February 22, 2016

Deuteronomy 28:15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

The list of curses that follows this verse, all the way through to verse 69, is truly horrendous. This is in contrast to the list of the blessings of obedience that we see from verses 1~14. You could say Moses was using the “carrot and stick approach,” but the stick seems much bigger than the carrot! The problem is, we don’t respond to the prospect of future blessings very well. As any psychologist will tell you, “Tolerance for delayed gratification is a prime indicator of maturity.” In other words, we’re generally a bunch of immature brats! Moses was doing his best to instill an understanding, and consequent fear, of the consequences of disobedience toward God, but history tells us it didn’t work very well. Like us today, the children of Israel were all too quickly distracted and tempted by all sorts of things, and they went for the immediate gratification of sin rather than holding out for the blessings God had in store. One thing this list did was provide something Ezra, Nehemiah, and various prophets could point back to and say, “See, God told you so.” Even so, only some people repented, and the same thing is true today. Warning is a major part of presenting the Gospel, because until people realize they are headed for a cliff they aren’t going to turn around. It is of course good to tell people of the incredible, unspeakable blessings God has for all who will repent and believe, but that seems all too abstract, too “pie in the sky by and by” to many. Fear may not be the best motivator, but at times it is an essential one. Society today seems bent on removing all fear of consequences for sin, saying that “protection” makes immorality “risk free,” when even secular statistics say the opposite. They search for medical solutions to diseases that would be stopped dead in their tracks if people would abide by Biblical guidelines. I could go on and on, but the fact remains that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) Without any fear of God, people are incredibly stupid!

I certainly include myself in “people.” I have demonstrated remarkable stupidity on many, many occasions, so I have no “high horse” from which to look down on anyone. Rather, since I have experienced God’s mercy and grace, I need to extend those to as many as will receive them. The small number of those who do can be heartbreaking! I have no love of “hellfire and brimstone” preaching, but I need to remember that Jesus talked about hell more than He talked about heaven, and His harsh words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 were motivated by His love for them. I must not hold back from preaching the whole truth out of a fear of rejection, because that would be valuing my emotional comfort over the eternal salvation of others.

Father, I struggle with this. This is far from the first time You have pointed this truth out to me, yet my follow-through is not very good. Keep me from offending needlessly, but certainly keep me from valuing my own feelings over the salvation of others. That is definitely not “loving my neighbor as myself!” May I be Your agent without reservation or hesitation, so that as many as possible may be brought into Your kingdom, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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