The longest chapter in Deuteronomy begins with hope but ends with horror. Moses has finished reiterating the Law to the new generation who will conquer the Promised Land; now in chapter 28 he tells them what to expect in return for keeping the Law—and what to expect if they don’t. Of the 68 verses in chapter 28, only 14 tell of the blessings that will come from obedience, while the other 54 are devoted to enumerating the hardship, sickness, and destruction that will result from rebellion. God is almost frighteningly thorough.
These curses fall into four major categories: physical, mental/spiritual, material/financial, and military. Through Moses, God warns His chosen people that no part of their lives will be left untouched. Their bodies will be ravaged by fever, consumption, boils, and tumors. They’ll be struck with madness, blindness, bewilderment and trembling of heart, living in despair and dread of both day and night. On top of these physical and mental curses, they will experience financial and material ruin. Their agrarian society will be devastated by famine, pestilence, and plague. Their bread bowl and kneading basket will be cursed as will their livestock and herd. Rain will stop falling, and crops will stop growing. They’ll have no way to feed their families. As if that weren’t enough, the bulk of the list is devoted to prophesying a hostile takeover at the hand of a foreign power. Israel will be besieged and the people taken captive, exiled to the land of their enemies. Their precious Promised Land will be gone.
While these curses do not directly refer or apply to us in the 21st century, they do teach that God takes obedience very seriously. To disobey God and besmirch His name carries dire consequences—a lesson first taught in Genesis 3 after the sin in the Garden when God curses the serpent, the seed of the woman, childbirth, marriage, nature, and work. Death enters the world, and now all of creation is “subjected to futility” and “groans and suffers” under the curse (Rom. 8:20-22). Nothing that we know or experience is free from the curse. It is entirely comprehensive. Our bodies, relationships, thoughts, emotions, jobs, neighbors, food, vehicles, and pets are all subject to it. Though we wait eagerly for its end, we can hardly imagine life without the curse. However, that’s exactly what Babe in the manger invites us to do.
As wide-ranging as Deuteronomy 28 is in detailing the severe punishment that will befall Israel in the wake of her disobedience, the blessings of the Messiah outweigh them all—blessings for Jew and Gentile alike.
Defeat of Enemies:
When the Curse Breaker returns, He will come not as a humble Servant, but as a conquering King, slaying His enemies with the very words He speaks.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it [is] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes [are] a flame of fire, and on His head [are] many diadems; and He has a name written [on Him] which no one knows except Himself. [He is] clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white [and] clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev. 19:11-16)
Not only that, however, but He will ultimately and eternally punish our great Adversary—the dragon, deceiver, murderer, and father of lies:
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:10)
The Savior has already given to us beyond our wildest imagination, lavishing grace upon grace on us (John 1:16) and giving to us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3-18). But He won’t stop there. The home that awaits us will eclipse the “good land” bequeathed to the Israelites a thousand-fold.
The building material of our new home won’t be wood, brick, or steel. It will be gold, and the foundations of the walls will be a variety of precious stones.
The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. (Rev. 21:18-21)
Failed harvests and famine will also be redeemed beyond our wildest dreams. One tree will be all we need (though probably not all we have).
In the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve [kinds of] fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Rev. 22:2)
Our physical bodies, now racked with aches, pains, disease, and weakness, will be resurrected and glorified, leaving the curse far behind:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable [body,] it is raised an imperishable [body;] it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual [body.] ... Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-54)
Under the curse we know anxiety, dread, depression, and blindness. The Great Rescuer will come to make even these most intimate, personal struggles untrue:
And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be [any] death; there will no longer be [any] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. (Rev. 21:4)
This Christmas let’s sing these words, not looking backward to Bethlehem, but (as the author intended) looking forward to the reality that the Babe in swaddling clothes—the King of kings and Lord of lords forever—promises to bring us.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
There will no longer be any curse. (Rev. 22:3a)