[Deuteronomy 27] Mountains of Blessing and Cursing. In this chapter, the people are instructed once in Canaan to pronounce blessings and cursings from Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. In a time of grace and mercy from God through Jesus, are there consequences for disobedience? What is our accountability before God, where moral issues are concerned? Does God still curse today? If God doesn’t curse disobedience, does that mean neither does He bless us when we obey?
[Deu 27:1-26 KJV] 1 And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day. 2 And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: 3 And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee. 4 Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, [that] ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaster them with plaister. 5 And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up [any] iron [tool] upon them. 6 Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God: 7 And thou shalt offer peace offerings, and shalt eat there, and rejoice before the LORD thy God. 8 And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly. 9 And Moses and the priests the Levites spake unto all Israel, saying, Take heed, and hearken, O Israel; this day thou art become the people of the LORD thy God. 10 Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the LORD thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command thee this day. 11 And Moses charged the people the same day, saying, 12 These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin: 13 And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. 14 And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice, 15 Cursed [be] the man that maketh [any] graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth [it] in [a] secret [place]. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen. 16 Cursed [be] he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. 17 Cursed [be] he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen. 18 Cursed [be] he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen. 19 Cursed [be] he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen. 20 Cursed [be] he that lieth with his father’s wife; because he uncovereth his father’s skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen. 21 Cursed [be] he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen. 22 Cursed [be] he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. 23 Cursed [be] he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen. 24 Cursed [be] he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen. 25 Cursed [be] he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen. 26 Cursed [be] he that confirmeth not [all] the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
This chapter begins with a unique arrangement mentioned for the first time. Moses stands up WITH THE ELDERS of Israel. These are those who Moses ordained in Numbers 11:24-25 when the spirit of prophecy came down upon them. In the previous example, it was always the Lord and Moses speaking to the people, but a transition is taking place in preparation for Moses’ departure. The people were made responsible for erecting public monoliths inscribed with the words of the law upon them. In the Old Covenant, the law is written as an outward witness of our guilt. In the New Covenant, the law is written upon our hearts bringing transformation of who we are as well as what we do:
[Jer 31:33 KJV] 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
What are the milk and honey? This speaks of the word of God through the Logos and the Rhema. Peter said that the word is milk:
[1Pe 2:2 KJV] 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
The prophetess Deborah’s name means “a bee.” Bees produce honey. Honey represents the prophetic word. The land of promise – our personal Canaan is a land saturated in both the Logos of the Scriptures and the Rhema of the Prophetic. We need both and should seek both in our lives.
In vs. 4-10, we notice that one of the first things they were to do in Canaan was to build an altar unto the Lord. We build altars in the wilderness, but when we enter into the place of blessing, we often neglect our altars. We examine ourselves and repent in a time of difficulty but often fail to do so in a time of blessing. The altar was to be of whole stones without using any iron implements. Iron represents judgment. The whole stones remind us that when our blessing time comes, we were not the ones that made it happen. God is entirely responsible for the good places that we come into, and the times our destiny is fulfilled. We can never say our hands carved out our successes. The lack of iron implements means that we will not establish judgments based on the fact that we came into our blessing place. In other words, assuming that we must be good people or acceptable before God on the basis of the fact that we are so blessed. Our standing before God is not based on our success but upon His mercy.
In v. 11, the command was that nation of Israel every year were to send heralds from every tribe to stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people and Mount Ebal to pronounce the curses of disobedience. Ebal, the Mount of Cursing means “bare” or “void of leaves.”
This gives light to the incident when Jesus cursed the fig tree:
[Mat 21:19 KJV] 19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently, the fig tree withered away.
The scriptures tell us that men are like trees (Psalm 1:3); Trees without fruit, and like clouds without water (Jude 1:12). We are expected and responsible for producing fruit. When you come into your blessing place, there is a new accountability. The blessing of God in our lives is the measurement of God’s expectation that we should produce fruit. Where there is no fruit of the spirit in our character, we invoke the law of reciprocity for our lack of accountability. God wants our lives to bear the fruit of righteousness in our blessing place. Gerizim, the Mount of Blessing, comes from a word that means “to cut.” The word covenant also means “to cut.” When we pronounce the blessing, we are not standing upon our own righteousness, but upon the covenant, God cut for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are recipients of the covenant of Abraham through Christ. This is why we never have to try to convince God to do something that He has already promised. Our reliance is not on our abilities of persuasion or to somehow please Him with our works. Our trust is in the covenant established in Christ on our behalf.
In v. 15 is an often repeated prohibition against idol worship. Now we would never make a metal image and fall down and worship it but think MENTAL IMAGE. Idolatry is any outward dependency that usurps the place of Christ in our lives. God wants our sense of security and our sense of self to be grounded in who He is in our lives and not any outward thing.
In v. 16, we see a command against neglecting our elderly, specifically our parents. In western culture, we warehouse our elderly and put them out of the mainstream of our lives. We are a culture that worships youth and beauty, and by our neglect, we heap scorn and disdain upon our old folks. Even in the media where news anchors of a certain age are consistently replaced by youthful pundits, many of whom look like they’ve barely shaved yet. It is heartbreaking to see the systemic neglect of the older generations in our culture. The verse says there is a curse upon this attitude. It would be hard to imagine that there is no impact upon our world as a result of this almost universal attitude toward our elders.
In v. 17 is the command not to move our neighbor’s landmark. What application can we make in our world today in this regard? In our culture, political correctness is becoming a tyranny. Even in the marketplace, if a business person has a standard that offends another person, it is becoming common that they can lose their businesses and livelihood unless they relinquish the “landmark” of their conscience in deference to others. Across the US, business owners who refuse to service clients on moral grounds are being forced into sensitivity training programs on the threat of fines and sometimes even jail time. This is hauntingly reminiscent of the re-education camps of Soviet Russia and Red China. There is a curse that comes upon our culture because of this issue.
There is as well a command not to mislead the blind. The political landscape of the western world is, at this time, totally shaped and driven by special interest groups. It is considered passé and out of touch to suggest we should do what is right – rather, the rule of the day is “what is in the interest of my group – no matter what the moral implications may be…” The perfect example of this is the total and complete moral failure of President Clinton and the ferocious argument made in the public square to defend him with the insistence that there is no moral qualification for leadership as long as the leader in serving the best interests of the people. Personal agendas and selfishness pervert judgment. In the aftermath of the Clinton era, we have fallen as a nation into some of the greatest sufferings this country has seen yet somehow are unable to make the connection.
In vs. 21-23, we see repeated prohibitions regarding incest. Now, as in ancient times, we live in a sexualized society. Same-sex marriages now have legal recognition. There are cases working through the courts to legitimize polygamy and even bestiality, all in the name of personal choice. In some states, adult incest is legal and recognized. Personal Choice is now a monolithic standard that is held sacrosanct in our culture, which is rooted in rebellion and moral license. It would be difficult not to see the AIDs epidemic and other STD’s that are now universally found in every people group in our population as a consequence of the sexual proclivities of our time.
In v. 24, the people are commanded to declare these curses and agree with them verbally in front of the company of their fellow sojourners. In all of the pronouncement of the curses, the people were to establish and recognize their own accountability by responding “amen” or “so be it.” Does any of this have any application for us in the New Covenant? It makes us uncomfortable, to be sure, but even the most libertarian theologian cannot ignore the words of Paul in Eph. 4:30 “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby you are sealed to the day of redemption…” The mercies of God are sure, but it is a fact that the Holy Spirit that seals the blessings of Calvary into our lives can be grieved by choices we make, relationships we maintain, habits that we allow and opinions that we hold on to. It is a fact that in our day, that relationship to the church is an entirely voluntary proposition. In that light, it is very unlikely that any standard, however biblical, can be maintained. But sufficient to say that there IS an expectation of obedience implied by the fact that we serve a God who can be grieved by our actions. In that light, let us find a place of humility, and if we do not allow others to hold ourselves accountable, then let us hold ourselves responsible to God’s holy and just expectations upon us.