All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, since you did not obey the LORD your God and keep the commandments and statutes He gave you.
The evil if uncured aggravates itself - develops new symptoms; and as the evil grows, so misery increases likewise. The man of God foresees a yet further stage of misery in the distant future. His predictions of woe plainly point to the domination of the Roman eagles, and to the miseries consequent upon the final dispersion of the Jews. To the eye of God's prophet the long procession of coming woes is clearly revealed - a series of miseries stretching away through millenniums of years.
I. IT IS A NECESSITY THAT GOD'S RULE SHALL BE MAINTAINED. So long as the universe continues, the Creator must be King. Our only choice is whether we will have him as our Friend or as our Foe. "For he must reign." We must serve (ver. 47). To forsake God is not to gain liberty; it is only the exchange of a noble Master for a thousand petty tyrants. "Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness... thou shalt serve thine enemies in hunger, and in nakedness." This is the only alternative. We oscillate like a pendulum between these two points - serving God and serving cur enemies.
II. IN PROPORTION TO THE GOODNESS ABUSED IS THE CURSE THAT FOLLOWS. The language in the earlier part of these comminations clearly points to the overthrow of the people by the Assyrians. That calamity and the consequent captivity were the chastisements of wisdom - were part of the costly training by which Israel might have been recovered to the Divine favor. But even that severe correction soon lost its purifying effect. Another overthrow, more complete and galling yet, was therefore approaching. A yoke of iron was preparing for their neck, which should destroy their national life. More ruthless treatment should be endured under the Romans than under the Chaldeans. The sufferings in the siege were to be unparalleled. Mutual hate and rage would prevail. All the love of human nature would be turned into hateful selfishness. It would be the reign of hell upon the earth.
III. THE FATHERLY KINDNESS OF GOD IS DISPLAYED IN THIS FORECAST OF SIN'S EFFECTS. It must have been a pain to the heart of Moses (and greater pain still to the heart of God) to dwell on the terrific consequences of possible disobedience. It would have been more pleasant employment to have sketched out the prospects and rewards of righteousness. Yet in proportion to the pain felt in anticipating the desolation and misery of Israel, was the ardent love for Israel's good. If affection could erect beforehand any barrier which could withstand the torrent of evil, that barrier shall be erected. If love can abolish hell, it will. What language can measure the Divine love which thus pleads with men to eschew sin? Even a present sight of coming war does not deter men from sin.
IV. THE FULFILLMENT OF GOD'S THREATENINGS ARE A SIGN FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. A thousand years elapsed before the woes foreshadowed were inflicted. With the Lord, "a thousand years are as one day." Nevertheless, every word spoken by Moses became a fact. The prophecy has been turned into history. In part, those prophecies are fulfilled today before our eyes: "Ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it;" "the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have any rest." The present condition of the Jews is a signal proof of the divinity of Scripture, an impressive symbol of the crushing judgments of God. Who can trifle with such a Being? Wisdom says, "Stand in awe, and sin not!" - D.
Blessed shalt thou be in the city.
The city is full of care, and he who has to go there from day to day finds it to be a place of great wear and tear. It is full of noise, and stir, and bustle, and sore travail: many are its temptations, losses, and worries. But to go there with the Divine blessing takes off the edge of its difficulty; to remain there with that blessing is to find pleasure in its duties, and strength equal to its demands. A blessing in the city may not make us great, but it will keep us good; it may not make us rich, but it will preserve us honest. Whether we are porters, or clerks, or managers, or merchants, of magistrates, the city will afford us opportunities for usefulness. It is good fishing where there are shoals of fish, and it is hopeful to work for our Lord amid the thronging crowds. We might prefer the quiet of a country life; but if called to town, we may certainly prefer it because there is room for our energies. Today let us expect good things because of this promise, and let our care be to have an open car to the voice of the Lord, and a ready hand to execute His bidding. Obedience brings the blessing. "In keeping His commandments there is great reward."
We have accustomed ourselves so long to think that the glory and beauty displayed on the open fields of the country, where life lies palpitating and warm with the impress of His creative hand, and where all the works of the Lord are ceaselessly singing His praise, must in itself impress more vividly those who linger amid its beauties, and do their work in the glow of its magnificence, than do the streets and lanes and the visible signs of man which stretch out through the city. And yet we do not seek from the hard-working farmer the highest appreciation of nature as such, nor from the toiling agricultural labourer the keenest poetic sentiment. Men are crowded into the city, the villages become more and more depleted. What does it mean? Ask them, and they would tell you that they are going to see life. To the labourer town life means a more stirring existence, he thinks he sees there a wider field, a quicker return, a more brilliant career, and too often he is bitterly disappointed in these hard times. To the pleasure seeker the city is the great lamp towards which he flies with outstretched wings to flicker for a short space around it, to scorch his wings, to burn himself in the nearest approach to nothingness. But life is a very real thing to seek for. In the city there are gathered together various forms of excellence. Here art treasures are collected, and art studies are at their fullest perfection; here music receives its fullest development; here perfection of all kinds tends to aggregate; here the blood courses fuller and stronger; here might be realised that which we speak of so often in the Creed — "the communion of saints."
Blessed shalt thou be in the field
So was Isaac blessed when lie walked therein at eventide to meditate. How often has the Lord met us when we have been alone! The hedges and the trees can bear witness to our joy. We look for such blessedness again. So was Boaz blessed when he reaped his harvest, and his workmen met him with benedictions. May the Lord prosper all who drive the plough! Every farmer may urge this promise with God, if, indeed, he obeys the voice of the Lord God. We go to the field to labour as father Adam did; and since the curse fell on the soil through the sin of Adam the first, it is a great comfort to find a blessing through Adam the second. We go to the field for exercise, and we are happy in the belief that the Lord will bless that exercise, and give us health, which we will use to His glory. We go to the field to study nature, and there is nothing in a knowledge of the visible creation which may not be sanctified to the highest uses by the Divine benediction. We have at last to go to the field to bury our dead; yea, others will in their turn take us to God's acre in the field: but we are blessed, whether weeping at the tomb or sleeping in it.
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