By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Blessings and cursings are mentioned in Deuteronomy 11:16-18. Can Christians live under a curse to the extent that they do not prosper materially, that is, they become failures? If so, how do they come under this curse, and how do they get out from under it?
Reply: “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah your God, which I command you this day; and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known” (Deut. 11:26-28).
Later, when Israel had entered Canaan, blessings were to be uttered from Mount Gerizim and the curse from Mount Ebal (v. 29). These two mountains are opposite each other, and interestingly, Mount Ebal is barren and Mount Gerizim is fertile. Each is about 2500 feet in elevation. They are in the center of the land from west to east and from north to south. Shechem (modern Nabulus) is nestled between these two mountains, Ebal on the north side and Gerizim on the south. Israel was to be subject to either blessings or cursings, blessings if she would obey God’s commandments and cursings if she disobeyed them.
Israel was a free agent; she was given a choice. Jehovah said: “Behold, I set before you this day. . .” (v. 26). It was up to Israel. She could choose to obey or disobey. “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). Joshua later placed a choice before Israel (Josh. 24:15). Whether we are blessed or condemned by God today depends upon the choice that we make.
To correctly answer the inquiry, we must determine the nature of the blessings and the curse. The blessings may include physical blessings at times. Israel was blessed in the land that she had conquered, living on it and prospering from it. The continued occupancy of the land was conditional. She would be so prospered if she remained faithful to Jehovah; but if she disobeyed Him, she would be destroyed from the land (see Josh. 23:15,16). A man receives God’s blessings when he is approved of God, and when he thereby prospers, he prospers spiritually.
Physical prosperity does not always come to the man whom God has blessed. He will not necessarily become materially rich or successful (although principles practiced by a Christian may in some instances contribute to some degree of even material success). But he does prosper spiritually. We must remember that even the wicked prosper materially, and this has always been a concern of the righteous. The psalmist David admonished: “Rest in Jehovah and wait patiently for him: Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, Because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Psa. 37:7). We are reminded also that Job was a righteous man, but was divested of his worldly goods, lost all of his children and was afflicted with “sore boils from the sole of his foot to his crown” (Job 2:7). Job was a righteous man, and though he lost materially and suffered pain, he nevertheless prospered spiritually. This is true prosperity. The Christian experiences tragedies in life, but prospers spiritually and will receive his reward in that everlasting heavenly home. Paul suffered, enumerating those things which befell him (2 Cor. 11:23-28), but he was assured of his eternal reward (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
As to the curse, this does not mean that the man who is cursed because he disobeys God is necessarily jinxed in all of his physical undertakings. We have already seen that the wicked may prosper. The curse means that he is cursed by God; that he, is in a state of condemnation. Conversely, the one who is pleasing to God is not comdemned. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1, KJV).
Our conclusion is that both the righteous and the wicked may prosper materially. “For he maketh his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Both the righteous and the wicked also suffer physically and endure mental anguish. But the righteous is blessed because he has God’s approval. He prospers spiritually as he endeavors to reach heaven. The unrighteous is cursed in that he is condemned. His soul is lost if he does not repent. We should all endeavor to please God that we may be blessed and not be cursed.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 22, p. 676
November 15, 1984