Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-14
‘And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day. And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
To understand this passage of scripture we need to know the background. Moses has gone through 40 years of experience with God. He has seen the doings of God. He has seen the miracles of God. He has seen God face to face. 40 years is equivalent to a generation according to the bible. Moses has seen a person’s entire life experience with God. He has seen it on his own life. He has seen it on selected individuals; like Aaron and Marian. He has seen it as a whole concerning Israel. He is going to die soon. He was already 120 years old. He is going up to the Mount Nebo and die there. He knows the heart of the people. He also knows how to succeed in life. He knows what God wants. He has some important messages for them; the people of God. There are some realities that they have to understand. What are they?
Our relationship with YHWH is one of Covenant. The Bible tells us that “Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry, because he is the mediator of a better covenant, which is based on better promises”. This makes us realize that, if we want an involvement with God that accords with God’s grace and will, then we must comply with the covenant Jesus Christ has mediated to us.
If we are not compliant with the covenant mediated by Jesus, then we are “dead in trespasses and sins… sons of disobedience… children of wrath… strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”
Let me explain the adjective ‘compliant’. I am trying to extend my 9g missionary visa for Pastor Lily and myself. We are doing it this time in Iloilo City Immigration Department. We handed in all the required documents, duly notarized all the papers. Personally we did our finger printing at the immigration office and thereafter wait for the approval of the extension. They sent all the documents to Manila office. October 11 was the date where our present visa will expire. On October 10, one day before the expiration I called up the immigration officer in Iloilo and she told me to visit the Iloilo office again because of some compliant issue. When I went to the office, she told me there are some documents lacking: I did not obtain the certification from PCEC and my marriage certificate was not authenticated. Just because I did not fulfill these two requirements or compliances, my approval was delayed. The synonym for compliant is acquiescent, obedience and submissive. Boracay is opening again in the matter of days. The tourism secretary states clearly that only those hotels that fulfill the compliance 100% can open their hotels for business. One adjective that was used constantly concerning Boracay’s opening is compliant: compliant from the hotel owners, compliant from the tourists, complaint for the locals, compliant in the usage of the beach front. The same goes with our covenant with God. When we are in compliant with the covenant, God comes in and say, ‘I will not fail you or forsake you.’ It means that YHWH will not be weak towards you and He will not abandon you. ‘I will not fail you or forsake you’ are covenant terms which implies that YHWH would be with us even though problem arises. God’s presence and promises are His greatest gifts in the reality of the covenant.
There will be two realities based on our covenant obedience. You can call the two realities two ways. Deu 30:1 says ‘So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you.’
If we are not compliant with the covenant, then ‘we are dead in trespasses and sin, sons of disobedience, children of wrath, stranger to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in this world.’ These are strong statements from God. Paul Apple says this; ‘Have any of you seen those little boxes of Bible Promises where you can pick one card out each week and take comfort in the blessing promises in that verse? When we think of the faithfulness of God, we usually think in terms of His keeping His promises of blessing. What a comfort to sing some of the old hymns like ‘Standing on the Promises of God.’ Just like our Bible verse for the year, ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ We know that our God will never act in a way inconsistent with Who He is and What He has promised to do. We can count on God’s faithfulness every day. But the truth of the matter concerning covenant is that God is just as faithful in carrying out His promised curses. Have you ever been in a Christian book store and see a little box of Bible curses – where you can pick on out each day and meditate on it? Not so great from a marketing perspective. The truth of the matter is that the Bible is full of prominent curses. It starts right at the beginning of Genesis. Genesis 2:17 says, ‘From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’ We are still dying today. 6000 years have passed and we are still dying. The curse is still effective today. You say, ‘surely God didn’t mean what he said; surely He won’t act so severely. Make no mistakes. God keeps his Word. This is what He said on the famous Harvest Law: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, so shall he reap.’ You can track the multitude of curses sprinkled throughout the Scriptures. Don’t make the mistake of taking God lightly. There are two ways. Life and prosperity or death and destruction.
YHWH desires “blessings,” but our choices will determine which of the realities (the 2 realities, the two ways i.e., blessings or cursing) comes into being. There are no other choices! There is no in between. There are two ways or two choices or two realities when dealing with God.
The faithfulness of God includes the fulfillment of His curses. God is faithful to condemn. Don’t’ be fooled by God’s timetable where it might seem like there is no accountability. If you forsake truth and integrity, your treachery will be rewarded with the curse of God. There are some here today. Troubles suffocate you. Worry entangles you. By night you can’t sleep. By day you can’t rest. Your mind is filled with thoughts that you can’t control and it seems to overwhelm you; negative thoughts, bitter thoughts, fearful thoughts. Your spirit is troubled. Bro Robert was sharing with me during a recent Friday Cell Group. He has a doctor friend. The doctor was informing him that if anyone wants a very successful career, they should choose the profession of a psychiatrist. Because that will be the next big problem of men of women in our society. I was trying to invite Dr Simon Neo to come and conduct workshop for the Youth Church. I told him the problem of the youth today is depression; suicidal tendency. But I wasn’t very good with explaining the topic to him. Then God revealed to me that the problem of the youth today is mental illness. Mental illness is a mental disorder or psychitricdisorder. It is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Mental disorders are usually defined by a combination of how a person behaves, feels, perceives or thinks. Bipolar is a mental illness.
Dr Simon Neo immediately understands what I am saying because he agrees that that is the problem of the youth today. I don’t think it is just the youth. I think it is the problem of men and women in society today. Could it be because they are under a curse? As Christian God has called us to separate from evil: beware of friendship with the world; beware of running with the crowd; beware of sexual unions outside the scope of God’s blessing – any type of unholy alliance will ultimately end badly; don’t try to make a deal with the devil. Today some of you are asking ‘what is happening to me?’ I will say to you ‘Understand the things that has happen to you’. That is what Moses said, ‘Understand the things that have happened to you. I want to inform you that there are some things that God has allowed to happen to your lives.
Deuteronomy 30:1 says, ‘call to mind in all the nations where the LORD your God has banished you.’ The word banished means exile. This is predictive prophecy of the choices Israel would make which would result in exile. Notice YHWH did this because of Israel’s continual covenant violations and imitations of the Canaanite practices. Today some of us here need to confess of our continual covenant violation and imitations of Canaanite practices. Today God has banished some of you from His presence. You don’t feel safe yet you cannot fathom what is wrong with you. You just know that something is wrong with your life. Has God banished you from Him. You don’t feel the presence of God anymore.
Then Deuteronomy 30:2 says ‘and you return to the Lord your God. The word ‘return’ is the same verse that was used in reference to Israel recalling YHWH’s covenant. Here it is used in the sense of repentance.
YHWH just wants us to return. To return is to repent. The problem is not rebellion, but sustained, continual rebellion. Repentance is always possible from God’s side, but humans harden their own hearts with willful rebellion and disobedience!
Deu 30:2-3 says, ‘And you return to the LORD your GOD and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the LORD your GOD will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your GOD has scattered you.
These two verse s brings a needed theological balance concerning God. God is a balance God. I want to concentrate on the phrase ‘the LORD your GOD.’ Note that in the King James Version the word LORD is all in capital letter and the word GOD is also all in capital. LORD is translated as YHWH and GOD is seen as the plural name of God; ELOHIM. Just in 14 verses of Deuteronomy 30 the phrase ‘the LORD thy God’ mentioned 12 times. There is a message that Moses is trying to deliver to the children of Israel.
YHWH is the covenant name of God. When God deals with you He uses the name YHWH. When someone asks you what the name of your God is, you can safely say it is YHWH. It is the personal name of God. ELOHIM is the general name of God and is different from the gods of this world. The gods of the world is EL whereas our God is ELOHIM; in plural implying God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus when God deals with you He deals with you as YHWH our ELOHIM
I said just now that for many of us ‘Troubles suffocate you. Worry entangles you. By night you can’t sleep. By day you can’t rest. Your mind is filled with thoughts that you can’t control and it seems to overwhelm you; negative thoughts, bitter thoughts, fearful thoughts.’ Others have depression; suicidal tendency. There is a growing trend of mental illness in society and it affects even Christians. Some have significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.
Regarding these problem, it is not because YHWH’s hand is too short that he cannot rescue. We must comprehend God’s will and ability to act. God’s will and ability to act is reflected on the phrase ‘the LORD my GOD.’ We need to comprehend the reality of the LORD our GOD.
As I say God has a covenant with you and He deals with you in this covenant name and the rabbis says it reflect His mercy. We cannot deny that YHWH deals with us in mercy. There are two psalms that we need to immerse ourselves into if we want to understand YHWH and ELOHIM. Psalms 103 is all about YHWH and Psalms 104 is all about ELOHIM. I have no time to read Psalms 103 on YHWH and Psalms 104 on ELOHIM. But I will bring out from these two psalms who is YHWH and ELOHIM.
Let’s look at YHWH in Psalms 103 first.
Psalms 103 tells us that YHWH’s deeds are kind.
He forgives all your sins, who heals all your diseases.
He delivers your life from the pit.
And He crowns you with his loyal love and compassion.
“Who satisfies your life with good things, so your youth is renewed like an eagle.”
“The LORD does what is fair, and executes justice for all the oppressed.”
He is fair
He executes justice for all the oppressed
He reveals his faithful acts to me
He reveals his deeds to me and all his people
“The LORD is compassionate and merciful; he is patient and demonstrates great loyal love.”
He is compassionate
He is merciful
He is patient
He demonstrates his great loyal love
He does not always accuse
He does not always stay angry
“He does not deal with us as our sins deserve; he does not repay us as our misdeeds deserve.”
“As far as the eastern horizon is from the west, so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.”
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on his faithful followers.”
“For he knows what we are made of; he realizes we are made of clay. A person’s life is like grass. Like a flower in the field it flourishes,”
He knows I am made of clay
He knows my life is like grass
Like a flower in the field it flourishes
“but when the hot wind blows by, it disappears, and one can no longer even spot the place where it once grew.”
He is faithful to my descendants
“The LORD has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything.”
He has established his throne in heaven
His kingdom extends over everything
“Praise the LORD, you angels of his, you powerful warriors who carry out his decrees and obey his orders!”
He has angels
They are powerful warriors
They carry out his decrees and obey his orders
“Praise the LORD, all you warriors of his, you servants of his who carry out his desires!”
I am His warriors
I am His servants
I carry out His desires
Let’s look at Psalms 104 on ELOHIM
Elohim is the general name for God which conveys power, might and strength. The rabbis say it is used of God’s justice and righteousness.
“Praise the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are magnificent. You are robed in splendor and majesty.”
God is magnificent
God is robed in splendor and majesty
“He covers himself with light as if it were a garment. He stretches out the skies like a tent curtain,”
He is covered with light
Light is upon Him as like a garment
Imagine a big white tent. It is stretched out.
God stretch out the skies like a tent
“And lays the beams of the upper rooms of his palace on the rain clouds. He makes the clouds his chariot, and travels along on the wings of the wind.”
Psalms 104:3 NET
He lays the beams of the palace structure on the rain clouds
The clouds are His chariots
He travels along the wings on the wind
“He makes the winds his messengers, and the flaming fire his attendant.”
“He established the earth on its foundations; it will never be upended.”
Psalms 104:5 NET
“The watery deep covered it like a garment; the waters reached above the mountains.”
Psalms 104:6 NET
“Your shout made the waters retreat; at the sound of your thunderous voice they hurried off –”
“He turns springs into streams; they flow between the mountains. They provide water for all the animals in the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.”
Deuteronomy 30:11-14 ‘For this commandment which I command you today is not difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it? Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it? But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.’
You say, ‘I do not know what God wants’. I can’t hear him speak to me.’ But the Bible says, “For the thing is very near you – it is in your mouth and in your mind so that you can do it. I think the preachers in this church; you have Pastor Lily and myself, Pastor Carlos on the second service. Now you get to hear from Joel, Cheng, Fernan and Winston; we have expounded God’s truth and is accessible to all who desire to mediate upon it and obey it. Also in the last days because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in us, we have YHWH’s revealed covenant. The ancient scripture is right inside us. And we have to respond appropriately to what is read to us by the Holy Spirit inwardly.
We can plead no excuse that we do know the commandment of God. God has brought it right to them, and they know it. God’s truth is not up in heaven where it cannot be known. Neither is his word beyond the sea, where it is impossible to see and hear.
The greatest power we possess is the power to choose. Our most important choice in today’s fast paced world is between ‘life and good, death and evil.’ The appeal to choose between life and death is mentioned throughout the bible. Moses never taught us that we are justified by obeying the law. Moses stated clearly in his first book, Genesis that Abraham is justified by faith. Although we could not be justified by the law, we could be blessed by our obedience to it. This appeal has a strong individual sense and we cannot avoid responsibility. God deals with individuals, challenging us to respond to His call. Moses is speaking to a covenant people about fellowship. His point is simple that our full enjoyment of life is based on our obedience to God’s word. But if we persist in drawing away from God, we could perish. Our response affects not only our lives but the lives of our descendants.
American educator and pastor A.E. Winship decided to trace out the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death. His findings are astounding, especially when compared to a man known as Max Jukes. Max Jukes’ legacy came to the forefront when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system were traced back to him. On the other hand Jonathan Edwards’ godly legacy includes 1 U.S Vice President, 3 U.S Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries. Max Juke’s descendants includes 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 50 women of debauchery, 130 other convicts, 310 paupers, 400 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living.
It all started when Jonathan Edwards said, ‘Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God. Resolved: that whether others do or not, I will.’ This great puritan preacher made a decision that positively influenced the lives of his descendants. Hundreds of member of his family over the next 200 years entered the ministry and other areas of public service. The power of choice was emphasized by Moses but it is still realized today.