The covenant sanctions include fearsome curses. This section is significantly longer than the blessings, but given the situation the warnings are to the point. This section is not so much an argument as it is a painted picture—it contains a good deal of repetition. These are warnings, not proofs. The proof comes in the judgment. Consequently, we shall treat them as a cumulative whole. "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God . . ." (Dt. 28:15-68).
The curses divide (generally) into three sections. The first concerns the nation suffering under the hand of God in their internal affairs (vv. 15-44). The second concerns foreign policy, and the prospect of military judgment (vv. 48-57). The third is the threat of exile (vv. 58-68). In all this, their covenant God remains their very personal God.
The first problem is internal rot. In their domestic dealings, Israel starts to fall apart because of disobedience (v. 15). They are cursed in the fields and cities both (v.16). They are cursed in their fruitfulness (vv. 17-18), and in their comings and goings (v. 19). They are vexed by the Lord in all their deals (v. 20). The Lord strikes them with diseases (vv. 21-22). The Lord strikes them with drought (v. 23-24). The Lord gives them ignominious defeat in battle(vv. 25-26). The Lord will strike them with more diseases (vv. 27-29), possibly including syphilis. Blessings will be taken or destroyed in the most maddening way (vv. 30-34). The Lord will bring a "sore botch" (v. 35). They will come under foreign domination (v. 36). They will become an international laughingstock (v. 37). Their fruitfulness will rot (vv. 38-42). The resident alien will become very powerful, and he shall lend (vv. 43-44). These shall all come because of disobedience (vv. 45-46), the disobedience of no joy and gladness (v. 47).
All this is simply God’s artillery, preparing Israel for the invasion. God will bring swift military judgment from a merciless nation (vv. 48-50). The invader will eat what is natural for men to eat (vv. 51-52), while the beseiged Israelites will devour one another (vv. 53-57). Even the most refined woman will engage in horrific barbarity, and Israel will come to the utmost end of God’s judgments—eating what should be fed. But let it be noted that these Israelite women did this under extreme duress, while American women chop their babies into little pieces for the sake of convenience.
Because Israel did not want to fear the name (v. 58), God has brought all these judgments down upon them. He will make their plagues wonderful (v. 59). Receiving the plagues of Egypt, Israel has become Egypt (v. 60). The Lord will bring upon them diseases He neglected to mention in the law (v. 61). They will be decimated (v. 62), and God will be glad to do it (v. 63). The Lord will bring them into exile, where they will live in desperate uncertainty (vv. 64-67). They will be brought again to slavery in Egypt (v. 68), where they receive the final insult—no one even wants to buy them.
Threatened curses are intended to strike fear into the hearts of all covenant members who want to have it both ways. Men who want a God of fuzzy and stupid benevolence—a divine type of senile, wealthy, indulgent grandfather—want a religion other than the Christian faith.
Why?—again, we see that Israel was judged because they did not know the meaning of gratitude and rejoicing (v. 47). We need to return, again and again, to our duties as God’s people in worship and celebration before the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). Why are we so weak? Because we will not eat the fat and drink the sweet.
God’s delight—God rejoices in blessing an obedient people. God also rejoices over the destruction of an impudent people (v. 63). God placed both blessings and curses in the covenant because He wanted to. He brings judgment because He wants to. And at the point of judgment, He does not bring it on reluctantly. The Lord rejoices to destroy. The time spent in wrestling with the theological ramifications of this would be better spent in repentance. Deal with it.
True repentance—resisting the judgments is not the same thing as repentance. Distaste for consequences is not the same thing as a distaste for sin. A dislike of the crop is not repentance for having planted it. And this means the preachers of our nation are still healing the wound lightly, saying peace, peace in a seeker-friendly way. But there is no peace. And out of the comparatively few American Christians who see our nation in this chapter, a small minority of them actually see the way out. What is that way? The only turning, the only repentance, is repentance back to true worship.