Nothing like a little coercion first thing in the morning.
I have to say that the more I study the Old Testament, the less I like it. I'm still in Deuteronomy for the devotion track I'm on, and I have to admit, I'm ready to move on to something else. This is getting really old, but today's reading just blew me away.
Please understand, when I get on these little rants, I mean absolutely no disrespect; not to God, not to the scriptures, and not to those who may disagree with me. Now, that being said, I really have a problem with Deuteronomy 28. Not the whole chapter, but most of it. Have you really looked at this stuff lately? Evidently I had not.
Deuteronomy 28 is made up of 68 verses. It's a relatively long chapter. The first 15 speak about the blessings one will receive for obedience to God. Gotta love that prosperity gospel, but that's another rant for another day. The last 53 verses speak about the curses one will be under for disobedience to God. There are very few reasons given for why we should be obedient, other than something like, "I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt."
It almost sounds like an ancient way of saying, "Because I'm your father and I said so." How many times have we heard that? I admit, when I heard my dad say that to me as a kid, I thought, "I'm never going to say that to my kids." But guess what? I have, and more than once. It's a quick response to a sometimes tough question. I don't have to think about what I'm going to say, and I don't have to really even think about the question I'm being asked. It's quick, simple, and usually does the job.
The list of curses in Deuteronomy 28 reads like something straight out of a really bad Stephen King novel. The list of blessings is ok, though, I can deal with that. It's almost like God is saying, "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." We are obedient and God takes care of us. I can see that part of it. The curses, though, oh my gosh!
Here's just a few of them: "You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out." Oh wait, it gets better.
"The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess."
"You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and ravish her." Really?
"The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower."
And my personal favorite..."The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth...They will lay seige to all the cities throughout your land...because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you." For crying out loud! Who writes this stuff?
Did God really feel so threatened that out ancestors would be forced into cannabalism for stepping away from the covenant? I don't know. I'm just really looking for some reason as to why this list of curses for disobedience is so harsh. I do know that society was different then, but this is one of those passages that I'm going to have to do a lot more research on. I may even wind up calling one of my professors, because this just doesn't sound like the God I worship.
See how messy theology can get when you really get into it? It is so easy to just skim the surface and not get into the really difficult parts of scripture. And I know that this was old covenant stuff and that Christ began a new covenant. But still, it's the same God. The same God that offers us grace upon grace in the New Testament is telling us, in the Old Testament, that disobedience to his covenant will result in us eating our kids.
So here's my thought for the day...someone comes to you interested in your church. They have never attended church on a regular basis and they're thinking it's time. Someone has given them a bible because they've never had one of their own, and they start at Genesis, intending to read it all the way through. But they get to the end of Deuteronomy, read this list of curses, put the bible down, and storm back to you wanting an explanation. This doesn't sound at all like the loving God you had told them about earlier...what are you going to tell them? You see, we can't NOT think about this stuff on a deeper level, because the folks we are trying to reach are.