Bonus April 2016 Text.
Deuteronomy 28 is such a frightening text! Moses’s death is coming, and he wants to make sure that after he is gone the people never forget to obey God. So he stands before them and gives them a choice: do good and be blessed, or abandon God and be punished.
But what makes this chapter so frightening is that Moses doesn’t really stress God’s blessings. In vv. 1–14 he tells the people how God will bless them if they follow him. But for the whole rest of the chapter, from vv. 15–68, Moses describes in detail all the terrible ways God will punish Israel if they reject God. Every part of their lives will be cursed with diseases and disasters, with wars and hunger. Like wild animals they will fight each other for the right to eat their own children! In v. 63 Moses says that God will destroy them all – and God will enjoy doing it! That’s scary! Finally in v. 68, Moses warns the people not to think they have an eternal covenant with God. If the Israelites don’t want to follow God, then God will happily call the whole thing off and ship them back to Egypt where they can be slaves again. The final words of the chapter are so stinging and bitter: the people can leave if they want, but no one else will want them!
These verses sound so much like a fight between lovers, like what an angry boyfriend would write to his girlfriend when they are going to break up. In a way, that’s exactly what is happening here. This is a relationship of love between God and the Israelites, and God is threatening to break up with them if they won’t commit to the relationship.
Now we Christians know that God isn’t really like this. God isn’t an angry and bitter boyfriend. But we can understand why Moses speaks this way. Like little children, we often only change our ways when we are scared of punishments. So Moses tries to scare the people into obeying God. But let’s try not to be so stubborn today. Let’s follow God not out of fear, but because we know that God loves us and wants the best for us.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis