Cursed is he who misleads a blind person on the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 19 'Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" These three verses are related because they all involve cheating others out of what God intends for them. If you carefully build the fence a few feet onto your neighbor's property, when it should be on the line between the properties, it is a form of cheating. Part of the reason we have eyes is because we are to help those who don't have them. If we are not an outsider, orphan or widowed person, then God's favor has been extended to us so we can help those who likely have less than we do. The blessings in your life are intended to help not only you, but also others who are in need. And note that those you help may well pray for you out of appreciation for what you have done. Their prayers, followed the "Amen" of these verses, can better your life and theirs.
Verses 20-23: "Cursed is he who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s skirt.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 21 'Cursed is he who lies with any animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 22 'Cursed is he who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or of his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 23 'Cursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" The first commandment is found in Genesis 1:28, where God said to humanity, "Be fruitful and multiply." He accompanied that command with an urgency and pleasure designed to bring new people into this world, a process that has worked very well. Without the urgency and pleasure involved, this planet might have been depopulated millennia ago because of our tendency to ignore what He wants us to do. We should also be alert to His limits on sexual expression. Certain people and actions are forbidden and we are to RUN away from situations like those seen in these verses. God loves marriage, given as a gift that will not only bring people into humanity, but it also has the potential for happiness for those willing to learn from the benefits and tensions of living with a person of the opposite sex for the rest of our lives.
Verses 24-26: "'Cursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 25 'Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ 26 'Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" Can you imagine what the world would be like if nobody hit, shot at, or otherwise did wrong to other people, in deeds, words or any other way of bringing pain to them? And what if nobody took bribes openly or under the table? As these words reverberate in our souls, let's reflect on them and allow obvious and subtle cursed behavior to disappear from our own lives. A better world begins with you and me. Let's shout "It is so" ("Amen") to God's will, like the people of Israel did—and really mean it—It is so!
Father, I have hurt others. I have said things I should not have said, and I have thought things that led to doing what I should not do. I am sorry, Lord. Please forgive me and heal me, heal them. I trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.