49 “The Lord will bring a distant nation against you from the end of the earth, and it will swoop down on you like a vulture. It is a nation whose language you do not understand,50 a fierce and heartless nation that shows no respect for the old and no pity for the young.— Deut 28:49, 50 NLT
Deuteronomy 28 is probably best known for all the blessings that God promises if His people are obedient. If the Israelis obeyed God by keeping His laws and commandments, they would be the most blessed nation on earth. In this chapter, God also explains to them what will happen if they are disobedient. If they fail to keep His commandments and laws, they will be the most cursed nation on earth and will eventually not be a nation at all, but a scattered people. While the law was fulfilled when Jesus gave His life for us on the Cross and was resurrected, He still expects His people to be obedient. God’s commandments in the Old Testaments were not just suggestions and His commands to us to be holy even as He is holy and to love Him above everyone and everything and our neighbors as ourselves are not suggestions. He is the same God, yesterday, today and tomorrow, so we can be sure that if we are not obedient under the new covenant, the same curses will befall us. We may or may not be a “Christian” nation, but we are a nation with millions of Christians living here. We can make a difference if we spend time on our knees before a holy God and petition Him continuously for mercy and grace for our nation. Jesus gave us the example of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). Let us follow that example in keeping on keeping on with our requests for our nation. God told Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, if He could find five righteous people there, let us pray that He will show us the same mercy.
17 Never stop praying. — 1 Thess. 5:17 NLT
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
The Old Testament law was given to show man that he could not live up to the perfection required for redemption. Man could not and cannot do anything to save himself. Those living in that time who thought they were doing a good enough job to satisfy God’s requirements for redemption were caught up in prideful thinking. They became so full of pride that they actually added laws to the ones God had already given. We can only assume that they thought they were improving the situation, when, in fact, they were putting burdens on the people. So, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who was full of grace and mercy.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.— John 1:14 NIV
We are saved by grace through faith and Jesus wants to continue to give us grace upon grace.
16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.— John 1:16 NASB
It is this continued gift of grace that allows us to overcome the flesh and submit ourselves to God. Without it, we would be like the religious leaders of ancient times and become so full of pride that we would be useless in spreading the word of God. There is nothing in this world that is worthy of praise when it is compared to the joy and the hope that we have through Jesus Christ.
30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”— 1 Cor. 1:30, 31 NIV
If anything or anyone in this world brings us greater joy, pleasure and happiness than knowing Jesus, then we are double-minded. We should mourn and wail while asking God to forgive us and bring our focus back on Him and Him alone.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! — Habakkuk 3:17,18 NLT
Happiness and pleasure are worldly things and are dependent on our external circumstances. They are fleeting and temporary. But joy, true joy, comes from the Holy Spirit that abides in us. It is dependent on our internal attitudes. It is eternal and no one, not even satan can steal our joy. If we lose it, it is because we give it away. It is our strength that gets us through every day. There are times when we may not be happy and our circumstances may not be pleasant, but how we respond to those times determines where we are on our journey with Jesus. When these times come, do we blame God and sulk like spoiled children or do we respond like Habakkuk and rejoice in the Lord”? When we don’t feel like praying, that is the time we need to pray the fervent, effectual prayers. When we don’t feel like shouting with joy, that is the time when we need to clap our hands and shout with a voice of triumph. Our joy is not based on feelings or circumstances but upon the sure knowledge that “God is our salvation and He has become our strength”. All day, every day, all our life long.
Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! — Psalm 47:1
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.—Romans 12:12 NIV
Too often, we confuse pleasure and happiness with joy. Pleasure and happiness are temporary. They are based on feelings, external situations and how others treat us. Joy is internal and is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a gift from God and once we have received His joy, no one can take it from us. We can fail to access it, but it is always there. In those times of affliction, it strengthens us to carry on.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.—Psalm 94:19 NIV
We must be faithful in prayer. As Paul says, “pray without ceasing”. We are able to do that because prayer is dependent on our thought patterns and our attitude. We can pray all the time, in any situation. A prayer can be a thought that goes through your mind, It does not have to be spoken.
10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”—Jeremiah 17:10 NIV
A prayerful attitude keeps us focused on God and not on our problems or our situation. When we are focused on God, we are filled with joy because of the hope we have in Him.
13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. —James 1:13-16 (NLT) God never tempts us. So, if God isn’t tempting us, then where do those temptations originate? That’s right, they come from satan. We know that satan was allowed to tempt Jesus with promises of wealth and grandeur. Jesus, being human, yet perfect, did not give in to those temptations. Why? Because Jesus had one desire and that was to please our Father, God. We are not perfect, so when satan tempts us with his beautiful pictures of what could be if we only let him in, we give into those temptations. Why? Because our fleshly desires are stronger and more immediate than our desire to please God. We are enticed and we allow our desires to mislead us. We think that we can turn our desires off and on like a water fountain. But, we find that once we have compromised with satan, we lose control. Then that sinful idea or thought starts to happen more often and soon it takes on a life of its own. So, we grab a little pleasure here and a little pleasure there. Suddenly, those little pleasures have grabbed us and we can’t shake them. That is when sin latches onto us, takes us further than we want to go, and keeps us longer than we want to stay. Pride says “I would never”. But reality says we did and we must confess our sins. Ask Peter.
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.–Eph. 4:17-24 (NLT)
Paul is telling us not to live like ignorant and unconverted people do. They have not been regenerated and their minds are full of darkness. They do not walk in the light of the truth of the Gospel. Why? Because they have refused to heed the call of God’s Spirit and have refused to be obedient, so their hearts and minds are closed to any move by the Spirit. Therefore, they live only to satisfy the lusts of the flesh and they participate in all kinds of sinful activity. But we know better. Why? Because we have heard and accepted the Truth. So, we walk according to God’s Spirit. That means that we stop our sinful ways that were corrupted by lust and deception. We are now a new creature and we are guided by the Spirit of God. The real “us” that is carried around in these tents of flesh is being made into God’s image. We look forward to the day when we shall see Jesus. At that time, we will be totally converted into His image. “What a wonderful change in my heart has been wrought’ I’ve been washed by the blood of the Lamb.” Hallelujah and Amen!
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep. 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)
We should live rejoicing each day because of what Christ has done for us. Yes, we have rough times when we aren’t happy, but happiness and pleasure are temporary conditions caused by earthly situations. Our joy is caused by the indwelling of God’s Spirit within us and no one can take that from us. Don’t focus on the temporary, set your focus on the eternal Jesus and the joy He provides for us. He hides us under His wings, He provides for us, He gives us every good gift. Rejoice and again, I say, Rejoice!!