Some Intense Reading.
“This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this citye and its people. All the curses written in the scroll that was read to the king of Judah will come true.” – 2 Chronicles 34:24 NLT
When Josiah heard the words of God found in the scroll containing the book of the Law, he was blown away. He was so shaken by what he heard, he tore his clothes in despair. He immediately called on his trusted officials to go to the Temple and make an appeal to God. “For the Lord’s great anger has been poured out on us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the Lord. We have not been doing everything this scroll says we must do” (2 Chronicles 34:21b NLT). But what could Josiah have heard that upset him so much? How bad could it have been? Well, a cursory look at the book of the Law will shed some sobering light on the subject. The book of the Law that Josiah heard was either the book of Deuteronomy of the entire Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible penned by Moses himself. Either way, part of what Josiah would have heard were the curses that God had promised to bring on the people of Israel should they disobey Him.
God’s covenant with Moses had been conditional. It required obedience. And if they did obey, it came with blessings.
“You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: Your towns and your fields will be blessed. Your children and your crops will be blessed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be blessed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be blessed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” – Deuteronomy 28:2-6 NLT
But God’s covenant also came with curses.
“But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you: Your towns and your fields will be cursed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed. Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed.” – Deuteronomy 28:15-19 NLT
God went on to assure them that He would be the one sending the curses on them. He would confuse and frustrate them in all that they did. He would send devastating diseases on them. He would afflict them with scorching heat and drought. He would cause them to suffer defeat at the hands of their enemies. He would curse them with boils, madness, blindness, and panic. They would suffer domestic difficulties. They would build houses and never live in, plant vineyards and never enjoy a drop of the wine produced, get engaged to be married to a woman and watch someone else marry her. The list goes on and on. And just to make sure they understand why these things are going to happen, God makes it painfully clear. “If you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and to obey the commands and decrees he has given you, all these curses will pursue and overtake you until you are destroyed. These horrors will serve as a sign and warning among you and your descendants forever. If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything. The Lord will put an iron yoke on your neck, oppressing you harshly until he has destroyed you” (Deuteronomy 28:45-48 NLT).
This was serious stuff and somehow the people of God had forgotten all about the curses of God. They had conveniently let the negative consequences of their sinful choices disappear from the memories. And as a result, they had lived in willful disobedience to God for generations. They had turned their backs on God and, because they were the “chosen” people of God, they believed they were invincible. God would not allow anything to happen to them because they were the apple of His eye. He had set them apart from all the other nations of the world. But that set-apartness required distinctiveness. It demanded that they live differently from the nations around them. They were to follow God’s commands and live according to His Law. And if they did, they would be blessed beyond measure. But if they didn’t, they would be curses beyond belief. And when Josiah heard the words of God, he was devastated and rightfully concerned. He knew the track record of his people. He knew what his ancestors had done. He knew what his grandfather Manasseh and his father Amon had done. The evidence of their sin was all around him, in the form of idols and shrines to all the other gods they worshiped. So Josiah was shaken. He knew they were guilty and deserved every one of the curses outlined in the book of the Law. So he did the only thing he knew to do. He repented and turned to God. He began to make changes. He sought to shift the tide back toward obedience. And God took notice. He would delay the inevitable. He would not send the deserved curses during Josiah’s reign, but would hold off until he was gone.
But what about us? Do we need to fear the curses of God? Do we need to go back and read the words of Moses and begin to live obediently or else face the consequences? No, as believers in Christ, we no longer live under the curse of the Law. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Christians in Rome. “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are” (Romans 3:21-22 NLT). Paul goes on to assure us that we no longer have to live our lives attempting to keep the Law. “So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (Romans 7:4-7 NLT).
We have been released from having to keep the Law. We have been freed from the curses associated with disobedience to the Law. But this does not mean we are free to disobey the Law. It simply means we now keep the Law willingly and joyfully, not out of some sense of duty or out of fear of condemnation. Paul said he loved God’s law, and so should we. We should love His law because we love the one who gave us the Law. Can we keep the Law perfectly? No. And we do not need to. We are not judged by the Law, because Christ has fulfilled the requirements of the Law once and for all. We now obey out of love, not obligation. But the curses associated with the Law should be a sobering reminder of just what we have been rescued from. We were just as deserving of those curses as Josiah and the people of Judah were. But God provided us with a payment for our sins. He provided a sacrifice to cover our debt. And because of what Jesus did on the cross, we stand as blessed and not cursed. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NLT). Now those are words we should never get tired of reading.
Father, the curses associated with disobedience to Your Law were real. They revealed just how serious sin was and is to You. And I was deserving of every one of those curses. But because of what Jesus did on the cross, I have been freed from the curse of the Law. Never let me forget just how much I have been delivered from. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men