This chapter contains a general enforcement of all the laws that were given by Moses. Here we find the Lord giving His people promises of reward in the case of obedience, and threatenings of punishment for disobedience. As long as Israel kept from idolatry and maintained a national regard to God’s worship, His Sabbaths, and His sanctuary – the Lord pledged Himself to continue blessing them with temporal mercies and religious advantages.
Although the great and precious promises mentioned in the first part of this chapter chiefly relate to earthly life, they were pictures and foreshadows of the spiritual blessings that are made sure by the covenant of grace to all believers in Jesus. For example, the blessing of plentiful abundance of the fruits of the earth reminds us that every good and perfect gift must be expected from our Father above. Peace and Divine protection in our homeland is a reminder that those who dwell in Christ are dwelling in safety. The increase of the numbers of the people of God represents the fruitfulness and growth of the Church. The favor of the Lord Himself is the fountain of all good things! He gives us tokens of His presence in and by His ordinances, and the way to have His ordinances permanently fixed among us is to cling closely to them. All His blessings are summed up in this covenant-relationship: “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people!” And all these covenant-blessings are grounded upon our redemption; for having purchased us Himself, our God will keep us close to Him.
The Lord told the people of Israel that if they would walk in His ways and keep His Commandments, there would not be a temporal blessing in the catalog of the highest mercies that He would not bestow upon them. Now the Jewish nation was established as a theocracy; Jehovah was not only the God of the Jew, but He was also his King. Obedience to him as God would brought down spiritual blessings, and loyalty to Him as King would bring down temporal and national blessings. This theocracy has now ceased; but these words are still as true today as they were thousands of years ago: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things will be added unto you.” That is an absolute promise of universal application, and we ourselves shall feel it to be true in our actual experience if we will only put it to the test! Some people do not seek the Kingdom of God at all, and seek earthly things instead. They often miss the things that they seek; and of course, they miss what they never sought – namely, the Lord’s favor. Sometimes, in judgment, they are allowed to get the things that they seek; and they find them to be thorns and briers – a curse, and no blessing. But if we seek the Kingdom of God, we shall certainly receive it; and temporal prosperity and earthly blessings shall also be added unto us – as long as the Lord determines that they are most expedient for us.
After God had set the blessings before His people, which would make them happy if they would be obedient; He also set the curses before them – that is, the evils which would make them miserable if they were disobedient. Two things, in particular, would bring ruin upon them. The first of these was a contempt of God’s commandments, for those who reject His precepts will come at last to renounce His Covenant as well. The second was a contempt of His corrections; for if people will not learn obedience by the things they suffer, God Himself will be against them – and this is the root and cause of all their misery. Consequently, as His judgments are sent against them, all creation is at war with them, so to speak.
The threatenings that are mentioned in this chapter were very particular; indeed, they were prophecies that were truly fulfilled when the people of Israel forsook their God. Those who will not be parted from their sins by the commands of the Lord shall be parted from them by judgments. Those who marry themselves to their lusts will have enough of them in the end. But spiritual judgments were also threatened, which would seize the mind. The people would find no acceptance with God, and a guilty conscience would be their continual terror. It is righteous indeed for God to leave those persons to despair of pardon, when they willfully continue in the ways of sin. And it is owing to free grace alone if we have not been left to pine away in the iniquity that we were born in and have lived in!
Among the Israelites, persons were not always outwardly prosperous or afflicted according to their obedience or disobedience to the Lord. But national prosperity was the effect of national obedience, and national judgments were brought on by national wickedness. National sins will end in the ruin of any people – especially where the Word of God and the light of the Gospel are freely enjoyed! Sooner or later, their sin will be the ruin as well as their reproach. O that we may be humbled for our sins, and thus avert the rising storm before it bursts upon us! May God grant us mercy and grace to consider the things which belong to our eternal peace!
Merciful God! Give us grace to walk in all Your ways, so that we may at least enjoy these blessings in a spiritual sense. And in all Your rebukes for the manifold departures of our souls from You, give us grace so that the most gentle of Your chastisements may call our hearts home from their rebellions. May we only seek comfort in confessing and forsaking our sins, and finding peace with You through our Lord Jesus! Amen.
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