Deuteronomy 28 can be kind of a chilling chapter. Twelve verses of blessings followed by forty-six verses of curses. Faithful obedience resulting in reward. Persistent, rebellious disobedience bringing utter destruction.
And, as I’m hovering over it this morning, I spy what I think to be a bridge spanning the blessings and the curses. A connection between the receiving of what is good and the performing of what is not so good. And that link is the abundance of all things.
“All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes that He commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things . . .”
(Deuteronomy 28:45-47 ESV)
Looking at different translations, you can read the indictment two ways. The ESV seems to read: one of the causes of you not serving the LORD your God was the abundance of all things. Your material wealth choked out your spiritual duty. Your temporal possessions took you away from your eternal pursuit. The other way it can be understood is clear from the CSB’s translation: “you didn’t serve the LORD your God with joy and a cheerful heart, even though you had an abundance of everything.” Regardless of how you read it, the sin of disobedience is either sparked by, or magnified by, the abundance of all things. And therein lies the bridge between blessings and curses.
Read the first part of chapter 28 and the reward for faithfully following the LORD in the land is “increase.” The fruit of their womb, the fruit of their fields, the fruit of their herds, increasing in abundance as God responds with favor to their faithfulness (28:3-5). Their baskets full, their kneading bowls overflowing (v.5). The LORD opening to them “His good treasury, the heavens,” to give rain in its season in order to bless the work of their hands (v.12). In short, the blessing of obedience would be manifested through the abundance of all things.
But that which would be the blessing of God could also be the catalyst for their abandonment of God. Barns filled by God’s goodness creating a sense of no longer needing God’s favor. God’s prosperity misunderstood as the fruit of their own efforts. The blessed life becoming a self-focused life. Instead of responding to the blessing of increase with joyfulness and gladness and thankfulness and increased allegiance, they stopped serving the God from whom all blessings flow. Focused on their abundance they lost focus on their calling “as a holy people to Himself” (v.9).
Hmm. Seems Dickens was right. The best of times can also be the worst of times. The blessing of the abundance of all things can become a curse.
Oh to be aware. To be mindful of my possessions not possessing me. To see all that I have and enjoy are but gifts “from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). To never cease to give Him thanks for the abundance of all things. And, by His enabling, to ever desire to serve Him with the abundance of all things.
All things seen as the abundance of His great grace. All things received, enjoyed, and used for His everlasting glory.