Deuteronomy 11-13 I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse

From Deuteronomy 11-13

05 DeuteronomyWhat kinds of things do you do when you want to thank God?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Today as we look at God’s word we consider the words and deeds of the LORD. He is about to lead Israel into the promised land. The passage of scripture we are looking at today is a call for Israel  to remember what God has done in the past, to look forward to the future he has in store for them and to walk in the path God has set to get them there. I’m sure it will say something to us as well.

11 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. (Dt 11:1)

The section starts with an instruction to love the LORD and keep his commands. The verse repeats kinds of commands over and over in different ways. Charge, statutes, rules and commands? Arent they all the same thing? Why not just say commands? The repetition emphasises the importance of the commands. The variety of terms I suspect makes distinctions among the law.

2 And consider today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm, 3 his signs and his deeds that he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land, 4 and what he did to the army of Egypt, to their horses and to their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea flow over them as they pursued after you, and how the LORD has destroyed them to this day, 5 and what he did to you in the wilderness, until you came to this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, son of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households, their tents, and every living thing that followed them, in the midst of all Israel. 7 For your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that he did. (Dt 11:2-7)

Moses refers to the discipline of the LORD. “The context makes clear that mûsār (discipline) here refers not to Israel’s punishment but to what they had learned as they observed God’s mighty acts of deliverance (cf. Job 33:16; 36:10; Jer 32:33; 35:13; Zeph 3:2, 7).” (Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, p. 206). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

Is discipline good? Have you been disciplined in the past? Are you better for it?

Moses reminds them of what the LORD has done for them in the past. His ‘greatness’, ‘mighty hand’ and ‘outstretched hand’ refer to the signs and deeds he did in their travels.

8 “You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land that you are going over to possess, 9 and that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 For the land that you are entering to take possession of it is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and irrigated it, like a garden of vegetables. 11 But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, 12 a land that the LORD your God cares for. The eyes of the LORD your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. (Dt 11:8-12)

Moses says ‘therefore’. The verb connects the previous passage with this one. In response to the saving acts of the LORD they are to keep the whole commandment. All his commandments. If they do they will live long in the land the LORD will give them.

How should you respond to the saving acts of the LORD?

Moses gives a very positive account of the land. Flowing with milk and honey. Hills and valleys. Plentiful rain. The LORD looks after it all year. He had prepared it for them.

13 “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. 16 Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; 17 then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you. (Dt 11:13-17)

Like before, the section starts with an instruction to obey the LORD’s commandment. If they do so with all their heart and all their soul. The LORD will bless them.

Give your heart and soul to the LORD. Rededicate yourself to him.

The LORD will bless them by sending them rain. They are an agricultural society. They need rain to grow most of their food. Their livestock depends on the rain fed grass to feed themselves.

But they might then get comfortable and turn from the LORD. Moses warns them against this. If they turn away from him to other gods he will stop the rain. If there is no rain they will die. So they should keep their heart and soul focussed on him.

1000 Bible Images (2009) Stuttgart, Germany German Bible Society
1000 Bible Images (2009) Stuttgart, Germany German Bible Society

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. (Dt 11:18-21)

Again, Moses instructs them to wear the law. This way they will be continually reminded to keep his commands. If they remember them and teach them they will keep them. If they keep them the LORD will bless them. The commands remind them of the new life the LORD has given them.

22 For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, (Dt 11:22)

Holding fast to the LORD. This language is used of a man and his wife (Gen 2.). Its covenant language. The Ten Commandments are applicable to all people. Perhaps its time to review them.

Walk in the LORD’s ways. Don’t let him go.

The LORD encourages them with a promise.

23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours. Your territory shall be from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea. 25 No one shall be able to stand against you. The LORD your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all the land that you shall tread, as he promised you. (Dt 11:23-25)

If they trust in the LORD, believe in his promise they will go into the land and dispossess nations greater and mightier than them. The LORD sometimes calls his people to do seemingly impossible feats.

They are only possible when his people listen to what he says, trust him and obey.

26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known. 29 And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, you shall set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. (Dt 11:26-29)

So there are two ways to live. To trust in the LORD and obey him. Or to turn away from the LORD and ignore his commands.

The blessing is on Mount Gerizim. The curse on Mount Ebal.

“Just as the original covenant was made at a special place, namely, Mount Sinai, so the renewal could not have been undertaken at just any place in Canaan. It had to, in fact, occur at Shechem, at the base of the mountains Gerizim and Ebal (v. 29).

Half the tribes would stand on one mountain and half on the other and in antiphonal chorus assent to the curses and blessings as they were shouted out by the Levites (cf. 27:11–14; Josh 8:30–35).

The reason for the selection of Shechem and its vicinity was clearly the association of this holy place with the patriarchs to whom the Lord had first appeared and made covenant promises concerning the land.” (Merrill, E. H. (1994). Deuteronomy (Vol. 4, p. 214). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

30 Are they not beyond the Jordan, west of the road, toward the going down of the sun, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oak of Moreh? 31 For you are to cross over the Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you. And when you possess it and live in it, 32 you shall be careful to do all the statutes and the rules that I am setting before you today. (Dt 11:30–32)

The LORD instructs them again to take the land and be careful to keep his statutes and rules.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Commitment to God arises from faith in his promises, is expressed in worship and adoration and leads to obedience to his commands.

Israel took most of the promised land, but some of the existing residents remained. They did not wholly remain faithful to the LORD and eventually they turned away. God is faithful to his promises including those above. But they turned away because they did not believe or listen to him.

Story of Jesus

Jesus also commands his followers in the gospel.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:17–20)

Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets. All the Law will be accomplished. This is done in two ways. There are commands that Jesus uniquely fulfills in his ministry and death. The others he enables his people to obey by the Spirit. His people will ‘do them’ and ‘teach them’. Jesus expects his followers to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. This is his standard of righteousness for entering the kingdom of heaven. That’s a big call.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.