God's ToS - As Seen On Sunday
Deuteronomy is mostly speeches from Moses to the Israelites, renewing the covenant with God, before they go into the promised land without him.
So we read some blessings that Moses reminds the Israelites of. You might be familiar with being blessed when you go in and when you go out. You might have heard that your enemies will flee seven ways as a motivational speech. but have you heard what comes before and after these blessings? I doubt it. Those who promise blessings from God leave out a big part of this “if” “then” statement.
“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.
What if the blessings that we promise people all the time in this American church are actually contingent on obedience? It feels like the complete opposite from our theology in practice. We ask God for things all the time, but the whole old testament is based on a covenant between God and His people, contingent on them obeying His commandments.
So what happens when the covenant is broken?
15 “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.
And it goes on like this for a total of 54 verses. In chapter 28, we have 14 verses of blessings to 54 of curses, all contingent on obedience.
When studying ancient near eastern cultures there are many examples of legal documents expressing requirements of the transaction and what should happen if the contract is broken. Deuteronomy holds many similarities to these contracts from the time period as it is a contract between God and the Israelites. From the prescience of other contracts, it is assumed that the consequences of breaking the contract is not meant to be literal but representative of bad things that will happen.
I think the exhaustiveness of the consequences of not following God shows us just have severe it is. I seem to always bring it back to Lamentations since we spent so much time there, but Lamentations is from the perspective of the Israelite after they did not follow Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a part of the first five books of the bible, the Pentateuch, or Law. It was very important to the Israelites so they all knew it.
58 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59 then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.
Today, we hate the idea of obedience or submission to something else because it forces us to acknowledge something bigger than ourselves. In this existentialistic and postmodern world, we want to be the highest power. Rather than obedience being works that we do I imagine that it is a direction of our heart. I think that Duet 29:19 explains the difference pretty well.
Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’
This describes the opposite of an obedient heart. I found it interesting that this heart blesses itself. In the midst of all the blessings of God, a stubborn unchanging and unrepentant heart blesses itself rather than accept God.
Some may ask “why is obedience required?” and I think the answer is that obedience and submission acknowledge God as God.
When the jailer asks Paul and Silas “what must I do to be saved?” in acts 16, their response is to believe in the Lord Jesus. The jailer responds by washing their wounds and then he and his were baptized. In James it says that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” yet Paul says it’s not by works so that none can boast. What gives? it is all coming back to an obedient heart.
I think this is the point where we bring up the New testament where it says that we essentially cannot be obedient and that all the work was done by Jesus on the cross.
This is where various theological assumptions come into play, where people debate just how dead we are in our transgressions, but regardless of how people get there, we all agree on salvation by grace through faith. That if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord you will be saved. That belief should ultimately direct actions. That we are helpless without God.
This is why at the end of ourselves we can find the fullness of grace.
If having the Bible shows us anything it is that we are still making the same mistakes as the Israelites did and Jesus still came knowing full well that we wouldn’t change. I suppose that is why Jesus came, because we needed Him.
So why do we treat this whole thing like terms of service agreement that we don't even bother to read?