Moses had given Israel the Law a second time just before they entered the Promised Land. He now admonished them to keep the law as a covenant with The Lord who had made them a nation, His own people. First, He told them to build a wall in which they would clearly write the whole law and an altar to make their sacrifices and offerings. Every time they came to worship the Lord they would see and read the law and know why they made the offerings they did. Verses 1-10 read,
Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.2 And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster. 3 And you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you. 4 And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. 5 And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; 6 you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, 7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. 8 And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”
9 Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. 10 You shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today.”
Worship is more than singing a song with lyrics that praise God. Worship is a response to God for His Word, Salvation, and Presence. Reading and hearing His Word and moving it from knowledge to knowing, from head to heart is worship. Responding to Him with praise and thanksgiving is worship. Gathering together and rejoicing before Him for who He is and who He has made you is worship. Obedience to your Lord in response to His awesome love is worship. Worship requires your participation not just your observation.
Then Moses told the people that once they crossed the Jordan they were to divide into two groups, one standing on side Mount Ebal and one standing on the side of Mount Gerizim. Verses 11-13 read,
That day Moses charged the people, saying, 12 “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. 13 And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.
The Lord divided them into two groups, the tribes who were the children of Rebecca and Leah, Jacob’s free wives and the children of Bilhah and Zilpah, the servants of the wives. The tribes of Rebecca and Leah would speak the blessings over Israel. The tribes of Bilhah and Zilpah would speak the curses.
In this way God demonstrated the difference between the Old Covenant of Mosaic Law and the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. The old came with curses for disobedience, the new blessings for obedience since there is no condemnation for those who are free in Christ (Romans 8:1-2). Verses 14-26 read,
And the Levites shall declare to all the men of Israel in a loud voice:
15 “‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’
16 “‘Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
17 “‘Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor's landmark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
18 “‘Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
19 “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
20 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his father's wife, because he has uncovered his father's nakedness.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
21 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with any kind of animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
22 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
23 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his mother-in-law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
24 “‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
25 “‘Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
26 “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
This was what the people would do to affirm their part of the covenant, to agree to keep the whole law, to know the law, and understand that law comes with consequences. Chapter 28 continues the explanation of the ceremony they would perform upon entering The Promised Land with blessings for obedience. Verses 1-6 read,
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
Blessed means more than fortunate, it means a happiness or joy that comes from God. It means that things would be well and productive. Every part of a righteous person’s life would result in fruit, success and joy. God didn’t just say He would sprinkle or even shower the righteous man with blessings, He said they would come upon and overtake him no matter where he was or what he was doing in obedience to God. The person here didn’t just worship God when he gathered with Israel for corporate worship, he lived a life of obedience, a life of worship. Verses 7-14 continue,
“The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. 8 The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 9 The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, 14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”
As we exalt the Lord, He exalts us above others. As we practice humility before Him, He shows the world how proud He is of His people. It is He, not we who make these blessings. We have no reason to boast in ourselves, we boast in Him. Our good productive life of obedience acclaims and praises God. Our obedience glorifies the Lord, because it is only possible through Him. Psalm 34:1-5 describes the blessings of a lifestyle of worship.
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
But just as there are blessings for obedience, there are curses for disobedience. Disobedience at its core is worshipping yourself, putting yourself in God’s place as lord. Verses 15-68 record the curses, I will include some, but I recommend you read all of them. Perhaps God has a word for you in them as He did for me. Verses 15-19 give a broad curse.
“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 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. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.”
The disobedient Christian will be disciplined; he will face consequences in order to bring him back into obedience so that he may continue his spiritual formation to the image of Christ. God disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12).
Verses 45-47 read,
“All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. 46 They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things,”
The disobedient man, the man who rejects Christ, cannot escape the curse it will pursue him and overtake him. He will live in slavery, he will not be a citizen of Heaven but lost and rootless in the world. Verses 65-68 read,
“And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. 66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see. 68 And the Lord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, a journey that I promised that you should never make again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.”
The Lord rejoices in our obedience; He loves to bless us and will do so at every chance. But He also wants us to become His children, with His character. He will discipline us to bring us to Him. He must punish those who reject Christ. He would so much prefer to bless us all. Is your life blessed? Are you experiencing the fruit of a life of worship and obedience? Are you experiencing the fruit of disobedience? Are you suffering for Christ’s sake or because of your flesh? The Holy Spirit, our Good and Wonderful God will use both circumstances to transform you. He promised we would suffer, but some of it can be avoided. Some of it is discipline due to our waywardness.
Believer, I urge you to examine your life and ask god to search your heart. If you are suffering ask is it a result of your disobedience or is it for the sake of Christ? Whatever the reason, are you glorifying God through it? Are you being transformed through it? It will continue as long is God deems necessary for His glory and your good.