READ: Deuteronomy 33
THINK: This chapter is phenomenally beautiful when it’s read with a birds-eye view of the Old Testament and the journey of the twelve tribes of Israel. For me, on a personal level, it’s almost overwhelming to read. It gives so much peace and so much hope to a life that deserves neither because of my own failures and shortcomings. Let me explain:
Deuteronomy 33 is a parallel blessing to the one that Jacob gave to each of his twelve sons upon his deathbed in Genesis 49. But there’s a catch. Jacob’s “blessing” that gets handed out to his sons isn’t exactly a blessing. Instead, it’s more of prophecy of what will occur in the future for each of his sons and their offspring. And the vision Jacob has of their futures is disconcerting at best.
Amidst a number of other things including some blessings and some positive things, Jacob says that Reuben will no longer excel, that Levi would be scattered and never have a land they can call their home, Judah will be marked by war, Isaachar will submit to forced labor, Dan will be violent, Gad will be raided, and Joseph will be attacked.
And then we fast forward half a millennium, after 400 years of oppression and slavery in Egypt and 40 years of wandering in the desert, and the next great patriarch of Israel is on his death bed. The people are on the precipice of the Promised Land, of finally claiming the inheritance that God has promised and carved out for them. And Moses, who has given his life to these people and led them through the struggles and trials of the desert, knows that he won’t get to enter the land with them because of his own sin. So he calls the people to him and speaks.
And in Deuteronomy 33 Moses turns the curses into blessings. He doesn’t reverse them. He doesn’t take away the consequences of the actions that led to Jacob’s initial prophecy. But he does – or more accurately God does – redeem their stories and redeem their futures. He turns the consequences and the prophecy into an incredibly hope-filled vision of the futures.
Reuben may not excel at everything, but there will be strength in their numbers, Levi may be scattered without a land of their own but that’s because they will be the priests who minister to God’s people all throughout the Promised Land, Judah may be warlike but will be defended by God, Isaachar may be enslaved for a period of time but will be marked by prosperity, Dan and Gad may be attacked but they will be strong like lions, and Joseph will be blessed greatly by God.
There is something powerful in this prophetic blessing that Moses hands out to the tribes. It is God reaching down and redeeming the brokenness of their past. A God who promises that he turns our curses into blessings. A God who promises that he sets all things right and makes all things new. The world that we live in is broken and our sin has consequences, but God does not abandon us to that brokenness of the hopelessness of these consequences.
If you are anything like me there is plenty of failure in your past. Enough sin and enough brokenness that you deserve all the curses and the negative consequences that are headed your way. Maybe you’ve even felt hopeless at some point along your journey. Maybe you feel hopeless right now. Like you’re too far gone or too messed up to ever get things back on track. Like your story is too broken to be fixed.
But that’s simply not what God says. And that’s not reflective of the way that God has invaded human history, intersected our lives, and set things right for thousands of years. He is the God who redeems. Who steps into our journeys, just exactly where we are, and turns them in a redemptive direction. We are never ever without hope. Ever. That’s the phenomenally overwhelming message of this chapter. God turns our curses into blessings.
PRAY: Let God overwhelm you today. Think about your failure and your brokenness and just allow yourself to be amazed and overcome by what it means that he loves you enough to step into all of that and fix it, forgive you, reconcile you to himself, and make things new again. Just be in awe of him, and tell him that you are. And if you have a few minutes, listen/sing along to this song.