Sunday, 16 March 2014

(76) March 17: Deuteronomy 28 & Mark 15:27-47

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the categories to the blessings and curses.

To ponder:
This is a sobering chapter. The blessings and curses echo those of Eden, looking to those of eternity. The curses were eventually experienced when Assyria and Babylon conquered Israel. Here Moses says this would be a “sign and wonder” to God’s people forever (28v47) – proof that God will always bring to pass the judgements he warns of. So chapter 28 is for us to heed. For this reason, as with Jesus’ teaching, it gives more space to the curses. We must remember this reflects God’s loving concern for us.
            The word “if” sets the choice before Israel. “If” she “fully” and “carefully” obeys, never “turning aside” from God’s commands, she will be exalted “high above” all nations. This principle continues. Those who are “last” in God’s kingdom will be “first,” as Jesus was, because they act righteously by humbly serving God and others. This is the way to greatness before God.
            The blessings will fill the whole land, encompass every activity, and be seen in fruitfulness with respect to children, crops and livestock. God will therefore open the heavens to bring rain. And enemies will be soundly defeated, so that “all peoples” fear Israel. It’s a picture of prosperity and security, which will be ours too, when all evil is shut out of the new creation.
            The curses are not simply the absence of blessing, but an active bringing upon Israel their opposite. They too will be total, affecting the same areas. So the people will be frustrated in all they seek to achieve until they are eventually destroyed. This destruction will include illness, diseased crops, drought, defeat, afflictions of the skin patterned on the plagues of Egypt, and helplessness of the mind, meaning people will just not know what to do (28v29).
            In the context of war, people will lose their wives, homes, crops and animals. They, their children and even king will be shipped to other nations, where they will commit idolatry, whilst foreigners enjoy their land. Their crops will be ruined by locusts, worms, and disease, and “in hunger” and “poverty” they will serve their oppressors. Indeed, aliens will be exalted whilst Israelites sink lower. As Jesus said, those who exalt themselves in their pride and arrogance, will be humbled.
            It is stressed this is for the LORD to “put an iron yoke” of bondage on Israel’s neck. He will bring a nation against her like a swooping eagle, which will show no pity, devouring all they have and besieging all their cities. Cannibalism will result from the lack of food, in which all compassion for one’s family will be put aside by the desperation to survive. Moreover, “every kind” of sickness and disaster will be brought on Israel until the once numerous nation will be “few in number.” Scattered to the nations, the people will experience psychological and emotional despair as they worry about what they might face and long for what was, desperate that the sufferings of the moment pass. Hard as it is, Jesus’ affirms this same despair in describing the torments of hell (Lk 13v28-30, 16v22-24, Rev 14v10-11).
The chapter ends with Israel once more enslaved in Egypt. In other words, all that God has given will be removed, and they will experience the very judgements Egypt did (28v27).
This should all deepen our appreciation of what it involved for Christ to “redeem us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” And through true faith in him, none of this needs to be feared. On the contrary, he bore the curse “that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles” (Gal 3v13-14)!  

Praying it home:
Thank God for his love displayed in Christ experiencing the equivalent of these things so that we could be saved from them. Pray for a greater conviction and honesty about the reality of judgement in churches and Christians.

Thinking further:
None today.

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