Current curcumstances may or may not reflect reflect the truth.


Ki Tavo
For the week of September 13, 2014/18 Elul 5774
Torah: Devarim/Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1-22

Blessed or Cursed?


And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. (Devarim/Deuteronomy 28:1)

But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. (Devarim/Deuteronomy 28:15)

Blessed image

A key aspect of the Torah is the concept of blessings and curses. God's commitment to respond favorably or not to Israel's covenantal faithfulness is foundational to the whole rest of Tenach (Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament). We see this throughout the historical narrative portions as God's dealings with the people were based on their attitudes and actions towards him. This is also, for the most part, what underlays the message of the Prophets and the subject matter of the Writings (that section of the Bible often called the Wisdom Literature, which includes Psalms and Proverbs).

God established through Moses the basic principle that if his people obeyed his directives, then God would prosper them in health, economically, make them successful in their commercial and military endeavors, and cause them to be widely respected internationally. Conversely, disobedience would result in divinely instigated disaster, including sickness, death, foreign oppression, and exile.

It appears that God gave the people a simple formula to follow: Do good and things go well; do wrong and bad things happen. But actually, life according to the Torah and the rest of the Bible is far more complicated than that. We have several examples of people who appeared to be cursed for no apparent reason. Joseph may or may not have been the wisest in how he related to his brothers, but his suffering as a slave and his unjust prison experience were way out of proportion to his actions. We are even told that God was with him in his difficulties, but was he blessed or cursed? David, who was appointed successor to rebellious King Saul, spent a good amount of time running for his life and living in caves; blessed or cursed? Jeremiah endured great hardship for his utter faithfulness to God's message; blessed or cursed? One of the most famous unjust sufferers of them all is Job, who not only had to endure terrible affliction, but also the discouragement of his so-called friends who assumed that he was being cursed, certainly not blessed.

But Job's friends were wrong-wrong about Job, wrong about life. They failed to understand that the principle of blessings and curses is but one aspect of a much bigger picture of life. Perhaps intellectually Job shared his friends' shallow theology, but his integrity and authentic knowledge of God inoculated him from conventional thinking. He truly knew God personally and knew he is just. Since he was convinced, rightly so, that he hadn't done anything to attract God's scorn, he held on to God and to his integrity until God clarified the situation in the end. Even though our other examples are each unique in their own way, they all reflect the same overall understanding of blessings and curses.

While the Torah portion may sound as if there is a direct one-to-one relationship between a person's actions and God's positive or negative responses, we need to remember that the words were spoken within a communal covenantal context in a day that didn't necessarily share the kind of individualistic values common to many of us. Understanding these words within their God-given context enables us to view them for what they are. When a community follows God's directives, the result will be a good one. Neglecting them whether purposefully or due to ignorance is detrimental.

One of the things for which Israel was chosen was to prove that the world is fundamentally flawed, including the human beings who reside within it. Being given God's directives, Israel demonstrated the tragic truth that, for the most part, all societies live under God's curse. Even those whose hearts are faithful to God, such as our examples, are confronted by a cursed world.

Messiah himself is the greatest example of all. As was prophesied about him by the prophet Isaiah:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth (Isaiah 53:7-9).

Who was ever blessed more than Yeshua? For not only did he fully keep God's directives, he successfully confronted the curse on our behalf, so that even its greatest expression, death, may no longer keep us in its grip. Staying faithful to God will most likely include bearing up under what may seem like curses for a time, but in the end, we will be blessed.

Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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