Perhaps the Most Shocking Verse in Scripture?

In the curses in Deuteronomy 28, towards the end of the 54 verses of curses, comes a very shocking verse. To set the stage, God shows that He knows how to bless those who follow Him and obey His word in verses 1-14. But then in verses 15-68 of Deuteronomy 28 God shows that He knows how to curse His people who turn from His words.

The amazing larger context is that God is speaking to His covenant people—that is to those under the Mosaic Covenant. And the following verse is both climactic and thematic for the whole section:

Deut 28:63, “And it shall be, that just as the Lord rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the Lord will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.”

At first reading (or writing, if one is handwriting Deuteronomy), this verse is shocking. God will rejoice over His people to destroy them in like fashion to how He rejoiced over them to bless them. This passage does not sound like a God of love at first glance. But it does sound like a God of justice and vengeance.

Perhaps this is why Peter wrote in the context of false teachers:

2 Pet 2:21, “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

Following the same vain the Peter wrote that judgment was to “begin” with the household of God:

1 Pet 4:17, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Rather than quickly overlooking Deuteronomy 28:63 and its very powerful teaching, it would be good to allow it to produce the self-examination that it surely was written to evoke in its reader.

God loves His people very much. Indeed He sent His Son to die on the cross for the salvation of the world:

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

However, when His people stray, they will be the first to be punished for their straying from God. Indeed they must “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12. They must remember that ultimately it is God who works in their lives, not only to save them, but also to bring their salvation to a good end:

Phil 1:6, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

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