Blessed and a Blessing.
Deuteronomy 27-28, Acts 2
And all the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. – Deuteronomy 28:10 ESV
God was serious when He called His people to live in obedience to His commands. They were not suggestions. They were not up for debate or open to interpretation. And God made it abundantly clear that obedience to His law came with unbelievable blessings, while disobedience would result in devastating consequences. If the Israelites obeyed God, they would enjoy a place of honor and exaltation as His people. They would experience God’s favor in the form of fruitfulness, abundance, victory in battle, and recognition among the nations as being the people of God. But disobedience would be extremely costly. The warnings found in chapters 27 and 28 were meant to be deterrents toward disobedience. Their free-will choice to disobey God would not go unnoticed or unpunished. And it’s interesting to note that many of the curses that are outlined in these two chapters are violations of the commands of God. “And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you. You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:29-30 ESV). By disobeying the laws of God, they would experience first-hand what violation of those laws felt like. God had told them, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 25:15 ESV). Yet if they failed to obey that law, they would find out what it was like to be on the receiving end. They would discover the devastating consequences of life lived in opposition to God’s divine will.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God’s intention had been to make Israel a showcase of His grace and mercy. They were to be a witness to the nations of His abundant power and amazing love. He had told them, “And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you” (Deuteronomy 28:10 ESV). But their disobedience would have a completely different outcome. “And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the Lord will lead you away” (Deuteronomy 28:37 ESV). They would go from being a blessing to becoming a curse. They would move from being blessed by God to being under His curse. But God’s desire all along was that they might be a blessing. He wanted to pour out His grace, mercy, and love on them. He desired them to be a shining example of what it looked like for men to live in obedience to and in favor with God.
What does this passage reveal about man?
God’s favor required man’s obedience. The blessings of God were conditional and demanded adherence to His commands. Throughout these two chapters in Deuteronomy we see “if…then” statements that clearly indicate that enjoyment of God’s blessings required obedience to His laws. But in spite of Moses’ dire warnings, the Israelites would find it virtually impossible live up to God’s exacting standards. They just didn’t have it in them. Their hearts would prove to be unfaithful. Their strength would prove to be too weak. Their good intentions would not be enough to overcome their bad choices. And God knew exactly what was going to happen. He was not surprised by their inability to live up to His holy standards. He gave His law to them in order to illustrate just how holy He was and just how difficult it would be for ordinary men to meet His extraordinary requirements. The apostle Paul understood the role of the law well. “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness” (Romans 7:7-8 ESV). When God gave the law to the people of Israel, they found themselves facing an impossible task. They had been given God’s righteous standards and yet were ill-equipped to meet those standards. They were sinful men and women attempting to live up to the righteous requirements of a holy God. And they would fail. Every one of the curses outlined in these two chapters would take place. They would end up in exile, living in a foreign land, serving as slaves to a pagan king and worshiping false gods. Their fortunes would be reversed. They would go from many to few, from blessed to cursed, from free to slave, from honored to reviled, and from worshiping the one true God to serving “other gods of wood and stone” (Deuteronomy 28:64 ESV).
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
But God had a plan. He was not done. His relationship with the people of Israel would not end with their failure to keep His commands. The history of the Jewish people is a picture of God’s faithfulness, love, mercy and grace. He had made a covenant with them and He was going to keep that covenant in spite of them. While they proved to be faithless, He would be faithful. He would do what He said He would do. Yes, He would fulfill every one of the curses. They would end up in exile. They would experience every single one of the consequences outlined in these chapters. But they would also experience God’s amazing grace when He restored them to the land and returned them to their rightful place as His chosen people. And God would fulfill every one of His promises made to Abraham. He would make the descendants of Abraham a blessing to the nations. It would be through the nation of Israel that Jesus would come. He would be born a Jew, required to keep the laws of God and meet the exacting standards that God had given to Moses. Jesus would be the one man who would do exactly what God had commanded to be done. He would live in obedience to the laws of God, resulting in a perfectly sinless life, and making Him a perfectly blameless sacrifice for the sins of mankind. But Jesus was not just destined to die. He would rise again, and He would return to His Father’s side in heaven, sending His Holy Spirit in His place. And we see the arrival of the Spirit in the second chapter of Acts, when He came upon the disciples and empowered them to speak in foreign languages they didn’t know. These “Galileans” were transformed by the Spirit of God and became powerful witnesses for God. These common Jews would end up being a blessing to the nations, including “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” (Acts 2:9-11 ESV). The disciples would be blessed and a blessing. They would receive the power necessary to live in obedience to God’s laws and reveal to the nations “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11 ESV). And that is exactly what God wants to do in my life. He has blessed me through His Son and He wants me to be a blessing to the nations. He wants my life to be a living testimony of His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. He wants my life to exhibit His power and testify to the fact that a holy life is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is only available to those who have placed their faith in the only man who was able to live a holy life: Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 1For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV).
Father, You have blessed me with the gift of Your Son. You have saved me. You have given me new life and the promise of eternal life. But You have also called me to be a blessing to all of those around me. May my life be a constant reminder and an illustration to those around me of Your grace, mercy and love. Never let me forget that I was as hopeless as the Israelites when it came to living the life You have required of all men. I was incapable of meeting your exacting standards. But You sent Your Son to do what I could never have done. He lived the life I couldn’t have lived and He met the standard You required, making Himself the perfect sacrifice and payment for the sins of mankind. And His death made it possible for you to extend Your blessings upon all those who would accept His gift of new life through His death. Thank You! Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men