Nehemiah 10-11

If the word curse was explicitly used in reference to the covenant before this, I glossed right over it. I know the language of the covenant is very clearly if…then from the very beginning. God makes the consequences of breaking the covenant extremely clear. It simply isn’t possible that anyone ever entered the covenant without understanding that breaking it would be bad. And then, on top of that, every time they do break the covenant, God sends warnings to remind them of those bad things that are going to happen.

But I don’t remember the word curse being used as an alternative wording for the covenant. God promised to curse those that curse Israel, but this is fascinating to me.

If you obey, I will bless you. If you keep my commands, I will protect you and provide for you.

vs

If you disobey me, I will curse you. If you break my commands, you will be conquered and enslaved.

These statements are two sides of the same coin. They exist together implicitly. But there’s something about the attitude that stands there and explicitly enters into a covenant of a curse.

It makes sense. These are people returning to the covenant from the effects of the curse. They have lived the curse. It’s very real to them. I’m sure many of them are desperate to prove their commitment, to shelter under the covenant and the temple, to lift the curse. It makes sense that it would be in the forefront of their minds as they renew the oath of their people.

But listen. There’s a firmness to this language. An attitude…

Okay. Imagine an action movie. You’ve got two people on the screen. One of them says: “Stick with me, do what I say, and I’ll get you out of this alive.”

Okay. Now imagine the exact same set up but one of them says: “I swear on my life, I will do what needs to be done. Should I fail, may I not live to see morning.”

The fault with this metaphor, and every metaphor is inherently imperfect, is of course that God doesn’t require anything from us the way the second scene kind of implies. But as I am focusing on the Israelites, it serves my purposes.

In the first, the Israelites are coddled. In the second, they’ve seen some things.

I’m not saying this is terribly significant in the long run. Israel never does hold up their end of the covenant. I’m just saying it’s a fascinating bit of psychology to consider. And I think there is something of value for us in the reflection.

Getting people to accept a blessing is easy. Are you willing to accept a curse? I mean, it’s still better than the alternative, slavery with the trappings of freedom, and failure to accept the covenant has the same consequences as failure to keep the covenant, but this exercise is about your perspective, your attitude. Are you confident enough in your faith and commitment to accept the consequences of failure? Are you willing to use the language of “entering into a curse”?

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