Mar. 2, 2017

The Blessing or the Curse - Grace or Justice

Leviticus 26:1-46 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible

‘You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the Lord. If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword. So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you. 10 You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new. 11 Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

14 ‘But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, 15 if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, 16 I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. 17 I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. 18 If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19 I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit.

21 ‘If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. 22 I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted.

23 ‘And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, 24 then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. 25 I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied…

40 ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41 I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord.’”

46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws which the Lord established between Himself and the sons of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.


If on your way to work or school or the grocery store you are pulled over for driving 55 mph in a 25 mph what would you expect the result to be? Justice would be that at the very least you have to pay a significant fine. So is justice what most of us would really want? Mercy would perhaps reduce the charge or the fine. What most of us would really want is grace. Grace would look past what we have done wrong and allow us to continue unaffected by the consequences of our disobedience.

How many of us remember the consequences of disobedience to our parents? When we look back we understand that most of their rules were meant to protect us and keep us safe. They were meant to help us learn and grow and become responsible. Even the rules we thought unfair at the time, we would probably have to admit were for good reason. We don’t think that our parents didn’t love us because they disciplined us for breaking the rules. In fact we who have become parents understand that it is necessary to discipline those we love.

In today’s text, as He does throughout scripture, God gives people the choice of obedience or disobedience. He clearly lays out the benefits or the consequences of their choice. Deuteronomy 30:15-20 basically recaps what God says in today’s text:     “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;  in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”     Life and death, the blessing and the curse, very simply that’s what it boils down to, each one of us has a choice to make. We understand that parents who love their children discipline them for their own good, for their protection and so they learn. Why is it that people think that a loving God would not also discipline those He loves? We understand that while we don’t necessarily like the consequences of breaking traffic laws, the laws are necessary. Without laws there would be no restraint. Neither we nor our families would be safe. While the consequences of disobedience are not pleasant, they are necessary for order and justice. Lawlessness brings about chaos and injustice.

Genesis 1 begins:     In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and void…  The words formless and void literally translate chaos; confusion.     When God created the world and created man, He created order where there had been chaos. He created man in His own image and likeness. When man disobeyed God’s rules which were meant for good and protection, chaos returned to the world. Because of God’s love and because He is a righteous and just God, who wants what is best for all people, He did not remove or relax the consequences of disobedience and creating lawlessness. Because of love, mercy and grace, He sent His Son, Jesus to bear the consequences of our disobedience. The choice we have has not changed. We still must choose between life and death, the blessing and the curse. Because of God’s love and grace we are no longer judged and justified by our own actions, but rather by the choice, whether or not we believe in the redeeming work of the cross.

Love requires discipline. Justice requires consequences for disobedience. Romans 5:1 says:  Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Romans 5:8 says:  God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.    Just as in the first illustration, it’s really not justice we want from God. God’s love, His desire for us to have what’s best for us is demonstrated in the cross of Christ, so that through Christ we receive grace rather than justice. Jesus says"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)   Death and destruction or abundant life, Life and death, the blessing or the curse, justice or grace, our loving God gives us all a choice.

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the love and grace of the cross. I choose life. I choose Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit I choose obedience.  Amen.