“Love’s Curses” – Deuteronomy 27:9-26; 28:15-68

April 1st, 2018 – EASTER

Dt. 27:9-26; 28:15-68

“Love’s Curses”

Aux Text: 1 Corinthians 15:13-22

 

Service Orientation: Death and suffering came to earth as a result of the curse from our disobedience.  Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proved that the curse of death has been broken.   By trusting in Christ, our enemy death as been destroyed.  He is risen!   He is risen indeed!

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” — Galatians 3:13

                                                                                                                                           

Background Information:

  • Moses is a pastor, who sets before the people the way of life and the way of death. Both the lavish promises of blessing as a reward for obedience and the horrific warnings of doom as consequences of rebellion were intended to get the hearers’ attention, to arouse fear, and to warn the people what it would be like to fall into the hands of an angry God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 664)
  • The relationship between blessing and obedience has been conditioned all along in Deuteronomy by the recognition that the people were unfaithful before even receiving the gift (chs. 9-10). Therefore grace prevails in the structure of the book, and it is no surprise that at this crucial point the freely adapted form of the treaty should be broken, and that the blessing and the curse do not mark the end of the story.  Not only here, but elsewhere in the OT, there is renewed blessing beyond the curse (cf. V. 63 with Dt 30:9; Jer 32:41; cf. V. 64 with Dt 30:3; Jer 30:11).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 410)
  • (v. 27:9) The phrase “this day you have become the people of the LORD your God” (v. 9) {now – NIV} does not imply that Israel was not the people of God before that time. It means that Israel was at a significant turning point in her history; she had freshly committed herself again to the Lord,

These verses beautifully show the relationship between the covenant and obedience.  The covenant was established first; obedience followed.  The covenant was Yahweh’s free gift; it was not determined by any prior obedience or good works on Israel’s part.  Obedience was not a condition for the covenant but the outcome of it.  Obedience was to be motivated by gratitude to God for all He had done for His people and for His acceptance of them as His people.  Obedience is indeed required, but it is the consequence rather than the cause of the covenant.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 276)

  • (v. 27:12) Directly south of Mount Ebal was its twin peak, Mount Gerizim; between them stretched a highway from Jericho north to what later became Galilee and on to the Mediterranean. As a person stood on that highway facing east, Mount Gerizim was to the right, which may have been symbolic of blessings or a good omen.  Mount Ebal lay north of the highway, on the person’s left, perhaps signifying the curse of the broken covenant.  Mount Gerizim still looks green and “living” today, while Mount Ebal remains dry and “cursed” in appearance.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 252)
  • (vss. 27:12-13) The six tribes on Mount Gerizim descended from Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel. Four of the six tribes stationed on Mount Ebal for the curses descended from Jacob’s concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah.  The other two were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, who forfeited his birthright through incest (Gn 35:22; 49:3-4), and Zebulun, Leah’s youngest son.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 277)
  • (vss. 27:12-13) The tribes chosen to bless are all sons of Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel, who Luther said were more important than the others. The tribes chosen to curse are, with two exceptions, sons of Jacob’s concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah.  The two exceptions are Reuben, Leah’s eldest, who forfeited his birthright due to an incestuous act with Bilhah (Gn 35:22; 49:4), and Zebulun, who was Leah’s youngest.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 745)
  • (v. 27:14) In a raised voice. Travelers visiting Shechem in the 19th cent. A.D. found the setting to be a natural ampitheater, where voices could be heard from one mountain to the other (C.W. Wilson 1873).
  • (v. 27:15) A common feature of the sins that receive the Lord’s curse in this list is that they are transgressions men and women can do in secret. Human eyes may never see or judge them, but repeating these curses would touch the conscience of every individual Israelite, revealing personally where each of them was guilty.  More importantly, what human eyes couldn’t see, the Lord could.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 253-4)
  • (v. 27:26) The final verse of the chapter pronounced a summary malediction on all who did not uphold the words of God’s law by carrying them out. The curses of this section of Deuteronomy reflect not some supposed belief in the magical power of words.  Rather, they recognize the ability of the omnipresent God of the covenant to enforce his own legislation.  Whether he would choose some kind of direct confrontation with covenant violators or would use providentially arranged circumstances to accomplish his purpose was quite irrelevant.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 312)
  • (v. 28:20ff) In verse 20 we arrive at the longest literary unit in Deuteronomy. Whereas the imprecations of 27:15-26 and 28:15-19 are formulaic in nature, the curses in verses 20-68 are cast in impassioned rhetorical style and expound in exhaustive detail the reversal of the blessings specified in verses 7-13.  When heard orally, these curses create terror in the mind of the hearer.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 651)
  • (v. 28:20) The first-person speech of Yahweh (20) intrudes unexpectedly, but emphasizes that he is the real speaker and agent. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 405)
  • (v. 28:20) The assumption behind this portrayal of reality is the sovereignty of Yahweh in all affairs. The present passage repeatedly insists that Yahweh is the agent (“The LORD [Yahweh] will. . .”).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 409)
  • (v. 28:20-24) 28:20-24. The most obvious form in which God’s disapproval would manifest itself was through nature.  Confusion and rebuke would mark everything the Israelites attempted if they sought to do it with their backs to the Lord.  They would experience disease, fever, inflammation, heat, and drought.

Instead of dripping rain to support crops, the sky would turn to bronze, and in turn the ground would be hard as iron.  Instead of prosperity and plenty, Israel would know famine and hardship until they were destroyed.  The latter term is not absolute, since God had already sworn otherwise.  However, when Israel turned away from God, they were useless as instruments of his grace.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 321)

  • (v. 28:27-29) The Lord would not turn a blind eye to the follies of Israel if they forsook him. In his determination to turn their hearts back to him, he would afflict them with the same kind of boils that had come upon the land while they were slaves in Egypt.  They would experience physical and mental sufferings if they persisted in their waywardness.  Directionless and unsuccessful, they would become easy prey for their oppressors.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 321)
  • (v. 28:47) Verse 47 is a spiritual gem, giving the reason for their moving away from God. Moses says that the curses are “because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things.”  When they became rich, they forgot God, and as a result they lost their “joyfulness and gladness of heart.”  Preoccupation with their abundant possessions and the loss of joy and gladness from their life left them with no time or inclination to serve God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 595)
  • (v. 28:46) In view of 4:29-31 and 30:1-10, Moses was not saying that the curses would be on the people and their descendants forever but that the curses on the disobedient generations would be a sign and a wonder to the people and their descendants forever. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 174)
  • (v. 28:46) The signs and wonders the Lord did to redeem Israel confirmed his grace and care for them. Now the dreadful curses he’d inflict on them would serve as a sign and wonder to remind them of his anger over their disobedience.  Israel refused to appreciate the prosperity the Lord would bring them; instead of serving him joyfully, they’d do so grudgingly.  Someday they’d have to serve their enemies in poverty and shame.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 269-70)

(v. 28:47-48) The contrast between Israel’s choices was stark indeed.  During the time of prosperity, the Lord asked that they serve him joyfully and gladly.  Because the nation refused, they would be forced to serve their enemies.  Those enemies, unlike Yahweh, would not create an environment of prosperity for the people of God.  Instead of a pleasant life of service to God, Israel would learn hunger, thirst, nakedness, and dire poverty through the iron yoke of divine discipline.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 323)

  • (vss. 28:47-48) Verses 47-48 contain neat contrasts: as they did not serve Yahweh, they will serve their enemies–though the one is freedom, the other slavery; instead of an abundance of everything, they will lack everything.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 407)
  • (vss. 28:58-59) The Lord insisted that his people revere his glorious and awesome name, and they could do that only by carefully obeying all the words of the law that Moses was giving.  To do otherwise was to invite fearful plagues that would last from generation to generation, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 323)
  • (vss. 28:63-64) God warned that he would not observe two standards of morality–one for Israel and another for the pagan peoples who occupied the land.  If he had uprooted the Canaanites for immoral behavior, he would do the same with his people.  They would have to swallow the bitter draft of their own waywardness; they would worship. . . gods of wood and stone in faraway places.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 323-4)
  • (v. 28:63) Where previously Yahweh had delighted in causing Israel to flourish, now he will delight in their destruction. The notion is troubling to modern readers, but read within the ancient conceptual environment, it contrasts sharply with the notions of Israel’s neighbors.  Where others attributed such calamities to demonic forces and hostile deities, Yahwism refuses to take the easy way out.  These statements reflect the other side of Yahweh’s passion:  When his people trample underfoot his grace, his passions will be ignited against them.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 661)
  • (v. 28:63) If God dislikes punishing sinners, how should we understand the statement about God delighting to destroy the rebellious people? It must mean that God likes to do what is right and good.  It is good to punish evildoers, so God likes to do it, even though it hurts his heart to do so.  As James Orr put it, “God must approve of, yea, rest with satisfaction in, every exercise of his perfections, even in the infliction of judgment.”  Orr points out that this “verse, in any view of it, is a very terrible one in its bearings on the prospects of the wicked.”  This is a message we must not hold back from giving to people.  If God hates disobedience, we have the responsibility to share that with people, for the consequences of disobedience are tragic.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 598)
  • Israel went after other gods because they thought they could provide the desired blessings of rain, fertility, success, victory, etc. The tragic irony is that the pursuit of such idolatries ultimately brought the dire opposite of what those false gods promised.  There is a persistent tendency in human society toward idolatry–seeking answers and solutions in everything but the living God.  Modern western idolatries include the ideologies of materialism (“the Market”), consumerism, individualism, militarism, etc.  But these do not give us the salvation they appear to promise.  On the contrary they only lead us deeper into the realms of judgment and curse, in which the frustrations, anger, and despair that run through these verses of Deuteronomy 28 become increasingly real and demoralizing.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 282)
  • Perhaps what is most remarkable is the amazing patience and grace of Yahweh. He would have been totally within his covenantal rights to have imposed these curses on Israel much earlier and in many circumstances: in the premonarchic period of the judges, during the reign of Solomon (1 Kgs 11-12), and repeatedly thereafter as king after king–both northern and Judean–led the people down the path of apostasy and idolatry.  But Yahweh waited.  To be sure, he imposed the curses one or two at a time (Amos 4:6-13), hoping this would wake up his people and cause them to return to him.  He was indeed patient (Ex 34:6-7).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 666)
  • Again and again the message of the OT is that if you choose the wrong gods you will end in social decay. Biblical monotheism, far from an abstract creed, affirms that only when God is properly honored will society be just and compassionate.  Modern western society, reaping the fruit of two centuries of systematically excluding the living God from all practical public relevance, is now plagued by the loss of family stability, respect for property, social compassion, sexual integrity, and the sanctity of life.  Those who will not love God soon find it irksome (or uneconomical) to love their neighbors.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 278)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What do curses have to do with the resurrection of Jesus and Easter?

 

 

Answer: Death and suffering would never have even come to earth except that they were the result of the curse from our disobedience.  Jesus became a curse for us so we might be redeemed from the curse and death and live forever.  Easter is God’s, “Amen” to Jesus’ “It is finished.”

 

Certainly, the mere identification of the two mountains with curse and blessing would remind Israelites, every time they passed through that valley, of the straightforward choice that faced them day by day–loyalty and obedience or disloyalty and disobedience–and of the serious consequences of the choice (cf. 11:26-32; 30:15-18).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 277)

 

It is significant that more space is given for the listing and description of the curses than for the blessings.  This follows a pattern found in the Bible.  A. W. Pink has been credited with the observation that the Bible has more references to the wrath of God than to the love of God.  In the recorded statements of Jesus, there are more references to Hell than there are to Heaven.  I believe the reason for this is that people naturally tend to ignore unpleasant things and focus on more pleasant things.  We are taught to “think positive.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 600)

 

If God did not punish violations of the covenant, justice would be mocked.  Justice is a key feature of a good world.  Paul said, “Do not be deceived:  God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal 6:7).  Goodness and evil must receive their just rewards if there is to be justice in the world.  Even when God forgave us, justice was satisfied by the offering up of his Son as a punishment for our sin.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 585)

 

“Cursed,” can denote either the imprecation that misfortune be visited upon someone or something or else the misfortune that comes in response to an imprecation (Brichto 1963, 1-2).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 746)

 

Curses operate, therefore, rather like prophetic oracles of judgment, which intend, not to declare judgment inevitable and fixed, but to turn people from their sins.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 410)

 

A lot of trouble was taken to present this message of blessings and curses in such a vivid way.  The reason is to leave the people with no doubt that sin will be punished and righteousness will be blessed.  Is it not a mystery then that we hardly even mention this dual motivation to righteous living?  Christians talk about blessings for righteousness but almost never talk about curses for disobedience.  Surely this is an area in which we need to change our attitudes and conversation markedly.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 584)

 

This practice of responding to an affirmation with “Amen” appears often in the Bible.  It is a way to stress the seriousness of the affirmation being made.  I found expressions like the formula we have just described, with people responding to a statement by saying, “Amen” in eight places in the OT.  One of those times is a somewhat cynical remark from Jeremiah to a prediction of blessing made by a false prophet while Jeremiah was predicting punishment and not blessing (Jer 28:6).  If we disregard that reference, the figure goes down to seven.  Of these seven occurrences, three are in responses to statements of praise to God (1 Chr 16:36; Neh 8:6; Ps 106:48).  Only once does it come after referring to how God will bless his people (Jer 11:5).  This is how we normally use it.  The remaining three times are in response to a proclamation of curses for disobedience (Nm 5:22; Dt 27:26; Neh 5:13).  In our passage the statement appears twelve times, and if we take each of these as a separate instance, then the formula occurs eighteen times in the OT with fourteen of them in connection with curses!

Today we almost never use this Amen formula in this way.  This is another indication of how far our thinking has moved from the spirit of the Word of God.  Some may say that such discourse has been superseded by the revelation in the NT.  But the NT also has statements like this.  For example, Paul said, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God:  severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.  Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Rom 11:22).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 584-5)

 

The Acronym for the Day is . . . FWS

 

As Jaroslav Pelikan once said, ‘If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, nothing else matters.  If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, nothing else matters.’  (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 99)

 

It reminds me of a lady I know who refused to talk about life beyond death with her children because, she said, she didn’t want them to be disappointed if it turned out not to be there.  Well, now…  If there is no afterlife they certainly won’t be disappointed.  If there is, they may find themselves badly prepared.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 390)

 

The Good News of the Gospel can only become the Great news we seek when it is understood in the context of the potentially bad news and the hurt, suffering, perversion, corruption, discouragement and death that accompanies this fallen world.  — Pastor Keith

 

What do curses have to do with Easter?:

I-  The God of love and Justice spelled out from the beginning:  Death is the conclusive result of the curse which comes from our disobedience.  (Dt 27:9-26; 28:15-68; see also:  Dt 30:15, 19; Gn 2:17; Rom 5:12; 6:23; Gal 3:10-14; 6:7-8; Jam 1:15)

 

Leon Morris was an Australian scholar who has written a lot on this topic.  He says, “Nobody wants to attribute to God the weakness we know so well from human anger.”  What we see in the Bible is God’s attitude toward evil.  If God condoned evil, he would not be just or good.  It is good to punish evil so that goodness will remain good.  So when he punishes evil, he does what is good.  His wrath is a part of his good nature.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 599)

 

God’s wrath could even be regarded as the flip side of his love.  If God did not get angry at our sin, he would be insulting us by saying that we are so insignificant that our deeds do not matter.  God’s wrath elevates humans to a high level of significance, for it tells us that our actions do matter to God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 599-600)

 

It is interesting that the curses here are described as coming from God himself.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 597)

 

Connotes not angry punishment, but the bad consequences God assigns, as any loving parent might, to destructive or wrongful behavior.  The word wrath as used in the OT, it is argued, is not primarily a law-court term.  It never means sending people to an eternal hell.  In fact, it can simply be translated “bad consequences”—the bad consequences of pestilence, drought, and famine, or the ravage of wild animals and invading armies, experience in the here and now.  (Brow, Robert; Evangelical Megashift,”  Christianity Today, February 19, 1990, 13)

 

“Grace has meaning only when we are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation & liable to eternal wrath.”  (Samuel Storms; Grandeur of God, 124)

 

The point of all this doom-and-gloom talk about the Law is to tease out what the purpose of the Law truly is.  It kills.  It accuses.  It curses everything that is not in Christ.  And when it gets you good and dead, it has done its job properly.  Then it’s time for a completely different word:  the word of the gospel.  (Matt Johnson, Getting Jesus Wrong, 89)

 

Since God’s first concern for His universe is its moral health, that is, its holiness, whatever is contrary to this is necessarily under His eternal displeasure.  Wherever the holiness of God confronts unholiness there is conflict.  This conflict arises from the irreconcilable natures of holiness and sin.  God’s attitude and action in the conflict are His anger.  To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it.  When He arises to put down destruction and save the world from irreparable moral collapse He is said to be angry.  Every wrathful judgment of God in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 110-11)

 

The worst effect of Israel’s spiritual defection would not be the devastations of the enemy, however, but the damage done by Israelites to one another.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 323)

 

Disobeying the Lord is equated with forsaking him, because national and personal commitment to the Lord is the central command, and forsaking him is the central evil.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 171)

 

Because of the curse, death is hereditary.

 

“See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand.  For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever.  If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me.”  (Dt 32:39-41).  A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness.  Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner (Ps 7:11).

…Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper.  How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?  How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His “severity” (Rom 9:22) toward it? …The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is.  Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

The wrath of God is eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 83)

 

The first and possibly most fundamental characteristic of divine grace is that it presupposes sin and guilt.  Grace has meaning only when men are seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and liable to eternal wrath…

Grace does not contemplate sinners merely as undeserving but as ill-deserving… It is simply that we do not deserve grace; we do deserve hell!  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 32)

 

When the congregation responded “Amen,” they were not only saying , “Lord, I’m convinced that your laws are good and right,” but also, “Lord, I agree with you when you bring your judgment on those who break your covenant.”  They were even saying, “Lord, I call this curse upon myself if I fail to keep your covenant!”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 253)

 

Moses said the Lord would send “rebuke” on his people until they came to sudden ruin because of their evil action of forsaking him.  When the southern kingdom finally fell to Babylon in 586 B.C., observers could offer many “human” explanations for Judah’s fall: their weak-willed king Zedekiah, the unquestioned military supremacy of Babylon’s army, reckless political alliances between Jerusalem and her neighbors.  But the Lord gave his prophet Jeremiah the thankless task of announcing that Judah’s captivity was actually the Lord’s rebuke of their unbelief.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 263)

 

From whence Paul rightly infers, that “as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse” (Gal 3:10).  For let the most perfect man come forward, and, although he may have striven ever so diligently to keep the Law, he will have at least offended in some point or other; since the declaration of James must be borne in mind, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” for he that forbade murder and adultery, forbade theft also (Jam 2:10, 11).  Paul indeed does not quote the very words of Moses, for he thus cites his testimony; “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” (Gal 3:10) but there is no difference in the sense, since all are here condemned without exception, who have not confirmed the Law of God, so as to fulfill to the uttermost whatever it contains.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 208-9)

 

The wonderful and inestimable love of God towards His people is here set forth, viz., that He had rejoiced in heaping blessings upon them; wherefore their depravity was all the more base and intolerable, in that God, though voluntarily disposed to be bountiful, was obliged by it to lay aside His affection for them.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 264)

 

A law is not a law unless it has an associated penalty (curse).  (Tim Keller; “Our Ransom – 2″ , Eph 1:6-8;  #570)

 

The Bible everywhere views human death not as a natural but as a penal event. … Throughout Scripture, then, death (both physical and spiritual) is seen as a divine judgment on human disobedience.  (John R.W. Stott; The Cross of Christ, 65)

 

Ecclesiastes seems to deal not with the issue of blessing but with the problem of curse.  The world is closed to human investigation.  Death, not life, is the trademark of the world.  Wisdom is inaccessible, meaninglessness pervasive.  Clearly, there is a world of curse represented by this stream of wisdom literature, and there are numerous linguistic echoes of early chapters of Genesis.  The world can be an evil place.  Many times the wicked seem blessed and the righteous cursed.  Death renders everything pointless–hebel (a word that echoes Abel’s name forcefully).  But ultimately the way out of this riddled existence is not agnosticism, skepticism or trying to acquire a forbidden wisdom (cf. Gn 3); it is through the fear of the Lord.  The way out of the death of exile, where wisdom seems lost, is given through the line of David:  fear God and keep his commandments; this is the whole duty of humanity (Ecc 12:13).  (Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 207)

 

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.  (Thomas Jefferson)

 

Ideas have consequences.  Bad ideas have victims.  (John Stonestreet; Revisiting the Sexual Revolution: Even “Proud Feminists” Are Pushing Back:  Breakpoint commentary, March 1st, 2018)

 

Because God is holy He hates all sin.  He loves everything which is in conformity to His law, and loathes everything which is contrary to it. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 43)

 

God has not only told us the best, but He has not withheld the worst.  He has faithfully described the ruin which the Fall has effected.  He has faithfully diagnosed the terrible state which sin has produced.  He has faithfully made known his inveterate hatred of evil, and that He must punish the same.  He has faithfully warned us that He is “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29).  (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 54)

 

Sow an act, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 325)

 

II-  The Bad News:  We’ve all failed to keep the Law.  (Prv 20:9; Rom 3:9-23; Jam 2:10-11; 1 Jn 1:8-10)

 

Paul quoted these words to illustrate that there isn’t a single human being alive who could ever hope to hear God declare him or her “Not guilty” because of the sinless life he or she lived:  “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:  ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’” (Gal 3:10).  It’s not enough to say, “Yes, God’s Law is a good thing,” nor is it enough to say, “I’ve always tried my best to obey God’s Law.”  Nobody has ever satisfied God’s justice by doing his or her best, because our best isn’t good enough.  You and I know some people who seem to live up to God’s law–outwardly, at least–but closer inspection reveals that no one can always do or say (or think!) everything God wants us to.  “Clearly,” Paul continued, “no one is justified before God by the law” (Gal 3:11).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 254)

 

III-  The Good News:  Jesus redeemed all of us from the ultimate curse of death of the law by becoming a curse for us on the cross.  (Dt 21:23; Jn 3:16-18; Acts 5:30; Gal 3:10-14; 4:5)

 

By anyone’s verdict, Deuteronomy 28 is grim reading.  Every curse Moses announced took place in Israel’s history, but all of them were preliminary to the night Israel rejected their Savior in Pontius Pilate’s courtroom.  Instead of embracing Jesus as their king, the mob shouted, “Crucify him!”  When Pilate tried to dodge responsibility for this innocent death, Jesus’ countrymen eagerly took it upon themselves:  “let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Mt 27:22-25).

Although the new covenant of the gospel doesn’t contain this sort of list of blessings and curses, our Lord explained that people face one of two eternal destinies:  “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (Jn 3:17, 18).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 274)

 

When Jesus asks us to repeat an act to remember Him and His greatest act, He did not want us to do something to remember His birth, His miracles, His parables, or even His resurrection.  When Jesus asked us to repeat something to remember Him he asked us to remember His death on the cross. (Tim Keller; St Matthew’s Passion: The World’s Last Night – The Last Supper)

 

Christ was to be hung on a cross (or tree to which it is sometimes referred) which was to be cursed by God (see Dt 21:23 & Gal 3:13).  Also a crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head (Also a part of the original curse of the Garden of Eden in Gn 3:17).  Why?  Because Christ became cursed for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.

 

The crunch comes in {1 Cor 15} verse 17:  if the Messiah isn’t raised, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  In other words, with the resurrection of Jesus a new world has dawned in which forgiveness of sins is not simply a private experience; it is a fact about the cosmos.  Sin is the root cause of death; if death has been defeated, it must mean that sin has been dealt with.  But if the Messiah has not been raised, we are still in a world where sin reigns supreme and undefeated so that the foundational Christian belief, that God has dealt with our sins in Christ, is based on thin air and is reduced to whistling in the dark.  (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 247)

 

But we don’t ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness.  The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made.  That’s one of the reasons he’s angry at what’s going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and world he loves.  His capacity for love is so much greater than ours–and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast–that the word wrath doesn’t really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world.  So it makes no sense to say, “I don’t want a wrathful God, I want a loving God.”  If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil–angry enough to do something about it.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 177)

 

God’s wrath is the antisepsis by which moral putrefaction is checked and the health of the creation maintained.  When God warns of His impending wrath and exhorts men to repent and avoid it He puts it in a language they can understand:  He tells them to “flee from the wrath to come.”  He says in effect, “Your life is evil, and because it is evil you are an enemy to the moral health of My creation.  I must extirpate whatever would destroy the world I love.  Turn from evil before I rise up in wrath against you.  I love you, but I hate the sin you love.  Separate yourself from your evil ways before I send judgment upon you.”

“O Lord,…in wrath remember mercy” (Heb 3:2).  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 111)

 

The Bad news is you have a deadly bacteria that is going to take your life within the next 2 hours.

The Good news is that you’ve been smart enough to recognize that things were not right and you came running right away for help and we have an antibiotic that will cure you in the next 90 seconds.—  Pastor Keith

 

Do you want a vision of divine wrath?  Of intense holiness?  Of righteous judgment?  Look at the Cross!  Do you want to know divine love?  Mercy?  Grace?  Look at the Cross.  But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation.  Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment.  Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)

 

If you do not believe in a God of wrath, but only in a God of love; then what did it cost for your God of love to really love you?   When you understand the wrath of God, you better understand the love of God because you understand what God was willing to do for you because of Your Sin.  — Tim Keller

 

Here you may say, “I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God.  I want a God of love.”

The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God.  Please think about it.  Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it.  In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get.  Have you noticed that?  When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad.  If you see people abusing themselves, you get mad at them, out of love.  Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other.  If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care.  You’re too absorbed in yourself, too cynical, too hard.  The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 176-7)

 

IV-  Easter is God’s, “Amen” to Jesus’ “It is finished.”  (Rom 1:1-4; 1 Cor 15:1-28)

 

The Resurrection is God’s “Amen!” to Christ’s statement, “It is Finished.” — S. Lewis Johnson

 

The resurrection is the proclamation of the fact that God is fully and completely satisfied with the work that His Son did upon the Cross.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, 244)

 

At the Cross, Christ drank the full cup of the wrath of God, and when he had downed the last drop, he turned the cup over and cried out, “It is finished.”  (David Platt, Radical, 36)

 

At the end of his great act of creation the Lord said, “It is finished,” and he could rest.  On the cross at the end of his great act of redemption Jesus said, “It is finished”–and we can rest.  On the cross Jesus was saying of the work underneath your work–the thing that makes you truly weary, this need to prove yourself because who you are and what you do are never good enough–that it is finished.  He has lived the life you should have lived, he has died the death you should have died.  If you rely on Jesus’ finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you.  You can be satisfied with life.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 43)

 

If God had not raised Him from the grave we might draw the conclusion that our Lord was not able to bear the punishment of the guilt of our sins, that it was too much for Him, and that His death was the end.  But He was raised from the dead; and in raising Him up God was proclaiming that His Son had completed the work, that full expiation has been made, that He is propitiated and completely satisfied.  The resurrection declares that, and it is in that sense that He is “risen again for our justification.”  It is there we see it clearly.  The work was done on the Cross, but here is the proclamation that it is enough.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, 244)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: So What?:

 

 

A-  If we are “In Christ” all of God’s promises to Christ are available to us in heaven.  (Jn 1:10-13; Rom 8:1-25; 2 Cor 1:20; 5:17-21; Gal 3:10-4:7; Eph 1:3-14; 3:14-21; 4:10-13; Phil 4:19; Heb 8:6; 11:13-16, 39-40; 2 Pt 1:4)

 

It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today.  The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sole ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day.  Our salvation is “external to ourselves.”  I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ.  Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 54)

 

Now, God declares that, unless the Israelites thoroughly devote themselves to the keeping of the Law, vengeance is prepared for their neglect.  It is indeed a harsh and severe threat whereby transgression in any respect is without remission; for perfect obedience is required by the words, “to do all the words that are written in the Law.”  But it is necessary that we should bear in mind what I have already shewn, that Moses was thus severe in his exactions, in order that the people, being convinced of their condemnation, should betake themselves to the mercy of God; for no one longs after Christ, unless he first abandons all confidence in his works, and rests all his hope of salvation in gratuitous pardon.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 262)

 

The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the one who has “set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death” (Heb 2:15).  The gospel of freedom proclaims that death is an illusion, a phantom, the bogeyman of little children:  death is simply a transition into the one experience worthy of the name life. ( Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 143)

 

The Law rattles our cages.  Better yet, we need the Law’s full force to get us good and dead–dead to our own selfishness, blindness, and perpetual sin.  The Law cannot save.  It condemns, judges, accuses, reviles, kills, and brings wrath.  These are the Bible’s words by the way, not mine.  This concept of the Law may seem harsh or negative, but for me, it was one piece of an overall message that caused my faith to brim with hope for the first time in years.  This is because the Law tees things up for the reception of the good news of the gospel.  After all, how is good news good unless we have an understanding of bad news?  We’ve got to hear a diagnosis before we are offered the cure.  (Matt Johnson, Getting Jesus Wrong, 86-7)

 

You can’t threaten me with heaven.  —Georgia Pietrzak

 

B-  If Christ has risen from the dead, then so can we who are In Christ.”  (Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 15:12-28; 2 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Pt 1:3)

 

O death, you are the supreme festival on the road to Christian freedom! — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

The gospel is a truly powerful, even devastating, thing.  To believe it is to conquer sin and death.  To reject it is to be crushed.  These things I have seen with my own eyes.  (Michael Bauman, Roundtable: Conversations with European Theologians, 125)

 

When Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink,” he does not mean, “Let’s all become lechers.”  He means, there is a normal, simple, comfortable, ordinary life of human delights that we may enjoy with no troubling thoughts of heaven or hell or sin or holiness or God—if there is no resurrection from the dead.  And what stunned me about this train of thought is that many professing Christians seem to aim at just this, and call it Christianity.

Paul did not see his relation to Christ as the key to maximizing his physical comforts and pleasures in this life.  No, Paul’s relation to Christ was a call to choose suffering—a suffering that was beyond what would make atheism “meaningful” or “beautiful” or “heroic.”  It was a suffering that would have been utterly foolish and pitiable to choose if there is no resurrection into the joyful presence of Christ. (John Piper; Desiring God, 219)

 

C-  The God of Love has redeemed the curse and death. (Gn 50:20; Ps 116:15; Rom 8:28; ch. 1 Cor 15; Gal 3:10–14; Phil 1:21-26; 2 Tm 1:10; Heb 2:9, 14-15; 1 Pt 1:3-9)

 

Death is the godly man’s wish, the wicked man’s fear. (Samuel Bolton; The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, 46)

 

Death is a threat to the degree that it frustrates your main goals.  Death is fearful to the degree that it threatens to rob you of what you treasure most.  But Paul treasured Christ most, and his goal was to magnify Christ.  And he saw death not as a frustration of that goal but as an occasion for its fulfillment.  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 66)

 

If to live is Christ then death is the greatest gain (Phil 1:20-23).  (Pastor Eric Sass; North Adams First Baptist Church, at Verdon Gordon’s funeral service, February 9th, 2016)

 

Do not seek death.  Death will find you.  But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.  (Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, 167)

 

Redemption begins.  The faith begins.  The good news begins.  The word of Messiah begins.  The message of salvation begins.  The Gospel begins.  Think about it.  It all begins in a tomb.  Did you ever consider how radical and completely upside down it is? . . . What is a tomb?  It’s the place where hope ends, where dreams end, where life ends, where everything ends.  The tomb is the place of the end.  But in God, the tomb, the place of the end, becomes the place of the beginning. . . . In God, the journey goes not from life to death, but from death to life.  The end is the beginning.  So to find life, you must come to the tomb.  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 65)

 

The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense.  We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.  What is man that Thou are mindful of him? We don’t know much, but we know this:  No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God’s hand.  —T. Snow

 

How is the curse of death loving you ask?   Otherwise, as creatures created to live forever, we would have been forever imprisoned in this fallen world and corrupted, perverted hearts and minds.   Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints because it is through death that we are completely redeemed, restored, renewed, reborn, resurrected, and remade.

 

Facing death is the ultimate test of character.  (Commander Will Riker:  Star Trek Generations “Shades of Gray”)

 

The fear of death follows from the fear of life.  A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.  — Mark Twain

 

All of us know that death still threatens us.  Luther prayed, “And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us.”  But it is death that is our moral enemy.  Its sting hurts; its victory wrests life from loved ones.

When we are trapped by this fear of death we cannot live abundant lives.  We cling to those things that appear to give life some semblance of permanence.  We do not feel free to take risks, and we find it hard to give generously without counting the cost.

Yet, Jesus taught that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24 RSV).  Dying, we live.  Jesus didn’t want death, but when it came he accepted it as part of the givenness of his life.  By dying, Christ robbed death of its power and delivered us from its terror.  So, fears may be liars.  Even that final fear! (Richard L. Morgan; No Wrinkles On the Soul)

 

“‘The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden.’  God’s first act toward man was to bring him to a place of life, fruitfulness, and blessing.  And when did God bring him into the garden?”

“On the sixth day.”

“Messiah died on the sixth day, Friday.  And what happened to Him that day after the crucifixion, and work of redemption, was finished?”

“They took Him down from the cross and laid Him in the tomb.”

“But it wasn’t just any tomb,” said the teacher.  “What do the Scriptures say of that place?  ‘In the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden, a new tomb.’  It wasn’t just a tomb. . . It was a garden tomb. . . a tomb in a garden.  On the sixth day God brought man into a garden.  So on the sixth day man brought God into a garden, into a garden tomb.  A garden is a place of life, but a garden tomb is a place of death.  So God brought man into a place of life.  But man brought God into a place of death.  The Garden of Eden was a place of blessing.  But the Garden Tomb was a place of sorrow.  The Garden of Eden was the place of God’s creation.  The Garden Tomb was the place of man’s creation.  So God brought man into the place of God’s blessings.  But man brought God into the place of man’s curse.  Why?  God allowed Himself to be brought to the place of our curse to give us the power to leave that place, that He might once more bring us to a place of life, and to a life of His blessings.”  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 282)

 

“He had an Easter faith in a Good Friday world.”  —

 

Outside a church as Noni and I were driving on Easter Sunday:  “Jesus Changes Grave Situations.”  —Thomas Ramundo

 

Thou oughtest so to order thyself in all thy thoughts and actions, as if today thou wert about to die.  Labor now to live so, that at the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than fear.  (Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ).

 

The aches and pains of old age make the prospect of death far less frightening.  We are being led, as French essayist Montaigne put it, “by nature’s hand, down a gentle and virtually imperceptible slope, bit by bit, one step at a time she rolls us into this wretched state and makes us familiar with it; so that we find no shock when youth dies within us, which in essence and in truth is a harder death than the complete death of a languishing life or death of old age.”

Because we are fallen creatures, the idea that we could live forever is an invitation to total irresponsibility.  If we lived forever, we would no longer care about our children because we could live beyond them.  We would feel no responsibility to pass on the wisdom we have acquired in life.  We would become insufferable in our presumed invincibility.  We see from history what happens to people when they believe they have unlimited power–and how much more power could we have to believe that we could live forever?  That’s why God’s judgment on humanity was also a mercy; death delivers us from enduring a never-ending life of pride and isolation.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 369)

 

Remembering death acts like a filter, helping us to hold on to the essential and let go of the trivial.  Climacus pointed out that a “man who has heard himself sentenced to death will not worry about the way theaters are run.”  His point, of course, is that all of us have been sentenced to death; it’s just a matter of time, so shouldn’t we live our lives accordingly?  Why let trivia captivate our hearts?  Forgetting death tempts us to lose perspective.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 151)

 

What man in his right mind would continue contemplating an affair if he really believed he might not wake up in the morning?  What person would risk entering eternity in a drunken stupor?  What fool would ignore his loved ones and his God for one last night so he could make another quick ten thousand dollars just before he died?

Fenelon called the thought of death “the best rule which we could make for all our actions and undertakings.”  Thomas a Kempis agreed, arguing that the remembrance of death is a powerful force for spiritual growth:  Didst thou oftener think of thy death than of thy living long, there is no question but thou wouldst be more zealous to improve.  If also thou didst but consider within thyself the infernal pains in the other world, I believe thou wouldst willingly undergo any labor or sorrow in this world, and not be afraid of the greatest austerity.  But because these things enter not to the heart, and we still love those things only that delight us, therefore we remain cold and very dull in religion.  (Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, I:21:5 as quoted by Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 152-3)

 

If man were immortal he could be perfectly sure of seeing the day when everything in which he had trusted should betray his trust, and, in short, of coming eventually to hopeless misery. He would break down, at last, as every good fortune, as every dynasty, as every civilization does.  In place of this we have death.  — Charles Sanders Peirce

 

The book that set fire to the faith of thousands in my generation was called The Cost of Discipleship.  I read it on Christmas break during my senior year in college.  Probably the most famous and life-shaping sentence in the book was, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.  When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  Fleeing from death is the shortest path to a wasted life.  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 63)

 

The fear of death, I’m convinced, is at the bottom of all apprehensions.  To say of any of us that we do not fear death is a lie.  To be human is to fear death.  To love life is to hope and to wish not to leave it.  And all people fear death.  I think that is one of the most creative fears there is because it bestows a value, an affection, and a gratitude for life which otherwise there would not be.  That is what the Psalm (90) means by the statement “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom…” (Richard L. Morgan; No Wrinkles On the Soul)

 

“For death of itself will never be desired, because such a desire is at variance with natural feeling, but is desired for some particular reason, or with a view to some other end.  Persons in despair have recourse to it from having become weary of life; believers, on the other hand, willingly hasten forward to it, because it is a deliverance from the bondage to sin, and an introduction into the Kingdom of heaven.”  (John Calvin; Commentary on Phil 1:23)

 

We must learn to live in the expectation of death.  We must learn that we are finite.  We must fulfill our vocation.  Death reminds us that there is a cut-off point.  Without this sense of termination, we’d become lazy and aimless.  Death provides urgency.  (Michael Bauman, Roundtable: conversations with European Theologians, 147)

 

D-  The Tomb Is Empty.  Jesus did it.   The Curse is broken.  It’s time to Party!  (Acts 2:33; Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 4:7-5:10; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Gal 3:10-14; 1 Pt 1:3-9)

 

Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.

 

I tried to conceive not existing but it was impossible.  Why?  Because as a human being I am made in the image of God and God has set eternity in my heart. The inner witness tells me death is not the end.  The resurrection tells me death can be the door to a glorious new life.  (David Robertson, Magnificent Obsession–Why Jesus Is Great, 111)

 

No one knows but that death is the greatest of all good to men; yet men fear it, as if they well knew that it is the greatest of evils.  Is not this the more reprehensible ignorance, to think that one knows what one does not know?  — Socrates

 

His birth was for his death, his death was for our birth!  (Jn 1:29; 3:1-8)

 

It is a poor thing to fear that which is inevitable.  —Tertullian

 

Spare not death, do thy worst.   You will only make me better than before.  —George Hebert

 

Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily. —Napoleon Bonaparte

 

Marx, you’ll recall, called religion “an opiate” for the people.  Yet Marx had it exactly backwards, at least as far as his words pertain to Christianity.  Opium deadens the senses; Christianity makes them come alive.  Our faith can infuse a deadened or crippled marriage with meaning, purpose, and–in what we so graciously receive from God–fulfillment.  Christianity doesn’t leave us in an apathetic stupor–it raises us and our relationships from the dead!  It pours zest and strength and purpose into an otherwise wasted life.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 151)

 

An empty manger,

With bloody sides.

Today your Baby,

Is crucified.

No lamb outside,

Nor within.

Your Son has died,

For our sin.

But look upon,

The white-washed cross.

What sin had won,

Now death has lost.

And from the Rock,

Sweet flowers bloom.

As death is locked,

In an empty tomb.  —Buddy Briggs 12-24-16

  

HE IS RISEN

HE IS RISEN INDEED

 

 

 

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