Israel’s Choice, Pt. 4 – The Warning

Before we move forward from the experience at Sinai, I need to make a couple more points about the blessings and curses. In William Miller’s Rule number 4, we are instructed to “bring all the scriptures together on the subject you wish to know.” If we want to understand the blessings and curses we must bring Leviticus 26 together with relevant passages in Deuteronomy, primarily chapters 28-29.

The blessings and curses are first recorded in Leviticus 26, which is the story of Mount Sinai. Then after the people wandered 40 years in the wilderness, Moses again repeated the blessings and curses as recorded in Deuteronomy 28-29. Deuteronomy is a “repeat and enlarge” upon Leviticus 26, and there are many similar ideas from Leviticus that are expanded in Deuteronomy.

“With painstaking effort Ezra sought to arrive at the true sense of the Old Testament scriptures, and to revive their original meaning. He became thoroughly conversant with the writings of Moses. His desire to please God led him to strive earnestly to learn the true significance of the ten commandments. He searched for all those statements in sacred history that relate to the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, and to the laws written in books, which the Israelites had been directed to preserve carefully as the commands of God.

“These laws contained in books were not a new revelation, but a repetition of the ceremonial laws given at Sinai. Before Moses left the children of Israel, at the command of God, to die in the land of Moab, the laws that had formerly been given were repeated and enlarged upon. Some methods for their enforcement were given; some precepts were explained, and the reasons why they had been given were made plain. Upon several occasions the judgments of God had fallen upon transgressors; the commands that had been transgressed at these times were repeated. Transgressors were to know that disobedience would surely bring the punishment of God.” The Review and Herald, January 30, 1908 par. 5-6

In no way have I exhausted the comparisons between these passages of scripture. I am still studying them. In this study I only want to bring out a few of the main concepts which will help us as we consider what happened to Israel.

 

First, please take time to read and compare the following passages of scripture.

Leviticus 26:1-13 (blessings)

Leviticus 26:14-39 (curses)

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (blessings)

Deuteronomy 28: 15-68 (curses)

 

“The book of Deuteronomy should be carefully studied by those living on the earth today. It contains a record of the instruction given to Moses to give to the children of Israel. In it the law is repeated. At the time when the instruction which it contains was given, the people of Israel were encamped beside the Jordan. All but two of the adults who had left Egypt had died in the wilderness. Now the generation that had arisen during the forty years of journeying were about to pass over the Jordan to receive their inheritance in the promised land. But they must first hear from the lips of Moses the instruction given him by the Lord for them. The words of the law must be repeated to them, and they must hear again the conditions upon which they were to enter into and take possession of the promised land.

The law of God was often to be repeated to Israel. That its precepts might not be forgotten, it was to be kept before the people, and was ever to be exalted and honored. Parents were to read the law to their children, teaching it to them line upon line, precept upon precept. And on public occasions the law was to be read in the hearing of all the people.

Upon obedience to this law depended the prosperity of Israel. If they were obedient, it would bring them life; if disobedient, death.”

– The Review and Herald {RH, December 31, 1903 par. 1-3}

 

FURY, ANGER, AND WRATH

I have already given some thoughts about God’s ministry of wrath. This is something that we need to understand as we study the history of Israel, because there is a close connection between the curses and provoking God’s wrath. If the fury or wrath of God is provoked, serious consequences follow. God’s anger, wrath, indignation, etc. are found in several places throughout the Bible, so it can be studied deeply. Here I only want to touch on it, and later I will share more as the history of Israel is unfolded.

Look at how it is described:

Leviticus 26:28 says it simply. “Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.”

Also read Deuteronomy 29:14-29. I will start in verse 24 below.

“Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? 25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: 26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: 27 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: 28 And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.”

Have you ever witnessed a parent giving a warning of immanent punishment to a disobedient child? Have you ever been that parent… or that child? As I read the story of God’s covenant with Israel, specifically the part in Leviticus 26, I see God like a parent asking his children to obey him. Correspondingly, He warns them that if they do not obey, He will need to punish and correct them.

Leviticus 26 is structured upon cause and effect. If you do this… you get this result. If you do that… you get that result. Verses 3-13 gives the cause and effect for obedience. If the children of Israel would choose to obey God, they would reap many blessings.

Also, notice how clearly and nicely Leviticus points out the intensity of the situation in the curses, verses 14-39. Watch for the way God reacts in correspondence with the hardening of rebellion. Overall it is structured with a set of five “if…then” warnings, each increasingly severe or drastic in consequence. Note that four of those use the term seven times.

If you…

14 will not hear and do commandments

15 despise statutes, abhor judgments, not do commandments, break covenant

Then…

16-17 curses listed

 

If you…

18 will not yet hear

Then…

18 punish seven times more for sins

19-20 curses listed

 

If you…

21 walk contrary and will not hear

Then…

21 seven times more plagues according to sins

21-22 curses listed

 

If you…

23 are not reformed by these things (previous punishments) and walk contrary (more rebellion)

Then…

24 God will walk contrary, punish yet seven times for sins

25 God will avenge the quarrel of His covenant, send pestilence, deliver to hand of enemy

26 curses listed

 

If you…

27 after all this (all the previous punishment) will not hear and walk contrary

Then…

28 God will walk contrary in fury (anger, wrath), chastise seven times for sins

29-32 curses listed

33 curse, scatter you among the heathen

33-39 curses listed

 

How does the punishment climax? God comes to the point of fury or anger, which would result in the scattering of His people among the heathen. Keep this in your memory as we continue our study.

 

A PROPHECY

Whether or not you know this, understand this, or believe this, these curses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy are prophetic. That fact is absolutely clear from the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy. Did you catch that in Part 2 of this study?

If not, See Israel’s Choice, Pt. 2 – At Sinai, under heading “A Prophetic Warning For Our Time”

 

One thing that makes God sovereign is that He can prophesy of things to come.

Isaiah 42:9 “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

If you are wondering what choice Israel made, maybe this will spoil the curiosity for you too soon in this long series of studies. Don’t worry, because even if I answer one of the main questions this early, there are still many questions to be answered along the way, such as “When?” and “How?” Did you know that God prophesied what would happen to Israel at the very same time that he made a covenant with them on the border of Canaan? Read Deuteronomy 31:16-30.

Here are the highlights:

Deuteronomy 31:16-17 “And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?”

 

Verse 27 Moses said, “For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?”

So, God actually told them to their faces, “you will fail the covenant, be rebellious, and you will provoke my anger which I have warned you about”.

Verses 21 and 26 even say that the written prophecy would be a witness against them when they did as God predicted. What did the people say to that? They simply agreed to obey. Joshua repeated these words of the law and covenant again as the people were settling into the land of Canaan.

Read Joshua 23:14-16 and 24:19-27

Joshua 24:21 “And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.”

Because these curses are a prophecy of what was to come upon Israel, how should we relate to it? When did it take place? How did it happen? How long did it last? I will deal more with these questions as I go forward in this study about the people of God.

 

Continued in Part 5…

 

References

Bible, King James Version

Quotes taken from the Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008 CD

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