Do you remember when you began to obey God’s will—no matter how tiring or demanding—and realized blessings you never expected? In 1997, I lived in a Maryland suburb, driving to work in Washington, DC or Northern Virginia. It typically took me between one and two hours each way in heavy beltway traffic. God had called me to this work through an unlikely series of events after I prayed and answered an employment ad in the newspaper (which, we’re told, hardly ever leads to a job). I was driving a stick shift in heavy traffic, and my left (clutch) foot often grew very tired. But knowing that it was God’s job for me, at least temporarily, motivated me to do whatever was required. I was also teaching a BSF* class, so I often drove to work listening to taped Bible commentary and drove home praising God for all the blessings I had received during the day training executives in software applications. I was “good tired” and didn’t even mind getting up at 4 am on Saturdays to lead the BSF leaders’ meeting before the Monday night lecture (directly after work). I was blessed in every aspect of my work and life by yielding entirely to God’s direction, leaning on Christ for strength to obey. It’s no wonder that this experience came to mind when I landed on our passage in Deuteronomy for this week’s devotion. God called Israel to be his holy nation, in obedience to him, blessed in every way. I pray that our obedience to God’s commands, which result in his blessings, will also increase our conformity to Christ and God’s resulting blessings.
Why Study Deuteronomy?
“Deuteronomy is the third most quoted OT book in NT—Jesus and his apostles knew the book and felt it was important. It is a spiritually valuable book that stimulates Christian thought and living. It is written so that we can understand Jesus as king, prophet, and high priest. Undergirding the stress on holiness and law-keeping is faith through grace. We can see profoundly our religion, to reinforce our commitment to be a people of faith, grace, and holiness, as we are called by Jesus. But how do we balance faith, grace, and holiness? We have trouble doing this. Biblical religion balances these, and we are never to neglect holiness.” (1) Moses writes, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-6) God’s infinite, inexhaustible, faithful character is seen in the comprehensiveness of his blessings in every aspect of life. “[Chapter 28] is a very large exposition of two words, the blessing and the curse. They are real things and have real effects. The blessings are here put before the curses. God is slow to anger, but swift to show mercy. It is his delight to bless…The blessing is promised, upon condition that they diligently hearken to the voice of God. Let them keep up religion, the form and power of it, in their families and nation, then the providence of God would prosper all their outward concerns.”(2) Blessed [shalt] thou [be] in the city…Not only in the city of Jerusalem, where the temple would be built…but in all other cities of the land; where they should dwell…and their cities should be walled and fenced, and be very populous…as well as prosper in all kinds of merchandise there, and blessed in the field; in the country villages, and in all rural employments, in sowing and planting, in all kinds of husbandry, in the culture of the fields for corn, and of vineyards and olive yards; all should…bring forth fruit abundantly. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body…Their children, of which they should have many, and these live…and the fruit of thy ground, of their gardens, orchards, and fields; grass for the cattle…and the fruit of thy cattle…and the flocks of thy sheep; of their cows and oxen, and of their sheep and goats…Blessed [shall be] thy basket…any and every vessel in which they put their provisions for present use, and that that should never be empty of them, and that they should always have a sufficiency: and thy store…for future use, or in proper places for seed.” (3) God called Israel to be his holy nation, in obedience to him, blessed in every way, even before they entered the land, by God’s presence with them. Then, in Canaan, God’s material blessings would prove his enduring covenantal love. The more they obeyed his commands, the more blessed Israel would be, both individually and nationally. Just so, our obedience to God’s commands results in blessings that will increase our conformity to Christ and strengthen our witness for him, blessing others.
The Heart of Deuteronomy’s Blessings
“The theology of Deuteronomy is focused on convincing Israel to trust and obey, and to conquer the land. The uniqueness and incomparability of God is clearly argued…Deuteronomy recognizes the need for God to act within the heart if Israel is to achieve faithful obedience to God’s covenant. The ideal life in the land is for each member of the people, and the body as a whole, to display fervent love to God as their proper response to God’s love for them; this is the means by which the rest of the world is to learn of the true God–the very reason for which Israel exists. Israel’s record of failure recounted in Deuteronomy exposes that need. Deuteronomy looks forward to the day when God will change Israel’s heart. This longing recurs in the OT. It is finally met through the work of Jesus’ death and the giving of his Spirit.” (4) “[But] many first-century Jews came to view material wealth as an inevitable sign of personal righteousness. Since wealth is God’s blessing upon holiness, these Jews reasoned, the rich have an inside track for entering the Lord’s kingdom and eternal life. Of course, such a view represents a selective reading of the Scriptures, for God’s Word also knows of wicked people who enjoy financial prosperity (Ps. 73:3). Be that as it may, the view that personal righteousness and wealth are inextricably linked was common in ancient Judaism…[However] after hearing Jesus declare that it is difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23–25), the disciples exclaimed, ‘Then who can be saved?’ (v. 26). Their thinking went something like this: If even the rich, who are supposed to have an advantage over others when it comes to redemption, cannot enter heaven without great difficulty, how then is it possible for everyone else to attain salvation? Jesus did not correct their assumption that riches were an inevitable mark of righteousness. In one sense, He did not have to, because the example of the rich young ruler and His own teaching on wealth already had refuted any view that wealth and salvation always go hand in hand. Instead, our Lord answered the disciples by pointing out that what is impossible for human effort is possible for God (v. 27). The disciples were right to conclude that it is impossible, humanly speaking, for anyone—rich or poor—to be saved. But the transformation of the human heart is possible for the Lord.” (5) Our obedience to God’s commands, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, results in our conformity to Christ, which further blesses us.
Scripture’s Blessings Become Ours
In Leviticus, God shares his heart with Israel in the context of his moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt… And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” (Leviticus 26:11-13) When Israel was in exile, living in foreign lands, God said, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) How do God’s blessings speak through your daily life, wherever you are, and in whatever you do? “The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)
Related Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-6; Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 30:5-10; Psalm 144:12-15; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:24–28; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 10:16; Revelation 21:7.
*BSF—Bible Study Fellowship—has excellent, free Bible study classes for men, women, children, and youth all over the world. bsfinternational.org
- Notes from: Godfrey, Robert, “Grace in the Law,” Lecture Series on Deuteronomy, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/foundations-grace-ot/grace-in-the-law
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Deuteronomy 28:1-14, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/deuteronomy-28.html
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Deuteronomy 28:3-5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/deuteronomy-28.html
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Deuteronomy 28, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Ligonier.com, “The Necessity of Divine Grace,” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/necessity-divine-grace
February 24, 2022