We are used to promises and penalties in our commerical contracts. What Leviticus addresses in its closing clauses is the carrot and stick of relating to God under the old covenant. These themes carry through into our lives now and finally into our lives when the Kingdom of God is completed in Jesus Christ. How do we live with the ambiguity of cursed blessings and blessed curses in the meantime? [Audio | Notes]
For further thought
Leviticus 26 contains a list of blessing and curses. Such a list often appeared at the end of agreements between a King and a people or at the end of business contracts. We are used to such things in our own contracts – the advantage of a mortgage and the penalties for non-payment … and so on.
Q: What are the three blessings to those who hear and do God’s words in Leviticus?
Q: What are the six curses?
Q: Why are they graded in intensity?
Q: How are these blessings and curses reflected in the way the people treat God?
The core of the blessings and curses is the presence of God (26.11-12, 27) – yet the presence of God in Leviticus never restores human beings to the pristine state described in Genesis 2. The presence of God in Leviticus lightens the burdens inflicted on humanity in Genesis 3 but it does not remove them. As Leviticus shows, people still die, get ill, need to offer sacrifice … and so on.
The absence of God in the curses of Leviticus 26 deepens the tragedies of Genesis 3, they have life (a gift of God) but it is a shadow life (of fear, and want). This line of blessings and curses begins with the sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Seth, then carries through the Bible until in the book of Revelation where we meet the final day of judgement which all the other biblical judgements are pointers to.
On that day the curse (Genesis 3) is taken from the blessings of the people of God (no sacrifice necessary, no more tears, no death, no illness – Revelation 21.1-7) and Eden is restored in a more glorious form (Revelation 22.1-5).
Yet also on that day, the blessings are taken from the curse of the enemies of God and they suffer the second death (Revelation 18.9-24; 20.11-15; 21.8)
Q: How does the church (the people of God today) experience the ambiguity of blessing in hardship?
Q: Where is the church being judged today and the absence of obedience leads to the absence of blessing?
Q: If Jesus Christ is both our ideal (our blessing and the presence of God) and he bears our curse in His sacrifice, how should we respond to Him?
We want the ideal, but we are also scared of it
Because every life is compromised
– The blessed curse
– The cursed blessing
So we need grace and not mere morality