Trinity Sixth Sunday Morning Prayer (11 July 2021) Deuteronomy 28:1-14
We all know that God redeemed the Israelites from their bondage land Egypt. He led them through Moses and Aaron. They did not have kings to rule over them. Judges ruled Israelites. Before Israelites entered Canaan, Moses recalls to them about all that happened since they left Egypt. In today’s language, we can say Moses submitted a report of the 40 years. Deuteronomy also details God’s commandments and laws. The Old Testament commandments and laws were given through Moses. Today’s meditation is based on our Old Testament reading, Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Deuteronomy 28 is a very familiar passage to us. It is frequently quoted when blessing someone. Most of God’s promises and blessings come with conditions. When we obey the laws and fulfill the commandments, we will inherit the blessings. In our reading today from chapter 28, we heard the conditions and the blessings given to the Israelites if they obeyed the commandments. While the first 14 verses talk about blessings, verses 15 to 68 list the curses when they disobeyed. God gave two conditions to inherit the blessings:
In verse 1 God gave the first condition: “if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day”.
In verse 14 He gave the second condition: “thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them”.
God had only one expectation from the Israelites. He expected them to listen to Him and obey His commandments. He expected complete surrender to follow His laws and obeying His commandments. Let us look at the lives of a few Old Testament people. It would be useful to understand how they followed these laws and commandments and if they received blessings or curses.
SAMSON: After the Lord gave the promised land Canaan to the Israelites, slowly they started backsliding. When they turned away from God, He allowed them to be taken captives by their enemies. In one such instance, God delivered Israelites into the hands of Philistines for forty years. When they repented and cried out to Him, God wanted to deliver Israelites from Philistines. Samson was God’s chosen vessel for this. Samson would be a Nazarite. We can read about the requirements of being a Nazarite in Numbers 6. When Samson and his parents went to Timnath, he killed a lion. After long days when they went for his wedding, he went to see the dead lion and saw bees and honey. A Nazarite was not supposed to go near dead bodies. But Samson went to the dead lion and ate the honey from its decomposing body. When Samson did not follow the Nazarite law, the curse in Deuteronomy 28:30 came to pass in Samson’s life. Samson’s wife was given to one of his friends. Later in Samson’s life, he committed sin against God and lost his holiness. As a result, the curses in verses 29,37,43 and 48 of Deuteronomy 28 also happened in his life. When Samson revealed the secret of his strength, he became a slave and was made blind. He was bound with fetters of brass. He ground in the prison house. He entertained the Philistines. Samson lost God’s calling, purpose and anointment in his life. He died with 3000 Philistines and he did not inherit the blessings that awaited him.
AHAB AND JEZEBEL: Jezebel did not follow the LORD Almighty but followed Baal. She also made the Israelites to follow other gods. Her husband Ahab wanted to get Naboth’s land. But Naboth did not want to give the inheritance of his fathers to Ahab. Ahab was displeased with his answer. He was sad and refused to eat. Jezebel plotted to kill Naboth with false witnesses. She sent letters to the elders and nobles of Naboth’s city. They stoned him to death. She told Ahab to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. Prophet Elijah prophesised the curses in Deuteronomy 28:26 on both Ahab and Jezebel. When Ahab heard those words, he rent his clothes and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth. Because Ahab humbled himself before the Lord, He decided not to bring evil in Ahab’s days. But Jezebel vowed to kill prophet Elijah to avenge the death of Baal’s prophets. In 2 Kings 9 we read that the curse came true in Jezebel’s life.
DAVID: King David’s was the son-in-law of the first king of Israel. God exalted him when he was a shepherd boy. He had zeal for the Lord. When David heard Goliath defy the armies of Israel, he said “who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” When Saul was chasing to kill him, David did not lay hand on Saul. He walked uprightly before the LORD God. He committed sin against God. Nathan the prophet prophesised against David from Deuteronomy 28. David repented and turned back to God and the Lord put away his sin. But He became the most powerful king in United Israel. God blessed him. God gave him victory over his enemies. The blessing in Deuteronomy 28:9 was fulfilled in David’s life. “The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways”. Our saviour Jesus Christ was born in David’s tribe. God said David was a man after His own heart. David’s descendants did not follow the commandments. The United Israel was split into two during David’s grandson’s time because they did not listen to God when He spoke through prophets. Both the kingdoms were given as captives to Babylonians and Assyrians. God’s chosen people became slaves. Daniel and his friends were taken as slaves and served in Babylon. When they obeyed God’s commandments there, He exalted them. He fought for them.
We have many more people who were blessed because they obeyed God. There are others whose lives were cursed because they turned away from God. We may think we are not under the Old Testament laws and commandments. Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament laws and commandments on the cross and made a new covenant with us. We are under the new covenant of grace. In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments”. Jesus preached from the word of God. God the Father expected His chosen people to love Him (Exodus 20:6) and love others as themselves (Leviticus 19:34). Jesus consolidated the ten commandments to two prime commandments. We read them in Matthew 22:37-40. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. If we love God we will not sin against God. When apostle Paul wrote to the early church in Rome, he said, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). If we love our neighbours as ourselves we will not commit sin against them. We cannot say we love God if we do not fulfill His commandments or laws. If we cannot love our neighbour whom we see, we cannot love an unseen God. Jesus is expecting unconditional love from every one of us.
We have two choices today. We can either keep His commandments and show we love God. We can thus inherit the blessings He has for us. Or we can ignore His commandments and the curses can come to pass in our lives and the future generations. In our Holy Communion orders, we hear we receive His mercy and pass it on to thousand generations by keeping His commandments. If not we will forward curse for at least another three or four generations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” We can overcome all temptation when we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit. He will guide us in the right way. When we are convicted, we must repent and reconcile with God.
We are like the Israelites who were about to enter the promised land. We are waiting to reach our promised land and inherit eternal life. They faced many barriers and distractions during their journey. We too face many stumbling blocks that separate us from the presence of God. Let us ask ourselves which category we fall into. Are we like Samson? He knew it was wrong to go near a corpse but he ate honey from it. He hid his sin from his parents. God had given him many talents but he was not serious about his calling and indulged in worldly pleasures. Are we like Ahab? Are we easily misled by the Jezebels around us? Do we want our desires to be fulfilled by any means? Are we like Jezebel who hardened her heart even after receiving curse from God’s prophet? Or are we like Ahab or David who repented immediately that God forgave them? Do we have a zeal for the Lord like David? Will God say we are a people after His own heart? Deuteronomy 28:14 reads, “thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them”. In Isaiah 30:21 we read “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left”. Are we willing to obey the Holy Spirit’s guidance about the commandments given by God the Father and Jesus Christ? I pray we turn to the right or the left following the Holy Spirit’s guidance so we are led to the kingdom of Heaven to inherit eternal life. Amen!