Leviticus 26: Lessons Regarding the Blessings or Curses That Come from Spirit-Led Obedience As Opposed to Rebellion Against God

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Introduction: The Ten Commandments are a test for God’s blessings. Leviticus Chapter 26 and Deuteronomy Chapter 28 together list the consequences for a society’s decision to voluntarily follow or reject God’s Ten Commandments. Jesus never raised any question about whether the Ten Commandments still apply. He told His followers that if they loved Him that would keep His Commandments (Jo. 14:15). He is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments at Mount Horeb (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). Thus, His commandments were the Ten Commandments. He gave the two “greatest” Commandments as a means for people to make obedience to His Ten Commandments something that would naturally follow from the heart and not out of obligation (Matt. 22:36-40). Many of His teachings also raised the standard of conduct for these Ten Commandments. For example, He raised the standard for adultery to include lustful looks (Matt. 5:28). He also raised the standard for murder to include hatred (Matt. 5:22). He further taught people that a true Sabbath included more than a day off from making money. It includes helping others and healing the sick (Matt. 12:10).

For most of the Church’s history, it has been understood that the Ten Commandments still apply as a code for moral conduct and as a test for God’s blessings, but not as a test for salvation. In the past, the Church also used its influence to make these Ten Commandments part of civil law. Although the Sabbath was never understood as a test for salvation (Col. 2:16-17), the Church ensured that every state in America set up “blue laws” that limited business hours and the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Yet, in the modern era, a new teaching has emerged that the Ten Commandments are no longer a test for God’s blessings or curses. Anyone who would admonish another believer about skipping church for sports or work is called a “legalist.” Many churches simply avoid speaking on controversial things or things that might offend members about their personal choices. Rather than elevating a person’s conduct to God’s holiness, this style of preaching celebrates bringing the Church down to the level where the people are located.

But as the Church has preached no condemnation for personal choices, society has created pressures to rebel against God. Laws that used to require stores to close on Sundays disappeared. Jesus’ name became a swear word. The idols of the flesh, including pornography, narcissism, and money, became the focus of people’s lives. Adultery became rampant. In some communities, most children are now born to parents out of wedlock. People now turn to prescription drugs, illegal narcotics, and alcohol to self-medicate their pain. The divorce rate within the Church now equals that of society. Yet, churches have met this news with confusion.

This Bible study asserts that the reasons for these problems are not a mystery. The Church and society have paid a heavy cost as they have moved away from preaching the Ten Commandments as a code for living. Life within the Ten Commandments, while never a test for salvation, contains the protective barrier where God can pour out His blessings on the Church, society, and individuals. To understand this, we must first understand the difference between unconditional and conditional blessings and the blessings of the Old and New Testaments.

1. Background: The Difference Between the Blessings in the Old and New Testament.

Blessings that are based upon faith and not conduct. There are two kinds of blessings in the Bible; those that are unearned and those that are earned. Salvation is an example of a blessing that cannot be earned. You cannot earn your salvation by being obedient. Instead, you are saved by your faith alone (Ro. 7:6; 8:3). If salvation could be earned by keeping the Law, Christ would have died needlessly at the cross (Gal. 2:21). As another example, by your faith alone you are blessed to become part of Abraham’s family and an adopted child of God (Gal. 3:9; Ro. 4:13). As a third example, when you accept Christ by faith, God seals you with the Holy Spirit as an eternal pledge or a down-payment on your salvation (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14). Even when you break the Law, God promises that His Spirit will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5; Dt. 31:6). There are just three examples.

New Testament blessings based upon conduct. While it is clear that conduct is not a test for salvation, Jesus also made clear that conduct can be a test for certain kinds of spiritual blessings. For example, Jesus promised various conditional blessings in the beatitudes. People who stay true to their faith in Christ in the face of persecution will be “blessed” and receive “rewards” in heaven (Matt. 5:11). As another example, Jesus promised “rewards” for those who store up their treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20). These are just two examples.

Old Testament blessings based upon conduct. The Old Testament also contains conditional blessings. Yet, the blessings of the Old and New Testaments differ in two important areas. First, Old Testament blessings largely focus on a person’s material needs while alive. “In the New Testament, however, the emphasis is more on spiritual rather than on material blessings.” (Brown, William, Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Bible Theology, 1996 Baker Books). Second, the material blessings and curses of the Torah are directly tied to the conduct of the society as a whole. By contrast, Jesus’ spiritual blessings are largely focused on the individual.

Jesus spoke about providing for your material needs. Yet, He gave two tests to receive your material needs: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). What is the standard for God’s “righteousness”? It is God’s First Covenant of the Ten Commandments. This is the marriage contract between God and His Church. When you live within this Covenant, He promises to shower you with these blessings while you are alive. When you stand outside the protections of the Ten Commandments, you stand in the open elements unprotected from the “curses” of the enemy’s attacks. For example, your salvation is not tied to observing a Sabbath (Col. 2:16). Yet, if you don’t devote a day of rest and devotion to God, He may not “refresh” and bless you (Ex. 23:12; Is. 58:13-14; 56:2-7).

21 specific blessings in the Torah for those who are faithful and obedient to God. In the four books of the Law, God reveals at least 21 specific blessings for those who are faithful and obedient to Him. These blessings are unrelated to Jesus’ blessings of eternal salvation. In Exodus, God revealed at least three conditional blessings that come from faithful obedience. These include: (1) protection from diseases (Ex. 15:26); a prolonged life (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; 5:32-33; 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5; Eph. 6:2-3); and (3) God’s holy presence (Ex. 40:34-35). In Leviticus, God revealed seven other conditional blessings that He may use to bless a person or a nation for obedience. These include: (1) provision (Lev. 26:3-5); (2) peace (Lev. 26:6); (3) protection (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22); (4) fertility (Lev. 26:9); (5) abundance from giving (Lev. 26:10, Ps. 92:12-14; Mal. 3:10-12); (6) guidance (Lev. 26:11-12; Ps. 32:8); and (7) freedom (Lev. 26:13; Ex. 20:2). In Deuteronomy, He revealed 10 other conditional blessings. These include: (1) exaltation for the nation (Dt. 28:1-2); (2) exaltation for the individual within the nation (Dt. 28:1-3); (3) growth (Dt. 28:4); (4) food (Dt. 28:5); (5) success (Dt. 28:6); (6) the defeat of your enemies (Dt. 28:7); (7) prosperity (Dt. 28:8); (8) holiness (Dt. 28:9); (9) respect (Dt. 28:10); and (10) the fullness of God’s blessings. (Dt. 28:11-14.) Finally, in books of the Law from Exodus through Deuteronomy, God reveals the blessing of forgiveness from the blood sacrifices (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Jesus became the final one-time sacrifice to fulfill the Old Testament sacrificial laws (Heb. 10:12). The only act of obedience required to receive this blessing today is to believe that He died for your sins and that He is both your Lord and Savior (Ro. 10:13; Acts 2:21; Jo. 3:16; 1 Jo. 1:9).

2. Background: The Meaning and Purpose of Curses in the Bible.

Jesus is the only cure for your eternal curse. No person can implement the Ten Commandments without breaking them at some point (Ps. 143:2; Ro. 3:10; 4:15). The cost or “wages” of this sin is death (Ro. 6:23). Thus, every person without a means of atonement bears the curse of eternal death (Gal. 3:10; Dt. 27:26; Jer. 11:3). Faith in Jesus is the only means for a person to be relieved of the eternal curse for breaking His Ten Commandments (Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:18; Jo. 3:16; 10:9; 11:25; 14:6; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). Anything other than salvation through faith would mean that Christ died needlessly (Gal. 2:21). When you repent, God will forget your sins (Heb. 8:12; 10:17). When you repent, you also are under no further condemnation (Ro. 8:1).

Living within the Ten Commandments protects you from curses while on Earth. Although his days are numbered, Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (Jo. 12:31). Paul also called him the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Thus, Satan has some power to torment and deceive while you are alive. There are also still consequences when a nation or you break Jesus’ Ten Commandments. When a nation or you walk apart from His Ten Commandments, you walk outside of His protection from the enemy’s fiery darts. When you live a carnal lifestyle, the enemy can inflict a number of curses. Some teach that the curses of the Bible no longer apply to saved believers. But a saved believer should not be deceived into believing that their eternal grace will allow them to sin without consequence: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; . . .” (1 Pet. 4:17(a)). Jesus in fact promised “tribulation” in life, even when you are not sinning (Jo. 16:33). Why then would He spare a believer from tribulation when a believer is leading a lifestyle in direct rebellion against Him?

Living within the Ten Commandments can also protect a nation from curses. Even if a carnal believer engaged in acts of adultery, drug abuse, or crime were free from curses while on Earth, there is nothing in the Bible that would protect a carnal nation from God’s curses: “and if [judgment] begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17(b)). The vast majority of the curses are directed at the nation and not at the individual. If the nation as a whole is righteous, God will cause rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous within it. “[F]or He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45(b)). Conversely, if a nation as a whole is unrighteous, He can cause drought to fall upon both the unrighteous and righteous members within it. Because He can use macro-economic trends to bless or curse a nation, the Church has an incentive to be both salt and light in society (Matt. 5:13-14). The Church cannot afford to ignore condemning sin in society out of fear that they might offend seekers (Ro. 1:16).

Satan’s counterfeit blessings: For everything that is good, Satan has created a counterfeit. The Bible says that sin is pleasurable “for a season” (Heb. 11:25). But that pleasure never lasts. If you are sinning in secret, God warns: “be sure your sin will find you out” (Nu. 32:23(b)). Although salvation is not under your personal control, you do have the power through Christ to master Satan’s attempts to deceive you: “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7). Eventually, a sinful moment of pleasure will become a curse if left unaddressed. Casual experimentation with a gateway drug like marijuana can lead to long-term cognitive decline and addictions to hard core drugs. A simple flirtation can turn into adultery and the destruction of your family. For any person caught in sin, God’s goal is to rescue the sinner by bringing the sinner to his or her senses. God is slow to anger and does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). His curses are not meant to be punitive. They are instead meant to discipline a sinner to cause the sinner to repent and return to Him.

Find shelter in God from the enemy’s attacks. In Leviticus 26, God also lists 14 curses that can happen to either an individual or a nation when they stand outside the protections of His Covenant in the face of the enemy’s attacks. These include: (1) fear; (2) defeat; (3) brokenness; (4) failure; (5) torment; (6) dissatisfaction; (7) self-destruction; (8) desperation; (9) isolation; (10) barrenness; (11) exile; (12) hopeless; (13) destruction; and (14) atrophy.

In Deuteronomy chapter 28, God also identifies 40 additional progressively severe curses. These include: (1) resistance / opposition (Dt. 28:16); (2) scarcity (Dt. 28:17 ); (3) infertility (Dt. 28:18); (4) failure (Dt. 28:19); (5) rebuke (Dt. 28:20); (6) hardships (Dt. 28:21); (7) illness (Dt. 28:22); (8) drought (Dt. 28:23-24); (9) defeat (Dt. 28:25); (10) fear (Dt. 28:26-27); (11) disease (Dt. 28:28); (12) confusion (Dt. 28:28-29); (13) stolen spouses (Dt. 28:30(a)); (14) stolen property (Dt. 28:30(b)-31, 33(a)); (15) stolen children (Dt. 28:32); (16) oppression (Dt. 28:33(b)); (17) mental illness (Dt. 28:34); (18) sores and lost beauty (Dt. 28:35); (19) idolatry (Dt. 28:36); (20) being vilified (Dt. 28:37); (21) insect plagues (Dt. 28:38-39); (22) a seared conscience (Dt. 28:40); (23) enslaved youth (the second curse against children) (Dt. 28:41); (24) barren lands (Dt. 28:42); (25) indebtedness (Dt. 28:43-44); (26) destruction (Dt. 28:45-6); (27) captivity (Dt. 28:47(a)); (28) suffering (Dt. 28:47(b)); (29) invasion (Dt. 28:49-50); (30) pillaging (Dt. 28:51); (31) being besieged (Dt. 28:52); (32) self-destruction (Dt. 28:53); (33) husbands turning on their wives (Dt. 28:54-55); (34) wives turning on their husbands (Dt. 28:56-57); (35) unending plagues (Dt. 28:58-59(a)); (36) unending diseases (Dt. 28:59(b)-60); (37) other calamities (Dt. 28:61); (38) population collapse (Dt. 28:62-63); (39) exile (Dt. 28:64); and (40) despair (Dt. 28:65-68). Other curses are found in other parts of the Torah.

3. God’s Commandment to Keep His First Covenant. Lev. 26:1-2.

  • God’s blessings turn on voluntary obedience to His First Covenant. Before listing the blessings and curses, God stated the test for receiving the blessings and avoiding the curses. He reminded the people of their obligation not to violate the First and Second Commandments against worshiping other gods and idolatry and the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy: “‘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. You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary; I am the Lord.” (Lev. 26:1-2). Just before this chapter, God also reminded the Jews of their obligation to follow the Third Commandment (Lev. 24:10-16, 23). Jesus summarized the four Commandments that relate to God with the “greatest Commandment”: ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”’ (Matt. 22:37; Dt. 6:5). If you love the Lord above all else, you will want to keep His Commandments. Faith and keeping the Commandments out of love will also allow God to bless you.

  • If you love God you will want to voluntarily keep His Ten Commandments. Jesus also says that, if you love Him, you will want to keep His Commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. 7:19). Obedience is a foundation upon which the Covenant stands. When you love the Lord, you will also want to meditate on His Law: “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Ps. 119:97). “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Ps. 1:2). Do you love Jesus’ Ten Commandments enough to meditate on them on a regular basis?

4. Seven Conditional Blessings from Voluntarily Following God’s Covenant. Lev. 26:3-13.

(1) Provision. If the Jews followed God’s Covenant, He promised rain for their produce to grow: “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land.” (Lev. 26:3-5). Rain is a symbol of God’s blessings (Dt. 11:10-17; 32:1-3; 1 Ki. 8:34-35; 18:41-46). Thus, the blessing of provision is sometimes called “raiment.” In terms of their food needs, the Jews would also live securely within the land: “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.” (Dt. 28:5). “If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land;” (Is. 1:19). Because of Isaac’s faith and obedience, God blessed his harvest 100 fold (Gen. 26:12). Jesus also promises to provide for our food, water, and clothes when we pursue His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Are you being obedient to receive His provision?

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(2) Peace. If the Jews followed God’s Covenant, He also promised to give them peace: “I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land.” (Lev. 26:6). God has not promised a pain free life. We live in a cursed world (Gen. 3:17). Thus, Christ warns that we will experience tribulation in the world (Jo. 16:33). Yet, when you obey Christ, He promises you the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). This means that you will find peace in the midst of struggle. You may not be able to control your environment. But you will control your response to your environment. If you have a relationship with Christ but you don’t feel peace, pray for Him to reveal any area in your life where you are failing to obey His will.

(3) Protection. If the Jews followed God’s Covenant, He also promised victory over their enemies: “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.” (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22; Nu 10:9, 35; Is. 54:17; Gen. 22:17). “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7). For those who are obedient and take refuge in God, He promises to be a shield against the enemy’s fiery darts: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5(b); 2 Sam. 22:31). With His help, Jonathon killed 20 enemy soldiers (1 Sam. 14:14). Likewise, it was God’s blessing that allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). God also used Gideon’s small army of only 300 soldiers to kill 120,000 enemy Midianites (Jdgs. 7:16-22; 8:10). Another type of protection that God offers is protection from the enemy’s attacks on your health: “And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.”’ (Ex. 15:26; Dt. 7:15). If you need His protection, are you being obedient out of love?

(4) Fertility. If the Jews followed God’s Covenant, He further promised that they would be fruitful and multiply: “So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you.” (Lev. 26:9). “Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.” (Dt. 28:4). With obedience: “He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, . . .” (Dt. 7:12-13; 30:16). The Jews first left Israel as a clan of 70 people (Gen. 46:27). They spent approximately 400 years in captivity (Gen. 15:13; Ex. 12:40). After spending two years in the wilderness, God told Moses to count the men of fighting age (Nu. 1:1). At that time, the men of fighting age totaled 603,550 (Nu. 1:46). Although the Jews stagnated during their time in the wilderness, the tribes that were obedient still managed to grow. For example, the Manasseh tribe began with 32,200 fighting men (Nu. 1:35). By the end of their 38-year-journey, their fighting men totaled 52,700 (Nu. 26:34). This was an increase of 20,500 or 63.66%. A person can also be blessed with fertility when they are obedient. Hannah is one example (1 Sam. 1:27). God might bless you with fertility. He also might multiply your business endeavors. He also might make you fruitful with the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:21-22). Are you being obedient so that He can multiply you and all your endeavors?

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(5) Abundance. If the Jews followed God’s Covenant, He also promised them abundant life. The surplus of their crops would be so great that they would have uneaten crops remaining when the new crops arrived the following year: “10 You will eat the old supply and clear out the old because of the new.” (Lev. 26:10). “The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.” (Joel 2:24). “So your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:10; Ps. 144:13). God also promises to “pour out” His blessings when you tithe with the right motives: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.’” (Mal. 8:3). He does not hold back that which is good when we walk in His Commandments (Ps. 84:11; 19:7). Jesus also promised not just life but “abundant life” when you follow Him (Jo. 10:10). Yet, this is not a promise of gluttony. God will not give you more than you can handle. If a blessing will lead to coveting or hoarding, that would violate the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Jesus also warned against those who might hoard God’s material blessings by building a bigger barn to store them (Lk. 12:18-20). God’s real blessing comes when you store up treasures in heaven by giving to others (Lk. 12:33). This blessing brings joy, happiness, and love no matter what trials you may face. Are you being obedient and generous to receive this blessing?

(6) Guidance/ fellowship. If the Jews followed God’s Covenant, He also promised to guide His people by both dwelling with them and walk with them in fellowship: “11 Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Lev. 26:11-12). While in the desert, God guided the Jews by a visible pillar of light (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). He also sent an angel before them (Ex. 23:23). He further promised: “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.” (Ex. 29:45-46). Through the prophet Ezekiel, He further promised to put His Spirit with His people and then reside with them (Ez. 36:27-28; 37:27). God later dwelt with mankind through Jesus (Jo. 1:1, 14). After Jesus’ death, He gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell inside each believer (2 Cor. 6:16-17). He also promised that the “helper” – the Holy Spirit – will “teach you all things” and remind you of Jesus’ teachings (Jo. 14:26). Like the Jews, God promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Dt. 31:6). The Holy Spirit will never leave you (Heb. 13:5). The blessing of guidance of the Holy Spirit comes through prayer and reading the Word (Jam. 1:5; Ps. 119:105). Yet, sin can temporarily “hinder” your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). If you feel God’s guidance is lacking or if you are missing God’s fellowship, have you repented of your sins so that God can guide you and fellowship with you?

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(7) Freedom. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised to be break them of their yoke of bondage and help them to walk erect: “13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” (Lev. 26:13, Ex. 20:2). Through faith in Jesus, all things are possible (Phil. 4:13). If you have been freed from being slaves to sin, God instead wants you to become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Your body has been bought with a terrible price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Through both faith and obedience, God gave you the power to break free from any kind of bondage or addiction. If you are struggling with sin, are you following Christ to break your chains of bondage.

5. Fourteen Conditional and Progressive Curses for Breaking God’s Law. Lev. 26:14-39.

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(1) Fear. If the Jews broke God’s law, He would cause them to feel fear in the forms of (1) a sudden terror, (2) a consumption of thoughts, (3) a fever, (4) a wasting of the eyes, and (5) a pining of the soul: “14 But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments: 15 if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, 16 I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away;” (Lev. 26:14-16(a)). “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov. 28:1). God’s prophets all warned that sin would cause the Jews to fear their enemies in battle (Josh. 2:14; Jer. 19:7(b); 7:33; Ps. 79:2). If you are sinning: “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23(b)). The fears of a sinner who is trying to conceal serious sins can include arrest, being fired, being expelled from school, or humiliation.

(2) Defeat. If the Jews continued to rebel, He warned that their enemies would control them. Even when no one was pursuing them, the Jews would flee: “also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. 17 I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.” (Lev. 26:16(b)-17). “The Lord shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Dt. 28:25). When the Jews were disobedient to God, they were defeated in battle (e.g., 1 Sam 4:2, 10). If you are facing a conflict with an adversary, unrepentant sin can cause you to face a challenge or an adversary without God’s protection.

(3) Brokenness. If these other types of punishments did not correct the behavior of the Jews, God warned that He would break the Jews of their pride: “18 If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. 19 I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze.” (Lev. 26:18-19). “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed?” (Ro. 6:21(a)). When your sins are exposed, you can be rebuked. Loved ones can leave you. Persons may also shun you. This can lead to brokenness. Although God does not want this, He allows it so that a sinner will repent.

(4) Failure. If the Jews did not respond to these corrective actions, God warned that He would allow their strength to be spent uselessly: “20 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. 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. 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.” (Lev. 26:20-22, 16(a)). “They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns, they have strained themselves to no profit.” (Jer. 12:13 (a)). “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.” (Hos. 8:7). When you embrace sin, failure frequently follows. For example, when unethical business practices are exposed, the sinner’s business typically suffers. Likewise, addicts frequently fail in their jobs, savings, family, and friends as they try to feed their addiction.

(5) Torment. If the Jews still continued to rebel, He would let the Jews experience torment through pestilence, enemies, and conflict: “23 And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, 24 then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. 25 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.” (Lev. 26:23-25). Just as He did in Egypt with the Egyptians, God used natural disasters, including but not limited to pestilence, to bring the Jews to repentance (Nu. 14:12; Dt. 28:21). Torment can also take other forms. “The cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.” (Ps. 116:3; 40:12; Is. 50:11(b)). An addict will only find torment in an addiction. The addict will suffer until he can have more of his addiction. The addict will never find peace until he or she returns to God. Unchecked sin almost always leads to torment.

(6) Dissatisfaction. If the Jews continued to rebel, God warned that they would not experience true satisfaction: “26 When I break your staff bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.” (Lev. 26:26). As sin progresses, we eventually become numb to it. That is why Jesus typically referred to leprosy as a symbol of sin. The Bible also says that sin is only pleasurable for a season (Heb. 11:25; Job 20:5). The Rolling Stones popularized the feeling of westerners who lamented that they could never find satisfaction with their famous song “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Satan will show you the thrill, but he will never show you the bill. Sin will never provide true contentment.

(7) Self-destruction. Sin can also lead to self-destructive behaviors that destroy families: “27 Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, 28 then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. 29 Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat.” (Lev. 26:27-29). Sin can cause parents to inflict injury on their children. This includes abortion and child abuse (Dt. 28:53). Children can be taken captive to sin (Dt. 28:32, 41; Jer. 5:17; 10:20). Husbands and wives can turn on each other (Dt. 28:54-57). Marriages can also be broken (Dt. 28:30; 2 Sam 2:11; Jer. 6:12; 8:10; Lam. 1:18). When sin is not checked, it eventually destroys families.

(8) Desperation. When other corrective actions fail to reach a sinner, God will eventually destroy that person’s false idols: “30 I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. 31 I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate,” (Lev 26:30-31(a)). He warned that the broken idols of the flesh would give a sinner no comfort (Is. 51:19). Without comfort, a sinner would then become desperate (Jer. 15:2). An addict will find no refuge from his or her addiction. An addict will burn in desperation for the next fix. The sinner will be unable to avoid the gambling casino, bar, prostitution house, or adulterer’s house. To fund the addiction, the sinner will deplete their savings, become indebted, and sometimes steal. Soon the idols will no longer offer comfort. They will only fuel further desperate acts to satisfy the addiction.

(9) Isolation. God also warned that He would not hear their prayers of those in rebellion. This is symbolized by His warning that He would not smell their soothing aromas: “and I will not smell your soothing aromas.” (Lev. 26:31(b)). Soothing aromas symbolized prayers (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 8:4). In the Old Testament, He warned that He would not hear the prayers of a sinner (Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15). In the New Testament, He warned that sin can cause prayers to be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7; Jo. 9:31). The reason for this is that God “cannot look on wickedness.” (Hab. 1:13). By contrast, when you act righteously, your prayers are a sweet aroma to Him (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3; Ja. 5:16).

(10) Barrenness. If other steps at corrective action failed, God warned that He would make the Jews’ lands desolate or barren: “32 I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it.” (Lev. 26:32). He frequently warns that He will bring natural disasters to a land where a nation refuses to repent: “Disaster on disaster is proclaimed, for the whole land is devastated . . .” (Jer. 4:20; Dt. 28:38-39, 42; Ex. 10:4; 14; Is. 64:10; Amos 4:9; 7:1; Joel 1:4; Nah. 3:15-16). God can use hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, draughts, plagues, and epidemics to judge an unrepentant nation.

(11) Exile. If the Jews failed to observe His Commandments, God warned that He would exile them and give the land its Sabbath for the exact number of years that they failed to observe it: 33 You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. 34 ‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.” (Lev. 26:32-35). Through Moses, God later warned four times in the book of Deuteronomy that the Jews faced exile if they rebelled: “The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you.” (Dt. 4:27-28; 28:64; 29:28; 32:26). But the Jews ignored these warnings. After the Jews inhabited the Promised Land, God’s prophets again warned that they faced exile if they continued to ignore God’s Commandments (Jer. 5:19; 17:4; 50:17; Neh. 1:8; Ezek. 12:3; 22:15). When the Jews continued to ignore God’s warnings, He allowed a foreign army to take them into exile (2 Kin. 17:6; 18:11; 15:29). Just as God warned in advance, He kept the Jews in Babylonian captivity for 70 years, the exact number of Sabbath years that they failed to observe (490 years / 7) (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; 2 Chr. 26:20-21; 36:21). These fulfilled prophecies show that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. Those who ignore God’s warnings in the Bible do so at their own peril.

(12) Hopelessness. If the Jews continued to rebel, God warned that He would allow them to experience hopelessness: “36 As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. 37 They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing; and you will have no strength to stand up before your enemies.” (Lev. 26:36-37). God also warned in other parts of the Bible that sinners would eventually feel defenseless and without any hope of fending off attacks (Dt. 28:26; Josh. 2:14; Lam. 2:17; Jer. 19:7; 7:33; Ps. 79:2; Prov. 28:1). When sin causes someone to hit rock bottom, they frequently feel hopelessness.

(13) Destruction. Living without God’s protection, a rebellious nation eventually faces destruction: “38 But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies’ land will consume you.” (Lev. 26:38). “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.” (Dt. 28:45-6; 4:25-26; 8:19; 11:17; Jer. 4:7). Destruction can also come in the form of lost generations of youth, epidemics of divorce, debt, poverty, recession, and other national calamities.

(14) Atrophy. Finally, if all other means of correction fail, God may allow a sinner’s strength to atrophy until the sinner repents and cries out for Him: “39 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.” (Lev. 26:39). When addicts lose their families, their homes, their jobs, and their health, many wind up on the streets or in jail. The sinner’s strength will literally rot away.

6. God’s Promise Never to Leave or Forsake His People. Lev. 26:40-46.

  • God’s promise of hope to all believers trapped in sin. The progressive and conditional curses in the Bible served the purpose of trying to redirect God’s wayward people back to Him. No matter how desperate things became, God promised never to leave or forsake His people: “40 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— 41 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, 42 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. 43 For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. 45 But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord. 46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws which the Lord established between Himself and the sons of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai.” (Lev. 26:44-46). God can forgive any sin when you repent (1 Jo. 1:9). Jesus died to give everyone life (Jo. 3:16). Is there any sin that you need to confess?

7. Conclusion: Lessons for You and the Church from God’s Blessings and Curses.

  • Jesus’ invitation for national repentance. God does not change (Mal 3:6; Heb. 13:8). Thus, the blessings and curses listed in Leviticus still apply today for individuals, the Church, and the nations. In three gospels, Jesus warned “an evil and adulterous generation” that there would be no sign, except for “the sign of Jonah.” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Lk. 11:29). Like Nineveh, a nation can escape its judgment if it repents (Jonah 3:10). Are you praying for the nation to repent of its sins?

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