By Joe Neil Clayton
The children of Israel were poised on the order of the Promised Land. Years of pain, moderated by miracles, were behind them in the wilderness. They had witnessed the destruction a whole generation of their brethren who had rebelled against God. But, Moses could not be content that they had learned the lessons of faith and obedience sufficiently well to guarantee their proper behavior in the future. Therefore, he devoted much of his last time with them to warn them of the consequences of rebellion, and encourage them with promises of blessing. This was the blessing and the curse, and its significance was shown in two different ways. To the Israelites, it was emphasized by the object lesson of setting the blessing on mount Gerizim, and the curse on mount Ebal. (Deut. 1:29). To us today, the importance of these words is shown in the fact that they occupy eight chapters of the book of Deuteronomy. The Lord has emphasized faith and obedience in this way, and we should be impressed. If He expends that much precious space to insure obedience to a “faulty” law (Heb. 8:7), how much more important is the word with the “glory that surpasseth.” (2 Cor. 3:10).
The basic trait of the Old Testament is that it deals with physical things and carnal acts. It naturally follows, then, that any blessing or curse pronounced in reference to that law would also involve physical things. For example, in the category, Blessings: they would prolong their days (Deut. 4: 40), they would increase mightily (Deut. 6:3), they would possess the land and thrust out their enemies (Deut. 6:18-19), and many other blessings (Deut. 7:1-16, 11:13-15). In the category, curses: God would be angry and destroy them (Deut. 6:14-15), or he would take away the blessings of rain and prosperity (Deut. 11:16-17).
No people in the entire world had as much going for them as the Israelites. Their God could win battles for them, cause the ground to flourish for them, and He could guard them from disease and pestilence. All they had to do in return was faithfully adhere to the precepts of the Law of Moses. That simple covenant would have been easy to keep, but the record shows a progressive intensity of rebellion on their part. They gradually forgot God by substituting the gods of the land who were supposed to have the powers of Jehovah, but who were impotent.
In the course of time and plan came the New Testament. It has been abused and confused with concepts that human wisdom devised. So, God has chosen to reveal in it a system of blessings and curses, in hope that man would not be so bold in his rebellion. The nature of the New Testament, however, is spiritual rather than carnal. Its blessings refer to spiritual well being, while its curses predict spiritual loss (such loss must be more dramatic and costly than physical loss).
In the realm of spiritual blessings, promised for faithful obedience, we can abide in the love of Christ (John 15:10-111; we can enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21); We can know and be in Christ (I John 2:3-6); we can be made free from sin (Rom. 6:17-18).
On the other side of the coin, if we do not submit to the will of God, we shall surely “suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (2 Thess. 1: 7 b-9). Also, that disobedience can cause us to be in a state worse than when we had not known the Lord (2 Pet. 2:20-22). The writer of Hebrews states that a man disobedient to Moses’ Law died “without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses,” and then asks, “of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden tinder foot tile Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:28-29). Can our minds frame an imaginative answer to this question? If we know the importance of the Son of God and His revelation, it is not too difficult, but the picture that comes to mind is frightening.
In both the Old and New covenants, there are warnings against changing the word of God (Deut. 4:2, Rev. 22:18-19). In both covenants, we are urged to be encouraged by a knowledge of the good things done for its (Deut. 4:32-39, Heb. 12:1-3). And, in both covenants, we are told to increase our knowledge in order to have greater reward (Deut. 6:4-9, Col. 2: 1-10). Nevertheless, the New Covenant supercedes the old in glory and authority, and we must never allow ourselves to take it lightly. Obedience to the Law of Christ promises spiritual blessings to supercede all the blessings of earth, and disobedience calls for punishment far more calamitous than any physical curse. Let its not follow the Israelites in the way of rebellion, for the consequences for us have an eternal nature.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 17, pp. 11-12
March 1, 1973