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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 8

A commentary on the eighth speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 27-28. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 4

The Blessed Nation

In Deuteronomy 28 Moses speaks first about the blessings of God that will come upon a nation that is ruled by Christ and adopts laws consistent with His character. He then turns to the curses that will come upon a nation that is in disobedience—especially nations that agreed to follow His laws and then later departed from them.

Psalm 33:12 says,

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord [Yahweh], the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.

This summarizes what Moses says of the blessings of obedience. In Deut. 28:1 we read,

1 Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.

This national promise of exaltation among the nations is conditional upon obedience to the laws of God. We are given very few extended examples of this in history, because human nature is such that even the most well-intentioned generation must give way to the next generation that is never as diligent in serving God. Israel itself is the prime example of this. After seeing in the book of Joshua how God established the nation in Canaan and exalted them over the Canaanite nations, the book of Judges shows how the next generation degenerated into disobedience.

How God Treats a Chosen Nation

We have far more examples of nations degenerating than those who are truly blessed. It seems that no nation, including Israel, has ever followed the laws of God for more than a single generation. There were occasional revivals that put new life into the nation for a season, but in the end they all went into captivity according to the curses of the law.

The foremost truth that stands out in all of this is the fact that a “chosen” nation is held more accountable before God than other nations, for they are made liable for all of the revelation that they have received. God’s treatment of them is conditional upon their obedience. Being “chosen” does not give anyone a license to sin.

One may argue that being “chosen” means that God is their Father, and that even disobedient children are still His children. That is true, but we must understand the full picture. First, His disobedient children are chastised and disciplined. We see this in the last section of Deuteronomy 28, where the curses of the law come upon the disobedient nation. We see it also in Psalm 94:12,

12 Blessed is the man whom Thou dost chasten, O Lord, and dost teach out of Thy law.

Again, Hebrews 12:5, 6 says,

5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”

Sons have an advantage over others, because they are disciplined by the law while they are young. Others who have no such discipline may find themselves standing before a Judge in the Divine Court, rather than by a Father. If a son does not learn righteousness while he is young, he too will be treated as any other criminal when he becomes lawless and must stand before the Judge. In the Court, God judges impartially and impersonally, though always by love.

The fact that Israel was a “son” (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1) did not exempt the nation from judgment. The Old Covenant was conditional upon their obedience, and when they persisted in disobedience, God eventually cast them out of the land and sent them into captivity under foreign nations that did not know God.

Yet being a son also meant that God was ultimately responsible to bring him to the place of spiritual maturity. This is being accomplished through the New Covenant, where God takes the responsibility upon Himself to change the hearts of men from the inside by His Spirit. This method will succeed, not only with a few, but with all Israel and all mankind with them. In the end, not only is He able to save all Israel and bring them into His Kingdom, but He has also vowed to fill the whole earth with His glory (Num. 14:21).

Meanwhile, however, while we are yet spiritually immature, we are disciplined according to the provision of the law, for though we, as individuals, are heirs of all things, we are no different from other servants and slaves (Gal. 4:1, 2). God’s blessings are conditional upon our obedience. And when we look at nations such as America, which was founded by men who entered into covenant with God, we can see how God prospered the nation at the beginning, but then, after later generations persisted in sin for many years, He brought us into captivity to “Mystery Babylon.”

So when we study the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience, we need not look only to Israel’s example in Scripture. We have our own examples staring us in the face, if we have eyes to see it.

What a Blessed Nation Looks Like

Moses tells us the characteristics of a nation that is blessed on account of its obedience to the laws of God. Deut. 28:2-14 says,

2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake [nasag] you, if you will obey the Lord your God.

The Hebrew word nasag means “to move,” as in moving boundary markers. In other words, the blessings of God will know no boundary if the people obey God.

3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. 4 Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

We know that such national blessings come in direct proportion to a nation’s obedience to specific laws. Under the Old Covenant, a nation may start out in obedience and blessing, but as time passes, human nature brings about a creeping lawlessness that soon erodes these blessings. Even in the Pentecostal Age, the church cast aside the law and has suffered the same consequences that befell Israel in earlier times.

So this passage has remained more of a prophecy than a reality. It is the promise of a later time when the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles gives dominion to the overcomers, who are able to set a perfect example of righteousness for the nations.

When we view these blessings in the light of the New Covenant, the blessed “offspring of your body” goes beyond physical blessing. It applies also to spiritual sons, who will increase not only in their quality of life but also in the quantity of sons that the gospel produces.

The blessing upon their “basket” and “bowl” speaks not only of nutritious food, but also of their quality of revelation, the word of knowledge and wisdom whenever they speak or decree a divine verdict in the earth.

Victory Over All Enemies

The blessing of God will be upon them as they go in and out, wherever they go, for they will be led by the Spirit. Deut. 28:7 says,

7 The Lord will cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they shall come out against you one way and shall flee before you seven ways.

The blessing under the Old Covenant was to destroy all enemies on the battlefield. But under the New Covenant, the true blessing is to convert people by the demonstration of the Sword of the Spirit. When men see how blessed such people are, they will want to obtain those blessings for themselves. This is true victory.

Isaiah 54:17 also says,

17 “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.

The prophet speaks of the blessed ones here, those who are so led by the Spirit that they do not violate any of the laws that define the character of God or the example of Jesus Christ. Such Spirit-filled believers are blessed with the heritage of perpetual victory. Why? Because their “vindication” (tsadaq, “righteousness”) is from God, even as Jer. 23:6 speaks of “The Lord our righteousness.”

We also read in 1 Cor. 1:30 that Jesus Christ “became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.” He is, therefore, “the Lord our righteousness.”

Prosperity Wherever You Are

Deut. 28:8-10, continues,

8 The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 9 The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you will keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and walk in His ways. 10 So all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of you [shall respect you].

We are given a biblical example of this in Genesis 39:2-4, which speaks of Joseph during his servitude in Egypt.

2 And the Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.

Joseph was a type of Christ in His second appearance, so this is prophetic of the overcomers, even before they are given dominion in the Kingdom. Deut. 28:11 continues, saying,

11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.

As in verse 8, this promise is to those who have entered “the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.” The prophecy does not specify which land this is, because Moses knew that they would disobey and be deported to a foreign land. Perhaps he also knew, as David did, that the deported Israelites would settle in a much larger country in the far future, as we read in 2 Sam. 7:10,

10 I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly.

This prophesied on two levels. First, the people would need to settle somewhere on earth, and so God led them into Europe, America, and other parts of the world. But there was also a greater fulfillment of this prophecy. It is fulfilled in the heavenly country that Abraham sought (Heb. 11:16), rather than an earthly country. It was to be a new place under a New Covenant—certainly not the old land, for Heb. 11:14, 15 says,

14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out [i.e., Canaan], they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one….

In these two levels of fulfillment we see a promise for the children of the flesh and the children of promise. The church as a whole, which has remained carnal, and which has remained in the mixed realm of Pentecost, has received land in which to live. But the overcomers, who desire better things than land inheritances, will be given a new land—the glorified body—through the feast of Tabernacles.

The “prosperity” promised by Moses in Deut. 28:11 is the full provision of the New Covenant. The glory of God will be seen in their bodies. Though made of the dust of the ground, their bodies were created to be temples of God manifesting His glory. Therefore, when the curse of the law through Adam’s sin is removed from their ground, their bodies will radiate His glory and never again produce thistles and thorns. This is the prosperity of God’s blessing.

The Former and Latter Rain

Deut. 28:12-14 concludes the blessings, saying,

12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 And the Lord shall make you the head and not the tail, and you only shall be above, and you shall not be underneath, if you will listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

On the level of imperfect obedience, those who live in lands on earth may receive the literal rain as their blessing. Hence, it is of interest to see how arid the lands are in most Islamic nations. As Islam spreads south in Africa, the Sahara Desert too moves with them.

In other nations, where Christianity has spread, we see mostly a spiritual drought, which is broken by the occasional revivals in recent centuries. These revivals, however, are Pentecostal in nature, which means that they come and go, benefiting a few in each generation, but failing to make any permanent changes on a national scale.

The real promise is what the prophets call the former and latter rains. Joel, the Prophet of Pentecost, speaks of these two rains as prophetic seasons (Joel 2:23). The former rains in Canaan occurred in October-November, watering the ground at the time of planting barley and wheat. The latter rains occurred in April-May after the barley was harvested. The latter rains were needed to ripen the wheat for harvest at Pentecost.

So Joel 2:28, 29 says,

28 And it will come about after this that I will pour My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

This indiscriminating “rain” of the Holy Spirit was to be poured out, not only upon Israelites but upon “all mankind.” The Spirit was even to come upon the servants and slaves, and both men and women. This is consistent with Moses’ revelation in Deut. 16:11, where he commanded all the people to keep the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).

11 and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name.

And so, when the Pentecostal prophecies were fulfilled in the second chapter of Acts, Peter stood up and preached a sermon, quoting Joel’s prophecy in Acts 2:17-21. Even so, Peter did not seem to comprehend the scope of this Pentecostal blessing upon “all mankind,” for he seemed surprised when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Cornelius and His Roman friends. He gives us his testimony in Acts 10:34, 35, saying,

34 And opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him.

In spite of this revelation, Peter still had difficulty convincing the Jewish believers of this truth, and Paul himself found it necessary to confront him for not following his own revelation (Gal. 2:11-14).

The “rain” of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2 was the “latter rain,” because it came at the end of the growing season for wheat. The “former rain” has yet to come, because it comes at the start of a new growing season in the Kingdom of God. Because it comes in October-November, it is associated with the greater outpouring of the Spirit that is the fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Hence, the “latter rain” was fulfilled before the “former rain.”

Yet in either case, these rains are the blessings of God which come upon those who are blessed. The difference is that the latter rain of Pentecost was given to the 120 disciples who obeyed Jesus’ command to tarry in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49). The former rain of Tabernacles will be given to those who have a heart of obedience, though imperfect. They will receive the outpouring by the New Covenant promise, by which God vowed to change the hearts of men into His image.

Pentecost has partially fulfilled God’s obligation, but Tabernacles will complete it.