Can the key to life be boiled down to: obedience = blessing?
I run my own small business, and am reaching a point where I have to make a speculative decision which could compromise the future growth of the company. A change in infrastructure could mean a business model which becomes unsustainable, and years of work could be wasted. It’s at times like these when I am keenly aware of my own dependence on God’s provision, and passages like chapter 28 in Deuteronomy take on a more tangible personal significance.
Israel are a people who have been offered a living, personal relationship with the God of the universe, and all the amazing blessing and protection that entails. (Who could read that list of utopian blessings and not desire it?) If they flaunt this offer and refuse to come under his authority, God will bring destruction on them. His holiness and honour must remain intact.
We Christians are the new Israel, and we are told that God no longer interacts with his people in exactly this way. Christ changed the terms of the agreement and took all the punishment and curses associated with God’s wrath upon himself, on behalf of those who would accept his sacrifice. When we flaunt God’s grace and blessing, we are not cursed, because Christ was on our behalf. How would we understand the depths of what Christ has done if we did not read these curses in Deuteronomy?
I think therefore that if we wish to understand God’s blessing and God’s wrath at sin, we must approach God through Jesus Christ. We cannot simply look at Deuteronomy and say “If I obey all these precepts and laws, then God will bless me, and I will have nothing to fear”. God was doing more than simply creating a cold, detached business transaction here. It had a purpose in transforming the hearts and minds of his chosen people to start desiring and delighting in Him. Obedience to it would soon teach them about God’s holiness and their own sinfulness. But they couldn’t even obey: most of them didn’t even get that far.
So here are some questions that arise, with no simple answers.
- Will God look after my job if I try to continue in obedience to him?
- What motivated that last question?
- The Psalmist delights in all of God’s laws. Do I?
- If my delight in God’s laws is minimal, can I expect minimal blessing?
- How can I secure God’s blessing for myself, my business, my family?
- Am I being selfish or narrow-minded by asking these questions?
- Does God want me to pursue blessing and protection in this way, or is he calling me to something beyond that?
- What motivates me to keep God’s laws? Fear? Greed? Gratitude? Humility?
- What does God want me to be motivated by, when I aim to keep his laws?
- What attitude of heart did God intend to stir up in Israel?
- If Christ used this book of the bible in preparing his heart for his great ministry, can I use it in the same way?
I am grateful to God that he brings challenges into my life which force me to think about these things. He is my shepherd, and the holy spirit graciously restrains me from barging headlong into the utter folly of self-sufficiency and pride. How often God pulls us back from the brink: letting us learn from a glimpse, or even a stumble rather than a fall. And I’m grateful to God for Christ Jesus, who is the one who makes these old testament passages understood, by his teaching and by his example.