Blessing and Curse (Deuteronomy 11)
1. Moses stands on the plains of Moab, giving his farewell address to the Israelites before they enter into the Promised Land without him. One of his great moments comes when he says, "I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse" (v26). The choice is yours, he says. Which one will you take?
2. Moses begins our text with the admonition, "You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes" (v18). God commands us to keep His Word always before us. How do we do that? By coming to church, by participating in Bible class or Sunday School, by private devotions at home. It's to be constantly before us so that it may continue to teach us. It's to be taken directly to heart and soul--the very core of our being--so that we know what is right and true. We're to take every advantage that is given to us to be in the study of His Word. We're not to make excuses that we don't have time to study. It's supposed to be always in front of us so that we can truly live by His commands. How many of you sang the words, "Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word," (LSB #655.1) and really meant them? Or did you sing them just because that's what's printed in the hymnal? God demands that we be steadfast in His Word.
b. That's why Moses continues by saying, "You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (v19). If we're continually teaching, we're still learning ourselves. But this is where we are deficient in our duties. Kids come into Confirmation classes with little or no clue about the faith. They don't know the basic stories of the Bible. They couldn't tell you where to find a book in the Bible. Why is this? We have gotten away from teaching our children at every opportunity. Kids aren't brought to worship or Sunday School faithfully. I know. I'm preaching to the wrong crowd. I wish I were delivering this sermon to those people. Unfortunately, their absence further proves my point. You, who are assembled here today to hear your Lord's Word, may not be the parents of these children, but many of you are grandparents, uncles, aunts, or sponsors who can (and should) have an influence as well. We must reclaim this influence if we are to save the next generation of our church.
3. It's not an easy thing, but God promises a blessing for obedience. If you follow the commandments, you will be blessed. "Your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that YHWH swore to your fathers" (v21). That's the basis of the Fourth Commandment: Obey those in authority over you (starting with God) and you will be blessed with long life. The greatest blessing we can have as a congregation is that we continue to have a long life in this place. That happens when we come together to worship God, fulfilling the commandment of teaching and learning as a way of life. That course can only lead to blessings from God being bestowed upon his obedient children. Jesus further illustrates this blessing in His final parable from the Sermon on the Mount in our Gospel reading this morning. The blessing for obedience will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. With the solid foundation, all the storms and ravages of this life came at it and it still stood (Matthew 7:24-25). The blessing comes from having the proper foundation in Jesus Christ, to which "the Law and the Prophets bear witness" (Romans 3:21).
4. Of course, when the Law promises a blessing for obedience, it also promises a curse for disobedience. This disobedience is "to turn aside from the way ... to go after other gods that you have not known" (v28). C.S. Lewis takes this to its ultimate end with The Last Battle, the conclusion of the Chronicles of Narnia. Tirian, the last King of Narnia, finds himself in Aslan's country. After he is introduced to the Seven Friends of Narnia, he asks Peter the High King, "If I have read the chronicle aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?" Peter gravely informed Tirian that Susan "is no longer a friend of Narnia." Lucy goes on to explain, "She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up" (154). She was left out of Aslan's country--left out of salvation--by turning away from the truth and going after "other gods". Jesus proclaims this in our Gospel reading: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15). Many are consumed because they don't have the foundation of knowing what is right. These false prophets--and most of them do--sound so good and get so much right that it's hard to decipher what exactly is wrong with their teachings. Then you find yourself on a side road away from the "narrow gate ... that leads to life" (Matthew 7:14). You end up looking like a fool who has built his house on the sand so that when the storms of life come everything crumbles like a house built with playing cards (Matthew 7:26-27). But there is still hope.
5. Jesus fulfills the commandments of God by perfectly living them. God commands us to "lay up these words ... in your heart and in your soul" and "teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise" (vv18-19). We look through the Gospels and that's all we see. Wherever Jesus was, whatever He was doing, He was teaching the people around Him the Word of God. As the great catch-phrase goes, Jesus "talked the talk and walked the walk." He lived, preached and died the blessings and curses. He was buried and rose again to give the blessings to all who believe in Him. He rose to give these blessings to you. The blessings promised for obedience--long life--everlasting life--because of His obedience. While "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), Jesus remains steadfast with you. When you wander off onto your little side road, He brings you back to the narrow path "that leads to life" (Matthew 7:14). He continues to teach you at every opportunity. Just like with the Emmaus disciples, He walks with you along the way of your life, teaching you what you need to know about Him. He teaches you the blessings and the curses--the blessings He gives to you, the curses He has kept to Himself.
6. So, what's your choice? Do you want the blessings that Jesus wants to give you? Or do you want to take your chances with the curses? Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to take hold of the blessings being offered to you at every opportunity. The Christian life is a most blessed life when you take the Savior at His word and walk with Him throughout your life. Amen.