From: Heaven on Earth
Barely into the journey of freedom, Israel forsakes her covenant with God and is tempted to return to the ways of Egypt. The journey to Canaan, which should have taken less than a month, turns into a 40-year trek across the wilderness and is characterized by disobedience and death. Only a few people of the original Exodus crowd reach the promised land. The others die in the desert.
The book of Deuteronomy tells of God’s dealings with the second generation of Israelites as they prepare to enter Canaan. Chapter 28 contains blessings and curses. It opens with Moses admonishing the people, “If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set up high above all the nations of the Earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God,” (vv. 1-2). The blessings, which hearken back to God’s first promise to Abraham, are enumerated in verses 3–14 and include fruitful childbearing, plentiful harvests and food supplies, security from invasions and the defeat of enemies, and economic prosperity with enough left over to lend to other nations.
Moses then states the purpose of God’s covenant with Israel. “The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. All the people of the Earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you,” (vv. 9-10).
On the other hand, if Israel turns away from God through disobedience and idolatry, he will send calamity on the nation. Instead of being a light to the nations, Israel will become a laughingstock, (vv. 15-68). The nations will view Yahweh with scorn and disdain, believing that their gods are more powerful than the God of Israel. Moses warns, “The Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the Earth to the other. Among those nations you shall find no ease, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a languishing spirit,” (vv. 64-65).
Before his death, Moses again blesses the tribal leaders and reminds them that God is king over Israel (Deuteronomy 33:5). The nation must forever remember that Yahweh is King. Even Balaam, the erratic prophet, declares to Balak, “The Lord their God is with them, acclaimed as a king among them,” (Numbers 23:21).