Deuteronomy 28:15-68 – It’s Not About Grace vs. Obedience! It’s About Grace, Then Obedience

Posted: April 22, 2017 in 05-Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 28:15-68

Curses for Disobedience

Unmerited Grace. Obedience through our works. The great struggle of the Christian faith.

We are saved by grace. There is no doubt of that. Scripture is clear that one sin, just one sin, disqualifies us from existing in the presence of God in eternity in heaven. It’s a one and done deal. Commit just one sin on this side of eternity and we are condemned to an eternity in hell where there is gnashing of teeth and the burning of flesh for eternity. That is the whole purpose of Jesus Christ on the cross. There, He took on the wrath of God against sin for all mankind for all time. It is there that our slate is wiped clean through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. All we must do is to believe fully that He was the Son of God, that He died on the cross for our sins, and that He was resurrected from the dead to give us hope of a new life and a life in the presence of God with Him. Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and the cleansing that comes to us when we believe in Him is the grace of salvation. We are given an unmerited gift. There is no need for God to give us that gift. By all rights, our first sin and all the sins that we commit after the first one show us to be habitual sin criminals that deserve the penalty that rightfully should be handed down to us. It’s not like we are some first time sin criminal. We are habitual sin criminals that deserve the fullest extent of punishment possible. However, through faith in Jesus Christ, true repentant faith, we are set free by Jesus and through what He did on the cross. In no way did we deserve it. In no way did we do something to earn it. One sin makes us imperfect so its not like we can fix it! Like pouring Kool-Aid granules into water, it forever changes the color of the water and nothing can change it back, so, too, are we forever tainted before God by our first sin. Nothing we can do to change us back.


Why is then that God expects us to obey His commands? If we are saved by grace through faith alone. Why does it matter? Why do so many of us ignore God’s commands and say we are New Testament Christians? Why do we act as if we can do whatever we want because we are covered in the grace of Jesus Christ? This is the fear of many throughout the ages that concept of grace allows us to commit sins with impunity. We can live the way we want to live because of the wonderful grace that God has given us through Jesus Christ. Some Christ followers won’t even crack open the Old Testament books, because they say it does not apply to them because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. It’s not worth reading, they say. Grace trumps the commands of the Old Testament they say. Why should I obey commands when I am covered by grace?


It was this concept of grace vs. obedience that came to mind when I read this rather extensive passage this morning, Deuteronomy 28:15-68:


15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:


16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.


17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.


18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.


19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.


20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.[a] 21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.


25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth. 26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 27 The Lord will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured. 28 The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind. 29 At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.


30 You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit. 31 Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them. 32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand. 33 A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days. 34 The sights you see will drive you mad. 35 The Lord will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.


36 The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. 37 You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.


38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it. 39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them. 40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off. 41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity. 42 Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.


43 The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. 44 They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.


45 All these curses will come on 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. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.


49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.


53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.


58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.


64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.


As you see here in this passage, disobedience leads to curses are just as negative as the blessing are positive. As the blessings represent the fullness of life, the curses represent the opposite – the deprivation of life, the presence of death, disease, defeat, and exile. But, you will note, that these curses are multiplied far more than the blessings so that they never seem to end. Israel would as we know lose their place as a blessed nation because of rampant disobedience to God.


There is a powerful parallelism between what happened to Israel and what can and frequently does happen to members in the body of Christ. Many have pointed out that Israel received the promised land as “an unmerited gift”; and indeed they did, in exactly the same way that the grace of God, through his unmerited favor, receives followers of Christ today into his kingdom. Furthermore, even if Israel had faithfully obeyed God’s commandments and kept his statutes, even the fullest possible measure of their obedience could never in a million years have altered the “unmerited” and “unearned” nature of blessings which they received. However, reckless disobedience and rebellion against God’s rules could, and in the case of Israel, did forfeit all of those unmerited favors.


Does this mean that I must obey the Lord to keep my salvation? Can I lose my salvation if I don’t do works of obedience? What does this all mean? Is it not also true in the kingdom of Christ? Saved by grace as we surely are, recipients of unmerited favor from God, rejoicing in a salvation we did not earn nor could we ever earn; but we may surely forfeit all such mercies and blessings through willful and continual disobedience and rebellion against the ordinances and statutes God has commanded. Why even bother keeping the Lord’s commands if (1) we are saved by grace through faith alone  and (2) never in a million years could we expect win favor from God by our obedience to His commands.


How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction in the basic theology of the Christian faith? I think we need something to bring the two concepts together. Just as a bridge connects land that cannot be traversed one to the other without the bridge. We need a bridge between the Land of Grace on one side and the Land of Obedience on the other. That bridge is called repentance.


We are saved by grace through faith alone. Without fully believing that we are natural born sinners that are destined for hell on our own, without full believing that we are in need of an intervention because we are hopelessly mired in sin that separates us from God, we cannot come to faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We first must believe that we are need of saving and that nothing else will do because we cannot win heaven on our own by our own behavior because of our hopeless sin nature. We must first believe that we are doomed to hell in the absence of an intervention. That intervention is in Jesus Christ alone. He is God in the flesh and He is perfect. He came to earth to dwell among us and to live the one and only ever perfect and sinless life. Since He was the only sacrifice ever to be completely perfect and completely sinless, He completed the Old Testament sacrificial system. His blood makes us clean. His death on the cross cancels out the cost of our sins because He bore the punishment for our sins by being that once and final sacrifice of the perfect sinless One.


Once we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that He arose from the dead because He is God in the flesh, we are saved by grace. Once our sins are cleansed away by the grace of Jesus Christ, our souls are made holy. Only then can the Holy Spirit dwell in our souls. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to dwell in us so that we will have the glory of the Lord within us to guide and direct us.


The Holy Spirit is the difference. It is through the Holy Spirit’s action in our souls and through His guidance that we repent of our sins. It is through the Holy Spirit that we find disdain in continuing to live in ways that are dissatisfying to the Lord. Sure, there are some sins that we like to continue committing more than others and the Holy Spirit must often work an entire lifetime to rid of us our desire to continue committing certain of our pet sins. Accepting Christ as our Savior and Lord does not mean that we are automatically perfect. The Holy Spirit spends a lifetime teaching us about obedience to the Lord and pointing out to us where our lives are displeasing to the Lord. We cannot lose our salvation because true salvation leads us to WANT to please the Lord through obedience to His commands. True salvation allows us to see ourselves as sinners that are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit daily to cleanse us of our sinful ways. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the fact that without Jesus we are condemned. Through the Holy Spirit, we begin to be revolted by our sins and through the Holy Spirit we are gradually made more like Christ each day where we are turning away from sins we once enjoyed committed or weren’t even aware that were sins previously.


So if we cannot lose our salvation then what is the benefit of obeying the Lord’s commands? First, there’s the want-to that comes from the Holy Spirit. We WANT to please the Lord. We WANT the Holy Spirit to point our where we are unholy so that we can make it holy. We want to please the Lord so we are willing to obey His Word. Then, there’s the issue of the consequences of sin.


There are always consequences to our sins even after salvation. We may have our sentence to hell exonerated through grace but the consequences of our sins follow us even after salvation. Sins we commit after salvation have their consequences. Israel paid for its disobedience to the Lord over and over. So shall we. For every sin we commit even after salvation. There are consequences. Sin is against the nature of God and anything that is against His nature has negative consequences. So, as we grow and mature in Christ, we realize that there was, there is, and there will be consequences to our sins. Sin is against God’s nature and every sin has negative consequences on our lives. We know through the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to these facts. We already know through salvation that we deserve hell but that we have been given an eternal reprieve through Jesus Christ. We then spend the rest of our lives trying to openly and humbly please Him through the conduct of our lives. The Holy Spirit is there to keep us humble and to point out the ways in which our lives continue to be unholy and begins to create revulsion in us for those things that are not of God because first and foremost through salvation we are desirous now of pleasing God above all things. Repentance and the desire to please the Lord through our obedience to His Word is the essence of the Christian. Salvation. Repentance the bridge. Obedience to the Lord. Blessings for Obedience. Curses for Disobedience.


Obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings curses. True before and after salvation. Salvation brings the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit brings about the desire to obey. This is just the truth of God. Plain and simple. If you are having to throw away parts of the Bible to justify why your sin is no longer sin or was never sin in the first place…it is sin. Plain and simple. We must come to the Lord through the Holy Spirit and repent of our sins. May the Holy Spirit be a powerful force in our lives to show us our sins and influence us to repent from them and turn away from them and no longer justify our sins as OK. We WANT to please the Lord through our obedience to His Word. Holy Spirit point out to us where we need to repent because we have the DESIRE to be more like Jesus each day because we want to make Him smile and allow Him to bless us. Help us, Holy Spirit. Help us!


Amen and Amen.

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