Saturday, October 2, 2010

Deuteronomy 25, 26, 27, 28 Promises, Curses, and Blessings

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As I read these chapters,  the most awful prophetic utterances against Israel that can be imagined marched through the pages.  The curses, consequences of disobedience, included plagues, famine, drought, poverty, war, cannibalism, infertility, servitude, military subjection, idolatry, and the scattering of Israel among all of the nations.  However, in the chapter before the curses were detailed, God reassured Israel that they would always be His people.

Deut. 26: 18 – 19.  And the Lord has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all of His commands.  He has declared that He will set you in praise, fame, and honor above all the nations He has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as He promised.

Here God  told Israel that they were His treasured possession which He blessed  so that they would always excel above the other nations that He made.  These  promises  were not dependent upon anything that Israel did or didn’t do.  God simply chose to bless them so that they, as a people, would always shine; would always remind others that they are recipients of God's unconditional covenant relationship.

In the following chapters, filled with blessings and curses contingent upon obedience there is, in the midst of the curses, a curious passage.

Deut. 28: 45 – 46. All these curses will come upon you.  They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.  They will be a sign and a wonder to you and to your descendants forever.

Cited in the above passage, the word destroyed, in Hebrew, is shamad שָׁמַד (Strong’s Concordance H8045) which can mean total annihilation as well as to devastate by overthrowing.   However, since the sentence that follows applies to Israel’s descendants forever, destruction here does not mean total annihilation.  God clearly stated that the curses that the nation will endure will serve as a sign and a wonder to Israel’s descendants forever.  During the wilderness wandering, all that Israel saw of God’s mighty hand acting on their behalf was to serve as signs and wonders, to remind them of who their God was and with whom they had a covenant relationship.  God prophesied that in the future, when evil would befall Israel because they violated His commands, they were to remember that this too was God’s hand, turning against them to correct them. 

A few verses later, Moses stated that “God will scatter you (Israel) among the nations.” Deut. 28:64.
Clearly the nation was not destroyed, but overthrown.  Though God disciplined His people, He never ceased to love and provide for Israel. 

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