March 8 Reading: Deuteronomy 28-29 Commentary
“Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. (Deut. 28:45)
Deuteronomy 28 – To Be Obedient or Not?
On many occasions, God told the Israelites that he would bless them if they were obedient. We’ve also seen him describe what would happen if they were not obedient. But Deut. 28 is by far the most extensive description of what would happen for obedience and disobedience.
And the interesting thing is it takes only 11 verses (3-13) to describe God’s blessings for obedience. But there are 54 verses (15-68) outlining the consequences of disobedience. And needless to say, the consequences are dire.
It’s as if God is using a reverse psychology technique to scare the people into obedience. In reality, he’s just listing the things he already knows are going to happen in the future. Even some of the most devastating and unthinkable consequences mentioned here came true.
The Blessings of Obedience
So what were the blessings of God when the people obeyed? Moses lists these things in verses 3-13:
1. God would bless them no matter where they lived (v. 3) (in the city or country) or where they went (v. 6).
2. They would be fruitful in childbirth. Their crops and livestock would flourish and they would have plenty of food (vv. 4-5, 8).
3. There would be victorious over their enemies (v. 7).
4. Other nations would fear them (v. 10).
5. Rain would come at the right time and their work would be blessed (v. 12).
6. The people would provide for other nations but not be dependent on other nations. Additionally, they would rise to a place of honor among the nations (vv. 12-13).
That’s it. But what more could one ask for? All these things God would bestow if they were careful to observe his commands and not follow after other gods (vv. 13-14).
At times in their history they would take this path. But the broader pattern exhibited through their history was disobedience. And that picture is not pretty as the rest of the chapter describes.
Consequences of Disobedience
God is long-suffering, kind and loving. He demonstrated (and still does demonstrate) all of these attributes throughout the Bible. He is reluctant to punish people for disobedience. However, at some point it comes, mostly with the intent of correcting bad behavior and drawing his children back to him.
Israel received quite a few warnings in Deut. 28:15-46 about consequences that would come if they were disobedient. Some of the more notable ones include:
1. Cursing, confusion and rebuke would come to all they set their hand to do (v. 20).
2. The would experience physical illness (vv. 22, 27-28, 35).
3. They would be defeated by and serve their enemies (v. 25).
4. They would have family and work related issues (vv. 30-32).
5. Locust would consume their crops (vv. 38-42).
None of those consequences though measured up to the ones listed in verses 47-68.
A Siege Leads to Cannabalism
In verse 49, God mentioned that he would send an enemy “nation against you from afar” to oppress and besiege Israel (v. 52). This siege would result in hunger, thirst and nakedness. In short, the people would be in need of everything (v. 48).
It would get so bad that they people would behave in ways they never conceived possible. What does that look like? It would get so desperate, the people would resort to cannibalism:
1. “You shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you…” (v. 53).
2. “The sensitive and very refined man among you will be hostile toward his brother, toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the rest of his children whom he leaves behind, so that he will not give any of them the flesh of his children whom he will eat…” (vv. 54-55).
3. “The tender and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because of her delicateness and sensitivity, will refuse to the husband of her bosom, and to her son and her daughter, her placenta which comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of everything in the siege and desperate straits in which your enemy shall distress you at all your gates.” (vv. 56-57)
It’s hard to imagine cannibalism happening. But it did in II Kings 6 during the siege of Samaria during the reign of King Jehoram.
The Scattering of the People
It couldn’t get worse than what we just read, right. But there was one final judgment for disobedience that would be devastating. God would dissolve them as a nation. They would no longer possess the land.
Deut. 28:64-67 describes this scenario. The Lord would “scatter” them among all peoples. They would serve other gods (v. 64) and find “no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place” (v. 65). In other words, no home.
Fear, anguish and doubt would cause them to see no hope for the future (v. 65). “Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see.” (vv. 66-67)
All of this because of disobedience. One might ask, “Why would they go that route if they knew this was coming?” Such is the nature of human sinfulness and the desire to chart one’s own destiny apart from God.
Deuteronomy 29 – Covenant Renewal
One of the special things that some couples choose to do after years of marriage is to renew their wedding vows. They arrange a special ceremony – similar perhaps to what occurred on their wedding day – where they recommit their love for one another. Believers often do this as well, usually when they feel they have become sidetracked for some reason in their walk with the Lord. They may recommit (or rededicate) their lives to God during a church service or revival meeting.
Something similar to this happens In Deuteronomy 29. Moses renews the covenant between God and Israel.
Remember, this was important. A new generation of people were about to inherit the Promised Land. Their parents had complained and refused to enter the land in Numbers 14. This generation needed to know that they were a special people set apart for the Lord and that he would not abandon them.
So once again, Moses reviews the history of what God has done, although it’s an abbreviated version this time. And he calls all the people to “enter into covenant with the Lord your God” (v. 12) that “He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (v. 13).
Every man and woman was responsible for their part in being obedient (v. 18). They could not follow the dictates of their own heart (v. 19). Otherwise, God’s judgment would come upon them and their names would be blotted out from under heaven (v. 20).
The Secret Things
Deut. 29 ends with a fascinating verse. It reads:
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (v. 29)
This verse highlights why some people cannot accept God. They don’t believe because they can’t figure everything out about him. They never move forward into a relationship with God because they have too many unanswered questions.
Additionally, sometimes believers wander from their faith for the same reason. They get confused by some discrepancy they think they see in Scripture or develop uncertainty around personal life events. Doubts arise in their life when they can’t get their questions answered. They don’t know what is going to happen in the future and are frustrated at God for not telling them.
The truth of the matter is this – we will never know everything about God. He has not revealed himself or his plans to us with 100% transparency.
Furthermore, He doesn’t have to reveal himself. God does not owe us anything.
He’s already given us so much and revealed himself (to a point) through the pages of the Bible. What we know about him is enough for now. We should be content with that knowledge and be obedient to the instructions he’s given us. Just because we can’t totally figure God out isn’t a good reason to avoid following him.
Questions to Consider:
Has there ever been a time in your life where you lost your way in your relationship with God? What pulled you back to rededicate your life to him?
If you’ve lost your way, don’t continue down that path, thinking that God will not accept you back. He’s a loving Father who longs for his children to come to him. Recommit your life and return to serving Him.
The new generation of Israelites renewed their covenant with God in Deut. 29 before they entered the Promised Land. They needed to recommit to serving him and realize the consequences if they didn’t – no blessing from God. Is there something in your life that is blocking the blessing of God?
Does it bother you that you don’t know everything about God?
What other points would you want to know about in our Deuteronomy 28-29 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.