Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Twenty-Eight Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Blessings And Curses II
Verses 1-2: "Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God:" We are often quick to acknowledge God for the blessings in our lives, but we draw back from accepting that "curses," like the ones listed in this chapter, can have a good purpose. The blessings delight us, but amazingly, life's curses often lead to a faith that grows. God's grace, operative through both the wonderful and the awful, can produce righteous living, shaping us, driving us to trust that He is doing what's best, and it is all ultimately good because, 1) He knows what He is doing, and 2) He really loves you and me.
Verses 3-7: "Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 4 Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. 7 The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways." There really is a cause and effect relationship between what we do and what happens. These verses contain a few of the blessings that were available to Israel and as the chapter unfolds, we will see a lot of the problems that affect people everywhere, called by God through Moses: "curses." Note that the blessings come out of "being careful to do all His commandments..." We trust in the Lord, follow His Holy Spirit, and yes, there are still problems in life, but there are also unanticipated blessings that will delight us along the way. He has a will for your life, just as He did for those in ancient Israel; a special, blessed purpose for each person who has ever lived.
Verses 8-12: "The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 9 The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. 11 The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow." Do you have certain skills that others may not have? As you trust in the Lord, have you seen that you understand Scripture in an unusual manner? Or possibly, have you noticed that when others are confused about what to do, you can pray, or give wise advice, or know something, or can act when others can't? God gives gifts to His people. Just like a good farmer knows when to plant, what to plant, how to nurture it and when to reap the benefits, God gives each of us abilities, secular and spiritual; some you may not have yet recognized—uniquely gifting us for effective service.
Verses 13-15: "The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. 15 But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:" Have you felt like the tail of a dog, wagged and dragged by circumstances out of your control? He longs to give you abilities of leadership in specific ways as you trust in Him and accept His leading for your life. We are to put the Lord first, before marriage, employment, health, money—anything we might value in this world. Israel did conquer the land, but then became proud, congratulating themselves for what only God can do. And so "curses" began to plague them, which were designed to bring them back to faith in the Lord. As you read the curses that follow, ask yourself: "Does any of this apply to me? Is God speaking to me through these Scriptures and through the problems in my own life?"
Verses 16-21: "Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 Cursed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20 The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. 21 The Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it." These verses are a reversal of the blessings seen previously. The older we get, the more we can prayerfully look back and see a PATTERN in the troubles that have beset us. At different times, in other places—it has happened before! Is God speaking to you? Yes He is. The "confusion" in life continues until we finally acknowledge Him in faith and embrace His leadership in everything.
Verses 22-27: "The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish. 23 The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. 24 The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. 25 The Lord shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 27 The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed." Disobedience can make us sick. Personal pride and a resultant lack of faith in the Lord can make our efforts fail. Not trusting Him leads to death. Here's a reason for suffering: Job, the man in the Book of Job, lost everything—his children, his wife's love, his prosperity, his health, the respect of those who were no longer his friends—he lost it all, and we see in his life that suffering can come, not only from our failures, but just because God is using us in ways greater than we understand. Early Christians were faithful to the Lord, but also they were killed by the thousands as God brought an Empire, and subsequently more to the Lord. He has purpose in both the blessings and the curses of life.
Verses 28-34: "The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you. 30 You shall betroth a wife, but another man will violate her; you shall build a house, but you will not live in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but you will not use its fruit. 31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your donkey shall be torn away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you will have none to save you. 32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and yearn for them continually; but there will be nothing you can do. 33 A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you will never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually. 34 You shall be driven mad by the sight of what you see." Again, our decision to put this material world ahead of the Lord's call is directly related to the troubles we experience. But there is more. The disciples of Jesus were trying hard to be good men of Israel when they asked about a blind man in John 9:1-2—"Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in Him." Jesus then initiated a miracle in which sight was given to the man. Suffering is allowed to show us that He is the God of miracles. He takes away and then He gives more than we ever thought or expected. Suffering and loss can lead to miracles of restoration and faith, moving us and others toward trust in the Lord.
Verses 35-40: "The Lord will strike you on the knees and legs with sore boils, from which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head. 36 The Lord will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone. 37 You shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the Lord drives you. 38 You shall bring out much seed to the field but you will gather in little, for the locust will consume it. 39 You shall plant and cultivate vineyards, but you will neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm will devour them. 40 You shall have olive trees throughout your territory but you will not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives will drop off." The warnings of the Lord through Moses continue, as the nation is alerted that sore boils like Job experienced might be in their future, questionable kings would lead them, idolatrous nations would conquer them, and they would find economic ruin. It's amazing: God blesses us and all too often we respond by giving ourselves credit for what He has done. Let's be honest here: If you have abilities, it is He who gave them to you. Others may have just as much skill as you do, but if you succeeded and they did not, it was the Lord. God gave to Israel richly as His blessings emerged in their lives, but they responded with pride. "We did it" and "I did it" led to their fall. It's a historical lesson sent from God: The praise is due to HIM who made us what we are.
Verses 41-46: "You shall have sons and daughters but they will not be yours, for they will go into captivity. 42 The cricket shall possess all your trees and the produce of your ground. 43 The alien who is among you shall rise above you higher and higher, but you will go down lower and lower. 44 He shall lend to you, but you will not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you will be the tail. 45 So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. 46 They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever." Losing children is right up there with the hardest grief of all, but here was God, warning them: "Keep the faith or lose your kids!" And those refugees who come into your country running from terror in their own lands, CAN take over economically, just as you feared. And it's not about them; it's about our lack of faith. There would be a downhill slide for Israel, until everything on these pages happened to them.
Verses 47-50: "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you. 49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50 a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young." Israel was to become a nation successful in battle, but then pride and a lack of trust in the Lord would course through the nation like an infectious disease, and their prowess in battle wasted away. They became open to fierce invaders who showed no mercy. And note in Verse 47 that God reasonably expects us to serve Him "with joy and a glad heart," no matter what happens. Go to Him with gladness today. It may or may not change your circumstances, but He will wondrously change you inside.
Verses 51-53: "Moreover, it shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. 52 It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the Lord your God has given you. 53 Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you." It is interesting how our actions lead to trouble. Promiscuity leads to disease, broken marriages, the end of friendships and ruined children. It's like you "eat the offspring of your own body" as families and nations are ruined through sin. We try to build "fortified walls" of successful financial plans, insurance and wise investments, but unbelief leads to bad decisions resulting in the fall of those financial walls. Israel is both a real place and people, and it is also a historical signpost, a warning to us: Our lack of faith in the Lord will bring us, our families and our nations to the curses of these chapters.
Verses 54-59: "The man who is refined and very delicate among you shall be hostile toward his brother and toward the wife he cherishes and toward the rest of his children who remain, 55 so that he will not give even one of them any of the flesh of his children which he will eat, since he has nothing else left, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in all your towns. 56 The refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and refinement, shall be hostile toward the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter, 57 and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in your towns. 58 If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59 then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses." The person you portray, fooling others and yourself, is not the real you. (And I know—"speak for yourself!"). We try so hard to seem to be something that we even believe it ourselves. The reality is that the stress of suffering will bring out who we really are, and it will shock even us. Trouble brings awareness, providing the opportunity to confess our sin to the Lord and be healed. Let's do so, before more problems damage our lives. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:5-6 advise us: "Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects..." Your troubles have purpose.
Verses 60-64: "He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you. 61 Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the Lord will bring on you until you are destroyed. 62 Then you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 It shall come about that as the Lord delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the Lord will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. 64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known." Again, we should notice that the problems we have experienced previously, definitely follow us, but it's NOT merely the problems themselves, like some sort of "karma;" it's the Lord God Himself who is pursuing you with the goal of bringing you to Himself. He is not pleased when we suffer. On the contrary, He longs to heal our lives. Go to Him. And note that our suffering may not merely be about us. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, it's clear that we experience God's comfort in suffering, preparing us to comfort others in similar distress. Continue reading in that place and find that our trouble, our limitations, can even lead others to Christ.
Verses 65-68: "Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. 66 So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see. 68 The Lord will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, ‘You will never see it again!’ And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer." These verses touch on the depressed feelings that seem to devour us as we suffer. We can't rest, our health is affected, we dread what might come next and think we're going to die. We're dissatisfied and feel like worthless slaves that no one will buy. Paul the Apostle felt like that. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, he reports, "we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead... who delivered us... that thanks may be given..." Paul and his friends were overwhelmed by circumstances greater than ever expected, as you may be also. But as he was, you are being shown that troubles are so we will no longer "trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." And through our difficulties and deliverance, others will see and be drawn to give thanks to the Lord.
Lord, thank You for the blessings in my life. And thank You for my problems. I am learning to trust in You, no matter what. Help others to see what has happened to me, and learn to trust in You like I am beginning to do. In Jesus Name. Amen.