Deuteronomy 26-28

Crossing Over

Back in Leviticus 23 we are given the dates of the feasts Israel was to celebrate. The date of the Feast of First Fruits was left open and would not be celebrated until the nation crossed over the Jordan, went into the Promised Land, and harvested some of the produce of the Land. In the beginning of Deuteronomy 26 Moses reminds the people that this date is to be set when they enter the Promised Land. We will read more about it when we get to Joshua 5. The word “First” indicates there is more to come.

The Feast of First Fruits is a feast of thanksgiving to the Lord. A portion of the Thanksgiving offering was to be given to the Lord, a portion to the priests, and a portion to the one offering it.  All would partake of it together giving thanks to God for what He has done. When Israel crossed over the Jordan and celebrated the Passover they also harvested some of the produce of the Land. They did not plant nor take care of the produce they harvested; it was a gift and symbol of God’s provision. On the day they harvested the produce, the manna stopped. God was vividly illustrating to the Nation that when they crossed over to the Promised Land they were leaving the old behind and a new life had come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

As Christians we have crossed over from the old life and its ways to a new life where God is to be at the center. God is our provider and provision. We owe all we have to Him and the natural response is to thank Him, give Him praise, and serve Him.

Following the instruction about the feast Moses teaches about tithing. Just as there was a sacred portion of the sacrifice given to the Lord the same is true in tithing and in this case it is given to the priest for ministry. Tithing is an offering of thanksgiving to the Lord for what He has done. God, through the gift of His Son, brought Christians out of the ways of the world and into the Kingdom of Heaven. That is His promise and that is our hope as Christians. We hold on to this hope and promise by faith. When we cross over we leave the world behind and recognize that all we have comes from God. For this we are thankful and from the joy we have in our hope we give offerings of thanksgiving in the form of tithing and serving. We need to be careful however. The world and its ways are always going to try to pull us back. That brings us to Chapters 27&28.

When the nation crossed over they were to write the Law on stones and set them up on Mt. Ebal. They were also to set up an altar on which they were to offer peace or thanksgiving offerings. Across from Mt Ebal was Mt Gerizim. Mt Gerizim was just a little further into the Promised Land. In Chapter 27 we read that on Mt Gerizim the priests were to stand and proclaim the blessing of the Lord that would come from following the Law in the Promised Land. From the top of Mt Ebal, which had the stones on which the Law was written, the priests were to pronounce the curses that would come if the people failed to follow the Law.  As the people traveled into the Promised Land through the valley between the two mountains they would hear the blessing and the curses.

It is important that we understand what is going on here. As the people were going into the Promised Land they would be hearing the blessings that would come from following the Law and would also hear the consequences of not following the Law. However, if a person was to leave the Promised Land, they would be going back to the world and its old ways. They would be going from the place where God could bless them to the place where they would be at the mercy of the world.  The Law and the curses represented on Mt Ebal serves as a warning sign to those who want to go back to the old ways.

In Chapter 28 Moses now repeats to the people gathered before Him, and to us who are reading this book, the blessing and the curses. Fifty-two verses are devoted to the curses. That is over three verses for every verse of blessing. We would err if we overlooked the importance of the warning given here. It is not that God is going to curse the people and punish them. If we take a serious look at this world and history we see that the world is the place where these curses exist. The world may promise blessing but it never delivers any lasting blessing. Just as it was important for Israel to remain in the place of blessing, both physically and spiritually, the same is true for Christians. To abandon the faith is likened to Israel leaving the Promised Land. What is also important to understand is that before we physically leave the place of blessing we have already moved spiritually.

The first church I served in met in a drug / alcohol rehab conference room. The director told me that with addicts the first thing to go is the spiritual and it is the last thing to come back.  I have observed this to be true not only with addicts but with people in general, and especially Christians who abandon the faith and go back to the world. What is hard for me to understand is that those who leave the faith and struggle with the curses the world brings, is that they attempt to manage them in their own strength and end up in unending and frustrating struggles. I’m not saying that Christians don’t face struggles in this world, they do. But they don’t face them alone. They have a Helper and a Comforter to guide them through the struggles. It is often in the victory over these struggles that only the Lord can bring, that the victory becomes a witness to others of the goodness and blessing of the Lord. The book of Jude deals with this very issue and in verse 21 he reminds us to keep ourselves in the love of God while we wait on the Lord.

The way to keep ourselves in the love of God is to spend time with Him which brings us back to where we started in Chapter 26. Are you thankful for what God has done for you? Are you careful to spend time with Him? Are you serving Him or the world? We are all serving someone. Are you living as a new creature or like the old? May we be found living, serving, and communing with the Lord!

Pastor Dave