Deuteronomy - Lesson 29

Rhetoric of Curse - Deut. 26.1-15

Some people view the curses in Deuteronomy 28 as a stumbling block to accepting the Old Testament as Christian Scripture because they say it represents God as vengeful. However, this was a common way of writing covenants in the Ancient Near East, they follow a list of extraordinary blessings, they serve a pastoral function and there are similar curses articulated in the New Testament.

Daniel Block
Lesson 29
Watching Now
Rhetoric of Curse - Deut. 26.1-15

Rhetoric of Curse (26:1-15)

I. Misunderstanding the Curses as a Stumblingblock

A. Culture of the Ancient Near East

B. Curses in the New Testament

C. Other passages in Deuteronomy

D. Twelve “anathemas”

E. Significance of the "Amen"

II. Lessons for Here and Now

III. Deuteronomy 28

A. Structure

B. God’s character

IV. Observations

A. Formulas

B. Special relationship with YHWH

C. Curses

Class Resources
  • The book of Deuteronomy contains the gospel message. Even though there are some laws mentioned, the essence of the book is prophetic preaching. Your presuppositions and principles for interpretation that you use will make a difference in how you view the meaning and significance of the book of Deuteronomy.

  • Deuteronomy is primarily a collection of sermons but its structure is covenantal. The structure of the covenant was commonly used in other cultures in the Ancient Near East during this time period. God tells the people of Israel that he is their God and the people say that they are God’s treasured possession. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same thing. They are used interchangeably)

  • God gave the Decalogue to Moses so they have authority as Scripture. The book of Deuteronomy as whole is also Scripture. It contains the speeches of Moses and narrative passages. It’s the lense through which we view the other books of the Pentateuch.

  • Moses begins by recalling events that happened during their wandering in the wilderness, then recent events as they have gotten closer to entering the promises land from the east. Moses is idealized in the Old and New Testaments and in the writings of historians. You get a different picture when you read his first address. It shows Moses as faithful but flawed.

  • The Law was given to the nation of Israel after they had been freed from Egypt as the way to respond to God’s grace. God gives them the boundaries for right and wrong and a process to restore relationship when it is broken.

  • With the privilege of salvation and covenant relationship comes the call for a righteous response, demonstrated in joyful obedience to the Savior and Lord. A covenant is a formally confirmed agreement between two or more parties that creates, formalizes, governs a relationship that does not exist naturally or a natural relationship that has disintegrated.

  • God’s people are a privileged people; they have been graciously redeemed, and set apart as his special treasure, his holy covenant people. God acts graciously to undeserving people and they respond joyfully with obedience. The is the end of the first speech of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:32-40.

  • The Decalogue is the bill of rights of the people of ancient Israel. It is the ten principles of covenant relationship. It creates a picture of covenant righteousness and provides a foundation for later revelation. The Decalogue contains the features of a typical covenant and conditional and unconditional laws. The addressee is the head of the household because they can be a threat to others.

  • When Moses recites the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5, there are parts that are similar to the passage in Exodus, and there are some significant differences. He begins with getting the attention of the people of Israel and appealing for covenant fidelity, restates the Decalogue, then ends with a document clause, using covenant language.

  • The Shema is a call for whole-hearted, full-bodied commitment. This passage is a theological exposition and pastoral proclamation to impress on the minds of the people of Israel the special relationship they enjoyed with YHWH. The grace God showed them must be embraced with grateful and unreserved devotion to their redeemer and covenant Lord.

  • God chooses the covenant partner, sets the terms, declares the goal, identifies the sign and determines the consequences of disobedience of the covenant. After Moses explains the purpose of the Law, he explains to the children how the Law was given and that learning it and putting it into practice will bring them life.

  • Moses talks to the people of Israel as they are entering the land, about how they will respond to the external test of confronting and dispossessing the surrounding nations. He reminds them of their special status with God and the covenant that he offers them unconditionally. He challenges them with the theological, ethical and missional significance of the test.

  • How can you worship a God that asks the people of Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? The reason for Israel taking the land is so the people of Israel as a holy people will be preserved so the world will be preserved. God is fundamentally compassionate and gracious, he does what is right and God offers us grace and mercy.

  • When everything goes right, what do you do then? The message of this passage is, “don’t forget.” YHWH provided manna in the wilderness to feed the people of Israel. God was also teaching them in the wilderness that life comes from every word of the mouth of God, not just by eating physical food. Moses challenges the people to respond to prosperity by praising God, not by taking the credit themselves.

  • The enemies in the Promised Land are formidable. God promises to defeat them. Moses warns that people to acknowledge that God is responsible. Even though the Canaanites do not follow God, the reason God chose the people is not because they are morally superior to the Canaanites.

  • Israel’s covenant with YHWH is based entirely on his grace and they don’t deserve it. Moses interceded on behalf the of people of Israel to ask God to not judge them and God is described as, “changing his mind” and renewing his covenant with them.

  • “What does YHWH ask of you?” Moses answers this question, then gives a doxology to confirm it and an application to illustrate it. God wants you to have a soft heart toward him, to live in an attitude of trusting awe and to act in a way that honors the covenant that God has established with you.

  • Moses has given a profound theology of land. He gives the people of Israel instructions for what God wants them to do when they enter the land to confirm their covenant with God. This included using uncut stones and plastering them and writing the Torah on them and then praising God. The land is an integral part of the covenant. The people shout blessings on Mount Gerizim and curses on Mount Ebal.

  • As the people of Israel enter the land, God has instructions for them on how to live in relationship with him and worship him so that it may go well with them and their children. They are to reject the false worship practices of the surrounding nations and accept God’s invitation to come and worship him in the place and in the way he has designed for them.

  • The Levites represent a barometer on where the people of Israel are in their ethical religion. They are not given land as an inheritance so it is the responsibility of people in the other tribes to support them. Moses presents a theology of worship but doesn’t go into detail.

  • This is a warning to the people of Israel to not imitate the materialistic preoccupation and the brutal rituals associated with the worship practices of the surrounding nations when they worship YHWH. There are warnings against following false prophets, someone in your family or people in your community if they are promoting seditious religious practices. The apostle Paul uses similar language in the New Testament when warning people about following people who teach heresies.

  • In contrast to worship with the purpose of satisfying the gods, YHWH delights in fellowship with his people and for them to celebrate in his presence. YHWH encourages his people to eat in his presence and with other people. His guidelines about which foods are acceptable to eat set the people of Israel apart from other nations.

  • A main purpose of the national festivals was to keep alive the memory of God’s grace and maintain their faith in god and their covenant with him.

  • Moses describes the key offices and roles that keep the society going by providing political and spiritual structure. The primary concern is righteousness. The king is to be the embodiment of Torah righteousness. Moses outlines specific steps to achieve this and describes what it will look like.

  • Moses, in his role as prophet, is the commissioned envoy of righteousness to the people of Israel. Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel. He warned the people of Israel about false prophets and the danger of adopting the worship practices of the surrounding nations.

  • Moses provides a picture of covenant life and godliness in a way that you can apply it to every situation in life. It’s important to care for the poor and the resident alien and to show justice to them. The resident aliens were invited to participate in the feasts and covenant life.

  • The ideal for the people of Israel was a patricentric society but in often the reality was a patriarchal society. In a patricentric society, the male head of the clan will provide resources and security in a way that gives his family and the community opportunities to flourish. The vision for women in Deuteronomy is different than the world that is described in Israelite narratives.

  • Celebrating God’s goodness and grace in the Land. Bringing an offering from the firsfruits of the harvest is a time to remember how God has provided for the people of Israel in the past, both as individuals and as a community. There are lessons we can learn about worhship and living faithfully. This is the Deuteronomic creed.

  • Some people view the curses in Deuteronomy 28 as a stumbling block to accepting the Old Testament as Christian Scripture because they say it represents God as vengeful. However, this was a common way of writing covenants in the Ancient Near East, they follow a list of extraordinary blessings, they serve a pastoral function and there are similar curses articulated in the New Testament.

  • Deuteronomy 29 begins with Moses recounting how YHWH brought the people out of Egypt and gave them victory in the land east of the Jordan River. Then he describes the curses they will experience when they turn away from the Lord. Chapter 30 describes the eschatological restoration. Deuteronomy 29:29 refers to the mystery of divine grace. (The movie and book series that Dr. Block is referring to is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. The prequel to this series is The Hobbit.)

  • This is the final altar call of Moses to the people of Israel to appeal to them to choose life by living in covenant relationship with YHWH. The revelation of YHWH given through Moses is to be memorized, recited and used as a guide for conduct. It is understandable and doable.

  • The Torah that Moses has been preaching was written down. This is the introduction to the song of Moses and contains the commissioning of Joshua, who will take over after Moses dies. Part of the book of Deuteronomy is the death narrative of Moses.

  • This passage is a poetic witness to the people of Israel of the faithfulness of YHWH and the faithlessness of Israel. Moses was told to teach it to the people of Israel so they could pass it on to their descendants. People could sing it throughout the day and it could be presented as a musical drama at national celebrations.

  • At the end of the sermons of Moses, he pronounces a benediction by saying something specific for each tribe. Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 49 have some similarities and differences in the way the sons of Jacob and their descendants are blessed. The exordium and the coda frame the blessings by describing YHWH’s care and provision for the people of Israel as their king.

  • This is the last narrative story about Moses in the Old Testament. God tells him to go up on Mt. Nebo where he is able to see the land. Joshua takes over as the leader of the people. There is a eulogy for Moses at the end.  

The Gospel according to Moses. This is a collection of sermons of Moses as the people of Israel are poised to enter the promised land after being in the wilderness for 40 years. Deuteronomy is a special book, calling God’s people to celebrate his grace and demonstrate covenant love for him with action that glorifies his name. Until we recognize the gospel in this book, we will not read this book. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same mountain. They are used interchangeably)

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Dr. Daniel Block



Rhetoric of Curse - Deut. 26.1-15

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:00] Our session this morning is on the rhetoric, of course. Why the curses? For many people today, the curses in Deuteronomy and Leviticus 26, this is a variation of that theme represent a major stumbling block to reading or accepting the First Testament as Christian scripture. What a vengeful view of God this represents. Well, to this charge we must give three or four responses. First, no one in the ancient Near East would have taken offense with these curses. In their world, curses were a part of everyday life, and official documents regularly included them on the screen. You see a series of images we call those Naru inscriptions with which have to do with grants of a superior to an inferior of property or an office or privilege. Each of these includes images and text. The purpose of narrow inscriptions was to commemorate the bestowal of entitlements by a king to deserving all fish. All these entitlements could involve grants of land, grants of resources, grants of privileges. Essential elements of these inscriptions include the identification of the King. This is what treaties do to you. Identify who is talking and who is the addressee. A declaration of the entitlement listing of witnesses through the event, curses invoked on those who violate the inscription. And of course, this is common in the world. In the ancient world, we can go to neo Assyrian succession treaties like those by as our Hadden, who wants to ensure that the people he has subjugated will be loyal to Ashurbanipal who follows. Well, here are some of the curses on those treaties. If you should remove this document, consign it to fire, throw it into the water, or destroy it by any cunning device, annihilate or deface it. May I assure King of the Gods who decrees the fates, decree and evil and unpleasant fate on you.


[00:02:47] May he not grant you long lasting old age and the attainment of extreme old age, and may molest his beloved wife. Of course, the gods up there all have power. Don't they make the utterance of his mouth evil? May she not intercede for you? May Another king of the gods let disease, exhaustion, malaria, sleeplessness, sleeplessness, worries and ill health reign upon all your houses. And after invoking your curse from 39 Gods, May 30 Gods, damn you. It ends with a general curse. May all the great gods, in case we've missed anybody. We've got to be inclusive here, don't we? May all the great gods of heaven and earth who inhabit the universe and are mentioned by name in this tablet strike, you look at you in anger and curse you grimly with a painful curse. Above all, may they take possession of your life below in another world. May they make your ghost thirst for water. May shade in daylight always chase you away and may not find refuge in a hidden corner. May food and water abandon you may want and famine, hunger and plague never be removed from you. It's part of their culture. Here is another one. This is an Aramaic inscription. It is the image of the governor of this place. And on his skirt, there's a bilingual inscription. Akkadian in the front and Aramaic in the back. And that helps us to decipher languages whenever you find them in in bilingual. There's a whole list of curses in this one. Whoever removes my name from the furnishings of the house of Hadad. My Lord. May my Lord Hadad. That's a storm. God, in among the air means not accept this food and water from his hand. May my lady sool not accept food and water from his hand.


[00:04:50] What he when he shows may he not reap. And when he throws a thousand measures of barley may he take in only a fraction from it Should 100 ewes suckle a lamb may not be satisfied. Should 100 cows suckle a calf? May it not be satisfied? Should 100 women suckle suckle a child? May it not be satisfied? Should 100 women bake bread in enough and may not fill it? May his men glean barley from a refuse pit to eat, may plague the right of nerve. God, that's the God of the nether world, not be cut off from his land. I mean, this is common fare. It's all over. Nobody would have been surprised at this or offended by this. Second, the New Testament often alludes to or employs similar curses. This is not just new. Romans two Or do you presume on the riches of the kindness and forbearance and patience? God's patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance, but because of your hard and impenetrable heart, you are stirring up wrath for yourself. On the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one, according to his words, to those who buy patience. And while doing so for glory and honor and immortality will give you eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking, do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. There will be wrath and fury, tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first, and also the Greek. But glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first, and also to the great. So it's in Paul. It's deep into that. John 15. I am the true vine. My father is the gardener.


[00:06:36] He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't bear fruit and he prunes the branches that do not bear fruit, so they will produce even more. You've already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot bear fruit of itself if it is severed from the vine. And you cannot be be fruitful unless you remain. Yes, I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who remain in me and I and them will produce much fruit for apart from me, you can do nothing. But anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. That's the curse. This is Deuteronomy 28. With the blessing and the curse. Well, we've had previous. We've had blessings and curses and other texts in Deuteronomy. We have encountered the encounter these in chapter 712 to 16. There's a curse on 819 Blessings and curses in 1113 to 21. Here is a summary from Chapter 11. Now, if you will indeed listen to my charges that I am commanding you today to demonstrate love for Yahoo! Of your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your being. Then I will provide rain for your land in this season, both autumn and spring rains so that you may harvest your grain, prized wine and special olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your livestock and you'll eat and be satisfied. This is the blessing. But guard yourselves, lest your heart mind be open to turning aside and serving other gods. Its really be seduced and prostrating yourself to them. Then you are which anger will burn against you.


[00:08:23] He will shut the heavens so that rainfall does not happen. Then the ground will not yield and you produce and you will soon perish from the good land that Yahweh, your God, is giving you. Well, it's everywhere. So you've got these blessed good curses. We've heard some of them before. Well, at the end of the of the second address, he ended with an altar call. We talked very briefly about this. Look, I'm setting before you the blessing and the curse. It's your choice. Be choosing the blessing. If you listen to the commands of Yahoo! Your God. But the curse. If you do not listen to the commands and turn away from the way that I am charging you today by walking after the other gods that you have not known. And we encountered the ritual in chapter 27 where the the covenant ratification rituals end with is oral proclamation of the curse. The Levites declare the curse, and then at the end of that, all the people say a mad when you have crossed over the Jordan, they shall stand on gerizim to bless the peoples. And then you've got the six tribes on one side and the other six tribes on the other side, and they are putting the blessing and a curse on the mountains, whatever that means. But then after that one, there are these individual curses of 12 of them. The Levi shall shout out with a loud voice to all the people of Israel. So they get here, cursed as everyone who carves or casts an idol and secretly sets it up. These idols, the work of craftsmen, are detestable to God and to all and all the people will reply a man. That's their way of signing on. Cursed is anyone who dishonors father or mother.


[00:10:23] And all the people will say Amen. Cursed is anyone who removes his neighbors boundary marker. And all the people will say, Well, 12 of these. And then of course you have the the comprehensive conclusion person is anyone who does not confirm the words of this Torah by putting them into practice, doing them. This is not an ornament for your coffee table that is to be put into practice and all the people will reply. A man. Well, a couple of observations on these anathema US curses. The Greek translation of a rumor can go a couple of ways in these 12 epic cantatas, or the number 12 here seems to represent one for every tribe. Otherwise, I'm not sure what what we have here or. Remember at Sinai they put up 12 pillars in preparation for the covenant ratification. That's one of the reasons why I think that in this case, chapter 27, putting up the pillars and inscribing the Torah on them, I think there probably were 12 as well. But the important thing here is the address. C these are individual or curses on the individual rather than on the collective, so that while the nation stays on track with God, there's a warning to everyone to buy in. And if you as an individual don't buy in, you are singled out. The interesting thing is so many of these involve secret things, but things you do at home when nobody's watching. And of course, God sees the gods are perceived to see everything. All He sees. All you do, He hears all you say. My Lords are writing all the time. He's keeping the record. He sees it all. There are no secrets to God. Well, in this dull decalogue, there is a somewhat of a pattern, a framework here.


[00:12:36] Idolatry and general disregard for Torah. Those are the two, two big comprehensive ones. Dishonoring parents and moving in neighbors. Landmark. Misleading the blind and perverting the rights of the vulnerable. Having in all kinds of sexual aberrations striking down a neighbor and accepting a bribe. A crime against life. Two of these are secret. Two are against neighbors. Two are against the marginalized. Two concern fundamental social ethical values. It's an amazingly competent, but it's not exhaustive. Again, the purpose of these declarations is to paint a general picture. And you don't need a law to apply the principle to every other circumstance. It's to give you a perspective on life so that in any context, you know the right thing to do. You translate the principle into life. Well, what else can we say? Let's go quickly on, then. Well, let's talk about the men. What does the eight men do? Of course, this is one Hebrew word we all know. Hey, man, everybody say, hey, man, we know this. We say it all. It's Hebrew. Jeremiah 11 five. Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors to give them a land flowing with milk and honey. The land that you possess today. I answered. Amen. Yahweh. This is where this is a verbal way of declaring, affirming. You're buying into what is being said. Do it, beef it up, confirm it, make your sure. Well, lessons for here and now. When we look at all of these curses, we need to remember that the divinely established boundaries of a people's behavior is an incredible grace. The Israelites know exactly where the boundaries are. And as I've said many times, the more detailed the ordinance, the greater the grace, the less is left to chance and guesswork.


[00:15:02] Second, to know the divinely established consequence of sin is grace. Remember that poor guy? Oh my God. Whom I know or do not know the sin that I have committed? I don't know. And the link between my actions and my experience? I don't know. Well, here they knew exactly. Three. Having been offered grace, we have two choices. Receive it in faith and be blessed, rejected in unbelief. And because those are the truth, it's a binary system to declare a men to these curses. The people put themselves under oath individually, which meant that though the nation may go one direction, individuals are always free to adopt an independent course. For good or ill, no one is a captive to the world in which you live. In the end, we stand before God ourselves. What did you do about it? And you won't be able to blame anybody else. It's on you. Well, what then, is the curse of the law in Galatians three 914, where Paul quotes this last verse? Well, there are four options here. Three of which I don't think are or even are at all possible. The law itself is of curse. No, the law is grace. The law is a gift. Second, the function of the law is to put everyone under the curse. No, it is not. The function of the law is that is to instruct us on an appropriate thank you for God's grace. It's not to kill you. It's to give you life. Three. Every one under the law was under the curse. That is all ancient Israelites were automatically under the curse. That isn't the point. No, they're not. They are the objects of divine grace. It can't mean any of these. It cannot mean that to Paul when that never meant that to Moses.


[00:17:02] We cannot have them. Talking different languages for the Torah contains curses that are imposed on everyone who demonstrates rejection of the grace. This is hate. Demonstrate hatred. Demonstrate rejection of the grace of covenant relationship by refusing to walk in the ways. That's it. When we are freed from the curse, we are freed from the consequences of our actions of rejection. God in his mercy forgives. That's the point. Now let's go to the biggie. Chapter 28, The longest chapter in the book. And some people would say, therefore, the center of gravity. Well, one thing I can say, the fact that the Lord devotes so much time to this issue tells us how passionately he feels about the issue. The Lord is deeply invested in his people, and he offers every incentive to them to be faithful to him. And like Paul says, if the goodness, the grace of God will not draw you. Then maybe the warnings will. Now, of course, we need to understand warnings as grace. If I am walking with my grandchild on on a path and there's a steep incline and my grandchild wants to step over, there are too close to it, and I grab him like this. I'm not being abusive. There may be a mark on his arm for a while. That's okay there. It's a brand, but it's a brand of my love. I'm not doing this out of hatred. I'm doing this because I love him. It's for your own good. Don't go there. And that is precisely the point here. He has promised to lavish his blessing on them if they will live. Respond to great. Receive his grace in every form. But if they don't want that, then he pleads for them to come back.


[00:19:21] Well, let's look at the outline of this chapter. It's the easiest in the book to outline. You got the blessings for covenant faithfulness and won 1499 words and then the curses for covenant faithfulness. 797 words. And there's the problem in people's minds. And I would actually say there is the grace. And then it ends with a California conclusion. In your Bible, it's chapter 29, verse one. But our English traditions follow a false lead in some manuscripts, Latin manuscripts. But will the Hebrew and the Greek at this point have chapter 29, verse one as a concluding call often to the curses in blessings and curses in chapter 28? It's a retrospective look rather than a prospective look. These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make. That's looking back on everything. Specifically since chapter 12, verse one. The third address, but it actually applies to the antecedent speeches as well. In what follows, you have the fourth address, but it contains no words of the covenant. It contains some rituals and it entails warnings of future curses and blessings. But the words of the covenant, the terms of the covenant, they are have all been declared and the rituals have been completed. Well, let's. Ask the question, Do this structure and these proportions mean that the God of the First Testament was more eager to curse than to bless, which is people's stereotypical impression? 109 Words of Blessing in 777 words of curse. Four times as many. No wonder people think the God of the Old Testament always has a scowl on his face. My sister once asked me, Dan, how can you be so excited about the Old Testament? God is so angry. Really? Why is God? There's a reason why he's angry.


[00:21:53] It's because you have rejected his grace. You don't want his smile. You reject that. And so we have it. Do. Do they mean that the God of the First Testament? No. We can answer this one in three ways. One. In contrast to neo Assyrian and Aramaic analogs. Those contain no blessings at all. There are only curses. And in contrast with Hittite analogs, Hittite analogs, comparable texts begin with curses. And then they have some summary blessings. Here we go. Here's our diagram. You see, on the right hand side, the neo Assyrians is Syrian. The olive kind of color. Those are the curses and the dark blue. Those are the blessings. No, no blessings in the Assyrian ones at all. Nor in the Aramaic, the fairy texts just 100 years earlier. But in the first column, the larger Hittite ones, you have curses and blessings. But A, the curses come first, and B, the blessings are a fraction of the length of the curses. So compared to that, the fact that he front loads bless you declares the dream. This is the vision. This is the plan. It's we cannot understand the darkness of sin unless we understand first the brilliance of grace. Or we can also say you can't understand the brilliance of grace unless you understand the darkness of sin. And so in the mosaic one, you have 14 verses a blessing. Never have that in these other texts. And then you have the curses. If you if you say no to the goodness that God gives you. The rhetoric of this is pastoral. The point of this whole address, the point of these covenant stipulations is to keep people on track with God. Don't abandon him because this is your key to your future.


[00:24:23] What else can we say? Moses Humble ethical goal. Here's his goal in this one isn't to give people a downer impression. It's to emphasize rhetorically the seriousness of covenant relationship, the awesomeness of the privilege. He had ended chapter 26 with. See, I've set you high above the nations for praise, for honor and glory. Don't. Don't waste this. By rejecting the gift. John Barkley's gift. The gift, the gift of liberation, the gift of God's provision, the gift of Torah, the gift of land. It's all a gift. Don't reject it. Well, let's look also at Deuteronomy 3015 to 20. This is we'll come back to this one just very briefly later. But this is the final altar call. After he preached his last sermon, the fourth address, he says, Now, listen, today I've given you a choice between life and death, prosperity and disaster. By charging you today to demonstrate love for you with your God. By walking in his ways, by keeping his commands, ordinances and judgments, then you will live and multiply in the way your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy. Notice again, he begins with blessing. That's always the default. Bless you. But if your heart turns away, there it is. And you refuse to listen. And if you are seduced and you worship and serve other gods, I warn you today that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have given you this choice. The whole world has. That's why this is a loud ceremony. By now, the whole world has heard. And it's imprinted in the ears of the hills.


[00:26:41] And the ears of the mountains and the rivers I call heaven and earth. The clouds have heard this, that I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessing. So choose life that you and your descendants may live. How do you choose life? Not just not just by ticking a box in the form. Saying, yes, I said the senator's prayer once. No. By loving. And again, we should here have. By demonstrating love for ya. For your God, by listening to His voice hanging on firmly to him. Because he is your life. He is the key to living long in the land. Yeah. We swore to give you your ancestors. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We've got these this binary options. Choose life or death. Well, this is the opposite of what we had in Psalm 23. I have a whole series. I was preaching on Silom 23 at one point and I came back to the classroom the next day after preaching this. I said, I wish I was an artist because all of some 23 is a brilliant cartoon, but it's a some of it makes no sense. And then at the after, I had said that the next day, one of the guys in the class was an artist. He had a whole set of cartoons for me on some 23. Well, here it is. Notice God is sending his hounds of Tov. And he said. After the sheep. And look, those dogs have smiles on their faces. They're not out to eat them. They're out to bring them back to Jacqui when they go astray. This is what draws them back. That's what this is about. He's sending the hounds of heaven and they aren't pit bulls. Let's go then, to the blessings itself in chapter 28.


[00:28:49] Both. Both the curses and the blessings we should reverse. The blessing and a curse begin with stereotypical formulas. If you look at verse three, you will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be bless the crops of your land, the young of your livestock, the calves of your herds, the lambs of the flocks, your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed and you will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. See all that you hear all the mare resumes. Do we know the word mannerism? It's using extremes to declare the whole thing. Great and small. Young and old. Well, what about the middle aged? No, it means everybody needs to the boundaries. I am alpha and Omega doesn't mean God is only the beginning and the end. No, he's everything in between too. It's comprehensive. So blessed in the city. Blessed the country. There's no other place. Those are the only two. They're all binary. The fruit of your womb and the crops of your land. The young of your flock, the cash on the floor. Notice this is fertility religion. But your way claims authority of all over all of this business. Not bail, not the storm gods. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. And you will be blessed when you come in and when you go out, which means all your activities. But then on the other side, when we get to verse 16, he has the opposite. You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your bastard. The kneading trough will be yours, the fruit of your woman, all your, your livestock. You'll be cursed when you come in and curse you.


[00:30:38] It will hound you. And if you don't want the hounds of has said. And tov chasing you. You'll get the hounds of God's fury and they will catch you. Well, they intentionally mirror each other. Declarations of blessings and curse or curse six times, creating a total of 12 together. The outward declarations are marriage make pairs coming in, going town and country. The term for curse. Our rule is the same as 27, but later in verse or earlier in verse 15, the heading had been the word kill LA, but it will happen if you do not obey the Lord your God to observe these common all these curses. That's a different word. And this is the word we had in Chapter 11 Blessing and a Curse. But in any case, we have the middle pair is more complex where he lists the domestic and the household, the fertility. And I think this is a deliberate polemic against fertility religions all around. He's hereby declaring that which others attribute to Bale and Ashira and the other fertility gods. God says, that's that's my jurisdiction too. I'm the key to everything and I offer you my blessing. In short, the blessing involves the full flourishing of the covenantal triangle. The land is yielding its fruit, the people are yielding the fruit of righteousness, and God is yielding the fruit of blessing. It's a beautiful thing. When we come to 9 to 10. Now, the blessings, the form of the blessings take a different turn. He becomes more rhetorical, more humble, ethical, humble, ethical. As he preaches the point, the Lord Yahweh will establish you as a people holy to himself, as He is sworn to you. If you keep the commands of Yahoo! Your God and walk in his ways, and all the peoples of the Earth shall see that you are called by the name of Yahweh.


[00:32:58] We talked about this the other day, or the name of Yahweh will be read on you and they will be in awe of you. The word is fear. Most translations assume, and they will be afraid of you. They know they'll have to treat you carefully or you'll jump on them like they jump on you. I think it's actually quite different. They'll be in awe. What great nation is there that has a God so near and a Torah so amazingly righteous? They'll be in awe of you. Notice the special relationship involved in your actions toward Israel, Israel's actions toward your way, and the nations actions towards Israel. What happens to Israel doesn't happen in a corner. There are high above the nations that the world. This is Exhibit A deliberately of what grace can do in a world under the course curse. This is what we might call bearing the name of Yahweh with honor, so that people honor the name of the one we bear. You shall not bear the name of the Lord. We've talked about these things before. Here's a bull of Hezekiah. And what that would be stamped with would be claimed. But that's Hezekiah's. But it's also representative of the person who owns it. It's not just power. It's not. It's mine. It's not just possession. But this document represents my mind, my will, whatever. And that's what we have. And we've seen this one several times before. This is the stamp that declares ownership. They will know that you belong to your way. Branded with this name. Well, how should we interpret then? 15 to 60. We don't have trouble with verses 1 to 14. Every promise in the book is mine, every chapter, every verse. I mean, we sing that happily.


[00:35:12] But how about every curse in the book is mine? How should we interpret what follows? One, we've already said recognize that the ancient world wouldn't have been shocked by this. Two Well, curses were a fixed form of the ancient and treaty forms. Their expressions are often found in others. The non Israelite job is utter similar curses in job 31 if where he gives his scout's honor. If I had done this, then I would deserve what I'm getting. And he's got a whole list of things of cause and effect. So it's all over the world. We need also to recognize that these curses come after unbelievably profuse blessings. The overall structure is identical to that of the blessing. So it is an echo. The blessings are the foil for the curse. Here are the blessings and then you'll understand. God's passion. In the curse. He is desperate. Can we say that of God? That got us desperate for your loyalty, for your love, for your response? Well, it is something in that order, the formulaic blessings are cast as intentional opposites. We saw that many of the expanded curses represent the opposite of expanded blessings we've seen elsewhere. Here. Verse seven Yahweh will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee seven ways. The great metaphor here, they're scattered. But look at verse 25, Yahweh, You will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will go out one way against them and flee. Seven ways. It's a reversal of the roles. You have proved yourself to be the Lord's enemy because you've rejected the grace. And so you get Yahweh will open to you, his good treasury, the heavens, to give reign to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hands.


[00:37:30] And then verse 23 and 24, the heavens over your head will be bronzed and the earth under you, you shall be iron your way will make the rain in your land. Powder from heaven Dust shall come on until you are destroyed. So deliberately the opposite. He is playing with these motifs we should recognize. Third, that Yahweh acts here directly against his own people. We. We tend to be offended when God tells the Israelites to go against the Canaanites. But as we said before, if his people will act like Canaanites, they get the same thing. This is against his own people. And well, to some that is the problem. How can God do that if he loves them? Well, he does it because he loves them. He's so eager to have them back. Well, he, unlike other ancient Near Eastern texts, Israel's demise involves no other deities. See in the rest of the world. The curses involve other deities coming and hammering you. In Israel. It's never that there are no other deities. There isn't even a God of death. Oh, there are some places in poetic passages were plague. There were. And pestilence, captive and bloodshed. These are personified. But it's not as if he views them as real. Outside of Israel, these are all demons. But God uses them as his agents. They are not demons. They are God's agents to do his work. Well, the Lord is is the subject of virtually all of these curses. Moses clearly declares the Lord's intention. He highlights Israel's helplessness, which should mean that he that they will come. Turn around and come pendent gently back to him. Moses lists are shuddering lists of agents, none of which is divine. He engages the entire universe and wild animals and the enemies out there and the weather.


[00:39:52] It's all part of his universe. He reminds the people repeatedly of the causes of his fury. Because you've rejected me, you haven't walked in the ways that I have revealed. You haven't responded to my grace in ways with loyalty. Well, they're directly against his people. But we need to recognize their pastoral function. This is part of the sermon. This is not legislator led legislation prescribed by a cold, disciplined ruler. God is in our midst talking directly to you. It has a pastoral function. Just like Jesus, I am the true vine and you are the branches. Every branch in me that doesn't bear fruit. Or what does he do? He longs to have it back. But if it refuses, he says, I'm sorry, you're done. But this is not only Old Testament stuff. We already read some texts As I was working on the book on the covenants, I went out. I was driven to wrestle with Jesus woes in Matthew 23. I mean, this is shocking. Jesus talks this way. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled. Whoever himself will be exalted. Well, that's Old Testament truth, Joan. But or even woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites for you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. That's a curse. Or you tribes and Pharisees, hypocrites for you travel across sea and land to make a single proposal. And when it becomes oppressive, like you make them twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. This is rhetoric. Oh, you evade blind guides. You say if anyone swears by the temple, it's nothing. But if anyone swears by the goal of the temple, he's bound by the oath. You blind fools.


[00:42:10] Which is great. At the gold of the temple that has made the gold sacred. This is everywhere. This is everywhere. Jesus doesn't hesitate. And the interesting thing is, the targets of God, of Jesus fury are typically those who claim the most privileged status with God. Scribes Pharisees. He's very gracious to prostitutes. And adulterers and tax collectors. But all those who claim those who will sing. I love you, Lord. And in the street corners, they sing it. And I left my I've always. They're the targets of God's fury. Well, I hope we can see from this. There's rhetoric here. This is not just law. This is rhetoric. Trying to get people from a problematic disposition to a proper disposition where you claim the blessing and it's not accidental that this curse is at the end of the third address. But he will end the whole service with the altar call of Chapter 30. I have said before you the blessing and the curse. No excuse. You know exactly the options. Please choose blessing. For your own life, for your own good. It's up to you. This is the word of the Lord. Okay. My question is about the framework of Deuteronomy. There's a lot of like human medical pastoral emphasis in the book, but with other law texts like I'm specifically thinking of Leviticus, there seems to be a narrative framework for the book, but not this pastoral emphasis. Well, look a little closer. It is not as overtly pastoral. That's what this is. This is Moses last worship service. And he's very passionate in the way he delivers his final charge, Jesus in the upper room discourse. The Holiness code. That's what scholars call it. Look again and you see all the motive clauses. That's not the sort of stuff of cold, you know, and I call it the instructions on holiness rather than the holiness code.


[00:45:00] It is not, as, shall we say, a humble letter call. What's the word? Paramedic. That's a word that's used in scholarship. Paul's writings, his letters tend to be very preachy, early to Deuteronomy is there. The book of Hebrews, I think, is preached surely it's very close in style to what Moses is doing here. The The Holiness instructions are more formal. It's part of the covenant document, and I think that's why it's more formal. But that doesn't put it in the category of cold or law. But you're right, it's it's got narrative framework and it's got formal frameworks here in there. That is true. But driving it all is a pastoral intent. This is Torah rather than who came exclusively. It's again, law in the service of theology. In both instances, I will think just like even the Decalogue, which doesn't have much pastoral, except I am your God who brought you to the land of Egypt, your of motivation. And you've got a couple of promises and a couple of threats there. God visits the sins of the fathers to the children on the third and fourth generation. That's a curse. So he does have both there too. But I think we have drawn these distinctions too sharply. They are there, but let's not mean that one is this and the others that both are both. But the proportions shift. In terms of structure as well, with the blessing, the stipulations, blessings and curses. Does Leviticus have that sort of pattern of blessing, stipulation, blessing and curses? Stipulations. Yes. Because the. The Holiness code. That's what scholars say. The instructions on holiness begin after the Day of Atonement stuff. Chapter 17 And they go all the way through to 26. 26 is the equivalent of 28.


[00:47:30] It's at the end. And he begins with a whole series of blessings. And then he adds the curses. But at the end, now he shifts the order. Moses has his promise for after the curse that will come in the next address. He intimated this in the first address right at the end. But he'll have it in the at the end of the fourth address. Whereas Leviticus attaches is the ultimate blessing. I will restore you. Right after the curse. So it is fundamental to the three key documents which ends with verse. I think it's 45, the last verse.