Deuteronomy 28:30 falls in the midst of conditional curses upon the people of Israel if they are unfaithful to their covenant with God. Another way of expressing unfaithfulness biblically is repeated disobedience to the stated expectations of the relationship. In this one verse, God expresses 3 forms of devastation in the pattern of Investment followed by Empty Return. What’s remarkable about these 3 particular curses is that these experiences God is forecasting for His people are not foreign to Him. They are part of His own experience when His teachings are met with rebellion. He knows what it is like to Invest and then see the investment squandered. Briefly consider each of these curses.
1. “You shall betroth a wife, but another man will violate her.” Throughout the Bible, marriage language is interwoven with how God experiences the covenant with His people. He has loved us as a bride - one that He was even willing to die for (Ephesians 5:25-27). And yet repeatedly, maybe most pronounced in the book of Hosea, God tries to convey how He feels when we rebel against Him by relating Himself to a husband whose wife has had intimate relations with another man.
2. “You shall build a house, but you will not live in it.” If you’ve ever tried to do any carpentry work, you know the amount of planning, materials, and sweat equity goes into even a small project. Now imagine reacting to building an entire house meant for you and your family, only to discover later that something is preventing you from being able to live there. But this is not only a curse that Israelites will experience when they are taken into exile. It is one God experiences first. The planning for His house- the tabernacle/temple - was meticulous, because its purpose of allowing God to live among His people, was an Israelite privilege to be handled with care. But Ezekiel 10 records the devastation of a time when God was no longer allowed to live in the house that He had designed. That house had been polluted. It was now a hazard and in need of being condemned. So He left and watched a foreign nation tear it down.
3. “You shall plant a vineyard, but you will not use its fruit.” The fruit from any agricultural endeavor does not appear overnight. There are months of tilling, planting, watering, fertilizing, and treating that are only met at the time with the hope of a coming harvest. A vineyard with no fruit usually means a wasted year and a starving family. God often refers to His people and their labor as His field (1 Corinthians 3:9) or even His vineyard (Isaiah 5; Matthew 20, 21; John 15). And in these passages, fruit production is expected from what God is doing through His people. But these parables also reveal the possibility and sometimes the reality of fruit not being there at the time it should have been.
Each of these scenarios move us from Expectation to Disappointment. God lists these as part of what Curse feels like, because He knows that the greatest disappointment occurs in an empty return after devoted investment. And this is the type of disappointment we heap on the heart of God when we cheat on Him with other lover-gods, when we profane and pollute His house (which is my personal body and the church as a whole), and when we resist our purpose of producing fruit. The curses of my disobedience are not only felt by me. They are felt by my God.
But doesn't this reality also remind us of the heart of the Gospel? That by embracing a type of "hanging on a tree" (Deuteronomy 21:23) in the form of a Roman cross, God embraced a curse - a shameful death for capital crime - that I deserved?
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).
He pronounced my curse upon Himself so that I may receive blessing instead. Every rendezvous with a lover-god...every moment of profaning holy space...every passing day of stifling fruit production...have all been curses I have pronounced not only on myself...but also on God. Isn't it time we quit perpetually hanging Him on a tree?
To His Glory,