Click here to open the passage in a new window.
Again we hear repetition in these verses, and your memory might bounce back to the shema passage in 6:4-9. I hear also a bounce forward to Joshua 1:3-5. What is new here is the introduction of the concept of blessings and curses; we will hear a lot more about this in Deuteronomy 28.
The passage begins with a reminder to burnish God’s words into one’s heart and the very essence of one’s being, by keeping them in constant view and talking about them wherever we are. One application of this may be, as many people do, to literally write and color passages of scripture, then stick them up around your home. I highly recommend using Lorien’s illustrations for coloring if, like me, you are not someone who feels confident to draw your own. Let us also talk about scripture with everyone, at home and at work, while playing and in serious conversations.
The reward for obedience to Yahweh’s commands – that is, to love God, cling to him, and follow in his paths – is the driving out of enemies and length of days in the promised land. The promise here is clearly to the original generation standing at the edge of Canaan, but it is not difficult to extend the application to us, in the same way the author of the letter to the Hebrews does (eg 4:1-11). Paul also talks about rewards for service to the Lord (eg 1 Cor 3:14; Col 3:23-24) and Jesus about treasure in heaven (eg Matt 19:21). While we do not earn our entry to the promised land by obedience, continual rebellion against God will deny it to us. Similarly, an ever-ready reliance on God’s word will guard against attack from spiritual enemies (cf Eph 6:12-17).
It is expressed as blessing for obedience and curse for disobedience, or in other words, turning from following Yahweh to following other gods. There is a physical symbolic expression of the blessing and curse on top of two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, located on the west side of the Jordan, where they are just about to enter the land. We will hear more about this in Deuteronomy 27, but for now it is just an introductory glimpse.
Of course, we see in life that things are not so simple. The scriptures also wrestle with this fact. Some people live an ungodly life and yet are apparently blessed with health and wealth (eg Psalm 73); others are faithful to the Lord yet seem to be under a curse – like Job. The book of Deuteronomy does not address these issues. It is simple here: love Yahweh and you will be rewarded with long and secure life; follow other gods and you will lose the promised land. The latter is what happened to Israel, and that is what we are to bear in mind: they followed other gods, and they lost the land. But Jesus demonstrated what it means to truly love God and be obedient to his command, his Father’s word ever on his lips. Strangely enough, he was cursed! But he was also blessed as the first fruits of those who enter into God eternal promised land. Let us follow the author and perfecter of our faith, the Lord Jesus.
Prayer: Today I choose obedience and blessing. Help me cling to you, listen to your word, and follow you.