You Know Enough to be Dangerous Successful
Just as yesterday’s reading focused on the goodness of God and the greatness of blessing in his covenant, today’s section looks at the opposite side of things.
Moses begins by recalling to Israel’s memory all their experiences of seeing the futility of life of the Egyptians and other nations – their worthless gods and idols. Just.Do.Not.Do.It! Don’t even let a root of such idolatry be found in Israel.
The second paragraph today speaks to the person who only casually or hypocritically accepted the covenant. Such a person should not think they are in good stead only because they have the right family name or were wearing the proper uniform. There are few better paragraphs in the Bible that reveal what God thinks about hypocrites! Whoa! It brings down disaster upon such an inconsistent and dichotomous person.
The third and fourth paragraphs talk about the distant future for Israel – projecting how indeed the descendents would turn against God, would worship foreign gods, would find disaster and judgment, and would cause even other nations to stand in amazement that a people might so walk away from God and thus incur his wrath.
And finally, verse 29 is a great summary – probably one of the top 100 Scriptures in the Bible. It says that there are truths known only to God, and that may frustrate us that we don’t understand everything that is going on in the world. But what is revealed and belongs to us is for our good, and for the good of those who come after us – again, as we keep the covenant of his law. What we know is enough to make us successful.
16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.
19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. 21 The Lord will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.
22 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. 23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. 24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”
25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”
29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.