God wants to bless his people, but He will not bless disobedience. We see this back and forth between God’s favor for Israel given and taken away based on their obedience throughout the Old Testament. Moses outlines the completeness of God’s favor and blessing offered if they faithfully obey in Deuteronomy 28:1-6. However, due to Israel and all of humanity’s brokenness, we all deserve the curses of disobedience and ultimately need a savior. Here I look at Deuteronomy 28:1-6 and the surrounding text, in addition to the overall context to help us better to better understand how the Lord’s favor is tied to holiness and due to our broken hearts, our desperate need for Jesus to make us Holy.
The Blessing of Deuteronomy 28:1-6
This passage is a conditional promise that if Israel follows the covenants Moses has just reminded the nation of, that they will see blessing (Deut 28:1). We know it is a conditional promise by the use of “if” in the text. This is the writer telling us if we do one thing, we can expect God to do another thing. This also shows the effect of sin, which we can learn from the passage starting with, “if you faithfully obey”. Telling us if they do not obey, they won’t receive the promised blessing of Deut 28:1. When we live within God’s rules for life because of God’s infinite wisdom, everything good will come.
On the other hand, if we live outside those confines, then sin brings absence of blessing. We see this other side in the latter part of this passage (Deut 28:15), which we will discuss later. This shows us how God’s rules are not restraining but actually life giving. Moses emphasizes the completeness of this potential blessing by referencing many aspects of their life, including their city, field, womb, cattle, and more (Deut 28:3-6). By displaying the completeness of the Lord’s blessing, he is pleading with them to choose to live within God’s guidance. This will lead to success in all aspects of their life through God’s hand.
Deuteronomy / Joshua Overall Context
In the greater context of this book, Moses is pleading with the Israelites to choose to obey the Word of the Lord. Furthermore, if they follow the Shema to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4-5) then they will follow His commandments (Deut 6:5-8). However, the nation of Israel often swings back and forth from living out the Shema and choosing to not carefully abide by the Lord’s commandments. As we see in the Israelites doubting God, choosing sin, and many other ways. Later in this chapter, he shares the other side of this conditional promise that if they choose to disobey, they will receive curses just as complete as the blessings would have been (Deut 28:15). He also emphasizes the completeness of the curses by using the same aspects of their life from before (Deut 28:16-19).
By looking at the Bible as a whole, we can learn what Israel did with this warning. The Joshua Five Generation, while not without faults, seemed to live in the completeness of the blessing promised in Deuteronomy 28:1-6, but at times they see aspects of the Deuteronomy 28:15-19 curse. We see this curse show up in Israel’s defeat at Ai because of Achan’s sin. They repent and then step back into the favor of the Lord as Deuteronomy 30:2-3 tells us they can return, and ultimately take, the most territory for Israel compared to any other generation. The Joshua 5 Generation refers to the Generation that took leadership under Joshua in the book of Joshua Chapter 5 after Moses’ death. Which was the Generation Moses is primarily speaking to in the book of Deuteronomy.
Eventually, Israel turns back to sin and falls into the curse because on our own we are always going to come up short (Romans 3:23) and deserve the curse of Deuteronomy 28:15-19. Which points to our desperate need for a savior to circumcise our hearts (Deut 30:6).
In conclusion, this passage focuses on the purpose of following God’s commands being that if Israel lives inside of God’s wisdom, they will see a blessing in every aspect of their life but if they choose sin, they will receive curses in every aspect of their life. We can see this today in the aspect of less pain, shame, and guilt being present in our lives when we choose God’s way over our way. However, following Jesus does not guarantee earthly prosperity but does lead to an eternal one with God in paradise. This passage should teach us that God is with us in all things as well as the severity of sin. We can often act as if sin doesn’t have an effect on us on this earth since it doesn’t have an effect on us eternally, but sin always will bring pain into our lives and the lives of those around us. Ultimately, this verse should give us a greater gratitude for Jesus taking on our sins to circumcise our hearts so we can love the Lord with all our heart.