The Land of Promise Becoming Accursed
Deuteronomy 29:10-28
You stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers…

Moses has tried the principle of gratitude with the Israelites, urging obedience from a sense of the great goodness of the Lord. And now he turns to the other principle of fear, which cannot be dispensed with in religion, and urges obedience out of respect for the Promised Land, since if they are disobedient it will be turned to a land accursed. The land will in such a ease become a witness to the curse of God, instead of continuing a standing evidence of his love; a beacon instead of a type; a wilderness instead of a paradise. And it is instructive to notice the exact danger Moses meets in this passage. The curses have already been pronounced; but it is just possible for some one to say that the curse is leveled at collective sin. National apostasy is contemplated, but an individual will never be noticed in his course of licentiousness. The wholesale is judged; the retail may escape. This is the idea that Moses here refutes. He shows that the individual shall be judged, and the land become accursed through the apostasy of individuals. We remark, then -

I. THE NATION APOSTATIZES THROUGH THE APOSTASY OF INDIVIDUALS. No nation as a public act apostatizes, but it gets rotten through individual action. When then a number of units, under the delusion that as units they shall escape, betake themselves to evil courses, blessing themselves in their hearts, saying, "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst," then does rottenness enter into the state of Denmark! It is well for units not to pretend to under estimate their influence as an excuse for living as they please. The nation suffers through the deterioration of its component particles. If the individual withers, the nation withers too.

II. INDIVIDUAL WAYWARDNESS MAY WORK THE RUIN OF A LAND. When we look into the admirable work of Van Lennep, we find him ascribing the barrenness of Palestine at present to the cutting down of forests, the fall of terraces, and the consequent want of rain. A land thus lies at the mercy of individuals much more than we imagine. An individual may cut down the trees on his patch of freehold, and his neighbor follow his example, to carry on his self-indulgence with the proceeds, and the result may be the change of climate which turns a paradise into a waste. We have already seen that Palestine was peculiarly dependent upon bountiful provision in the shape of the early and latter rains; and if individuals, through the necessities begotten by their self-indulgence, outrage the arrangements of providence, the land becomes of necessity accursed.

III. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE HOLY LAND IS NOW AN EMBODIMENT OF THE CURSE OF GOD. Travelers are struck with the brown and barren aspect of the whole land. Spots here and there, of course, burst into beauty through the gift of rain, but as a whole the land is no longer "with milk and honey blessed," but under the anathema of Heaven. How much longer this blight is to rest upon its bloom we cannot say, but the fact is patent to all observers.

IV. THE MUTE APPEAL OF A STRICKEN LAND SHOULD NOT BE LOST UPON THE OBSERVERS OF IT. When the question of slavery was being discussed, before God settled it by permitting the American civil war, attention was directed to the "waste lands" created by the slave-labor. It was shown that the iniquitous system made virgin and splendid soil in the course of years, through monotonous cropping, a wilderness, and that the spectacle of the deterioration of the earth should weigh with thinkers. And Nature is surely meant to speak to man's spirit by her deformities as well as by her beauties; by her manifest wrongs as well as by her manifold benedictions. Such a man as Ruskin, considering the question as art critics will, pleads eloquently for the natural beauty which the advancing needs of railway and of manufacture threatens with desolation. But such a wilderness as Palestine now is, such a wilderness as the slave states of America were becoming, speaks to the conscience of observers, and calls for penitence and tears. The muteness of the appeal, the golden silence, which characterizes such impressive scenes, should make each witness of the waste a penitent worshipper!

V. OBEDIENCE TO GOD WILL YET REGENERATE NATURE. We see the reverse of the disaster in Psalm 67:5, 6, "Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase." The wilderness shall yet blossom as the rose when the children of men shall learn their privilege and duty as children of God. - R.M.E.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,

WEB: You stand this day all of you before Yahweh your God; your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel,

On the Covenant of God with His People
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