Friday, March 13, 2015


In my current read through the Bible, I am in Deuteronomy. This morning I read in Chapter 28 about God's blessings on his people for obedience, and about his curses for disobedience. Something in this passage struck me as odd...

Beginning in Deuteronomy 28:1, I read about blessings:  "...if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God...Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle,..Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out..."

Then, in verse 15, I began the list of curses:  "...if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God...Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out..."

As I was reading through the Blessings list, I was reminded of a series of sermons by Dr. Jonathan Pennington at the 2012 Reformation Conference at Grace. Dr. Pennington was preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. You know, the passage that lists all those Blessed-s. Dr. Pennington explained that the term "blessed" is better translated "shalom-ness." Shalomness is bigger than the typical definition given of "peace" or "happiness," although it does encompass an aspect of those. Shalomness connotes the idea of wholeness, integrity, and consistency of person. It communicates something about being the same person - in thought and in deed, inside and out - regardless of circumstances.

Reading through the first part of Deuteronomy 28, it occurred to me that often, when I think of blessing, I think in terms of prosperity. All these blessings - in the city, in the field, my children, the produce of my field and my labor, my food, my travel, etc. - I was kind of thinking that God was promising to make all those endeavors prosper. He would make me fruitful, successful, comfortable.

But when I got to verse 15 and started reading about the curses, it hit me as kind of odd that the list was EXACTLY THE SAME as the list I had just read under the "blessing" heading. Was God saying he would make all those same endeavors UNfruitful, UNsuccessful, UNcomfortable?

I don't think so.

As I read through Chapter 28 again, it occurred to me that both groups of people - those who obey God and those who disobey - are all doing the same sorts of things:  working, having children, going about their daily lives. And there doesn't seem to be any promise (nor any indication elsewhere) that obedience guarantees physical, financial, or relational success or comfort. Consider Jesus, for example.

This got me to thinking about Dr. Pennington's explanation of the word "blessed" - which got me to thinking about all the hard work I've been doing this week in my 30 Days of Dominion challenge - which got me to thinking -

Sometimes, cleaning out a messy closet is a blessing. It teaches me something about God and something about myself. Cleaning a cluttered, nasty, long-neglected closet causes me to thank God for Jesus and for his sufficient, atoning work on my behalf: it reminds me that Jesus brings my sin out of the closet, and he washes me and makes me clean inside and out.

Sometimes, cleaning out a messy closet is a curse. I think I am being imposed upon - Why am I the one stuck with cleaning up so-&-so's junk?! I feel unappreciated - No one is even going to know how much work I've done, once I finish cleaning out this closet and then close the door! I turn into a crab, complaining about how there are so many other things I would rather be doing. I get angry because another person criticizes the work I am doing. Blah, blah, blah...

We all know people who groan and sigh at every little task they undertake. They walk around like Eeyore, with their own personal cloud of misery and discontent hanging over their heads. And we all know people who, like Pooh, are exactly the opposite - whatever they do, whether the sun shines or whether it is raining - their eyes are bright and their attitudes are pleasant.

It occurred to me this morning, reading in Deuteronomy, that the blessing isn't so much in the particular work that I am doing, so much as it is in the knowledge of the presence and goodness of God while I am at work doing whatever it is that God has given me to do. Likewise, the curse isn't so much that the work will be inordinately difficult or unfruitful, but rather that the work will be done without the comfort and joy that comes from a consciousness of God's love and favor.

That is the kind of blessing that I want: the blessing of shalomness. The peace, wholeness, integrity, and consistency of person that comes from knowing and living in light of the truth that I am God's, and He is mine... the city and in the field, in my children and in my work, in my "basket" and in my "kneading bowl," when I come in and when I go out.


J. K. Jones said...

My question is whether the promises in this case are just to The Nation Israel or to the church as a whole. I have yet to form a firm opinion on that.

Anonymous said...

My half-baked theory on J.K.'s pondering is that even God's explicitly special blessings on Israel flow at least in part from the restoration of human nature with the revelation of God's word, character, and presence, and are therefore at least partially open to any person with access to that revelation.

So yes, there is an element of miraculous blessing granted to Israel, but there is also the wholeness of blessing that describes the life of a human living as humans are designed to live- in proper relationship with God. And that lifestyle is not something that only an Israelite can do.

There's nothing specially supernatural about the link between loving your neighbor and thriving, healthy business, or between loving God and being rested and healthy. If you are faithful to your spouse, you generally won't contract syphilis; that's just the way the world is designed to work, even when fallen.

worth a thought.