I have a hard time convincing some of the people I talk to that God is a loving Father who desires to give us the very best of His love through salvation, spiritual gifts, material gain, family, friends, honorable positions, victory over enemies, and just through being called His own people. Even though anyone can read these promises in the 15 verses of Deuteronomy 28:1-15, there follows 42 verses of curses outlined by God that a majority of people identify Him with – just waiting to act out these curses on them. To be honest, when I read these curses, I shudder to think the God that I am in love with could write such horrible pronouncements. Take verses 53-57 which describe how when a town is besieged by the enemy that the fathers will eat the flesh of their own children; what could be worse? Yet, history of Israel reveals that this event actually did happen during a dark period of turning away from God.
So why does God spend only 15 lines of conversation to woo us, only to pound out 42 verses of what will happen if we try to walk away? I think the answer lies in the story of the Crucifixion.
If we focus on the agony of the Cross which Jesus Christ suffered, we may understand the hellish torture that he withstood until all was accomplished. The purpose of the Crucifixion, as planned by God, agreed and performed by Jesus Christ, and energized by the Holy Spirit was for Jesus to take on all these curses of disobedience for our sakes.
I hear this in the description of Christ dying on the Cross as told by Mark. Christ called out several times in a loud voice. He did not say, “Oh, my hands, my feet, my head – they hurt!” He cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” He could barely speak due to the swelling of His tongue, so He cried out, “I thirst.” When He said, “It is finished,” he did not whisper it, but “Jesus cried out with a loud voice” before breathing His last.
At least once a year, I watch the Mel Gibson movie version of the Crucifixion called The Passion. I do this, not because I enjoy watching the re-enactment of this traumatic event, but because I choose to shock my soul and mind with the reality of my Savior’s terrible death. The curses that I want to hurl at the mob, the false religious leaders, the Roman military, and the sarcastic individuals that dogged Him issue out of my helplessness to do anything about what happens to the Son of God. Yet we are told that Jesus Christ voluntarily submitted to the torture, the travail of spirit, and the moment of earthly death. He laid down His life when He was ready. We hear that even Pilate wondered how He could be dead so soon (Mark 15:44).
So even though it may be hard to understand how the supernatural love of God could utter the curses of old, I recognize that these curses and more, including the ones I brought on myself, were experienced in this Son of Man-Son of God who cried out in a loud voice. A voice loud enough to be heard by the crowd. A voice loud enough to split the veil in the Jewish synagogue from top to bottom. A voice loud enough to wipe out the curses of old, restore the human soul, and usher in this age of Grace. Grace to the very ones who deserved all the curses. If you fear the God who told us we would experience the consequences of disobedience through these curses, remember that this same God took on all these curses for us the day that Jesus died on the Cross.