Covenant Blessings

Today we're going to wrap up this series on the Christian and Prosperity. There is much more that could be taught. Perhaps in the future I will return to this important subject. And it is important because it is a subject that is either neglected or distorted - but mostly neglected. But we started our series with a sermon on 3 John 2 showing that God delights to prosper His people in every area of their lives. Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. He's talking about spiritual prosperity, physical prosperity and every other kind of prosperity. And so just as we began our series with affirmations of God's blessings, we are going to end with the same encouragement - that our God is a God who delights to bless His people.

There is no way I can cover three chapters. I just want to give you a brief overview of chapters 27-29. And I thought I would do so by asking and answering six questions.

Are There More Cursings Than Blessings?

And the first question is "Aren't there more cursings that blessings? Do I really want to read this section?!?" Some people may find these three chapters to be very discouraging. We have the first 14 verses of chapter 28 given as blessings. But look at the rest of the chapter. There are 54 verses of intense, concentrated cursings given. And that's not all. They have just finished reading 16 verses of cursings in chapter 27. So in one sense I think we would have to say that there are far more curses than blessings. And I think there is a very good reason for that. Men, women and children are sinners who like to think that sin isn't a big deal. Psychologically it is harder to penetrate our skulls that we deserve discipline than it is to convince us that we deserve better. We need far more cursings to be read. So in one sense we would have to say, "Yes" to that question.

But there is another way in which the answer really is "No." Let me give you a little rule of interpretation that the Larger Catechism gives on how to interpret the blessings and cursings. This rule shows that for every blessing there is an implied curse, and for every curse there is an implied blessing. The rule is found in Larger Catechism 99. The Question says: "What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?" The answer gives eight rules. And rule number 4 is this: "That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: [When God commands us to honor our parents, it forbids any form of dishonoring, right? They are implied in each other. And that's exactly how Christ applies that fifth command in Matthew 15. But He also said that the promise annexed to that command - that your days may be long upon the earth, implies that a person who dishonors his parents should be cursed with a short life. And that's what this rule goes on to say. Not only do commands imply what is forbidden (and vice versa), but promises imply curses and vice versa. So rule 4 goes on to say] so, where a promise is annexed [in other words, it is added on to the commandment - "where a promise is annexed], the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included." And it gives several Scriptures that prove that rule. Now that means that every blessing that we just read that was promised to those who obey God, implies that the opposite can happen to those who rebel against God. Look at verse 3: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country… Now look at the implied opposite in verse 16: Cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the country. The curses of verses 15-68 go into far more detail, but they are simply the implications of the blessings in verses 1-14. But the reverse is also true. Don't just look for blessings in the first 14 verses. Look for implied blessings in the curses as well. Verse 20 says that if you consistently disobey God's laws The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do… etc. Implied in that is if you keep covenant with God He will send on you blessing, illumination and favor in all that you set your hand to do. When you look at the chapter that way, the chapter really opens up. And so the answer is "Yes and No." Literally, obviously there are more curses. But by implication, there are an equal number of each.

Are Deuteronomy's sanctions Relevant for Today?

The second question is this: Are these sanctions (in other words, these cursings and blessings) even relevant for today? There is no point in studying them if they don't apply. And there are a lot of people who say, "They don't." Now, as Reformed Christians we can't accept that. Our whole world view mandates that we submit to these Scriptures. When I preached on Deuteronomy 8 I gave five Biblical reasons why the whole book of Deuteronomy continues to be one of the most important books in the bible for the church. But if you are talking with someone who doesn't share our worldview, here are two additional arguments that relate specifically to the curses and blessings of this book: 1) Does Proverbs uphold these sanctions, and 2) does the New Testament uphold these sanctions. And we would have to say "Yes" on both accounts.

Proverbs gives the same sanctions

You will find many of the curses mentioned in this chapter explicitly quoted and applied in the book of Proverbs. Most Christian scholars accept the fact that Proverbs is wisdom that applies universally in every culture. And I won't go into this. But I did give a handout that shows just one example of how Proverbs does this. It is samples of financial sanctions that are upheld in Proverbs. If you study just those examples and compare them to these chapters, I think you would have to say that Proverbs is simply applying this covenant document.

The New Testament upholds these sanctions

But what about the New Testament? In your outline I have given numerous ways in which the New Testament upholds these sanctions. But let me just draw your attention to a few. And these are by no means all of the quotations that the New Testament makes of Deuteronomy.

Jesus upholds the whole book of Deuteronomy by quoting this book and saying that we must live by every word of it (Matt 4:4; Luke 4:4)

The first one is Matthew 4:4 when Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus said, It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Two things to note here. First, Jesus says that we don't have an option of ignoring any words in the bible. Now that ought to settle the issue all by itself. But interestingly, the verse Jesus quotes is a verse that gives the purpose for all the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy. If you read the verse He quoted, (Deuteronomy 8:3), you will see that Jesus is quoting the second half of the sentence. It is the purpose clause that He quotes. The first half of the sentence talks about the blessings and the curses that God brought. And Moses says God brought them that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. You can't have the second half of the verse if you don't believe the first half. The bottom line is that Jesus says these blessings and curses continue to have relevance for today.

Romans 12:19 & Heb 10:30 uphold Deuteronomy's version of justice and vengeance by quoting Deuteronomy 32:35 - "Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." And "the Lord will judge His people."

Subpoint 2 gives two New Testament passages that uphold all God's negative sanctions. Both verses say, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (that's a quote from Deuteronomy 32), and the Hebrews 10:30 passage not only quotes that verse, but also quotes the next verse in Deuteronomy 32 which says, The LORD will judge His people. I don't think you could get a more powerful testimony to the fact that all God's negative sanctions in Deuteronomy continue to apply. 'Cause in the two verses quoted from Deuteronomy 32 God is basically saying, "Don't think that these threats and promises I've just given you are empty - "Vengeance is mine." "The Lord will judge His people." Hebrews 10 is quoting it for the same reason. Hebrews is saying that God continues to be a God of sanctions.

Romans 15:10 quotes Deuteronomy as speaking its blessings to the Gentiles

Point 3 says that Paul does the same thing for the blessings of Deuteronomy when he quotes Deuteronomy 32:43 and says that they weren't just intended for the Jews. He calls upon the Gentiles to rejoice in those blessings as well. He says, Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!" So even as originally written, the blessings of Deuteronomy were intended to apply to Jew and Gentile - to all who embraced Him by faith. And Paul applies those comforting words from Deuteronomy to us Gentiles.

Romans 15:10 And again he says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”

Points 4-7 prove that this last section of Deuteronomy continues to be very relevant both in its descriptions of sin, legalism, law and grace. Paul bases the Gospel on this section. In Galatians 3:10 Paul says that the curses apply to everyone who does not continue in all the things which are written in the book of the law, to do them. He does not make any exceptions. But of course Deuteronomy goes on to show how the Gospel protects us since Jesus bore the curse for us. And we will look at that in a moment. So though we will never be cast away from his presence, and Hebrews 13:5 quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 to prove it (I will never leave you nor forsake you), Deuteronomy says that God continues to discipline His people when they rebel against His Word. And Hebrews 12:7 alludes to Deuteronomy 8:5 to prove that we will be disciplined.

And you can read the other points for yourself. But it is clear that if we submit to New Testament authority, then we will see these chapters as being very, very relevant for today. Now I'm going to skip ahead a couple pages to the third question that we can ask this passage.

Paul uses this section to teach both the dangers of legalism and how to live by faith

  1. Legalism (Galatians 3:10; Rom. 11:8) - Notice how universal Galatians 3:10 is - "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."

  2. The Gospel and how to live by faith (Rom. 10:5-9)

Paul uses this section to warn about the sin of bitterness (Heb. 12:15)

The blessing of God's presence is proved by quoting Deuteronomy 31:6,8 (Heb. 13:5)

Matthew 15:4 “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ (cf. Mark 7:10)

Ephesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:

Ephesians 6:3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

Paul upholds the sanctions of Deuteronomy 18:18-22

Acts 3:22 “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.

Acts 7:37 “This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’

Acts 3:22 “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.

Acts 3:23 ‘And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

1 Corinthians 10 applies the judgments of Deuteronomy and says "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

The God described in Deut 9:3 is our God (Hebrews 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.)

The New Testament not only quotes the commandments, and it does so several times, it also quotes the curses and blessings attached to those commandments.

Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’

Matthew 15:4 “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’

Matthew 19:19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Mark 7:10 “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’

Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”

Ephesians 6:2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise:

Ephesians 6:3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’

Jesus quotes Deuteronomy as containing both the greatest commandment and the least commandment, and According to Jesus, the greatest commandment by which we can govern our life is given in Deuteronomy

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Mark 12:30 ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.

Mark 12:33 “And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Luke 10:27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Are These Blessings and Cursings Consistent with Grace? (chapter 27)

Are these blessings and cursings consistent with grace? The short answer is, "Yes." And obviously I've already hinted at that in what I have said. But let me give you an overview of chapter 27 which shows that God is speaking out of the richness of His grace. Let's start at verse 4

Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them [ the reason for that provision is that man's work was to be excluded altogether in salvation. The altar and the sacrifice pointed to the fact that the curses of God would fall on Jesus, and through His substitutionary work, He would enable us to inherit the blessings. Verse 6] You shall build with whole stones the altar of the LORD your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God. So God starts with grace. The burnt offering represented the taking away of God's wrath through the death of Jesus, and the peace offerings represented the fellowship that we can enter into through Christ's death. Their eating was a communion meal based on the assurance of salvation pictured in the sacrifices. And so verse 8 needs to be seen in light of this grace. Verse 8: And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law. Notice that grace does not do away with law. It simply makes the law of God achievable.

Look down at verses 12-14: These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi; Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin; and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. And the Levites shall speak with a loud voice and say to all the men of Israel: Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image… etc.

Here's the symbolism. The curses were pronounced on Mount Ebal, and the blessings on mount Gerizim. The altar was not on Gerizim. It was where the curses were, on Mount Ebal. That's where it was needed. And this is hugely significant. God was setting up a big object lesson so that no one could miss it. When the curses were read on Mount Ebal for failure to obey the law the people on Mount Gerizim would answer: Amen. We agree; so be it. And then when the blessings were read, they were read from the opposite mount, mount Gerizim. And (as Joshua 8 especially made clear) in between, down in the valley were the Levites and priests surrounding the ark of the covenant. And they read the law of God from the valley. So the law of God and the presence of God in the middle can have one of two results: it can lead to the incredible blessings of Deuteronomy 28 or the incredible cursings of deuteronomy 27-28.

Mount Ebal has the law and the cursings read. But that is the mount where the sacrifice is made. Jesus bore the curse for His people. That's what the sacrifices symbolized. And if Jesus bears the curse, God's people can say Amen to any curses of the law without fear, and they can say Amen to the blessings of the law without fear of losing them. Mount Ebal was the key. Keeping your eyes focused on Jesus; on the sacrifice, is the key.

Now here is an interesting point that Christ makes in John 4. Where did the Samaritans worship? They worshipped on Mount Gerizim. That was the mountain of blessings, but also the mountain where there was no sacrifice. Remember Christ's words to the Samaritan woman in John 4. They may seem like they were kind of abrupt and rude, but they were necessary. Let me read you that section, and I want you to notice that Christ treats her religion as a humanistic religion. The woman said, Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. He rejected their worship and their law keeping because it was a worship without sacrifice. It was an attempt to have the blessings of Mount Gerizim while ignoring the issues of Mount Ebal. And in doing so, they had to change the laws which were read from the valley. There is no way any person can keep God's law in his own human effort. So the Samaritans made the law easier. They had to. All humanists have to. Without grace, you have a distortion of the law. God's presence and His blessing can only be achieved as law and gospel are kept together. You don't need grace if there is no law to condemn you. And grace loses its purpose if there is no law to bless you. So it really is a marvelous object lesson. You only have God's presence in your midst where there is grace and law present. It is perfectly consistent with grace.

But there may appear to some people to be a couple of contraditions: If Christians experience God's grace, how can any Christian receive any of these curses? And secondly, how can unbelievers be said several times in these chapters to prosper by God's hand? Isn't that a contradiction? Let me try to unravel those two questions separately.

The first one is fairly easy. Believers no longer face God's curse as a judge. We've been adopted into his family. But as a parent, God still cares about His law, and He disciplines us when we violate his commandments. And HE disciplines us to restore us. Now whether it is a person who has apostatized or a believer who is backslidden, these curses apply. It's only through applying the blood of Christ to the lintels of our doors and windows as it were that we can escape. Let's look at some of the ways that He can lovingly discipline believers. Verse 17 says, Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. How does God curse the grocery basket and the kneading bowl? We aren't told, but God can make the bread just not turn out. And we need to think about such things as God's loving hand in our life. Verse 38 gives an economic curse: You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. Verse 60 shows discipline through disease. It says, Moreover He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt… God is creative in how He disciplines. And His discipline is always for the purpose of restoring us, unless of course we are apostate. So I think we can understand that.

How Can God Give Unbelievers Some of the Same things He says are Blessings for Believers?

But the second apparent contradition is a little harder to answer, and so I've reserved a separate point for it. It is Question number IV. How is it that unbelievers can apparently be blessed by God when they are still unbelievers? Some of the things God calls blessings in the first 14 verses are given to unbelievers in the rest of the chapter. If God's grace was so important to these blessings, how can they have any blessings?

Well, I think in part it flows from common grace, which Gary North points out flows from the cross just like special grace does. God causes His rain to shine on the just and on the unjust. It's for the purpose of His church, but He still does so. When unbelievers follow Biblical economic law because of God's restraining grace (and I should say that God gives common grace for the benefit of the church; - but when unbelievers follow Biblical economic law because of restraining grace), they receive a financial harvest that is better than believers who refuse to live by those economic laws. Let's just look at some examples of believers being blessed. Look at Deuteronomy 28:12-13. This is a blessing promised to Israel if she will keep God's law.

Deuteronomy 28:12 “The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. [That's an incredible blessing - to not have to borrow. Verse 13]

Deuteronomy 28:13 “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.

But notice in verse 44 that God reverses that when Israel despises God's law. HE gives more restraining grace to the heathen to make the heathen a rebuke to His people. It's all for the sake of His church, but this implies that there is a certain prospering of the heathen. God puts the heathen in the position that he just finished saying would be a blessing for Israel. The heathen will have enough money that they can lend. Verse 44:

Deuteronomy 28:44 “He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. God is prospering an unbeliever financially.

Let's look at an example of prospering in war. Verse 7:

Deuteronomy 28:7 “ ¶ The LORD will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.

But look at verse 25 for how God gives that same blessing to unbelievers. His restraining grace is given to unbelievers so that they can be a tool to sanctify His church. All common grace is for the sake of the church. But in the process the unbeliever benefits from common-grace-induced law keeping.

Deuteronomy 28:25 “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them; and you shall become troublesome to all the kingdoms of the earth.

And there are many other ways in which God promises in a sense to prosper unbelievers. Verse 31 promises to give unbelievers sheep. Verse 48 promises to give them mastery.

In fact, this book starts by telling Israel that they may not take away the land from certain nations because God gave it to them and intends to continue to prosper them. Their cup of iniquity was not yet full. In other words, they weren't as bad yet in violating God's commandments as they would later become. What is going on here?

It's called ethics. Over and over again God says that there are sanctions connected to law keeping. Just as there are degrees of blessing in heaven, there are degrees of punishment in hell. Pagans who are more ethical and less self-conscious in their rebellion against God will be punished less. And just as there are degrees of blessing of believers in history, there are degrees of blessing and cursing of unbelievers in history. And to the degree that we are consistent with those laws (whether believer or unbeliever), to that degree we will prosper.

Modern Christianity many times wants to separate ethics from prosperity. But that is impossible. You will always reap what you sow in time and in eternity. And Scripture approaches the puzzle of ungodly wealth and Christian poverty in four ways. First, it looks at the laws of harvest. And that explains a lot. Those laws of harvest always apply whether you are a believer or unbeliever. Second, whether you get a two-fold, 30-fold or 100-fold return depends on God's special purposes, and sometimes on whether we have faith to ask or not. Third, God has special interventions above and beyond those laws of harvest. And fourth, the final day of judgment evens out any inequities people may have experienced in time. But you cannot separate ethics from sanctions.

For most of my Christian life I have violated God’s covenant by ignoring certain Biblical laws related to economics. It was done in ignorance. But the laws of harvest happen whether you realize what you have done or not. And so it’s no wonder I didn’t prosper as much as the pagan who keeps those economic laws. There are some pagans who prosper more in other areas because they have embraced the Calvinistic work ethic, while the Christian is lazy. Or they have inconsistently borrowed from our world view a belief in a cause in effect universe while the Christian (who claims to believe that God upholds all things) acts as if that is not true because he is constantly praying that God will bail him out and bypass His actions of law and order. “Lord, I know that I have violated every economic rule in the book, but please provide an extra $20,000 anyway.” Now sometimes God does do that. But that’s like praying, “Lord, I know that I never study for my exams, but please give me an A anyway.” Do you see what I am getting at? There are cultural blessings that flow in a culture long after it has ceased to be a Christian culture because the culture continues to follow at least some of the laws relative to the area they are prospering in.

Notice that chapter 28:1 says, Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently [so it takes work and perseverance - "if you diligently"] obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. Notice the word "all." The only way we can prosper in every area is if we keep God's laws in every area. Look at 29:9: Therefore keep the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do. None of us is perfectly consistent, and therefore we can't be perfectly blessed in every area. But by God's grace we want to be more consistent. And 3 John 2 says that in proportion to our godliness we will ordinarily find prosperity in all things. Ordinarily.

So not only are these curses and blessings consistent with special grace (that's point III), they are also consistent with common grace (point IV).

Must we Accept the Cursings?

The fifth question is, "Do we as Christians really have to accept the cursings?" Some people like the promise boxes that are sold at Parables and pull out a blessing of the day. Pollyanna only wanted the happy verses. But chapter 27 verse 15 says, Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret." And all the people shall answer and say, "Amen!" Notice it calls upon all the people to say Amen to the cursings. And that phrase is repeated 11 more times in that chapter. Why does God not take the church seriously in America? In part it is because we are not holy. In part it is because we have no fear of God because we don't believe in curses. When a million Christians a year can spend money to visit the Precious Moments Chapel as tourists and millions of Precious Moments Bibles that only look at the happy verses are sold, we can't expect that God takes our covenant making very seriously. I think it is when we are willing to take the curse, that the blessing is highlighted.

Implied in each curse in chapter 27 is the opposite blessing. And I want to challenge your theology to action this morning by being willing to take these curses, and their implied blessings upon yourselves. I'm going to interupt the sermon this morning and pronounce each of these curses as representative of the whole law and at the end of each one I want you to audibly say, "Amen!" If you can do that, I think you have by faith bought into the theology of this series, and you by faith have laid hold of God's blessings. And so at the end of each curse I'm going to read the part that says, "And all the people shall say," and I want you to say, "Amen," which means, "So be it." Don't say it if you don't believe it. But this is a call for Christians to take upon themselves the curses. It's kind of putting it on the line as it were and saying that God, "I am so serious about entering into your blessings and pursuing your kingdom, that I am willing to take these curses upon myself if I rebel. Are you ready?

Deuteronomy 27:15 ‘Cursed is the one who makes a carved or molded image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ ¶ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:16 ‘Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:17 ‘Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor’s landmark.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:18 ‘Cursed is the one who makes the blind to wander off the road.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed is the one who perverts the justice due the stranger, the fatherless, and widow.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:20 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s bed.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:21 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with any kind of animal.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:22 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:23 ‘Cursed is the one who lies with his mother-in-law.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:24 ‘Cursed is the one who attacks his neighbor secretly.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:25 ‘Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

Deuteronomy 27:26 ‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ ¶ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’

"Lord, we do confirm that all the words of this law are holy and just and good. And because we want to walk in your blessing and to know your presence, we ask that your Holy Spirit would search our hearts and show us if there is any wicked way in us and lead us in the paths of righteousness for your names sake. Fill your people with power, and keep us from stumbling. Please, present us faultless before the presence of your glory with exceeding great joy. We love you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Be glorified in us we pray, in the strong name of Jesus, in whom alone we can keep the covenant. Amen.

How Extensive Are the Blessings and Cursings?

Let's end by looking at how extensive these blessings are. The cursings we just read cover family relationships, attitudes, actions, social relationships, economic relationships. They have far reaching applications. Verse 17 says, Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor's landmark. He is cheating his neighbor out of a few feet of property in order to prosper, little realizing that he is going down the road to cursing, not prosperity. And some of the verses that I culled from Proverbs show the same thing for other economic shortcuts. We watched the Godfather as a family, and what a powerful example of how getting rich in ungodly ways leads to misery, bondage, loss of friends and family and even death. It certainly led to loss of joy. So there are many individual applications.

There are also national applications. Chapter 28:1 says, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. I think that happened at least twice, if not four times in American history. When there was revival and a recommitment to holy living in our nation it had national implications of exalting our nation. I think it was especially true after the First Great Awakening.

Verse 2 says, And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you… I like the way that is phrased. It will fall from above, and it will chase you down. You won't be able to get away from His blessings. You don't have to pursue it. It will pursue you. Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.

Verse 3: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Country living does seem like a blessing to many, but later in the chapter God says He can turn it into a cursing. And here God has the ability to bless the city living as well. So this is talking about location. You've heard the top three rules of buying real estate: location, location, location. But any location can be a blessing if God's hand prospers it. Our part of the city has been discovered to be filled with lead. People are concerned that property prices will go down. But through one circumstance or another God can reverse that and make it a place of blessing for us.

Verse 4: Blessed shall be the fruit of your body - That's your children. We might be ready to pull our hair out with our children, but God can turn on His grace so much that nothing but blessing comes forth. The key is, are we following His laws relative to child rearing?

The rest of the verse indicates blessings of harvest. But if we aren't planting, watering, detassling, etc. we can't expect the blessings of harvest to apply.

Verse 5 we've already looked at. Verse 6 says, Blessed shall you be when you com in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. Wouldn't it be great if you could feel blessed to walk into your home rather than dreading it? Wouldn't it be great if you could always walk out of your home into the world without dreading it? If we have faith in God's promises, the world can bring on what it will, and we can find blessing all the way.

Verse 7 talks about blessing you in times of opposition. In other words, war and danger and difficulty can sometimes be coextensive with blessing.

Verse 8 talks about blessing you in your retirement plans and the inheritance you plan to pass on - both the storehouses to provide for emergency and the land to pass on to your children.

Verse 9 promises to bless you in your pursuit of holiness and in your close walk with God.

Verse 10 says God can bless you in your testimony to an unbelieving world and give you favor in their sight.

Verse 11 talks about blessings of increase.

Verse 12 blessings of weather and blessings of financial dealings.

Verse 13 talks about blessings of infuence and authority.

We can't go through everything, but implied in verse 20 is blessings of insight and wisdom and blessings of security.

Verses 21 and following imply blessings of health. And look at some of the things listed: He mentions fever, local inflamations, blight and mildew. God can bless us with the removal of such things. Some people lack faith to believe that God can heal us today. But Matthew 8 says that the reason Jesus could heal all manner of diseases was, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses. Isaah 53:4 is quoted, and the point of that passage is that whatever sicknesses and infirmities are meant (and I think Matthew 8 clearly defines what they are) they are in the atonement. They flow from what Christ purhcased for us. He took the curse of infirmities and sicknesses so that we would have the privelege of coming to Him for the blessing of healing. That's why 3 John 2 says, Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things, and be in health, just as your soul prospers. We all have faith to claim what the atonement did for soul prosperity. But John prayed that Gaius might prosper in all things and be in health, just as His soul prospered. Why would we expect the implied blessing of the other verses, but not these?

Verse 27 implies that we can ask for help for small things like boils, tumors, scab and itch.

Verses 28-29 implies that we can ask for sanity and mental health during times of major difficulty.

Verse 34 implies that we won't be driven mad under circumstances that might drive anyone else mad. I think of Christians who kept their sanity during prison torture by the presence of the Lord.

Verse 43 implies that immigrants won't be in a danger to the nation's stability,

Verse 46 implies that instead of miraculous ways in which everything goes wrong, we can expect miraculous ways in which everything goes right.

Verses 48 and following imply the blessing of national security.

Verse 54 implies that instead of hostility between family members we can expect God to produce His shalom in the family.

Then comes food instead of hunger.

Verse 59 implies shortened times of sickness instead of prolonged times of sickness.

Verse 61 says, Also every sickness and every plague, which is not written in this Book of the Law, will the LORD bring upon you until you are destroyed… implying that the blessing will be the opposite. God can keep away every disease not mentioned in this book.

Verse 62 implies the blessing of population growth

Verses 63-65 which curses with deportation implies the ability to stay put.

Verse 66 implies that God can take away fear and lack of assurance.

Verse 67 implies that we will love every day that we face rather than dreading it, and love going to bed rather than dreading it.

Verse 68 implies that we can become indispensable like Joseph rather than unwanted.

They are extensive blessings. Our God delights in blessing His people. Amen? Hallelujah!

In conclusion, I think it is time that Christians stopped believing pagan Greek philosophy which renders the body, the earth and wealth as unspiritual. In fact, in recent years there have been renewed efforts of a few Christians to say that we don't even want a resurrection. They have rendered our bodies as unimportant to God. They look forward to escaping from the physical. It is time that we started believing God's Word, that it is His pleasure to bless His people materially and in every other way. In the Chalcedon Report, Theron Johnson said,

"How do we reverse this negative trend? [And it’s the trend of thinking that poverty is spiritual and finances is not a Chrsitian subject. He goes on] Christians must change their attitudes towards wealth. Poverty is not the norm in Scripture. There were many godly men in Scripture who were wealthy and influential. In fact, it is difficult to find examples in Scripture of the contrary. Those who lived by faith were richly (materially) blessed by God. Great men of the Bible who had great influence were wealthy men (Solomon, Daniel, Job, Joseph, Boaz, Abraham) (1 Ki. 4:26-34; Dan. 5:29-31; Job 42:10; Gen 41:41; Ruth 2:1; Gen. 17:6). These men were not paupers!" (Chalcedon Report)

Some people think, but what about the apostles? Weren't they dirt poor? I don't have the time to develop it this morning. Actually, Bob Fugate gave me a wealth of information, but it is simply not true to think of the apostles as poor. James and John were from a family of means and standing. They had hired men (Mark 1:20), were in partnership (Luke 5:7-10) and there are hints that they continued to have a stream of income coming in from their family partnership. Apparently they had one of the larger businesses in Capernaum and supplied wealthy people like the Chief priest. John 18 indicates that John knew him personally. It was probably no burden for John when Jesus told him to take care of his mother.

The kind of house that Peter is said to have was substantialand he too had connections to a lucrative business. And Paul said about himself that though he had learned to suffer want, he also knew how to abound in riches. Now he was very generous with those riches and used them for the kingdom. But here are a couple of quotes from commentaries. "Paul had use of considerable money at this period, perhaps from his father's estate. The charges for five men would have been considerable." (Robt; Ramsey). "A poor man would not have been treated with the respect paid him at Caesarea, on the voyage and at Rome." [And by the way, Acts 28 indicates that Paul managed to swing a deal where instead of going to a regular jail he was able to have one guard assigned to him while he lived in his own house. He had never visited Rome before, but now he has a house. And when you look at the numbers of leading Jews who assembled in his house, it must have been very spacious.

Yes, we do need the balance of the contentment we looked at last week. But let's not balance wealth out of existence, or be envious of those whom God has prospered. We have seen from the past sermons that it is possible to be wealthy like these men and not to be gripped by riches. These were stewards who said with Job, the Lord gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. But look at what happened to Job after he lost all things: he regained them.

And it is my prayer for each of you that God would prosper you in all things, and that you would be in health in proportion to how your soul prospers. And may He receive the glory. And may this portion of His kingdom in Omaha be richly advanced as a result. Amen.

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