Blessings and Curses

As we leave Leviticus and are now in Numbers, there is one more thing that just can’t be passed over too quickly. In Leviticus 26 the bible gives a peek ahead to Israel’s future, and provides a basic framework for much of what is going to happen in the rest of the Old Testament. 

Remember God’s Covenant with Israel, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” In Exodus 34 God renews the covenant, and promises the people he will drive the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, etc. out of the land he has promised to give them (God is keeping the promise he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). Notice (Exodus 34:11-17) the first thing God says after renewing his covenant with the people is basically “Do not worship any other gods!” Israel’s covenant keeping responsibility is to love God and worship him only.

Now, near the end of Leviticus, as God is giving Israel laws about property and how to treat poor people we come to chapter 26 - and God drops the gloves.

Look at the subject, the first sentence of chapter 26 - it sounds familiar, “You shall not make idols…” You will keep your part of the covenant and worship only me! What follows starting in verse 3 and going through verse 13 is a list of “Covenant Blessings.” God promises a series of pleasant things if Israel keeps their covenant with him; good crops, peace and protection from enemies, plenty of children, security and God’s presence. “And I will walk among you and will be your God and you shall be my people.” God is saying, “If you keep the covenant it is going to be awesome, Eden-like.”

But, begins in verse 14, if you break the covenant it is going to be… hellish. Look at the vivid description of terrors that will befall Israel for breaking the covenant. Crops won’t grow, your enemies will slaughter you, there will be no food, there will be disease and pestilence. And, if you just won’t repent it will get so bad, you will be so hungry, under siege of your enemies you will eat your own children. God goes on to say he’ll wipe them out and when they are gone the land will rest from their stinking, idolatrous presence. It is a grim picture.

Do not forget this list of “Covenant Blessing and Curses" (we’ll see it again in Deuteronomy 28)! Keep them in mind when you read Israel’s story through 1 and 2 Kings. And, remember this list when we get to the Prophetic books because what we will find is that the prophet’s primary job is to remind and warn Israel of these same covenant blessings and covenant curses. The prophets don’t have a lot of original material, they essentially confront Israel’s sin by opening up Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 and re-reading God’s promises to Israel.

So, it’s worth a flip back to Leviticus 26 and a slow re-read. It’s better than a scary movie if you ask me. And, now you know what’s coming for Israel and why it will come. With all the complaining you are reading about in Numbers this week you’re beginning to see, it’s just a question of when.