Moses' tenth speech, Part 3, Curses of the law
Jun 15, 2013
After a show of unity between Moses (civil government) and the priests (church government), where both were subject to the law of God, Moses tells the people what to do after they have crossed the Jordan. Deuteronomy 27:11-13 says:
11 Moses also charged the people on that day, saying, 12 When you cross the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people:
13 And for the curse, these shall stand on Mount Ebal:
These two mountains were located north of where Israel crossed the Jordan. They were situated in the territory later allotted to Ephraim, Joshua’s tribe, and this suggests a connection to Christ’s second appearance. Jesus first came as Yeshua (Joshua), but He came from the tribe of Judah to secure His throne rights. The second coming is of Joseph-Ephraim, for Yeshua the Ephraimite leads us into the Kingdom.
Before Israel could fulfill Moses’ command, they had to conquer the land. This took about five or six years, and then in the seventh year the land was divided among the tribes. Note the sequence of Kingdom events. The Kingdom was redeemed from Egypt and then established at Mount Sinai. Moses saw the Kingdom just before he died, but was unable to enter. The people entered the Kingdom under Joshua, and seven years later, on their first Sabbath year, they inherited the Kingdom.
None of these events occurred at the same time. Rather, we see a progression of events, and so we ought to understand the different terms used so that we may apply them properly today.
After destroying Jericho and Ai, Joshua built an altar upon Mount Ebal according to the law of altars (Joshua 8:30). Then the tribes were divided and stood on the two mountains opposite each other, while Joshua read all the blessings and curses of the law (Joshua 8:33). Perhaps it is significant that the altar was built on Mount Ebal, for that was the mount representing the curses of the law. The altar of sacrifice was needed to deal with the curses of the law.
We are then given a prophetic statement, which, when seen in the light of our own entry into the Kingdom of God, makes it significant today. Joshua 8:35 says,
35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly [kahal, “church”] of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.
When Yeshua the Ephraimite comes in His second appearance to lead us into the Kingdom, He will read and explain all the words that Moses commanded. Of course, the manner of fulfillment has been modified by the terms of the New Covenant, so He will explain the true meaning of the laws of Moses.
Violation of the law of God is sin, and sin is “cursed.” All the judgments of the law curse sin by imposing penalties that reverse the curse. When a man sins against his neighbor, he is cursed by the law. But when he pays restitution to his victim, the curse is lifted. The purpose of divine judgment is to restore the lawful order, balance the scales of justice, bring about repentance, and reconcile all men to God.
In other words, the curse of the law has a good purpose. It is only evil from the perspective of a sinner who does not want to be obedient to God, or one who does not want to be held accountable for his sin.
I am reminded of the curse that Noah placed upon Canaan in Genesis 9:25, 26,
25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.
This curse was fulfilled many years later when Israel was called to bring divine judgment upon the Canaanites. Even in the midst of judgment, God allowed the Shechemites to “trick” Joshua into making a covenant with them in Joshua 9. Noah’s curse upon Canaan specified that Canaan should be the servant of Shem. We may also read it to mean that Canaan was to be the servant of “the Lord, the God of Shem.”
Therefore, the Shechemites fulfilled this curse by serving God in the temple, for we read in Joshua 9:27,
27 But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place which He would choose.
In other words, the “curse” upon Canaan was that they would be forced to serve “the Lord, the God of Shem” in the tabernacle at Shiloh and perhaps later at Jerusalem. Was that curse an evil thing?
In the present age, the law of God has not been enforced, for men may choose which god they will serve. But at the Great White Throne judgment, all sinners will be arrested and forced to comply to the law. All will be sentenced by court order to serve Christ, and this will put them into a covenant relationship with God, even as with the Gibeonites.
In Joshua 9:11 they agreed to this, saying, “We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us.” Joshua 9:15 says,
15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.
This shows how the curses of God have a good purpose in the end. They are imposed forcibly upon the sinner against his will, much like a parent forces a child to comply with the will of the parent when necessary; but in the end this court-ordered judgment is designed to teach them the ways of God in His temple. When such sinners learn the ways of God and come to the place where they agree with Him, then the law is written on their hearts, and God has the option and pleasure of setting them free into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Therefore, we should not fear the curse of the law, but rejoice in the wisdom of God. Moses continues in Deuteronomy 27:14, 15
14 The Levites shall then answer and say to all the men of Israel with a loud voice, 15 “Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsmen, and sets it up in secret.” And all the people shall answer and say, “Amen.”
This is a restatement of the First and Second Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7-10).
The people were required to agree to the terms of this covenant. Prophetically speaking, it is significant to note the different responses in the two covenants. In the first covenant in Exodus 19:5, God said, “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant;” and the people responded in verse 8, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” This first covenant was conditional upon their obedience, and God used the word “if.”
However, in the time of the second law and the Deuteronomy covenant, mentioned specifically in Deuteronomy 29:1, God expected the people to say “Amen.” This suggests a shift from obedience to agreement. God trains His people in obedience first, but the goal is agreement.
This is the main difference between the Old and New Covenants, i.e., the first and second covenants. In the first, while we are yet immature, we are under “tutors and governors” (Galatians 4:2, KJV), because we are yet carnally minded. But in the second covenant, we are fully mature, for the law is written on our hearts, and we no longer need to be “commanded” to be obedient. We fulfill the law because the Holy Spirit has worked within our hearts to make it part of our very nature.
And so we see that when Israel entered the Kingdom, they depicted an Amen People, not merely obedient, but in agreement. Moses continues,
16 “Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
This restates the Fifth Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:16).
17 “Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
This restates the law in Deuteronomy 19:14, but it is part of the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal” (Deuteronomy 5:19). To move a boundary marker was to steal land from one’s neighbor.
18 “Cursed is he who misleads a blind person on the road.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”
This enlarges upon the law in Leviticus 19:14,
14 You shall not curse the deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
In other words, putting a stumbling block before the blind was just a sample of the mind of God in such matters. There are many today who are spiritually blind and deaf. We are not to use any doctrinal truth as a stumbling block, nor are we to mislead them with a lie. Many have used truth as a weapon to threaten the blind and the deaf, even though they are incapable of healing their own blindness and deafness. Our tactic should be to present them with truth and pray that God will heal them, for in Exodus 4:11 God says,
11 … Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
The prophet Isaiah tells us that God blinded the eyes of Israel (Isaiah 29:10), in the same manner that He blinded Isaac (Genesis 27:1), who was His consecrated servant. God had purpose in doing this, for He intended to raise up blind witnesses to testify of Him. So Isaiah speaks of Israel in 42:18, 19,
19 Who is blind but My servant, or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, or so blind as the servant of the Lord?
Isaiah saw these blind Israelites carried into captivity by the Assyrians. They became the so-called “ten lost tribes,” for they were too blind to find the path to return to the old land. God blinded them so that they would inherit better promises in the end after He would heal their eyes and ears. Blindness has also afflicted Judah, but their calling and destiny is somewhat different, as I have shown in other writings.
We will continue looking at the other curses of the law next time.
This is the third part of a series titled "Moses' Tenth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones