Most of us have heard the story of the three Hebrew boys and how they were thrown into a fiery furnace after refusing to bow to the idol. (Daniel 3) We read about their obedience to God, being thrown in, the guards dying from the heat, the king seeing them and the fourth man walking around, and them walking out of the fire not even smelling of smoke. But let’s pause for a moment. What about while they were inside? What happened…from their perspective?
The first thing they would have noticed, beyond the fact that they were still alive, was that the very fire intended to destroy them had, instead, burned away their bonds. They were thrown into the fire held captive and bound, but were likely loosed before they even hit the floor. Yes, they were still in the fire, but they could stand up, may have even playfully pulled each other up, and they could walk around as they liked. In truth, they were more free than they had been for a while.
Many times in our lives, we find ourselves anticipating potential outcomes with dread, perhaps with such a fear that it binds us, holding us captive and keeping us from moving forward. Statistics say that what we fear almost never even happens. Think about that. How much time do we waste letting the fear of something that will NEVER HAPPEN hold us captive to the point that we can’t even move?
But the thing is that, once we’re thrown into the fire, that fear is burned away. The worst has already happened and, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we can look up from the floor of the furnace and realize, “Hey! I’m still here! I survived!”
I can imagine their surprised joy in that moment. They had dared declare God’s power to the king, assuring him that the One they served was more than able to deliver them. And He had. You know that special laughter that comes with joy? I can almost hear it. I can also see them turning to look through the flames, out the door, at the outside. Perhaps in the midst of their astonishment they wondered what they should do next. And then, just maybe, from behind them…
They heard a chuckle. Can you see them whipping around in even more shock and amaze? The king said the fourth man in the fire looked like the son of God. Presumably, he was right. They wouldn’t have known Him as “Jesus,” but their hearts would surely have recognized Him.
Now their backs are to the exit, the fire that surrounds them is pretty much forgotten, and their eyes are firmly focused on their first ever glimpse of the One they’ve offered their lives for. Though they have no way of knowing it, everything – literally everything – has changed.
What words would Jesus have spoken to them? Did they ask all of the questions that had burned in their hearts for years? Did He… I can’t really even begin to propose what He might have said. We do know this, though. They spent some time in there.
We don’t know how much time, but it was enough that the king eventually realized what he was seeing, pointed it out to his companions, and called out for the three to come out. Given the raging fire, and how loud it would have been, it seems to me that either the fire was allowed time to burn down or Jesus told them, “Hey guys, the king is calling.”
Regardless, stepping back inside with the kids… While I was homeschooling, I wrote an essay entitled “The View from Inside the Furnace,” and at this point I suggested that they, instead of being in the worst time of their lives (what it looked like) were actually on the field trip of a lifetime.
As they walk around, I imagine Jesus explaining exactly how this furnace works, how it is used to harness the destructive nature of fire and cause it to change things, transforming soft clay into usable, even valuable, vessels. Then I imagine Jesus sharing a few secrets about how He is going to use their time in the fire to do far more, not only to change them, making them more useful and valuable, but also change the world. I imagine…quite a lot, actually.
Can you see the disappointment on their faces when either they finally hear the king calling or Jesus announces that their visit is over? The very thing that was at one time the ultimate threat has now become a refuge, a place they’ve been seeking their whole lives – a secret place where it is just them and Him. In all honesty, if it were me I’d have been like a child begging for “just one more story.”
Actually, I have been. I wrote the essay I referred to earlier during one of the hardest times of my life. I intended it for friends who were worried about me, and with good reason. In the midst of the fire I learned things I could never have learned anywhere else, and I developed an intimacy with God that I had never known. As I shared with God in prayer at the time, I would never wish that fire on my worst enemy, but I desperately desired to take the intimacy with me when I walked back out of the flames.
Those three boys had to feel the same way, but for them I think it almost had to be a harder walk to take, because Jesus came out of that furnace with me, staying always by my side, and they had to leave the fourth man behind, knowing they would likely never see Him face-to-face again.
And, as I imagine Jesus promising, their world changed – and not just for them. Yes, they were promoted and given all honor, but even more importantly God was promoted, and the king himself ordered that He be worshipped. Yes, our God was merely added to the list of gods they already worshipped, but it was a beginning.
So I leave us (Yep, this is a reminder for me.) with this. Serve God with all your heart and don’t fear the fire. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that He has great plans for us, and Romans 8:28 promises that He can cause all things to work together for our good. Even a walk in a fire-filled furnace, though terrifying to face, can be an amazing experience that prepares us for an astounding future.
I love these words. In modern terms this means – “it WILL happen.” These words were spoken to the children of Israel, but since God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) they can also be spoken over us. Of course, there is one “little” condition; it follows the next word – the IF.
thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day
Now, Moses was speaking of a particular list of commandments, a rather long list. Jesus later simplified matters by giving two commandments that cover everything. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10:27) This really does cover it all. If we truly love God with all that we are, we will make it our business to seek out those things that please Him and bring honor to Him and, likewise, we will actively avoid anything that displeases or dishonors Him. If we truly love Him with all our hearts, we will listen intently for His voice because it is our favorite thing to hear, and we will do whatever He tells us to do. And of course, if we do all of this, loving our neighbors as ourselves will be easy.
the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth
Again, God is speaking to Israel, but we have been adopted into that family, having been made heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom 8:17).
The thought of one people group (“Nation” translates as “people group” rather than being a political or geographical descriptor.) being exalted above all other people groups of the earth can be an uncomfortable thing to consider, but God said it, so think about it we must.
2And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.
There’s that “if” again! Something will happen IF we hearken unto the voice of the Lord our God, IF we listen for it and pay attention to what it says. The Hebrew word used here is fairly pointed; it means “to hear intelligently” and often implies obedience.
Of course, if we are listening to His voice and doing what He says, we won’t be standing still; we’ll be busy about His work. And as we move forward with Him something will happen. He says that all (not some) of the blessings He is about to promise will come on us. As we move forward with Him, the blessings will come rushing up behind us and overtake us. How very opposite this picture is to the one mankind envisions. Most people feel the need to chase after the blessings, but God sees just the opposite – that it is Him we chase after and then the blessings chase after us. Matthew 6:33 comes to mind. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
The “all these things” mentioned in this verse is discussed in the verses above; it refers to all the things the Gentiles (or those who don’t know Him) seek. Every one of those things is covered by the blessings mentioned in Deuteronomy 28. Once again, Jesus takes a lot of Scripture and condenses it down to the bare essentials. He’s still saying the same thing, but in a different way; I love it!
3Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
This verse covers a lot of ground – in the literal sense. Some translations say you will be blessed in the city and the country, which implies that no matter where you are, as long as it’s where God wants you to be, the blessings will overtake you. You can also see it as the city and the field being the two different places a person of that day would work, in which case it would be clear that wherever you work, as long as you’re listening to God’s voice and actively doing what He wants you to do, the blessings will find and overtake you.
4Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body
Here is a promise any parent can appreciate! As long as I hearken diligently to the voice of the Lord my God, being faithful to pay attention to and do all He tells me to do, my children will be blessed. This one promise, alone, should be enough to motivate any parent to stay in the absolute center of God’s will!
Other translations present this promise slightly differently. The New Living Translation says that you will be blessed with many children. To people in an agrarian culture, which Israel was, “many children” does mean “great blessings.”
Regardless of translation, God obviously intends for our children to be blessed and a blessing.
and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
Again, God is speaking to an agrarian, or land-based, society here, so these were the primary areas in which a man made his wealth. He is saying in this portion of verse that whatever you do to make money, be it farming, ranching, sheep herding or anything else (as long as you are doing what He wants you to do), you will be blessed.
It is interesting to note that Proverbs 10:22 says, The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow to it. The word translated as “blessed” in Deuteronomy 28 is the root of the word translated as “blessing” in Proverbs 10:22. Looking at the definition, it is clear that the implication is definitely “prosperity.” It is God’s intent that we prosper financially.
5Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.
Baskets were used for many things in Old Testament days. One of the ways in which a basket was used was carrying purchases home from the market. In some parts of the US today people still refer to those cards we push around inside grocery stores as baskets. I and many others walk in the knowledge of this Scripture when we go shopping, starting our shopping trips with, “Father, I thank You my basket is blessed.” I’m not the only one who has developed a reputation for finding bargains, and I’m convinced that our gift for bargain hunting is a result of our taking this particular blessing seriously.
As I said, baskets were used in many ways, and in any way a basket would be used God said it would be blessed.
The word “store” is interesting. Not only did they not have stores as we know them when this Word from God was given, but I have also seen the word translated as “kneading trough.” I went to my copy of Strong’s and found that kneading trough is, indeed, the more accurate translation.
Now, before anyone decides I’m questioning the accuracy of Scripture, let me point out that words change in meaning over time. How many words have we seen this happen to even in recent decades? (Look up the word “geek” in an older dictionary and you’ll see what I mean.) It is entirely possible that a kneading trough was called a “store” when King James had his translators work on producing a Bible that the common man could read.
Regardless, I appreciate the blessing on the kneading trough as much as I do the blessing on the basket. Not only are the efforts of one who goes out to work, to “earn a living,” blessed, but the work of the one who keeps the home is blessed as well. Bread was a huge part of the diet during Biblical times, so for the kneading trough to be blessed was a great thing. By implication, the bread made in that trough would also be blessed, and that blessed bread could only be a blessing to those who ate it.
6Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.
Whether you’re coming or going, you’re blessed as long as you meet the requirements of the blessing. Here again is a promise of blessing that is great enough to motivate the person who takes it seriously.
If one were guaranteed such a thing – that the blessing of the Lord (that causes you to prosper) would be on one every time one came in or went out – would it not make sense to fulfill the condition? The fact is, we are guaranteed that blessing!
7The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.
There are many instances recorded in the Old Testament when both Israel as a whole and individuals experienced this promise in operation. This is not to say that Israel never had to fight, but in many cases she didn’t, and in many more instances God did the vast majority of the work Himself
Jericho fell without Israel lifting anything but her voice. Only after the walls fell did Israel enter battle. (Joshua 6)
Kings came from all parts of the country to attack Israel in Joshua 11, and in one day they were all destroyed. Their combined army was many times larger than Israel’s, but Israel was right with God and walking in His promise.
God enabled David and his mighty men to prevail in battle even when the entire Israelite army fled, leaving them to fight alone. My two favorite accounts are in II Samuel 23:9-12
Any time one enemy comes against the child of God who is walking as God commands, that enemy does not only come out against the child, but rather he comes out against the Father and his child. No matter what enemy we face, we have our Father’s promise that we do not face that enemy alone, and that if we will just stand firm our enemy will fall!
8The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses,
The emphasis here is awesome. God doesn’t merely bless you in your storehouses; He commands the blessing on you in your storehouses. The storehouse, of course, was where the wealth of the people was stored. Today it could be a savings account or any number of other things. Whatever your storehouse is, know that as long as you meet the requirements in verse 1, God commands a blessing on it.
and in all that thou settest thine hand unto
Remember we’re talking about a commanded blessing here, and look at where God is commanding the blessing. …all that thou settest thine hand unto.
I’ve spent a lot of time meditating on this verse over the years, but still need to spend more. The scope is downright astounding. God commands the blessing on me in all I set my hand to. As my pastor is so fond of saying, “all means ALL.” No matter what I set my hand to, as long as I fulfill the conditions in verse one, God commands the blessing on me in it. I realize, of course, that there are things I can do to negate that blessing – You are snared by the words of your mouth comes to mind. But looking at this blessing, and considering that as long as I do everything the way I’m supposed to, God commands it…that’s big. That’s enormous. That’s more than I can reduce to a few words on paper.
and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
This is a two-fold promise, spoken first to the nation of Israel and now to me. God promised to give Israel a land that was their own, a place they could call home where they would be able to raise their children and make their living with herds of cattle, farms, or whatever else they chose to put their hands to. God promised, too, that He would bless them there. He kept both promises. As long as Israel put Him first, they prospered in this new land God gave them. They prospered tremendously.
God’s promise holds true for us today as well. Our land may be a rented apartment, but as long as we follow Him and Him alone, not turning aside to serve other gods (money, work, etc.) He will give us that land and bless us in it.
9The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways.
Again, God is speaking to the people of Israel here. I see no problem, however, with taking this verse to mean Christians today. If we follow our Lord’s commandments and walk in His ways we are called by His name; we are called Christians. We have been established a holy people unto Him.
10And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee.
In the past, I gave little thought to this verse. In light of the events of recent years, however, I find them to be more than interesting. Christians and Jews around the world are under attack and both Israel and the United States, which many perceive to be a Christian nation, have been attacked in multiple ways. Much of this is just life, but I cannot help but wonder how much of the overall attack against Israel and Christianity is motivated by a simple fear of those who are called by the name of the Lord.
11And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
It is interesting that this list ends as it does. The implication, to me, is that these things will happen only as long as we are where God wants us to be – geographically speaking. He says He’ll do them in the land He swore to our fathers to give us, not anywhere else.
And what will He do? He’ll make us plenteous in goods – seeing to it that we have plenty of “good things.” He will also make us plenteous in the fruit of our bodies – giving us plenty of children. Finally, He promises to make us plenteous in both the fruit of our cattle and the fruit of our ground – increasing the number of our livestock (stock traders might want to take this one seriously) and giving us abundant crops.
He is, essentially, repeating the promises made in verse four, and any good student knows that when a teacher repeats himself it pays to give attention to what he is saying.
12The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand:
To farmers this is a true prosperity promise. You can plant all the seed you want to, but if the rain doesn’t come at the right time, in season, your crop will fail. (We’re setting modern irrigation aside for the moment) No matter how hard a farmer of this time period worked with his hands, he relied of God to open up the heavens and give rain to his land at the right time.
We may not be a nation of farmers anymore, but it isn’t hard to translate this to fit today’s ways of making wealth. We still work with our hands, if in myriad ways, and God still opens up His good treasure and pours out whatever is needed to cause the work of our hands to be blessed. Just as the farmer did all he knew to do and trusted God to bless it, so should we do all we know to do and trust God to bless it.
in his season
I clearly remember the day these three words exploded off the page for me. I was reading right along when it suddenly dawned on me that this is quite specific. I went immediately to God and asked Him what He meant.
The most obvious answer is that God’s season is not necessarily man’s season, and that I can’t tell God when to pour out His blessing on the work of my hands. I went to God with the question, though, because I felt this was only a partial answer at best, and I was right.
God’s season, put simply, is whenever He chooses for it to be. He is not bound by “seasons.” Any business man can understand this concept. Some businesses, perhaps most, are generally considered to be seasonal – be those seasons literal (summer, winter, etc.) or figurative (Christmas, tax season, etc.). A business man who operates under the standard assumptions of the business world may expect his business to do poorly during a specific season. God says differently. He says here that He will bless all the work of our hands as long as we meet His conditions, so He reserves the right to open His good treasure and give rain to your land in His season, even if that time is one during which the world would consider such a thing to be impossible.
and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.
At a glance, this seems like a command, but we must remember that God is giving us promises here; the command has already been given. So this is a promise He is making to us, a promise that we shall prosper so greatly in every way that we will be able to lend to all sorts of people (many nations) and never have to borrow. How different this is from the manner in which modern man lives!
13And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath;
I particularly appreciate the first six words here – “And the Lord shall make thee.” I’ve tried doing it all on my own, advancing myself, promoting me; it’s a lot of work and doesn’t work anywhere near as well as one might expect. It is far better to let God handle the promotions, to let Him move you to the front of the line. Self promotion can only get one so far. When God makes you the head, you are the head.
Likewise, I appreciate His promise to make me above only and not beneath. There have been too many times in my life, when I tried to accomplish things on my own power, when I ended up on the bottom with a world of ‘stuff’ piled on top of me. This should be a completely unnatural position for the child of God. It is much better to do things His way so that He can keep me on top.
if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: 14And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
Once again we see the conditions we must meet, and we see them expanded upon. We have to listen for God’s commandments, whether they come to us through His written word or spoken directly to our spirits. We must also both pay attention to them and do what He tells us to do.
And we must never go aside from His commandments, either. This is important. When walking a path towards a goal, if you veer to the left of the right even the tiniest bit, you will not reach your destination; you will end up somewhere else entirely. According to this Scripture, if we go aside from God’s will for us, veering to the left or the right even a little, our destination will be other gods and we will end up serving them.
That seems a strong thing to say, but I didn’t say it, God did. Christians do this very thing all of the time, veering off a little to the right to serve the god of self, veering off slightly to the left to serve the god of money. Whatever the god’s name, be it Little League or work, or even children or church (Anything, when placed before God on one’s list of priorities, becomes a god.), if we end up serving it first, it becomes our master and we are no longer serving GOD. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, no man can serve two masters.
And, consequently, for the one who has turned aside to serve another god, this first part of Deuteronomy 28 no longer applies. This person now falls into the category of people covered by the rest of the chapter, as Israel did more than once.
But thank God for His mercy, for just as Israel repeatedly repented and was delivered from the hands of her enemies, so might we also repent and be set free to walk the blessed path of His will once again.