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A Curse (and Blessing)

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer explored the distinction between “cheap” and “costly” grace. Cheap grace requires no real contrition or repentance. It says that people will be forgiven regardless of their desire to be delivered from sin. Costly grace, on the other hand, “is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.” Such grace cost God the life of His own Son.

Bonhoeffer didn’t want people to simply believe in Christ; he wanted them to follow Him. And this is always what God has intended for His people—not just mental assent to the right doctrines but rather faith expressed as obedient love. As a primary Old Testament example, in Deuteronomy 28 and 29, God’s people are poised to enter the Promised Land after 40 years of wilderness wandering. God tells them to follow Him. He would bless their obedience and curse their sin.

In the first part of today’s reading, we see two specific sins that God will judge and even curse: stealing and swearing falsely (vv. 3–4). Stealing is condemned by the eighth of the Ten Commandments (You shall not steal), and swearing falsely is prohibited by the third of the Ten Commandments (You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God). Each of these commandments reveals the two vital aspects of God’s Law: maintaining a right relationship with God and maintaining a right relationship with our neighbor (see Exodus 20).

Now that Israel had returned home, they were to renew their pledge of obedience to God’s Law. God’s grace is free, but it must not be taken for granted. As a sign of God’s blessing, wickedness, as represented by the woman in the basket, will be removed to the land of Shinar, which is Babylon (vv. 5–11).

Apply the Word

We cheapen grace when we do not take seriously God’s commands to obey Him. We cheapen grace when we persist in sin and think that God’s love excuses our rebellion. If you have been guilty of this, repent. Thank God for His costly grace, which accepts our repentance and offers us forgiveness through the death and resurrection of His Son.

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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