Thursday after Laetare
Scripture: Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (NKJV)
1 “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God:
3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.
5 “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.
6 “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.
7 “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
8 “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
9 “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”
The blessings God promised to Israel for their obedience to His commandments covered every aspect of life on Earth. They were promised big families, healthy bodies, long life, bountiful harvests, plentiful possessions, victory in every battle and prosperity in everything they did. It sounds almost like Heaven on Earth.
It’s not that God required sinlessness from the Israelites in order for them to receive these blessings. What God required from them was that they take His commandments seriously, that they repent of their sins. God required that they trust in the promises He made to forgive their sins by means of the many sacrifices outlined in the Law of Moses, all of which pointed ahead to the coming Christ. At various points throughout their history, when Israel was living in repentance and faith in their good and gracious God, they experienced these blessings, just as Moses had foretold. Truly, if any nation on Earth could have experienced a permanent Heaven on Earth, it would have been Israel.
But Israel’s repeated rejection of God throughout the Old Testament and their ultimate rejection of God’s Messiah demonstrates that Heaven on Earth simply isn’t possible. Our flesh is too corrupt, and death is still a reality here. God does not intend even for the members of His Holy Church to dwell on this earth in peace and prosperity forever.
Instead, we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. Our sure and certain hope is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus and the inheritance reserved for us in the new heavens and Earth, where moth and rust will not destroy, where our sinful flesh will no longer exist, and where only blessings and joy await.
O Lord, by Your Word and Sacraments, strengthen and preserve us in the true faith unto life everlasting; through Jesus Christ. our Lord. Amen.