How God Blesses Our Obedience But Curses Sin

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How does God exactly bless believers when they obey God and curse those who sin against Him?

Blessings and Curses

It could not be clearer that obedience bring blessings while disobedience brings curses. There are only twelve verses in Deuteronomy that outline the blessings that come from obedience (28:3-14), but there are sixty-five verses where curses are the result of disobedience (27:15-26; 28:16-68). [1] Although God has elected to save Israel, it is clear that where there is election, there is still human responsibility or consequences for their actions. The society in which we live today operates in much the same way. When someone breaks a law they have to pay one way, but when they obey they avoid any penalties. Years ago, I had to ride to work with a friend who had road rage every morning on the way to work, and every afternoon, on the way home. He passed cars, sometimes briefly crossing the double-yellow lines…and only to save a few minutes. At best, he might get home about 2 or 3 minutes earlier, but I’d rather be late and arrive there safely than put my life in the hands of someone else, only to save a few minutes. Occasionally, he’d pay for his lead foot by getting tickets, and not only do these tickets cost money, they drive up his insurance rates and he pays more for that too. His disobedience of the law brings about bad consequences, even though he’s free to obey or disobey. In the same way, Israel knows what God expects and they are obligated to obey or pay the consequences for their disobedience. The same thing holds for us. We reap what we sow; good or bad.

Nearer to God

When Israel obeyed the Law, God’s presence or His nearness was felt and seen, however God is holy. He cannot dwell where sin is present. Just as God is no respecter of persons, neither is He of any nation. We know that God did not choose Israel because of their greatness, size or moral superiority. On the contrary, God told Israel, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut 7:7-8). It is no surprise that He expected Israel (and He expects us) to have regard for the poor and not mistreat or exploit the alien, slave, widow or orphans. [2]

God’s Law

Some say that God’s law is reflective of His character. They reveal Who He is and what He is like. That’s why the law was so important to Israel’s existence. The Book of Deuteronomy is clear that the exhortations to obey the law (4:1-4) come with stipulations tied to the Sinaitic Covenant (4:44-28-68). This is later reaffirmed by Moses that both blessings and curses are free will choices. It is up to the nation to obey or disobey (27:1-28:68), however they are not free to avoid the curses brought on from disobedience. God’s laws are good. They deal with societal order, from respecting property lines (19:14) to not bearing false witness in judicial matters (19:16-19) to matters of sexual immorality with regard to the conduct of men and women, both married and unmarried (22:13-30). There are beneficial laws that are intended to keep the courts free of frivolous lawsuits or cases (22:1-12), to laws of the most serious matters; like that of idolatry which is punishable by death (17:1-7). These laws are intended to make Israel holy and to be an example to other nations, which is why God says that they should “purge the evil from among” their nation (13:5; 17:7; 19:19, etc.). If Israel obeys, they will be a supreme example that reflects the holiness of God to all the nations of the world. Clearly, these laws are intended to make Israel more righteous than the nations around them.

Obedience and Prosperity

Our local, state, and federal officials expect the local citizens to abide by the laws and to meet certain expectations and obligations, like paying taxes, and just like ancient Israel did, but if other nations abide by God’s law, God promises to exalt them in “praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made” too. God called Israel for the purpose of exhibiting them to all the nations of the world that practice evil. They are to “be a people holy to the Lord” (Deut 26:19). When America gained her independence, the parallels of the laws between them and Israel’s laws were strikingly similar. There were similar laws concerning property boundaries, giving false testimony in a court of law, stipulations for involuntary or accidental manslaughter, and representation of the poor.

Biblical Foundation

During his inauguration as president, John Adams wrote “And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence.” [3] Adams tied in blessings for the nation to that of upholding justice and virtuous liberty (obedience) and any possible success was directly tied to God’s presence “with (or by means of) the ends of His providence.” [3] These national blessings were to be upon the nation and its government because they were mutually inclusive. This made America a Christian beacon to other nations of the world, at least for a couple of centuries. There is historical, empirical evidence in Israel and America that when these nations lived and were governed in obedience, God blessed them spiritually and with physical blessings (i.e., wealth).

Pure Religion

In these contrasting nations and the parallels in their beginnings, we may conclude that Israel and America both had their “promised land” and lived and were governed by a Divine cause and effect that is just as applicable in this century as it was thousands of years ago. James says that pure religion is that of ministering to and caring for the orphans and widows (James 4:6), and how many of these are also likely poor, disenfranchised, or are even aliens? [3] God’s Laws were to be instilled from an early age (Duet 6:7; 11:9) just as they were in early America’s educational system. History attests to the fact that 106 of the first 108 colleges required Bible reading and were closer to seminaries than what we see as colleges or universities today. [3]

Pure Religion

Conclusion

There is no reason to believe that both blessings and curses for the Christian today come from either obedience or disobedience. In general, blessings for nations will mean prosperity by increasing numerically and financially, allowing them to be lenders and not borrowers and able to overcome other nations or not be defeated by their enemies stronger than they are. Since God does not change (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8), and His Words will never pass away (Matt 24:36), why should we expect any difference in God’s expectations and obligations, whether they be 2,000 years ago, 200 years ago, or we just read about them yesterday in the Bible? We will reap what we sow, so we are all without excuse; both as nations and as individuals (Rom 1:20).

Here is some related reading for you: What is the Curse of the Law?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 Desmond T. Alexander. From Paradise to the Promised Land (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publish, 2012), 302, 306.

2 April Shenandoan. “History of America’s Education: Part 3.” The Sierra Times. Tysknews.com. April 20, 2002. http://www.tysknews.com/Depts/Educate/history_part3.htm (Accessed April 14, 2014).

3. John Adams. Inaugural Address, Philadelphia, March 4, 1797, The Avalon Project, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library.





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