In the Diaspora, (Jewish people living outside the Land of Israel), today’s Torah portion is Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8. The title of this Parshah is taken from the second and third words in the first sentence of the Hebrew text in this section. These words are Ki Tavo (key- ta-vo), which means when you (singular) come in. The “you” here is each individual entering the Land. And so the ceremonies Moses is about to institute, and the principles concerning blessing and cursing he’s about to lay out, applies to every single person going into the Land. The purpose of the ceremonies is to celebrate Israel’s initial possession and continued enjoyment of their Promised Land, while the blessings and curses serve as a foundation for understanding why Israel’s future in the Land will play out the way it does.
Building on this critical theme of blessing and cursing, our portion of the portion today is the bottom line cause and effect covenant dynamic at work here. Deuteronomy 28:1-2 reads, “Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the Lord your God: And verse 15 in this same chapter says, “But if you do not obey the Lord your God by carefully following all His commands and statutes I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overtake you:
Moses begins by positively by holding out blessings as encouragements to live in obedience to the covenant relationship God had established. And the greatest blessing stated here is that Israel could become the most exalted of all nations on the earth. The condition for this blessing was obedience to the Word of Yahweh. In fact this condition was so important, Moses stated it three times in this section; at the beginning (v. 1), the middle (v. 9), and the end (vv. 13-14); and he says it, in both positive and negative terms.
Next beginning in verse 15, Moses identifies about four times as many curses than the number of blessings he just listed in verses 1-14. This curses section extends to end of chapter 28 and it can be divided it into five sections of increasingly severe disciplinary measures. This is Moses’ farewell speech so he’s letting it fly.
Here’s the big-picture breakdown: 1st Moses explains the various forms in which Israel would suffer punishment (vv. 20-24). 2nd Israel would suffer physical distresses, and her enemies would plunder and oppress her (vv. 26-37). 3rd Moses saw Israel’s potential fate as rejection by God from covenant fellowship but not covenant partnership (vv. 38-46). 4th Israel is invaded, conquered, and brutalized by her enemies (vv. 47-57). And 5th Israel is deprived of all the benefits she had formerly enjoyed (cf. 6:21-23; 26:5-9). Here, this 28th chapter of Deuteronomy closes with disease and disasters in the Land (vv. 58-63), and deportation from the Land (vv. 64-68). And both those conditions, within the Land and outside the Land, picture a one hundred and eighty degree reversal of the Exodus blessings Israel enjoyed.
Now another point we need to factor into the mix is this: While it’s true that Israel would and did experience devastating consequences for disobeying the revealed will of God, on the other side of the shekel, it’s also true that these sufferings have often been intensified by vicious expressions of anti-Semitism. And here’s the thing, the Gentile nations guilty of these vicious expressions of anti-Semitism, went way too far, and continue to go way too far in their role of unknowingly serving as the human vehicle for divine judgment; in other words, their just acting out on their inherent Adamic depravity. And God is angry at those nations. And he will hold them fully accountable for all their actions. Which also indicates that God only knows where what He directly causes to happen and what He consciously allows to happen exactly begins and ends; in other words the relationship between Divine sovereignty and human responsibility. But’s that’s the subject of another Parshah, or actually another yearly cycle of Parshah’s. Oy!
Anyway, let me suggest this take away principle to live by with respect to this topic of blessings and curses. We must differentiate between what God has promised to Israel as a nation and what He has promised to His new covenant community, the church. The specific curses directed upon Israel for disobeying God’s Mosaic Laws are not repeated for New Testament believers. As we see in the context of the Torah portion today, if Israel disobeyed God, they would suffer judgment and ultimately be scattered to the ends of the earth. But now, in contrast to that, God promises He will never forsake His children. His grace will always be sufficient, no matter what happens in our lives (cf. Phil. 4:19).
But again, on the other side of the shekel, God has never promised us health and wealth—something both unbelievers and believers may enjoy because of what is commonly called common grace. Yeshua taught that, “God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5: 45). Yes, we are to pray for one another that our heavenly Father will meet our physical needs. But it is not always God’s will that His children be materially wealthy and physically healthy. When prosperity teachers say that, that theology is based almost entirely on promises to Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures. And you know what, as far we’re concerned, that Mosaic ship sailed a long time ago because today there’s no functioning Jerusalem Temple, no operative Levitical priesthood, and no yearly Day of Atonement sacrifice. The person and work of Jesus of Nazareth is the prophetic messianic fulfillment and spiritual embodiment of everything those defining Jewish institutions foreshadowed.
You know this whole prosperity business is really a critical issue; because what often happens to people who base their financial giving on a theology of prosperity and then experience economic failure and serious health issues is that they become emotionally devastated, sometimes even to the point of renouncing their faith.
So for New Covenant believers here’s the deal; even though we’re not under the curses outlined for disobedience to the Mosaic Law, God still disciplines believers who consistently walk out of His will. His correction in our lives is a means to draw us back into the will of God. And that’s a conditional condition that we should all strive for!