I remember the very first time it was ever suggested to me that Christians weren’t perfect. I was in fifth grade.
It’s a little fuzzy, but I know the concept came from my teacher at the Christian school my brother and I attended. I was alarmed. I can’t one day, finally, be good? I can’t stop doing bad things forever? I quizzed my mother on the way home from school. She told me my teacher was wrong.
But was he?
It’s an important question to answer when coming face to face with today’s chapter. Deuteronomy 28 is blunt. It’s simple. It presents two very different lives, two very different options for how things can play out.
The premise is simple: will you follow all of God’s commands or not? If you do, you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams. If you don’t, you will be cursed beyond your darkest fears.
Is God asking too much?
Too Good to be True?
The first 14 verses of this chapter are so nice.
I’m not exactly talking about the promises of healthy cows and amazing crop yields – even though the blessings listed here are very specific to a nomadic group of people from millennia ago, there’s a message here for us, too.
And that message is that following God is it. It’s key. It’s the answer. It’s how we will be happy. It’s how we will have lasting good things.
Sometimes we stress over getting our lives together, finding ourselves, finding our passions, finding happiness – but here God’s waving His hands in our face, shouting that He’s got the solution. He will give those things to us.
We don’t need to look any further. Everything we’re looking for is in Jesus. We’re promised this by the only Being who never breaks a promise.
How great is this? We’re set! We’re good! Life is good.
But there’s a catch.
There’s always an “if”. “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands…”
Raise your hand if you or even someone you know has ever been able to fully obey God and follow all His commands.
We’re sinners! We know this! We all know this! So why is God threatening curses and holding blessings hostage?
Why would He ask us to do what He knows we cannot do?
This was bothering me a lot, so I sat down to think and pray about it. And then school came to mind.
My least favorite moment in school was the moment of assignment. That moment when the teacher lays out for you exactly what’s required for a final project or a final exam. It’s that moment when you’re given the long list of everything you have to do, everything you have to know, everything you have to get right in order to pass.
That moment sucks because in it I’m forced to acknowledge that I can’t do it. I don’t have the knowledge or the tools or the resources. In that moment, it’s impossible for me to complete the assignment.
What’s next? Failure? No, the next steps are to go find the resources to complete the assignment. I have to go get the knowledge to complete the assignment from someone who does know how to do it. I have to go find the tools to complete the assignment from someone who can do it.
When God asks us to fully obey His commands, He isn’t asking us to try to do the impossible. He’s asking us to go get the tools to do the impossible. He’s asking us to go to the one Person who can do the impossible.
And I think the most important word in that first sentence of the chapter is “carefully”. The word implies effort, it implies focus, it implies perseverance. If we’re not being asked to carefully do the impossible, the only other option is to be careful about what is possible – getting to know Jesus.
Are we carefully building a relationship with Jesus? Are we going beyond the bare minimum? Are we praying, not to check a box in the morning or in the evening, but to really communicate with God? Are we studying the Bible, wanting to understand our God? Are we thinking about our relationship with God and how to get closer to Him? Are we putting effort into our relationship? Are we focusing on God? Are we pursuing God?
I believe that if we can answer yes to those questions, then we will fully obey all of God’s commands because He will be so close to us, so deeply embedded in our hearts that He will give us His supernatural power that makes the impossible possible.
“Nothing is impossible for Me.”
At first it sounds like God is saying the opposite in this chapter. There are 14 verses describing the blessings He will give His people if they obey Him. This brief oasis is followed by 54 verses about all the awful curses that will plague their lives if they don’t.
As you read each word of the curses, maybe God sounds angry or cruel or sadistic. But He’s not that way.
We know that because we’re alive. We know that because He does bless us. We know that because His Son died for us. If He wanted to see us cursed or dead, He would just do it.
No, what this weird ratio of blessings to curses shows is not cruelty but concern. It feels weird to say, probably because God’s thoughts are so much higher and wiser than ours, but God is manifesting His love here, not hatred.
When God says if you follow me, you’ll be blessed and if you don’t, you’ll be cursed, He knows what’s most likely to happen.
He knows that we don’t want to obey Him. He knows that it’s easier for us not to obey Him. He knows that we will not obey Him. And He knows that disobeying Him will destroy us.
Those 54 verses are God pleading with us to do the right thing. Those 54 verses are God’s attempt at burning a warning into our thick heads. Those 54 verses are God saying I know where you’re heading. Do not go that way. Come to me. I will do what’s impossible for you to do.
Those 54 verses are God trying to save us. Because at the end of the day, Jesus, the all powerful God, the Author and Finisher of our faith, will never force us to love Him. He won’t force us to obey.
He will only ask us.
And we can only say “yes” or “no”.
What do you think? How does this chapter of blessings and curses make you feel about God? Comment below your answers or share this with a friend.