Deuteronomy 28:13-14 (NKJV)
13 And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
Yesterday we made the connection between obedience to the commandments of God and the blessing of the covenant found in Deuteronomy 28. This blessing, which will come upon us and overtake us, includes the kind of favor I believe God wants to pour out on his church. Although this blessing is part of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants, these things will not come upon Israel if they do not keep the commandments connected with the covenant.
In Israel’s day, their relationship with God depended upon keeping the Law of Moses. It is clear in today’s scripture that if they do not keep the commandments of God the blessing, or favor, will neither come upon them nor overtake them. Verse 15 says that the “curse” will be what comes upon those who do not keep the commandments.
We are not under the Old Covenant and not subject to the Law of Moses. Our relationship is based on Grace and the sacrifice of Jesus. Our salvation is a free gift. Galatians 3 tells us that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Does that mean that the favor listed in Deuteronomy 28 will be ours no matter how we live? No it does not.
We do not live under the law. In Jeremiah 31:31-34 the Lord says there is a new day and a New Covenant coming. This New Covenant will not be based on an outward law. The Lord says he is going to write his laws on our hearts and minds. That is a description of how grace works. We keep the law because it is now our nature to do so. Under the Mosaic Law Israel kept the law outwardly in the flesh. We keep the law by allowing the law written on our hearts to dominate our flesh. We keep it from the inside out not the outside in.
Either way the result is the same. We must keep the commandments of God. We are not subject to the rules, regulations and sacrifices of the Mosaic Law. We are not excused from keeping God’s commandments or living according to this standards and principles. If we choose to sin, the New Testament tells us the wages of this behavior is death. (Romans 6:23) If we understand grace correctly, it is the means by which we are able to keep the commandments, not license to break them.
If the qualifications to receive the blessings listed in Deuteronomy 28 were that the readers had to keep the Law of Moses. We might conclude that we were exempt from them. We might assume that these blessings would come into our lives automatically and our behavior would not matter. However, it says we must obey God’s voice and keep his commandments. Those qualifications apply to the Christian as much or more than they applied to the Israelite.
Every believer knows that he or she must choose to obey the Lord. We know that sin still rears its ugly head in our lives. We cannot read the New Testament and conclude that behavior does not matter. All of the New Testament writers address the need for righteous behavior. The way we walk in righteousness is different from how the Old Covenant believer did. They walked in righteousness by keeping every element of the Law of Moses no matter how small. We walk in righteousness by believing that the sacrifice of Jesus has made us right with God by nature. We then must develop the inner man, renew our mind and choose to die daily to the flesh so that we can walk in the spirit and not in the lusts of the flesh. (Romans 12 & Galatians 5)
If we want to see the blessing and favor of Deuteronomy 28 released in our lives we must obey the voice of the Lord and keep his commandments. If we do not do those things, we will not have the favor God wants to give us. He is not going to bring favor into the lives of people who compromise with the flesh. He is not going to bring favor to those who chose to live in sin even if it is just the fringes of sin. He will bring favor to those who obey the voice of the Lord and keep his commandments. Whether under the New Covenant or the Old Covenant verse 15 cannot be ignored.
Deuteronomy 28:15 (NKJV)
15 “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
Some will point to Galatians 3 and say that since Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law all that is left is the blessing. We are not subject to the curse. It is true that the curse is not part of our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Under the Old Covenant, it was part of their relationship because a blood covenant in the flesh always had both blessings and curses. If covenant partners did not keep the terms of the covenant, their own family would hunt them down and kill them because the whole family was cursed.
That is not part of our covenant relationship with God. Jesus already bore the curse and nullified it for us. As far as our relationship to God is concerned, we are heir only to the blessing. However, this does not eliminate the consequences of unrighteous behavior. I am not talking about ignorant mistakes. That is one of the differences between law and grace. Law makes no allowances for ignorance or human frailty. Grace covers both. When we chose to ignore the principles of the Word of God and yield our flesh to sin, there are consequences. Once again, the wages of sin is death.
Under law, these consequences fall in the category of reward and punishment. If you keep the covenant, you are rewarded. If you break it you are punished. As human beings, we are very familiar with this system. We all have experienced it growing up. When we were good, we were rewarded. When we were bad, we were punished. This extends into adulthood in many ways. If we break the law, we are punished. If we do well at work, we are rewarded.
As Christians we understand that Jesus bore the punishment for sin. We certainly can displease God and we should want to please him. He will discipline us because he loves us. (Hebrews 12) However, he does not punish us with sickness, poverty or the bad things that can come to anyone in life. God is good and good things come from him. (James 1:17) However, there are two other players in the game; life and the devil.
Let me explain it this way. A few years ago we had a very cold winter here in New York State. If you were indoors where there is heat, you were not cold. However, it was consistently more than 10 degrees below zero outside. If you went outside you got cold. You were not being punished for bad behavior. You were simply stepping outside the protection of the house. If we choose to step outside of the protection of God’s voice and commandments, we will not receive the blessing or favor he wants for us. It is not reward or punishment. It is simple cause and effect.
God wants to bless you. God wants to give you favor. You do not have to earn it. You do have to stay where those things exist. You do have to avoid behavior that takes you out of the protection of the covenant and makes you vulnerable to the things that bring pain into the lives of people.