Having seen the theme of blessing developed throughout Scripture, we will now look at the other side of blessing, which is the curse of God. In dealing with mankind, the Lord promises either blessings or cursings.
The curse of God first appears in Genesis 2:15–17, where our Creator promises our first parents that disobedience to His command will result in their deaths. This curse was actualized in the fall — Adam and Eve were cast out of abundant life in Eden when they followed the serpent and not the revealed will of God (chap. 3).
Since then, all people have been under a curse, and the only way to find blessing is to turn from sin, trusting in the Lord’s promise of salvation (12:1–3; Gal. 3:10–14). This truth was revealed to the people of Israel in a special way in Deuteronomy 28. There God pledges to bestow blessings upon the nation for its obedience and warns that curses will follow disobedience. The people would demonstrate their faith through their obedience and blessings would follow; good works do not earn salvation for fallen people but demonstrate the trust that lays hold of it (James 2:14–26). Persistent, impenitent disobedience, on the contrary, would reveal a lack of saving faith and bring curses.
The blessings and curses promised in Deuteronomy 28 are largely “physical” in nature, but not exclusively so, for both typify spiritual realities. The ultimate covenant curse is exile (vv. 58–68), and since God’s saving presence was felt most powerfully during the old covenant within the borders of the Promised Land, exile was also a spiritual curse, for exile is banishment from the Lord’s place of blessing.
Our Lord knew He would not get perfect obedience from Israel, otherwise He would not have given them sacrifices to atone for their failures. What He expected was a life of repentance. To receive the ultimate blessings of eternal life in a new creation typified in Deuteronomy 28, however, perfect obedience is required (Lev. 18:5; Gal. 3:10-14). No ordinary descendant of Adam can render this obedience, but we find in Jesus the Christ a sinless substitute whose obedience allows us to enjoy eternal blessings. Trusting Him alone is the only way to escape the ultimate exile from God’s saving presence in the new heavens and earth typified in Deuteronomy 28.