When I was a kid growing up in church with multiple children’s programs and various Vacation Bible Schools, we had to learn and memorize a lot of verses. This really agreed with me! You got points and prizes for that! It was a way of keeping score and competing, and I loved it. I can still remember the summer after 1st grade finishing 2nd in the entire church VBS with 905 points. This girl named Jennie Shields got 970 points to win – which I still am bitter about to this day, because she was three years older than me!
I recall that we were at times memorizing some pretty remote portions of the Bible. But I don’t remember ever being challenged to commit verse 13 from today’s reading to memory: The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. You’ve got to admit, that is a way cool verse! Who wants to be a tail? Who wants to be on the bottom? And all you’ve got to do to be a head or to be on top is to obey God’s commands. The verse packs a summary of what you need to know to be successful.
Remember the commercials in the past that said, “My broker is E.F. Hutton, and E.F. Hutton says …” … and the room suddenly would go quiet as everyone leaned in to hear. My father was a very quiet man who was a lot like E.F. Hutton. He didn’t talk a lot, but when he did, everyone listened. I remember one occasion when I was pastoring my previous church in New Jersey – attended by my parents – and before receiving the offering I did a brief interview with my father, who was by far the oldest man in the church. He simply said that many years before, in the midst of the Great Depression when he was earning only $20 a week, he determined that he was going to live for God and at a minimum tithe his meager income. He said, “From that day forward, I did not ever cease to prosper in my life.” He went from being the tail to being the head, from being at the bottom to being at the top. A holy hush came over the congregation.
The passage today lists the blessings that will come from obedience to the covenant of Israel with the Lord God. This does not mean that every day and every situation will always be perfect. This does not mean that there will not be lean times that test one’s faith. This does not mean that we will not find a lot of disappointment in this life, along with a desire for a better world. But it does mean that our needs are met, and often in abundance. And that should REVIVE us today.
Blessings for Obedience
28:1 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
9 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.