“Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it; And that ye may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 11:8-9)
Unlike God’s covenant wit Abraham, the covenant with Israel was a conditional covenant. If they would keep all God’s commandments, they would be strong enough to possess the land God had promised their fathers and have long and productive lives. The key was to obey all the commandments.
“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12)
In Egypt there had been a well developed irrigation system and if it didn’t rain often enough, it was no big problem, they just diverted irrigation water to flood the field. The land of Canaan was not practical to irrigate that way because they did not have the large flat area alongside a large river such as Egypt had. Canaan would be dependent on the natural rainfall, which God controlled. Their dependence on God would be more obvious than it had been in Egypt.
Our modern society has been able to build systems that isolate them from recognizing their dependence on God, and we see the result in modern society. Like the Egyptians, faith has moved from faith in God to faith in other institutions. Americans depend on the government to resolve economic problems, while pastors and missionaries depend on their board to resolve their needs. People depend on the charitable and welfare organizations for financial problems and on the medical establishment for their health. Israel would have no one but God to depend on.
“And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.” (Deuteronomy 11:13-15)
If they would take the trouble to systematically keep God’s commands fully, he promised to make it rain when needed but to prevent the rain from interfering with their harvest. There would always be enough grass to feed their livestock.
“Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)
Failure to keep God’s command would result in him closing up the skies so there would be no rain, with the result that their crops would fail and famine and starvation would result. God fulfilled the promise to shut off the rain several times. I Kings 16-18 shares one notable example which occurred during the wicked reign of Ahab and Jezebel.
“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” (De4uteronomy 11:18-21)
To prevent forgetting what God demanded, Israel needed to mot only memorize the words, but put reminders everywhere, from bracelets inscribed with the them and headbands, to plaques on their walls and beside their doors and gates. A conscious effort was to be made to go over them repeatedly with their children morning and night so the children also learned and would be blessed in their turn. What a difference from the attitude of many today, who don’t want to influence their children too much.
“For if ye shall diligently keep all these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave unto him; Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves. Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be. There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.” (Deuteronomy 11:22-25)
Though the countries they were set to invade had larger armies and powerful fortifications, God promised to drive them out before Israel if they would conscientiously seek to keep his commands. No one would be able to stand against them and fear would cause many to just flee escape.
“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)
Sometimes we hear that “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Unfortunately, “not knowing you have cancer will not protect you from it, and ignorance of basic principles results in frequent problems that could be avoided if one knew what to do. On the other hand, knowledge increases one’s level of responsibility. With the information available, failure to obey would either be the result of deliberately not learning what the law said or of deliberately ignoring it, exposing them to the maximum penalty.
“And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh? For ye shall pass over Jordan to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God giveth you, and ye shall possess it, and dwell therein. And ye shall observe to do all the statutes and judgments which I set before you this day.” (Deuteronomy 11:29-32)
When they crossed Jordan, they were to identify two mountains to represent the blessing for obedience and the curse for disobedience. Centrally located, theses large mountains would be visible from most of Israel to serve as a reminder of the need to obey God’s command.