You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

When God took Moses up to the top of the mountain and told him to look over a land that he had anticipated for forty years but could not enter because of his sin, I suspect that he also whispered in his ear, “buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Fast forward to Luke 9 and you will see that through God’s grace, Moses actually got to experience the Promised Land after all, and in a way that the original entrance into Canaan could not compare—not by a long shot!

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 34:1-4

Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.”

I have always felt bad for Moses and, to be honest, a bit miffed at God on this one. I mean, can you name a better, more godly leader in human history than Moses? He was absolutely brilliant in getting two million reluctant Hebrews out of Egypt. He was as patient as the day is long in putting up with their constant, whining, bickering, criticizing and rebelling. He was closer to God than any human being before or after—he spoke with God face to face. He was the most humble man in all the earth. Probably the best summary of his life are contained in the editor’s words (probably Samuel) in Deuteronomy 34:10-11,

There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.

And yet God wouldn’t allow Moses into the Promised Land. For one mistake—he smote the rock from which God brought forth water—instead of speaking to it as the Lord had commanded. In that act of anger and disobedience, God said to Moses, “you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, so you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (You can read the story in Numbers 20:1-13)

Now I am sure there is more to this story than we read in the text. Likewise, I am just as sure that even though I am trying to “dumb down” the degree of sin in Moses disobedience, all sin his offensive to a holy God. And I am quite sure that my feelings about Moses’ punishment have to do with my own fear of punishment, for if Moses got in trouble for such an understandable mistake, I don’t stand a chance. But still, the punishment here seems disproportionate to the sin. Yet God is God and I am not. And he never makes a mistake; his judgments are right and fair, even though we cannot always comprehend.

However—and this is a big one—when God took Moses up to the top of the mountain that day and told him to look over a land that he had anticipated for forty years but could not enter, I suspect that the Lord also whispered in his ear, “buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Here is what I mean: If you fast forward from Deuteronomy 34 to Luke 9, you will see that through God’s grace, Moses actually got to experience the Promised Land after all, and in a way that the original entrance into Canaan could not compare—not by a long shot:

Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his exodus which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)

Moses, who had taken God’s glory from himself and received the just punishment for it, now appeared in God’s glorious splendor inside the Promised Land. Moreover, he spoke with God the Son about a true and better Exodus, the deliverance for the entire human race from the ultimate bondage of sin and death through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Moses got to experience the Promised Land in far greater fashion than what he was originally denied. Truly, what he saw on Pisgah Peak wasn’t anything to what he saw in Luke 9.

Now how awesome and encouraging is that for you and me! If and when we blow it by failing to trust God or by taking his glory for ourselves, while we will experience the painful consequences that sin always produces, we can, and should, still anticipate God’s grace. No matter how disappointed we may feel as a result of our mistakes, or God’s punishment, the good news is, like Moses, God whispers to our spirit, “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Going Deeper With God: Today, do you need God’s grace to cover your mistakes or to lift you from discouragement? Humble yourself before God, because his Word promises that in response to humility, God gives more grace. (James 4;6)

God Loves Me

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Indeed, God loves his people! Karl Barth was one of the most brilliant and complex intellectuals of the twentieth century. He wrote volume after massive volume on the meaning of life and faith. A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all those volumes. Barth thought for a moment and then said: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Go with that today, and nothing much can go wrong for you!

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 33:4,9

Indeed, God loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands.

God loves you and me! As many times as we have heard that, as much as we know that to be theologically true, sometimes we forget it. Sometimes the knowledge of our Creator’s indescribable love for us in our heads doesn’t travel to our hearts where it impacts us at the deepest part of our being. I hope today is not one of those “sometimes” for you; I think you need to hear this loud and clear today, because I sure do: God loves us!

John the Beloved, the Apostle of love, said it so simply yet profoundly in I John 3:

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!

What a great verse! It is profoundly simple yet poetically beautiful and incomprehensibly grace-filled—and it is personally true: Indeed, God loves his people—that means you; you are held in his loving hands. Of course, John is also the author of the most well-known, well-loved verse in the entire Bible—John 3:16,

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16—someone has rightly said that John captured the whole Bible in just one verse. There is not a simpler, yet more profound truth in Scripture than this: God loved the whole world so much that he gave his Son to die for it. But let me remind you that even though the verse comes to us grammatically in the past tense, there’s nothing past tense about God’s love. God still loves the world! His love is present tense.

Likewise, let me remind you that even though the love of God described here is universal, it’s also a profoundly personal love for you and me. Yes, God so loved the world, but he didn’t just look at it as one big mass of nameless faces. When the Father looked at the world and loved it, he was looking at you, his cherished child. St. Augustine, the 4th century North African Bishop, one of the most influential figures in church history, said it this way,

God loves each and every one of us as if there were only one of us.

Did you realize that if you were the only person on this planet, God’s love for you would still have led him to send his Son to die for your sins? Just for you, there would still be a John 3:16. I hope that you will take that simple truth into the core of your being today, because at certain times on this day you will need to lean into it. Yes, God loves you!

Karl Barth was one of the most brilliant and complex intellectuals of the twentieth century. He wrote volume after massive volume on the meaning of life and faith. A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all those volumes. Barth thought for a moment and then said,

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Go with that today, and nothing much can go wrong for you!

Going Deeper With God: Write the words, “I am the one Jesus loves” on a 3×5 card and place it where you can see it throughout the day. Several times today, read the card out loud to yourself (or to anyone who may be listening if you like).

Songology

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The music of the faith is meant to teach us theology—songology, we might call it. Not so much systematically, but for sure, artistically, emotionally, and viscerally. Church music should be evaluated by this and this alone: what does it teach us about God and our relationship to him. If it doesn’t teach doctrine, inspire trust and lead us to obedience, then no matter how lovely the lyrics or moving the melody, perhaps the best thing we could do with it is to toss it in the “we’re done with it” bin.

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 32:4,9

Moses recited this entire song publicly to the assembly of Israel: I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! …For the people of Israel belong to the Lord; Jacob is his special possession.

I love church songs—hymns, simple choruses of the faith and modern worship music. But I’m a little bit weird; I don’t just love the music, it’s the lyrics that move me—or not. When a song skill teaches good theology, I’m a fan! Let’s call it songology. I think that is what the music of the faith is meant to do: teach us theology—not so much systematically, but artistically, emotionally and viscerally. If it doesn’t, no matter how lovely the lyrics and moving the melody, I am okay with tossing it into the “we’re done with it” bin. Don’t worry; it won’t be lonely. There is a great multitude of other church songs there.

Moses wrote a song for the Israelites toward the very end of his days as their leader. He was about to “go the way of all the earth.” That is code for, “I’m about to die.” He was passing the baton of leadership to Joshua, and in his final words to Israel—which went on for several chapters—he was rehearsing their history with God over the past forty years. His last will and testament was at times charming, profound, moving and tender, but then it would take a turn into deadly seriousness: Moses was not pulling his punches with their characteristic whiny and rebellious nature. He was also letting loose on what he feared most: that they would wander from God and end up in full on spiritual rebellion in the future, probably sooner than later, knowing them. Fearing that, he warned them in no uncertain terms of what the consequences would be for their unfaithfulness to God.

To put the exclamation mark on his words, he wrote this song that comprises Deuteronomy 32. The song is not just a happy little ditty from their happy old granddaddy. No, much of the song is a foreboding alert—again, he is putting into writing that which will stand as a prophetic testimony against them when they have sunk into rebellion and are experiencing the nasty consequences.

You can listen to the song for yourself. Make sure you read the entire score because while it is often harsh, it reminds us of some very important theology—the doctrine of God that should be heard again in our generation and passed on to the next. But for time’s sake, let me just mention a few bits and pieces of this songology that stuck out to me:

  • The Doctrine of God: He is our strength, just and fair, perfect in all his ways and utterly righteous. This is especially critical to grasp as you read of the punishment he will unleash on the persistently rebellious. If you read only the imprecatory portions of God’s warning, you will think of him only as an angry Deity. He is not at all. And he would be none of the things God should be if he didn’t do what he warned he would do.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! (Deuteronomy 32:4)

  • The Reality of Sin: Sin is not simply a mistake, nor is it merely satisfying our preferences. Sin is not God’s children exercising their freedom; it is full on rebellion against the just and righteous Creator. In fact, to persistently live in rebellion against God should call into question the legitimacy of their spiritual heritage.

But they have acted corruptly toward him; when they act so perversely, are they really his children? They are a deceitful and twisted generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5)

  • The Rule of God: Perhaps forgetting that God is our Father, our Maker, and the One who established us on the planet is the fundamental reason we sin against God. If we kept in mind that our lives are not our own, we would never ask, “what do I want?” but “what does my Owner desire from me?” God has supreme right and authority of rulership over us.

Isn’t he your Father who created you? Has he not made you and established you? … He established the boundaries of the peoples according to the number in his heavenly court. For the people of Israel belong to the Lord; Jacob is his special possession. (Deuteronomy 32:6, 8-9)

  • The Sovereignty of God: God’s self-existence, his supreme authority, his authorship of salvation, his Fatherhood over all mankind are not just lofty doctrine that only the theologians grasp and appreciate; this is practical and meaningful theology for our everyday lives. Theology serves as a continual reminder that we must never allow the goodness of life to lull us into independence from the very One who gives us our life, supplies our every breath, and deserves our moment-by-moment loyalty.

But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation. …You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:15,18)

  • The Praiseworthiness of God: the obvious implication of all this theology is that our response of worship, now and as the ceaseless activity of our lives, is only right and fitting. The sovereign, life-giving, just, fair and righteous God alone is worthy to be praised.

I myself am he! There is no other god but me! I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one can be rescued from my powerful hand! …Rejoice with him, you heavens, and let all of God’s angels worship him. Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles, and let all the angels be strengthened in him. (Deuteronomy 32:15,18)

Yep, there’s good songology in Moses’ hymn. And while we don’t know if the music that accompanied it was moving, if the band was hot, if he had backup singers and dancers (which I kind of doubt) or if it hit the Billboard Top Ten Chart, we do know that the words of the song were literally inspired by the Holy Spirit for our benefit. In fact, Moses himself said as post-commentary on the song,

These instructions are not empty words—they are your life! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you will occupy when you cross the Jordan River. (Deuteronomy 32:47)

If that is literally true—which it is, by the way—then we had better start singing.

Going Deeper With God: Take a few minutes today and pour over this song. Then pull out your own bits and pieces of the theology contained in it. Write it down, and add your own commentary. It will be a meaningful exercise in worship.

Way Out In Front Of You

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Faith never plays it safe, never settles for the comfort zone, and never lacks risks. Following God means letting go of what you know and what you see for the risky adventure of pursuing what only God knows and sees. God said to Abraham, the father of our faith, “leave your land and go to one I will show you.” That wasn’t the last time God said that to a person of faith. If God said it to the father, he says it to the children—he is saying it to you: Go! And remember that where you go, God is already there.

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 31:6

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Not only does God have your back, he’s got your front! In fact, he is way ahead of you. If you are his child, wherever he is leading you, literally, he is leading you. That means he is out ahead of you, which is what “leading” means. What that also means is that God already is where he is calling you to go.

Now I don’t know about you, but that gives me great comfort in my own journey of faith. And I need that because letting go of what I know and what I see for the risky adventure of pursuing what only God knows and sees requires courage, in large doses.

To be sure, faith is an investment of trust! God said to Abraham, the father of our faith, “leave your land and go to one I will show you.” That wasn’t the last time God said that to a person of faith. If God said it to the father, he says it to the children, and since you are a spiritual child of Abraham, God is probably saying that to you right now. So if you are going to obey God’s call to steps of faith, you will have to risk your trust.

Moses had led the Israelites to the edge of their Promised Land. He had proven himself formidable, fearless and skillful as their leader. They had come to rely on him as the voice and arm of God. But he could go no further; they would have to go on without him. And while God had graciously selected Moses’ associate, Joshua, to now lead them into battle ahead, the people were nervous. This was a new thing; Joshua was not proven as a leader to the same degree as Moses. That is why God reminded them that no matter who their human leader would be, it was God himself who would be way out in front of them.

Now think of what that implies for your steps of faith. When you are a God-follower, you are led only to where God already is. You cannot take a step that God has not already secured. Sure, you may not see where you are stepping with your natural eyes, but faith calls you to see what God has promised as firm reality. And firm reality means that where God already resides is the guarantee of your victory. That is precisely why God exhorts you to be bold and courageous.

From the human view of things, steps of faith are risky, uncomfortable and stretching. No doubt about that! You well know that if you are processing a faith decision right now. And if you are, as you are processing what faith requires of you, let me encourage you to listen to those that have already gone before you on a journey of faith—Moses, Joshua, the Israelites and everybody else in the Great Cloud of Witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1) They will say that while you may think you are going where no man has gone, the reality is God is already there. They would know—they went there, too. And they will assure you that wherever you go in response to faith is where God already is, and as you go to where God already is, you cannot lose.

God is way out in front of you; he has personally gone ahead of you. Therefore be strong and courageous!

Going Deeper With God: Where is God calling you to greater steps of faith? Perhaps he is prompting you to witness to a co-worker. It could be that he is speaking to you about giving of your finances. Maybe he is asking you to serve in a ministry. Possibly he is even calling you to make a major life change in order to follow him. Wherever he is calling you, he is leading you. And wherever he leads you he is already there with your victory in his hand. So be courageous and go for it.

Behold the Kindness and Severity of God

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Those who think of the Old Testament God as an angry, punishing deity are wrong. There is not one God of justice in the Old and another God of grace in the New; there is only a God who loves his children beyond description, patiently endures their rebellion, punishes the sin when they persist, but looks for ways to restore them to his favor as soon as he can. As the Apostle Paul exclaims, “Behold the kindness and severity of God.”

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 30:1-4

In the future, when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you. Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will gather you from there and bring you back again.

I would argue that one of the disservices to the reader of our modern Bible translations is the addition of chapter and verse numbers. Of course, these were added to help us find our way around God’s Word. It would be quite difficult to find Psalm 119:64 when your pastor asks you to turn there during the sermon without a point of reference. So yes, chapter and verse numbers are helpful. I am not voting to get rid of them.

However, they were not there when these letters and books were originally penned. To that point, Moses didn’t divide Deuteronomy into sections: there were no chapters 28, 29 and 30; the blessings and the curses and the restoration from the curses were not seen as separate. It was one seamless sermon. That is critical to understanding God’s loving heart when he is warning the Israelites of the very bad things that will happen to them when they backslide into spiritual rebellion. If all you read about is the dark side of God’s punishment, you will fail to see the loving heart in which it is rooted.

The Apostle Paul’s word in Romans 11:22 perfectly describes the blessings/curses section of Deuteronomy: “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” The kindness and severity of God—that is it. God is both loving and just. He would not be one if he were not the other. If he is not just, then he is not loving. If he is not loving, then he cannot be just.

Furthermore, you cannot truly grasp the severity of God’s justice if you do not understand the longing of his heart to redeem the punished from their punishment. Again, take note of Moses’ seamless proclamation of the blessings and curses—and the restoration of the Israelites when they have been exiled for their persistent rebellion. Even in their punishment, God looks for repentant hearts so he can restore them to the promised blessing:

If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes…. The Lord your God will change your heart and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live!” (Deuteronomy 30:2-3,6)

Those who think of the Old Testament God as an angry, punishing deity are wrong. There is not one God of justice in the Old and another God of grace in the New; there is only a God who loves his children beyond description, patiently endures their rebellion, punishes their sin when they persist, but looks for ways to restore them to his favor as soon as he can. In an example that falls far short, God is like a loving parent who warns his children about their misbehavior, sends them to time out when they cross the line, but does not leave them there forever. In fact, that parent counts down the time when pardon is possible.

That is the Lord our God—the One who longs to forgive and restore. That is why the prophet Joel offered this plea:

“Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead,” says the Lord. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse.

An angry God—not in the least!

Going Deeper With God: Is God warning you about your sin? Repent, for he longs to keep you in his favor. Is he punishing you for rebellion in your life? Turn to him, for he longs to restore you to the blessings. Do you see him as an angry, vindictive Deity? Let go of that picture once and for all, for he is a loving and compassionate Father who loves you with an everlasting love.

A Need To Know Basis

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

While we want to know everything that God knows—on its face, a ridiculous desire—he keeps certain things to himself! Like a good parent with a small child, he gives us bits and pieces of information at a time, as we are able to absorb and obey it. We couldn’t handle a divine data dump of everything God knows; it would overload us and even damage our development. Rather, he gives us what we need and simply asks us to obey it. And with what we don’t know, he asks us to trust.

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 29:29

The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.

I think you would agree, whether you are a parent, grandparent or a teacher, that a child’s ability to grasp information is connected to his or her level of emotional and intellectual development. When we teach our little ones, we give them bits and pieces at a time, but not the whole wagonload of knowledge. They couldn’t handle it if we did; we would overload them and even damage their development. We simply teach them at their current level, helping them to understand and obey what they know.

So it is with God. And while we want to know everything within his domain of knowledge—which we know, on its face, is a ridiculous desire—he keeps certain things to himself. We may have a spiritual tantrum, stomp our feet and demands answers, but he doesn’t give into our “why God” whining. Sure, as we mature, he reveals deeper truths to us, but like a good parent, there are things we are not yet ready to handle. And in those cases, he simply wants us to trust and obey.

It will always be that way in our walk with God. I suspect it will even be that way in eternity. While we will have unlimited capacity to grasp the deep things of God in the eternal future, we still won’t know everything within his domain—that would make us God. We will, however, be on an ever-increasing journey of grasping the revelation of God throughout the endless age, for there is no limit to the mind of God. How exciting! Those who think of heaven as sitting on a cloud and strumming a harp for eternity are in for a big surprise; they will instead find a boundless adventure of growing, learning, discovering, achieving and reigning over God’s ever-expanding creation.

But for the time being, God has revealed certain things to us. He has given us what we need to know. Of course, we have to unpack it—know it, develop it into wisdom through the disciplines of the faith, and apply it practically in our everyday lives through obedience. We have to prove ourselves faithful with the information we have. Yet there remain secret things that he has not yet revealed. With those, we simply need to trust. With some of the thing of God, we are on a need to know basis.

It is likely that when Moses spoke to Israel of God’s secrets, he was referring to their future. And by that he was simply telling them not to get caught up in what might or might not happen in the future—a year, or ten or a lifetime later; that was an outcome known only to God. Their responsibility was simply to be accountable for the conditions of the covenant today. They were to trust and obey God today; God would take care of their tomorrow.

The next time you wrestle with the unknown, and perhaps are frustrated that God has not given you an adequate explanation, remember Deuteronomy 29:29. The truth is, whether you like it or not, the secret things belong to the Lord your God, but the things he has revealed to you are adequate for today. Obey them and trust God with what you don’t know and can’t see.

You are on a need to know basis with God. And while there are some things you may never know, what you do know is that he has a flawless track record of accomplishing his good, perfect and pleasing will in the lives of his people.

Going Deeper With God: Memorize Deuteronomy 29:29. It might seem like a strange verse to commit to memory, but believe me, it will come back to you at just the right moment, probably when you are frustrated with not knowing everything God knows.

When Much Is Given, Much Is Required

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

As redeemed followers of Jesus, we have been given much: salvation at no cost to us, paid in full through Christ’s sacrificial, substitutionary death. We have received much; much will be required. And what is required is nothing less than to continually and eternally serve him with joy and enthusiasm!

Going Deep // Focus: Deuteronomy 28:7-48

If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you.

Nowhere in the Bible is the blessing of God contrasted with the cursing of God as clearly as in Deuteronomy 28. On the one hand, when the people whom God chose to be his very own hold up their end of the covenant, the blessings he promises to pour out upon them would make the so-called prosperity gospel of modern American Christianity look tame by comparison. God is clear that obedience to all of his commands will lead to, among other things,

  • Dominion: “Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (Deuteronomy 28:1)
  • Success: “Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.” (Deuteronomy 28:6)
  • Wealth: “The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do and will fill your storehouses with grain.” (Deuteronomy 28:8)
  • Divine Favoritism: “Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you…. the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom.” (Deuteronomy 28:10,13)

And while is it not specifically enumerated as one of the blessings of obedience in this chapter, physical health is clearly one of the benefits as well. As Moses spells out the awful curses that will result from wanton disregard of God’s commands, the removal of health and the affliction of disease will be one of the first consequences Israel experiences.

Then after describing these incredible blessings of obedience, Moses gives a long graphic warning of what will happen if Israel violates their covenantal commitment. The list is extensive, hard to hear, dark and depressing—intentionally so. God anticipates that over time, his people will drift from full devotion to him and began to chase after false gods, so he wants to be very clear that nothing less than cruel suffering will be the consequence of their backsliding. Indeed, the very things Moses enumerates in this chapter literally occurred at different points in Israel’s future history during extended seasons of spiritual rebellion. I won’t take the time to list them here, so you will have to read them for yourself. But fair warning: they are awful.

So why would God threaten his people with such immense and unspeakable suffering? Well, I would ask a similar question: Why would God promise his people such immense and indescribable blessing? The answer to both questions lies, in part, to God’s sovereign call upon Israel. Both the unspeakable curses and the indescribable blessings can only be explained in the context of his rights of ownership over Israel. Due to no worthiness of their own, God chose them to be his own people from all the nations of the earth. Israel belonged to him as no other people did. He had poured out his unrestrained favor upon them, and he now called them to serve him with “joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits.” It was only right that Israel would remain fully devoted to the Lord their God. If they did, ever-increasing blessings of abundance awaited; if they didn’t, ceaseless curses would be unleashed.

Jesus described a similar contrast of blessings and curses in Luke 12:47-48 in an eschatological illustration known as the Parable of the Banquet:

The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Perhaps this, more than anything, describes the incredible joys of obedience and the unspeakable cruelty of disobedience: to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. You and I, as redeemed followers of Jesus, have been given much: salvation at no cost to us, paid in full through his sacrificial, substitutionary death. We have received his abundant benefits—how could we not continually and eternally serve him with joy and enthusiasm?

Going Deeper With God: Assess the joy and enthusiasm level of your service to God. If it is lagging, take some time to review the abundant benefits of the free grace you have received. That should do the trick.