Rejoicing in the Lord is serious business. The text above falls nearly in the center of a 2 chapter section that finds the Children of Israel at the end of their wilderness wanderings. Before entering the Promised Land, much time is devoted to rehearsing God’s commands to them. In the process, representatives of the 12 tribes are called up onto opposite mountain tops (Gerizim and Ebal) where God pronounces His “blessing and cursing.” It is a digest of His economy with them. Should they follow the Lord closely in all He has set out for them, they will enjoy great fruitfulness. And should they refuse to follow after Him – they will suffer appropriately as well.
Now as Christians, our inheritance, our chief blessings are not to be found in earthly goods. As with Israel too – the earthly things they are promised, are meant to be symbolic of spiritual realities. Yes, the material things were REAL, but not an end in themselves. Yet how many, even in the Church today have made the mistake of thinking that God’s “blessings” are to be understood in the same material way. We fail to recognize how these are meant to be picture of how our souls are to be blessed in Christ – prospered IN HIM, irrespective of any external circumstances.
The curses contained in these portions are to be understood the same way. When it is all said and done, the Believer’s failure to walk closely with our Lord, results above all in falling victim to the remnants of our own indwelling sin. And it isn’t pretty. To be ruled over by sinful impulses and tendencies cannot be further removed from what we are to enjoy in our salvation. But how often that is exactly the case.
Enter our text today. Smack dab in the middle of this amazingly clarifying passage – comes these words. Not so secret secrets to a life lived in freedom from the dominion of indwelling sin. It is found in “serving the Lord you God with joyfulness and gladness of heart” – and that, not abstractly or in a vacuum, but “because of the abundance of all things.”
The idea dear one is simply this: When we fail to take into account all that God has done for us in Christ, won for us by His blood, promised and sealed to us by His Spirit – it is just there that our sinfulness will rise up and capture us again. Read the balance of chapter 28 and see what that looks like. It is painted in the most abhorrent terms. The depictions are of very kind of grief, woe, opposition, bondage and horror.
Forgetting all He has done and is still doing on our behalf for eternal and spiritual good – we grow insensitive to it all. It takes on the cast of being more mythical than real. We treat Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf as less and less amazing. His gifts to us are taken for granted. We grow forgetful and ungrateful and no longer have hearts filled with joy over what IS ours, but wail and moan over earthly things that aren’t. And it is at this point we are in the most danger. This, is when we will be overcome. This is where our indwelling sin will rise up and throw into its dark prison.
Believer – become as serious about your joy in the Lord as though your life depended upon it. For in some sense – it actually does.