Blessing and Cursing: Pattern of Israel's History
Exodus 19–20 and Leviticus 26
Understanding the Old Testament Lesson #011
March 19, 2000
Father, we do thank you so much for the way You have worked in our lives; the way You have provided the perfect salvation for us. Nothing is dependent upon us; everything is dependent upon You. You sent your Son, who has no beginning and now end, to become a man to take on flesh, to become true humanity unashamed by Adam's sin that He might be qualified to go to the Cross as our substitute and there to bear the penalty for every sin in human history. Father we thank You that our salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and we thank You for the full revelation of the Canon that we have in Your Word that we may learn how to think as You would have us to think. Father now we pray as we study Your Word that You would help us understand these things and apply them to our lives. We pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
Open your Bible with me to Exodus 19 and we will continue our series on orienting to the Old Testament. Exodus 19 gives us I think what some call the theological center of the Old Testament. Now the important thing in our study, as I have stated again and again in our study of the Pentateuch, is that if we do not understand some of the dynamics that are going on in these first five Books called the Pentateuch, the torah, also the Law of Moses, then we can't understand fully what is going on in the rest of the Old Testament.
Now this morning, the Lord willing, we are going to wrap up our study of the Pentateuch so that we can establish that framework for understanding the rest of the Old Testament. Now look at Exodus 19:5, " 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'…" That is the essence of why God has called Israel out as a specific people. They are to function as a priest nation in relation to all of the eight other nations. We have said that in order to have a nation there has to be three things:
1. a people
2. a body of law or regulations for governing those people
3. and there has to be a land.
God began His unique program with Israel in about 2100 BC when He called out Abram from the Ur of the Chaldees. He called him out and said that he would make him the father of many peoples; that his descendents would be innumerable like the sands of the seashores and the stars in the sky; and that it would be through them that all nations would be blessed. So now God is beginning to fulfill that part of the Abrahamic Covenant by bringing out a unique people that have been in the womb of Egypt by analogy. Then we talked about the labor pains, so to speak, of the ten plagues as God brought forth and gave birth to Israel, which is called His firstborn among all the nations. Now firstborn does not always mean first in terms of time or priority. It means preeminent. It always has that connotation in the Scriptures, that it means 'that which is foremost,' that is above and beyond everything else. Remember, Jesus Christ is called the firstborn and yet Jesus Christ is never born. We have to come to understand some of the nuances of those particular terms in the original language.
So we have seen that God is calling forth Israel. He calls them out as a people and He gives them a body of law and that is what we looked at the last couple of Sundays. We have examined the opening to the Mosaic Covenant. Now this is based on what is called a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty. We need to review this terminology. A Suzerain is a term that refers to a nation that controls another nation in international affairs, but still allows its sovereignty. It also is a term that is applied to the leader of that nation or a feudal lord at this time, especially in the land that still operated on feudalism. You have a feudal lord to whom a certain amount of obedience and fealty was due by a servant or a slave. So that is the meaning of the vassal refers to the person who holds his land from a feudal lord and receives in return protection for homage and for allegiance. It can also refer to a bondman or slave or a subordinate or a dependent.
Now the suzerain-vassal treaty is a mid-second millennium secular treaty form. We have discovered through archeology several treaties. Primarily it operated or was used by the Hittites; the Hittite Empire operated in the area that we now call Turkey, not too far north of Israel and a little bit to the west. This is a treaty that dominated at that time. So God uses that form. In my opinion, as I have studied covenants and the Lord willing this year we will get to our study on dispensations and covenants on Wednesday night; I hope sometime by early summer.
We will see that God's original dealing with man from the Garden, as we have seen a little bit in this study already, was based upon contract. God establishes Himself in a legal relationship with man; that is why it is so important when we come to understanding New Testament doctrine like justification; reconciliation; even confession and forgiveness are based upon what theologians call a legal or forensic concept. Everything that God does in relationship to man has its grounding in law. It is not based upon experience. It is based on satisfying the righteous demands of God. We have talked about how God is Perfect Righteousness that is the Standard of His Integrity. That God is Justice that is the application of the Absolute Standard of His Righteousness or His Integrity; and that God is Love and Love is that which initiates God in His action toward His creatures; "For God so Loved the world...." The initial word 'For' is HACHI in the Greek, which should be translated as a causal HACHI, which means 'because;' it is giving the reason for God's action; that which initiates and motivates Him and that is His Love.
So, what has to be satisfied and that brings in the doctrine of propitiation; what has to be satisfied is God's Absolute Righteousness; that is a judicial concept. DIKAIOSUNE is a term that is loaded with forensic judicial courtroom concept in the Greek language. So this is not talking about an experience, the moment of salvation, when you put your faith in Christ, you don't feel any different; you might, but not necessarily. If you are sick, have the flu, running a 102 fever, if you hang on the cross like the thief when they were crucifying Jesus; you are just as miserable one second after you trust Christ as you were before. But, you are nevertheless, justified and instantly regenerated and a member of the Royal Family of God.
So what has happened, and the more I think about this, and I have had some time to think about this last week with this particular flu virus I've had; not only do my sinuses feel congested, but my brain feels congested as well. It seems that the nation Israel, as a nation, is a representative of what goes on in the individual believer's life. Now that is not to say that everyone who makes a mistake, I want to make that caveat, that as a nation they are a picture of what takes they are a picture of what takes place and what transpires in the life of an individual believer. They were elected in Abraham; they are redeemed at the Exodus; then after redemption they are given a body of laws, a code of conduct for how they will behave in the midst of the world. Now I want you to remember that concept, those who will be here for the second hour. They are getting ready to go into the land of Canaan and that represents the world.
In our study in John we are talking about how the world is the enemy of the believer and how the believer is to operate in the world. So what we are going to see is that the whole concept of the conquest is a picture of the believer's spiritual life as the pursuit of investing the inheritance that God has already given us. We are going to draw out various parallels from that. But in the Suzerain-vassal treaty form, what we learn from this as historical background is that it helps us to understand that covenant is the very essence of what is going on in the entire Pentateuch. God is establishing His contractual relationship with Israel.
Moses wrote the Pentateuch probably on the plains of Moab as the Israelites were on the verge of going into conquer the land that God had given them. So he structures it under the inspiration of God according to this overall suzerain-vassal covenant concept and even within this overall document, Genesis to Deuteronomy, even within the subsections themselves are built on this model; so over and again, repetition, repetition, repetition. Moses is writing, remember, Moses is writing to mid-second millennium Jews. When they read this they would not need to be taught about this, it would be so evident that this was a covenant. That the entire document, all five Books are in a covenant form, subtexts are in a covenant form; over and again this idea of a contract between them and God would just be glaring at them so that they could not miss this particular fact.
So, as part of this contract form, you have an organization. It has a Preamble, which we saw in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:2. This is a subsection. The Mosaic Law itself is a section within the torah, within the five Books. The Mosaic Covenant itself is built on the model of this suzerain-vassal treaty. There is a Preamble, Introduction, stating the one who is making the Covenant, "I Am the LORD your God." Then there is a Historical Prologue, which identifies the parties; "it is God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery." Then we saw that there are stipulations. The stipulations begin with General Requirements, the Ten Commandments, also called the Decalogue. This will be a good time for you to get your vocabulary in gear so that you can understand the basic concepts in the Old Testament. Decalogue means the Ten Words, which is a translation of the Hebrew, which talks about the Ten devarim, Ten Words.
Now, we have already gone through in detail the Ten Commandments, but I want to go back and pick up a couple of things I glossed over last time. Let's look back at the Sabbath law. (4th Commandment) Exodus 20:8, we talked about the fact that it was modeled on the six day creation week. If the six days of creation was not literal 24 hour days would make this whole commandment rather meaningless. But the purpose of the Sabbath is the 'sign;' the Sabbath is the sign; the Sabbath is the symbol of the Mosaic Covenant. Every covenant has a symbol. The Noahic Covenant, the covenant that God made with Noah after the Flood has a symbol and that is the rainbow. God put a bow in the clouds and He stated that every time you see this it will remind you of the fact that I have promised to never ever again destroy the earth through water, through Flood. There is an interesting meteorological dynamic that implies. One thing that it implies, and the Scripture seems to indicate in Genesis 2, that there was never any rain or strong wind or temperature variation prior to the Flood in the antediluvian period. You would not have the meteorological dynamics necessary to produce a rainbow.
So this is something that is totally new. God put His rainbow in the clouds as a sign that His covenant is still in effect. Now one of the interesting things, I will talk about it a little more in the next hour in our study of John, that the Noahic Covenant establishes human government. It delegates judicial responsibility to the human race as exemplified in capital punishment. Now there is a lot of discussion today in the news about capital punishment. Scripture not only authorizes capital punishment, but it mandates capital punishment. As long as you go outside and when the weather conditions are right and you look up in the sky and you see a rainbow that implies two things:
1. It implies that God is not going to destroy the earth again by Flood.
2. Capital punishment is still mandated for the human race in the exercise of judicial authority.
Now God in His Omniscience…; you always hear people get all bent out of shape about capital punishment and right now there is a lot of talk about the fact that there are people, and there always have been people; I am not being insensitive; I am not saying that, well, let's just gloss over it; I am not at all implying that; but there have always been inequities in the application of human law. If you are to follow the rational that offered today; that because somebody might be – some innocent person might be wrongly executed; the implication of that is then 'lets not take anybody before any court any time because we just might make a mistake.' That is what they are saying. It is better to not do it than to make a mistake. Now it is true, I would rather have a guilty man walk the street than to have an innocent man thrown in prison; but that does not provide a rational for giving up on the practice; and yet, execution should motivate us to strive as a nation to have objectivity in a judicial system that is fair and equable.
The problem is that man is fallen, we are all sinners and we are all going to make mistakes, but God in His Omniscience knew that. To say that we should not do it because it is not equable, not fairly practiced, impugns the very Character of God and is blaspheme. Now I cannot say that strongly enough because I am tired of hearing people who are operating on subjectivity and emotionalism and who can't think anymore. The further our culture gets away from its Judeo-Christian roots and from the understanding that there are absolutes that are; what is the term they use in post-modernism, "metanarrative" that apply to all cultures at all times throughout every period of history, then we are on decline as a nation.
Just watch the news and listen to what is going on and the issues that are being raised in the current political debates that are going on over the election this year; what you will see is that this country is in serious, serious trouble. We are beginning to reap that which we have sown from the legalistic liberalism that came out of the 2nd Great Awakening. I think theology makes a difference, but I am not going to get off on that this hour; that is second hour material. But the 'sign' of the Noahic Covenant was the rainbow and that is still in effect. It shows that the Noahic Covenant is still in operation and hasn't changed. The sign of the Mosaic Covenant was the Sabbath.
Now the sign of a covenant is like a wedding ring. When you get married you enter into a contractual relationship with our spouse. The sign of that relationship and of those vows is that wedding ring. Now if you go before a judge and you have that marriage annulled or you get a divorce then you take off that wedding ring because it no longer applies; the contract is no longer in effect. Now what happens when you come into the New Testament is the New Testament teaches that Christ is the end of the Law, the Mosaic Law. It was a temporary covenant that was not made for all time; that is why we have a new covenant. The whole argument Hebrews 6 is apparently the old covenant is going to be replaced by a New Covenant that will provide an internal dynamic for the fulfillment of all the mandates as opposed to an external dynamic. So when the old covenant is annulled and taken away the 'sign' of the old covenant was taken away, and the sign of the old covenant was the Sabbath; the seventh day of the week was set aside in the ceremonial law of the Jews for the purpose of corporate worship. It was a sign of grace and a sign of faith-resting in God to provide for them. Instead of working they would rest and trust the Lord. That is the Fourth Commandment.
Another point I wanted to make on the Fifth Commandment, Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you." This teaches the concept of respect for parents. This never ends. This is the idea that parents are to be honored, and just as parents are to take care of their children and provide for their financial needs and to give them a start in life that is the function of a wise parent operating on Bible doctrine. They set aside, they plan, they save, they invest, and so that they can help their children get a start in life. In return, when their children become adults then the children are in then when the parents reach an elderly age, part of honoring them is to help take care of them during that time and not leave them destitute on the street.
Furthermore, one thing I want to add to this is that a godly or wise parent, according to Proverbs, lays up an inheritance for his children. I have heard folks say, 'Well I just want my money to last as long as I do.' That is not biblically correct. You want to establish a certain amount of wealth so that you can pass that on to the next generation. That is how a society produces economic stability is through the wisdom of laying up and saving. This is one thing that is wrong with the whole concept that we have on an income tax is that it taxes your savings. It does not encourage savings. It encourages spending. That is why in my opinion, this is not Bible doctrine this is my opinion; the best thing is to go to something like a national sales tax that is going to hit everybody whether it is cash or whatever it may be, when you buy something you pay tax. So saving is encouraged and spending is the only thing that is taxed. If you don't want to pay any taxes then you don't buy anything. It is equal; it is across the board; it affects everybody. The wise thing would be not to put it on food items and necessities, and tings like that; those who are impoverished would not bear that burden. Those are just some concepts we draw out from these particular mandates.
Also, somebody always asks a question about polygamy. In Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery." The interesting thing there is that the word is adultery; it is not fornication. You cannot go to this particular passage; but you can go to other passages, I want to make that clear, but you cannot go to the Ten Commandments and find a rational for prohibition of premarital sex or a prohibition of polygamy. Later on in the Mosaic Law, the interesting thing is that God regulates polygamy so that the second wife is guaranteed her congenial rights and her children are guaranteed an inheritance. That shows that in the eyes of God that polygamous marriage is legal and therefore sanctified. The prohibition against adultery was never understood to be a prohibition against polygamy. So that is just something to give your brain something to work on later on this morning.
So the stipulation section of the Suzerain-vassal treaty form is expressed here. You have the general requirements of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3-17 and specific requirements in the Book of the Covenant, Exodus 20:22-23:13 and that is governed under case law. Then the second thing we looked at last time was the ceremonial law. The Mosaic Law can really be divided into three sections:
2. Prologue, summary of the basic underlying ethical code of the entire law, the Ten Commandments and then the Civil Law in the next two chapters.
3. Ceremonial Law, which describes the priesthood, which describes the activities of the sacrifices and entire sacrificial system; the construction of the tabernacle; and the worship system.
When we come to the end of the Mosaic Law we see in Exodus 24 there is a provision for reading that is the next category. You have stipulations, then you have your provisions for reading the covenant, and then there are witnesses; this is all part of the Suzerain-vassal treaty. In Exodus the witnesses are all the tribes on the one hand representing the nation, and the altar of God on the other hand representing God. These are the witnesses. Then there is a detail of blessings and cursings. Now Exodus 20:20-23 are a summation of these blessings and cursings, but I primarily want to look this morning at Leviticus 26. So let's turn over to Leviticus 26.
What God does in the Mosaic covenant after giving Israel all of these stipulations, He then outlines the fact that He as the Suzerain is the Great Lord, the Great King of the nation. He is establishing the nation as a theocracy. Theocracy means the rule of God; the chief executive under the Mosaic Covenant in Israel was God. There was no president; there was no king; the chief executive is God Himself. So it is God Who is ruling the nation and it was God who is the commander-in-chief of the army. We will see as God prepares to give them the land that all of this constitution is to prepare the nation so that they have a governmental procedure and a code of conduct once they go into the land. God is the One who will be leading the armies, showing that God is the One who gives victory, that the battle is the Lord's. That is the key principle in this entire section. By analogy, just as it is God who is the one who gives the nation victory over here enemies as she goes into the land, so it is God through the power of the Holy Spirit, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and walking by the Holy Spirit Who gives us the victory over the enemies in the Christian life, the world, the flesh and the devil. The point is made in that analogy is that it is to be done God's way and not man's way.
As part of the contract God says, if you obey me there are going to be certain blessings, certain things that I will do for you. If you disobey me, on the other hand, there are ways in which I will discipline the nation. There is good news and bad news to put it into the modern patios. The good news is if you obey Me you will have prosperity; the bad news is if you don't you are in serious trouble. This is outlined in Leviticus 26; starting in Leviticus 26:1 let's just read through the chapter. I want to make several points. These are the blessings; in the first two verses outline the basic command. It takes us back to the first two commandments in the Ten Commandments. "You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.
In other words, God outlaws all idolatry. He outlaws anything or any worship of any god other than Himself because He is the foundation or the higher judicial system in the nation and He demands absolute allegiance. Leviticus 26:2 "You shall keep My Sabbaths," this brings in the fourth commandment, "and reverence My sanctuary," this brings in the ceremonial law; "I Am yahweh." Here we have the use of the sacred tetragrammaton, YHWH. It was brought over into English as Jehovah, which was a combination of factors. What you have is YHWH in the Hebrew. We don't know exactly how that was pronounced, but it is pretty clear because of names like Zech-a-riah, 'ah', the last syllable is the first part of God's Name, so we are pretty sure that this was pronounced as 'yah' and we make a good guess that the last syllable was something like yahweh. So this is the proper name of God that is always associated with His contract, with His covenant with Israel.
Now what happened in history is that the 'y'; a lot of Germans did the initial study of Hebrew. In German if you have a 'j' it is pronounced like a 'y'; if you have a 'w' it is pronounced like a 'v'. So this was written as JHVH and then in the Hebrew, the Jews, because of their respect for the Name of God never pronounced this Name. It is the sacred tetragrammaton and instead they pronounced Adonia, which is the generic term for LORD. What they do in the Hebrew Bible is substitute the vowel points in Adonia, not the English vowel points, but the Hebrew vowel points, and so that yields something that would look like this ____. Taking the consonant from the sacred tetragrammaton and adding the vowel points from Adonia you get this compound word Jehovah, which has no meaning whatsoever in Hebrew or in any other language.
So whenever you read LORD and you read through your Bible and you see it as it is written here at the end of Leviticus 26:2 where it is written in small upper case letters that always indicates that the original Hebrew is YAHWEH. Some times when you have the term LORD GOD and you have Lord but God is in small uppercase letters then that is Adonia or Adonia Yahweh, which is LORD GOD. So they translate that when God is the translation of Yahweh. All of this information is in the preface of your Bible. But since most people never take the time to read it I thought I would tell you this so you will have a little bit of education and have a leg up on 99.9% of Christians out there.
Now you get into the blessings in Leviticus 26:3, "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments," this brings in the conditional element to the Mosaic Covenant. The other covenants, the Adamic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant are called unconditional and they are permanent covenants. They have everlasting qualities, as does the Davidic Covenant and New Covenant. But the Mosaic Covenant is called conditional because its fulfillment is really determined by the obedience or disobedience of the nation. This is also why it is a temporary covenant and will be replaced by the New Covenant, which is permanent.
The interesting thing is that the spiritual dynamic of the old covenant is human obedience. And it is a failure. The Jews end up unable to fulfill it and go into idolatry time and time again, and the point of this historically is that God is demonstrating that man on his own can do nothing to live up to the qualifications and expectations and demands of a Holy and Righteous God. That is the purpose for understanding God's dynamic in history. He is demonstrating certain realities so that no one can come back at a later time and accuse God of not giving man the opportunity. It is showing in the Mosaic code why it is temporary and why man on his own, on his own spiritual dynamics, cannot fulfill anything that God wants. That is why it is a miserable failure.
That is why it is replaced by a New Covenant when God says: I will give you a New Covenant; I will place my Spirit within you and my law within your heart. In other words, God is saying, you can't do it on your own; I will do everything for you; I have to do everything in salvation and I have to do everything in the spiritual life. It is totally His. That is why the spiritual life of the church age is totally predicated on walking by means of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of God the Holy Spirit in our life. That is why the spiritual life of the church age is not to be confused with morality. The problem with almost every single major Christian denomination since about the 3rd century AD is that they have confused the spiritual life with morality and with external ritualism. Ritual without reality is meaningless. A moral life that is not energized by the Holy Spirit is nothing less than legalism and is condemned in the Scripture.
Now the 'if' clause, the conditional clause of Leviticus 26:3, these conditions are what make the Mosaic Covenant conditional. Leviticus 26:3-4a "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out,4 then I shall give you rains in their seasons...." Now think about this. I know some of you old farmers, but not all of you. Some of you like to grow your vegetable gardens and you are familiar with this. God is very economic in the implication. This is an agrarian society; notice that God says that their obedience to Him is going to affect the meteorology. Now think about that. Their climate is going to be determined by their obedience to God's Word. Why? Because God is the God Who controls the climate. God is the God Who controls the meteorology. "I will give you rains in their seasons; Leviticus 26:5a "Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering…." In other words, there will be continuous prosperity in the land; there is not going to be a gap between the end of the threshing season and the wheat season and the grape season. There is going to be continuous prosperity around the year, year long. Leviticus 26:5b, "You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land."
Notice that security is not dependent upon the government. You see this is another little problem we run into. I keep bleeding over into what I am going to be teaching second hour. This is another aspect about cosmic thinking in the second hour. This is another aspect of cosmic thinking. It affected the Jews and what we are going to see, if we get there this morning, in Numbers 14 is that most of them wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt because they had no spiritual growth; they had no capacity for freedom. They did not understand personal responsibility and when you have personal responsibility there is no security. Because to the degree that you have freedom to that degree there is no security in your life. You may make bad decisions and suffer the consequences of those bad decisions. So they wanted to go back to slavery where every thing was guaranteed. People who want the government to provide a safety net for them through a welfare system are social security or any other financial scheme or people who would rather be enslaved to government than have the freedom that God promises under the establishment principles of the Scriptures.
The more we see people in our nation screaming for some kind of national health care policy, wanting solvency in the social security system, which is nothing more than socialism, which is antithetical to the program and principles of God as it can possibly be; the more we are going to slip into slavery and give the government more and more opportunity to present tyranny and tyrannical control of peoples lives. Our founding fathers understood this, but because the educational system in our nation is a public education system controlled by the government, nobody is taught these things anymore and they haven't been taught these things in about 30-50 years. So we are producing a generation now, Generations Xers and younger have no true concept of the historical foundation of this nation. There is not a revival; so the solution is not government programs. The solution is regeneration and growing to spiritual maturity. Until that happens and unless that happens we will continue in a downhill slide.
Now there is blessing promised; there is economic prosperity promised, not because you have managed to figure out economic law and tap into it or you have somebody at the head of the Fed that is implementing good policy to strain inflation. But because there is a spiritual obedience in the land. You see the ultimate issues in life are not economic; they are not material; they are spiritual. How a nation operates spiritually determines everything else. So God says there will be security if you obey Me. Leviticus 26:6, "I shall also grant peace in the land…." So there is marshal peace; there is a lack of war; "… so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble…." There is no fear of warfare; there is no fear of some sort of atomic devastation; you know that there will be peace in the land. "… I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land."
Notice how God, if they are obedient, God is going to change the dynamics of that country. He is going to eliminate harmful beast; He is going to provide the type of meteorology where there won't be any kind of meteorological or weather disaster and it will promote economic prosperity and personal peace and security in the land. And if there is war, Leviticus 26:7-8, "But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword." Now let me give you a little hint, a little foreshadowing. If you don't understand what I have just read you cannot understand Elijah. When Elijah comes along and tells Ahab it is not going to rain until I say it rains; what is he saying? He is referring to or going right back to God's covenant promises.
When Gideon runs out the Midianites with 300 (men) and they've (the Midianites) got about 30,000; what are we talking about here? We are talking about Leviticus 26:7-8; and when David comes to Saul; the whole David story; I preached on David and Goliath last week when I was in Cincinnati. The whole David story, when Goliath comes along and it says that Saul and the armies were afraid and trembled. That goes right back to the blessings and cursings in Deuteronomy 28 when God says to go into the land and do not be afraid and tremble. What are they doing? They are afraid and they are trembling because there is this giant there, which goes back to what we will see in a minute if we get there, in Kedesh Barnea when the ten spies went into the land and came back and said we can't defeat them because there are giants in the land, there is the Anakim in the land. Goliath is a descendent of the Anakim.
So Saul says when David comes up and says, why can't anybody fight this uncircumcised giant? Uncircumcised goes right back to the circumcision at the time of the Abrahamic Covenant and what David is saying is that this giant has no right to the land because he is not circumcised. Only the Hebrew has the right to the land because God gave us the land. And then Saul says, what gives you the right to defeat Goliath? You are not a soldier; you haven't gone through military academies; you are not even enlisted in the ranks. David says I am a shepherd; I have been out with the sheep. What have I been doing? I have been getting into hand to hand combat protecting the sheep; I have been killing the bears and the lions.
What should you think when you read that? You can immediately think that God said that if you obey Me I will rid the land of harmful beast. The point I am making is that you have to understand theses blessings and cursings to be able to understand what is going on in the rest of the Old Testament. Everything that comes from Joshua to Malachi is a direct result of what God says in this chapter. So God promises military victory and peace and prosperity, Leviticus 26:9, "So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you." In other words, God is going to continue to maintain His covenant promises even in the midst of their failure. Leviticus 26:10, "You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new.' So constant resupply.
Leviticus 26:11-12a, "Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you and My soul will not reject you. I will walk among you…."We have to take this literally. This is a prophecy of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If they are obedient. This never happened because they rejected the Messiah. That brings in all of the cursings that start in Leviticus 26:14; and it is only through the new covenant that is established at the cross that God will eventually restore the nation to the land and make His dwelling with them and His throne in Jerusalem. These promises are going to be brought over into the new covenant and ultimately fulfill them. That is why I keep saying that if you cannot grasp the dynamics of what is going on in the New Testament without understanding this Old Testament foundation.
Now that brings us to Leviticus 26:14, which is sometimes called the introduction to the five cycles of discipline. Now as an introduction, what I want you to understand here is that Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, which reiterates some of these same things. We won't take the time to go through that. This is part of a covenant document. I just cannot make this clear enough this morning. This is part of a one-piece contract between God and Israel not God and Rome, not God and Babylon, not God and Greece, not God and Britain, not God and United States. This is a contract between God and Israel. I want to make that clear because too often people make the horrendous mistake of trying to apply these things to the United States.
This goes back to old Puritanism; it really does. They were coming to this country; it was a city set on a hill; and they said this was going to be Israel and it all goes back to that. Now I think that God does at times in human history, especially if Israel is out of the land, God uses specific nations because of their attitude toward the Jews; because of their positive volition to doctrine; and because they are sending missionaries out to all the various nations; that God uses them as what we call client nations. Israel is not a client nation. Israel is a covenant nation. There is a radical difference between God's relationship to Israel and God's relationship to every other nation in history; there is no other nation in human history that God has entered into a covenant with, period.
So, these cycles, you may see these as historical trends developed with other nations; they are not the five cycles of discipline or these blessing per say because these are part of what God is promising to Israel and no one else. This is just one of my little pet peeves. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles where you have the passage where Solomon prayed to God and God answered, My people who are called by My Name will turn back to Me then I will bless them and prosper them. I cannot remember the exact quote. [2 Chronicles 7: 14 "and My people who are called by My Name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land."]
Every year at the 4th of July or some other time you will hear people trot that out and you will hear pastors preach on that and they apply it to this nation. That is completely false. If you read the Text, read the context of that that is Solomon's prayer dedication of the temple. What Solomon rehearses in that entire prayer are the blessings and cursings of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. He is basically referring to the fact that "If My people who are called by My Name…." Who are My people who are called by My Name? Israel, the prince of God; it is Israel. That verse has nothing to do with any other nation in human history and to even apply it in that way is to buy into at some level a presupposition of covenant theology and it is just false.
So let's look at these verses because they are fundamental to understanding what happens in Israel's history because frankly, a little foreshadowing, they fail miserably. They are under the cycles of discipline more than they are under the blessings and we will really see that when we get into our study of Judges.
1. The first cycle of discipline is the loss of health; it includes the decline of agricultural prosperity, national terror, fear and death in combat, and the loss of personal freedom due to negative volition toward Bible doctrine. Clearly these trends do take place because of the spiritual condition in other nations, but not at the rigid level that they do with Israel. Exodus 14-17, "But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all My commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances (negative volition) so as not to carry out all My commandments and so break my covenant. I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever (so there is going to be disease in the land) that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; (this would be emotional distress; this would be what we call depression; it is suggested here that depression has a spiritual cause ultimately and may have physical ramifications).
I was watching some program on television this morning while I was eating my breakfast and it was talking about depression and they were going on and on about how it was a disease. Well a disease is like the flu, a disease is like cancer or is like leukemia. I think the dynamic is that nobody was born depressed; nobody is born mentally unstable; nobody is born insane; those are the result of a series of bad decisions made in handling the outside pressure of adversity; that accumulates and when you convert outside pressure of adversity into stress in the soul, then what happens is that it has a biochemical impact on your physiology. Now you are producing the wrong kind of chemicals. Now that has an interaction on your brain chemistry and eventually that can produce depression. Then you can go take Prozac and Zoloft and all the other antidepressants and that will alleviate the symptoms. Then you may have peace and tranquility and contentment in your life, but it is not the "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives to you." It is a drug-induced calm, but it has not solved the root problem. The Scripture says that until you solve the root problem you are simply alleviating symptoms.
Now when people reach a point where they have to get on those drugs, then I am not against them getting on those drugs, because at least it gives them some sort of emotional stability so they can get to Bible class and they can learn the truth, the Word of God, and find the ultimate solution and eventually work their way off of drug dependency. But the Word of God promises a peace, a contentment, a stability, a happiness that is far beyond anything we can ask or think or hope for or understand. It is beyond all comprehension; it is supernatural in force produced by God the Holy Spirit and that is available to any and every believer if they will walk by means of God the Holy Spirit. So we have to understand that many of these things, while they have many physical, material, and maybe even chemical causes, the ultimate root cause according to the Scripture is spiritual.
Leviticus 26:16-17 (continued), "… you will sow your seed uselessly (in other words this is going to have economic ramifications), for your enemies will eat it up (others will reap the benefits of your work). I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies (military defeat); and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you (this means that they will have leaders within the government that are operating on policies that are basically tyrannical.)
2. Then we come to the second cycle of discipline, which increases economic problems. You have economic recession and depression and increased personal and individual divine discipline for continued negative volition inside of the initial warning of the first cycle of discipline. Leviticus 26:18 "If also after these things (if this has not straightened you out and gotten your attention yet) you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins (I am going to intensify the discipline trying to get your attention. You know sometimes if the sugar does not get you then a 2x4 between the eyes might.) I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze." In Deuteronomy He changes to sky like bronze and earth like iron. The point is in the metaphor is that these become like metal. There is no rain and the ground hardens and does not produce crops. Just as positive volition and obedience produce a positive beneficial climate; so sin (disobedience), negative volition produces a climate that is negative and produces weather disasters and economic recession and depression as a result of that. Leviticus 26:19, "Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit."
3. The third cycle of discipline begins in Leviticus 26:21; this includes violence, a breakdown of law and order and the disintegration of their cities. They will have urban problems. Leviticus 26:21 "If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me; I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. (We have already had to go up seven times, but now it is seven times more.) Leviticus 26:22, "I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted." If we look at the David and Goliath episode, David had been out with the sheep and he had to deal with the wild beasts. Why? The nation was under discipline at that time. They had been under the heel; they have been under the fourth cycle of discipline under the oppression of the Philistines for about eighty years at that time. That is why David has to deal with the lions and the bears while he is out with the sheep because the nation is under at least the third cycle of discipline.
4. Then the fourth cycle starting in Leviticus 26:23-26 "And if by these things you are not turned to Me (in other words, if you still have a hardened heart and you are still bent on trying to live life on your own terms), but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you" (this reminds me of Romans 8:28, "If God is for us who can be against us" but who wants God to be against us?) "then I will act with hostility against you and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied." So there is a tremendous economic depression and famine in the land as a result of the fourth cycle of discipline.
5. The fifth cycle is the destruction of the nation when the people are actually removed out of the nation Israel. They are taken under foreign domination and they only will be returned if there is a return to positive volition and a desire to obey God. This begins in Leviticus 26:27 and goes to the end of the chapter. Leviticus 26:27-28, "Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins" (this is the third sevenfold increase in misery). Leviticus 26:29, "Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat" (it would be under severe military invasion such as there is no food left and they are reduced to eating their own in order to survive, cannibalism.) Leviticus 26:30, "I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars" (this by the way is a place where Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land. Also when the Assyrian Sennacherib invaded the land. The Jews were bottled up in Jerusalem; these things were fulfilled.)
Leviticus 26:30-31, "I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap yourremains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas." (The idea of making your sacred desolate, Jesus said that when the fifth cycle of discipline came under Rome in AD 70 that no stone would be left one on another in the temple and that is total desolation of the temple. So that was fulfilled in AD 70 as well as in 586 BC under Nebuchadnezzar.) Leviticus 26:32 "I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it." (Frankly, the condition of the land of Israel for much of the church age until the Jews returned to the land and started introducing irrigation practices and a number of other things to bring water into the desert, it was just a waste land, and there was nothing there.)
Well, I do not want to go on and read through the rest of the chapter, but it continues to show the devastation that will come upon the nation and the people will be removed from the land. Let's skip down to Leviticus 26:38-39, "But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies' land will consume you." (That should bring the Holocaust to mind; the millions of Jews that perished during the Holocaust, perished among the Gentile nations.) "So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them." So all of this shows that the misery that the Jews have gone through for the last 1900 years is because of their rejection of God and the fulfillment of the fifth cycle of discipline promised in Leviticus 26.
But there is always grace with judgment. God never simply judges, He also provides a redemptive solution. Leviticus 26:40-42, "If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me I also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land." What is the point? The point is that I (God) made unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Abrahamic covenant, and I will not forget them. They will be restored to the land and they will literally be returned to the land. That happened in 536 BC when they started to return to the land from the Babylonian captivity and it has started again. I think that even though this is not a regenerate nation in the land and the prophecy refers to a regenerate people, and that is fulfilled at the end of the tribulation. I think we are beginning to see the beginning stages of this now as we see Jews coming from the four corners of the earth back to Israel. I am not saying that that is fulfilled prophecy, I am simply saying that that is setting the stage.
These are the blessings and the curses and it is the outworking of these blessings and cursings that forms the structure for everything that happens in Israel's history through the remainder of the Scriptures. Now I do not want to take time to go through the time in the wilderness after they left Mt. Sinai. They spent a year on Mt. Sinai where they received the Mosaic Law, all the sacrificial laws, all the laws related to the ceremony and then God promised that He would take them to the land. They followed this route. They start off and come to Mt. Sinai (map explanation…) up to Kadesh-Barnea. Kadesh-Barnea is fairly close, within a days travel from Mt. Sinai… and they camp at Kadesh-Barnea and they send out the spies into the land. This is the next major significant event in Israel's history.
Now I am clearly passing over God's provision for them in the land. God took care of them logistically. This is a beautiful picture of the Exodus generation, they are carnal, rebellious, they moan and they groan, they follow in revolt against Moses and in revolt against Aaron; all kinds of things take place of that nature showing their rebelliousness and rejection of God's grace provision. Yet continuously God provides for their daily needs. The Scripture says their shoes did not wear out; their clothes did not wear out; He provided manna every morning, which was a type of food that appeared on the ground like the dew every morning. It contained all the nutrients they needed. They just got bored with it because it wasn't a tasty diet; it wasn't a whole cuisine; it did not have all of the wonderful flavors that they were associated with; there weren't all the spices that they liked; they did not have any leeks and garlic from Egypt, so they wanted to go back.
This shows that people who do not have doctrine and who are not positive to the Word and do not have their souls transformed by the Word of God will not have capacity for freedom. If you don't have capacity for freedom then what you will want is security and tyranny because you are afraid to take personal responsibility for your actions because ultimately you know that there is a God of judgment Who is evaluating your life even in time.
So they come to Kadesh-Barnea; this is the edge of the land that God has promised them and they send spies into the land. Now they completely misunderstand the order. Moses gives them an order in Numbers 13 and he says they are going to go into the land to see how God is going to deliver it to them. He doesn't say to go into the land to find out if God is going to give it to you. See, you have to pay attention to what God says to you. It is not if, it is how. They heard if. Sp when the Jews, the spies went into the land, they came back and said we can't do it; we can't defeat them because three reasons:
1. There were fortified cities and they didn't have the armaments to tear down the walls.
2. There were giants in the land, and Anakim and the Rephaim, we can't defeat these enormous 10', 12', 14' giants.
3. The people were "like grasshoppers," there are so many they would be overwhelmed by their numbers.
They misread the command of Moses and misinterpreted it and when they came back they sent twelve spies in, one from each of the tribes; when they returned ten of the spies said, whoa, we can't do it; let's go back to Egypt. Only two spies were faithful: Joshua and Caleb. They said, we can do it, we are going to trust the LORD because the battle is the LORD'S; the LORD is the One Who is going to give us victory. So God judged the nation; that generation was under discipline and God said they would not enter into land. This is comparable to the carnal believer who does not trust God. The land doesn't represent heaven; the land represents inheritance.
Now I do not have time to go through that. If you want to learn about what the Scripture says about inheritance get the studies in the Galatians series on inheritance. But inheritance has to do with rewards. They are already as a people redeemed. That is not the issue. The issue is you going to reap the rewards and benefits of that redemption. God has already given them; it is already there, but obedience is the key to enjoying it. So the exodus generation represents believers who are in rebellion against God and refuse to grow and develop capacity in their life to enjoy that freedom, so they go out under divine discipline and everyone over the age of twenty is going to die before the nation can go into the land. For the next forty years they spend most of their time burying people. If you work out the numbers you have about 300-400 funerals a day and so there is a consistent reminder that they have disobeyed God and would not enter into the land.
So the two major events that take place at the Sinai and Kadesh-Barnea. There is Kadesh-Barnea one, when they fail God and they finally come back to Kadesh-Barnea a second time and this time it is the children. So it shows that the children of the exodus generation learn their lesson. They are prepared for freedom. They have learned the Word. They have been taught by Moses for 40 years and Joshua and Caleb are the only two from the exodus generation who are allowed to enter into the land. Even Moses because of his failure is not allowed an inheritance in the land, which is just a warning to church age believers that we can enter into heaven but we may lose rewards because of some bad decision that we make in life. So God is always gracious and always through all of this we see God's grace and His provision of a redemption solution. So we will stop there this morning and come back to orientation of the Old Testament next time and we will begin the conquest with Joshua as the people go into the land. We have looked at how God called out a people, how God provided them with a body of law, the Mosaic Law, and then next time we will see how God provides the land.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed, Father, we do thank you for the opportunity to study Your Word and to see Your grace. You always provide a redemption solution and the solution for us is in Jesus Christ Who died on the Cross for our sins. He paid the penalty, every single sin in human history was poured out upon Him. Scripture said that He Who knew no sin was made sin for us that the righteousness of God might be found in us and that is potential. It is dependent upon our acceptance through faith alone in Christ alone for that salvation. Father, we pray that if there is anyone here this morning who is uncertain of their eternal destiny, unsure of their salvation, that they would take the opportunity right now to make that certain. All you need to do is in the privacy of your soul is inform God of your faith in Jesus Christ. You don't even have to pray. All you have to do is believe that Christ died on the Cross for your sins. That is what the Scripture says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Acts 16:31; it is not a matter of moral reformation; it is not a matter of joining a church; it is not a matter of denominational affiliation or any other human factor; but it is simply a matter of faith alone in Christ alone. Now Father, we pray that you will help us to understand the things that we have studied and challenge us with them. In Jesus' Name, Amen.