DEUTERONOMY 28:1 – 30:20 and MARK 16:1–20
The 68 verses can be broken down into 2 categories. The first 14 verses have to do with the blessings of obedience to the commandments and laws of God. The remaining 54 verses are the consequences of disobeying God’s law. This chapter in many ways is a summary of what Moses had been declaring to the people. It encapsulates both the blessings and warnings that God has been trying to reinforce into the hearts and minds of the children of Israel. It is interesting to note that there is 4 times the emphasis on the warnings as opposed to the blessings. Why is this so? Why did Jesus spend more time speaking on hell in the gospels then that of heaven? It’s because the heart of man is inclined to opt for evil.
There was much that the children of Israel could have already learned by way of their experiences and of those who have gone before them. How much more a warning for us? We have the advantage of their history to learn from seeing that they would forsake God and be removed to Babylon. We have the advantage of an additional 2600 years of history since Babylon to learn of their lessons. Have we learned and has their example been applied to the whole of today’s church? Are we somehow immune from the warnings given to Israel? It is enriching to consider the blessings of obedience seeing how God lavishly pours out of His abundance to those who seek Him wholeheartedly. Let’s consider some of these blessings:
Deu 28:2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
What a beautiful thought that is; the blessings of God pursuing after a person with no ability to outrun them. It is God’s good pleasure to bless in such a way. All he looks for is obedience to His Word. The blessing will be seen in your cities, your vineyards or line of work. The blessings will keep all enemies at bay. This is what the keeping of God’s commandments can do. It isolates and constrains the enemy. We mentioned earlier in how Nehemiah was an avid observer of Israel’s history (Neh 1:8-10). I feel it was declarations like the ones found in this chapter that helped his strategy in rebuilding the walls of the city. For years, these walls were broken down and inhabited by every kind of foul spirit. As soon as Nehemiah responded to the call he became opposed by Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshom (Neh 2:10). He then built the walls around the city as seen in Neh 3. He fortified each gate and gave no manoeuvring room to the enemy. Consider the following verse from Neh 3.
Neh 3:3 But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.
You will also find the thought of the locks, beams and bars in verses 13, 14 and 15. The beams speak of humanity, the locks speak of authority and the bars speak of the law. It was because Nehemiah upheld God’s laws and had the authority of God that he was able to take the battle to the enemy. He dispossessed the enemy and gave them no ability to have access. Nehemiah took to heart the message of Moses to the children of Israel. We should do likewise. If there is an implementation of the keeping of the commandments there will be a holy people who will walk in His ways and will be in a position to be the head and not the tail (Deu 28:13). This I feel helps to explain why today’s church is weak and unable to assume the leadership role God has intended. The church should be the vanguard of a society. When it compromises on truth it sets itself up for being more aligned with the system of the world. When the bars (law) upon the doors of the church are weakened or diminished it allows the enemy a foothold he would not otherwise have. It gives him easier access into a city or an individual life.
The 54 verses of the consequences of disobedience should be read on a consistent basis to serve as a warning and deterrent. We are accountable; far more than Israel of old and the generations that followed. It is no secret in understanding what is happening to the United States of America. The moral law, the bars (law) that helped to hold America in check for over two centuries are now being weakened and destroyed. What has happened, what are its consequences? Let’s see what God’s Word says to this:
Deu 28:33 The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:
Who would have ever dreamed of the day when illegal aliens could be shipped into the USA and be given welfare, free education and hospitalization that is currently denied to many of its own citizens. The reasons are not too hard to find. It is sad to say that America, as well as many other nations and churches for that matter have chosen to go down the road of disobedience. Regrettably, America as a nation will soon reap the fruits of that choice. Which of the two summaries of this chapter applies to us and our churches?
As a person of stature is preparing to pass on the baton of leadership it is wisdom to hear those final words of instruction. Moses makes an emphatic case as to what he feels to be important. His words echoed loudly into the ears of those who were about to enter the land of Canaan and they echo even louder today. There can be no mistaking what he feels to be important since it is rehearsed over and over again. Perhaps it is for this reason that he will actually return again to the earth as one of the two witnesses in the last days to personally emphasise his primary theme. What is that primary theme? Let the Bible speak for itself:
Mal 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
As one of the two witnesses, Moses will speak to the Law as one of the messengers of the New Covenant. Elijah will be a strong prophetic voice with an emphasis on Restoration. These were the two men with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration Math 17:1-13).
To help Israel stay focused on their mission into Canaan they are reminded as to how the Lord had led them the past 40 years (vs 2-9). This is one of the purposes of maintaining a personal journal. It can serve as a record in how the Lord has worked in various situations in one’s life. It is easy to forget some of the blessings, hardships and experiences that one has been through. I began to keep a running journal since 1995 when we were missionaries in India. The daily habit of recording things that the Lord was speaking or just writing on the day to day affairs of life have greatly aided my walk in later years. I was recently reading through my journal from 1998 and was absolutely amazed at many of the things I had forgotten. There were very real challenges we went through at that time that I never had a chance to properly reflect upon them. It is incredible to see how the Lord answered prayer and met many needs that I simply would have no recollection of today without my journal of record. It builds up my faith in seeing how God answered prayer back then knowing that He is able to meet the challenges of today. The writer of Psalm 77 had a very similar experience.
Psa 77:6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
You will find many times in the Bible where a writer gives a record of God’s dealings in history to help give perspective to a current matter. Jesus did this with the men on the Road to Emmaus. One of the greatest summations of the Old Testament was given by Stephen in Acts 7. That summation cost him his life but oh what an entrance into heaven that Stephen had.
Act 7:55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
Act 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
It is a picture of the Lord at the right hand of the Father giving Stephen a standing ovation. Can you see the fruits of keeping an effective journal? We must not minimize the instruction that Moses is consistently presenting to Israel. It is for us. Oh by the way, what was it that really infuriated the mobs around Stephen? Let’s look at the preceding verses to those listed above and the immediate verse afterwards:
Act 7:53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
Act 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
Act 7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
This is what the antichrist will do to Moses and Elijah and this is what will await many who hold this standard in the days to come.
Moses then goes on to serve a warning to the generations to come. It is clear that though they are being warned there will be future generations who will end up going astray. What will be the primary reason for going astray? It will be due to breaking His Covenant while going after other gods (vs 25-26). Finally, Moses declares that the secret things belong unto the Lord and they can be revealed to those who truly hunger and thirst after righteousness (Math 5:6). If this is our pursuit and aim we too then can be beneficiaries of this blessing.
Deu 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
There are some interesting themes that can be gleaned from this chapter. First we can see a picture of Restoration in verses 1-3. This is something that literally happened in Israel in 1948. There was a gathering of Israel from many of the nations of the earth. Many have linked this event as a Spiritual fulfilment of the Feast of Trumpets. This feast was the first of the 3 feasts of the 7th month that Israel celebrated (Lev 23). We earlier saw a fulfilment of these 3 feasts by linking them to Nehemiah 8. The second of these three feasts was that of Atonement. The Feast of Atonement was the time when God dealt with the sins of the nations. We see this addressed in this chapter in verses 6-8. There was to be a circumcision of heart resulting in the people serving God with their whole heart. It is a picture of the restoration period that would come under Ezra and Nehemiah. Jeremiah spoke concerning this in the following verses:
Jer 24:6 For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.
Jer 24:7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
The above are the fruits of the Atonement message, assuming we allow God to accomplish that work. If God is allowed to do this work it results in the enemy being put to flight (vs7). It will also allow for us to fulfil, obey and keep His commandments (vs 8). The final feast of the 7th month is the Feast of Tabernacles. There are many names associated with this feast (The Feast of Ingathering, Feast of Rest and Restoration, Feast of Joy and others). This is reflected in verse 9 in the blessing and great joy and rejoicing that comes from God. Today, we are looking to enter into that last great feast. Jesus referred to this feast in John 7:37-38 where He said “out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water”. One of the keys to overcoming in the last days is being a people of faith. Compare verse 14 with a verse from the Book of Romans.
Deu 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
Faith is the key, though the word “faith” is omitted in Deu 30:14. It is what God looks for, even hungers for (Luk 18:8, Heb 11:6). We know that faith comes by hearing and responding to the Word of God (Rom 10:17). We have a historical record of God’s dealing with Israel and the early church. We are without excuse; God can be found, His ways can be determined and followed if we CHOOSE to press into Him. In the closing verses of this chapter we find Moses simply bringing the people to a point of decision (vs 15-20). The consistent clarion reminders of Moses apply to Israel and to all of us. Let us respond positively to the verse that puts all of this into perspective.
Deu 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
What will heaven record concerning us? In the end what will be the choice(s) that will characterize our lives? May God help us to CHOOSE life.
The fast paced Gospel of Mark will conclude with the account of the immediate aftermath of the resurrection. In verses 1-9 we see the two women bringing spices to anoint the body of Jesus. One can only imagine as to what must have been going through their mind when they approached the tomb to see the stone rolled away with a young man standing alongside the tomb. The Bible says they were affrighted and I think we would have been as well. Just try to think and visualize the scene. They were told to go and tell the brethren what they had seen and heard but words eluded them due to the overwhelming sense of fear (vs 8).
It is also amazing that the first person that Jesus would appear to is Mary Magdalene. This is a woman who was once possessed by seven devils. Mary mistook Him for a gardener in His appearance to her. At first she did not recognize Him but upon His words MARY (Joh 20:16) she knew Him to be the Lord. We have a picture of the glorified body of the Lord. It could well be a picture of what the glorified bodies (for those who qualify) will look like in the millennium. We see in verse 12 that Jesus appeared to them in another form. He was recognizable but not always when he was first seen. His body was not limited by the natural laws and boundaries that we are subjected to. Jesus was able to dine with His disciples as seen after the great ingathering of fish (John 21:12-15).
The Lord upbraided His disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart. The reason given is that they did not believe the testimony of those who Jesus appeared to earlier. These were the learned Disciples of Christ; those who walked with Him, heard His teaching and heard about what He said about Himself. If they would not believe then how would they expect common folks to believe? The truth is the common people would probably be more receptive to the testimony of those who saw Him after being risen. Why were they so hardened of heart? Why did they not believe? Was it because they felt that if anyone would have first witnessed His resurrection that it would have been them? I would not be surprised if there was an attitude issue that may have played a part. It is not unusual for the least likely of people to have significant visitations or insights into the things of God. We later see with Thomas that even after everyone else was convinced he still required proof.
The Lord then gives the great commission that not only applies to the early church but especially to the church of the last days. The gospel has to be presented in a way that can be heard by every creature and it is only through many of the technological advances of our day where this could be possible. The Lord also put a strong emphasis on the signs and wonders that would follow. How desperately they are needed today. It is true that many seek the Lord for the signs and wonders only while missing the primary message of the Cross but the fact remains we need to see these things to bring attention to the Gospel. We need to see the marriage of the true redemptive work of the Gospel coupled with the accommodating signs and wonders. This marriage will require good solid teaching that upholds pure doctrine in conjunction with the powerful release of faith that moves mountains. We see this beautiful blend in the respective ministries of Moses and Elijah; the two great witnesses. The revival to come will be unlike any other. There will be great glory, great signs and wonders and multitudes coming into the kingdom. At the same time there will be gross darkness that will cover the earth resulting in severe judgments upon its inhabitants. Our teaching today must prepare people for what is coming and how best to be ready. May God grant that we have this beautiful balance at work in our lives in the days to come.