You have often heard it said, “Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?” Moses didn’t ask this of the Israelites, but what he did here in chapter 28 of Deuteronomy is give them the good news first – the blessings for obedience that we talked about yesterday. It only took a total of 14 verses to cover that material. Now, as Moses lists the curses for disobedience, this bad news will cover a total of 54 more verses!
The same four general statements are listed as negative outcomes in today’s reading in verses 16-19, just as they were positive outcomes yesterday in verses 3-6. And as Moses gave a brief sermon of application yesterday (verses 7-14), the sermon in today’s passage (and the 3 to follow until the end of the chapter) will be much longer. I will speak about this over the four days in terms of “consequences of disobedience.”
Consequence 1 (verse 20) – Destruction – Thinking ahead to the conquest of the land and the manner by which God would make possible the Israelite’s victory over powerful foes – it often happened because God caused a confusion in the midst of those camps that rendered them defenseless. This same sort of experience would befall Israel if they disobeyed God. And like all disobedience, it has a long, slow erosion, with the actual destructive fall occurring seemingly all at once.
Consequence 2 (verses 21-22) – Diseases – A number of categories of physical diseases are listed here, as well as a variety of afflictions upon plants and vegetation that lead to death.
Consequence 3 (verses 23-24) – Drought – The devastation of drought is well-known to us, as we saw it in much of America this past summer. We are paying for it with increased prices everywhere, yet our problems are not as severe as in many other parts of the world. God would allow this calamity to come upon the people for disobedience, whereas his promise was to always provide sufficient water as a demonstration of his faithfulness if they would simply follow his commandments.
It is interesting that the passage speaks of a “wasting disease.” This is something we hear about in our area as a specific ailment that affects the deer population. The animal simply has a disease that causes it to lose weight and waste away over time. So also, when we disobey God, there is a sort of spiritual chronic wasting disease of the soul that goes on within us. We cannot thrive apart from obeying God’s timeless commands.
On the day that I write this, I have spoken with a friend who shared with me of their efforts to counsel another mutual friend who has essentially walked away from God and is seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places and values. A particular crisis was being dealt with on this date, though both yesterday and tomorrow feature other trials that are the fruit of bad choices. Our friend is wasting away, sadly dying an inch at a time – all the while confused in the belief that there are answers to be found other than by trusting in God. The answer is of course to be found in the title of this series – REVIVE.
Curses for Disobedience
15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.
18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. 21 The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. 22 The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. 23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. 24 The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.