““You know how we lived in the land of Egypt, and how we came through the midst of the nations through which you passed. And you have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them. Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. The LORD will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. And the next generation, your children who rise up after you, and the foreigner who comes from a far land, will say, when they see the afflictions of that land and the sicknesses with which the LORD has made it sick— the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger and wrath— all the nations will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, and the LORD uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’” (Deuteronomy 29:16–28 ESV)
Beware lest just one person’s heart turns away and chases other gods and idols. Apparently, idolatry is contagious. Pride & hardness of heart will lead a person to the point at which he (or she) says, ““I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.” (Deuteronomy 29:19 ESV). WOW, what arrogance & pride; I’ll walk in disobedience because I am the master of my own fate, master of my own soul. God’s response to this outright rebellion is wrath. He will not sit idly by, while His chosen people mock Him openly! This is rooted in the justice, holiness & jealousy of God. He has rights on their souls (and ours) and He had been profoundly merciful & gracious towards His people (and towards us), but there is a point at which He exacts justice because He will not allow His people to tread on His holiness. Mass destruction of the land will ensue because of the people’s rebellion and their neighbors will want to know why God did such a thing. The answer: ““It is because they abandoned the covenant of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 29:25 ESV). The Christian is safe from these curses because a Substitute obeyed perfectly on our behalf.
What is ironic is that they had no relationship with these false gods, and yet they chased after them thinking that they would produce soul satisfaction (v25-26). God is completely involved with His people – He cares & is connected, He is not some distant deity! He is close! And yet, created gods which are no gods at all, hold power in the hearts of the people. God, protect us from chasing created gods thinking that they will satisfy our souls!
Verses 24-28 anticipates the people’s rebellion & idolatry as they break the first commandment and chase after other gods! Chapter 28 weighed blessings & curses, but now it seems apparent that the author anticipates the people’s rebellion because “the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4 ESV). These are strong words that show us that apart from God’s divine intervention, we will not be able to obey. Yes, unless the Spirit regenerates the motivations of your heart, you will not be able to believe & obey. This is no white knuckled effort, this is dependent grace that glorifies God.
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV). God has some secrets that He has chosen not to reveal to us and we are going to have to be okay with that. We are going to have to trust that He is faithful, good & sovereign. We are going to have to admit that we aren’t unlimited in our understanding & perspective. This means that even when I don’t fully understand, I’m called to obey. This is not mechanical obedience; my obedience is rooted in a relationship of trust, not in trying to earn God’s approval because it has already been earned. I must walk by faith & not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) because my eyes always fail me, for there is a way that seems right to me, but it really leads to death (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25). Lord, help me to recognize my limitedness and help me to walk in joyful obedience, trusting in your goodness & grace.