The blessings pronounced from Mt. Gerizim and the curses pronounced from Mt. Ebal would make a pretty impressive impetus for obedience. A few chapters ago we hear Moses command the people to divide in half, with 6 tribes standing on the lush and fruitful Mt. Gerizim and pronounce the blessings God has promised for those who are obedient to Him, and 6 tribes standing on bleak and barren Mt. Ebal and pronounce the curses God has promised for those who are disobedient. The Levites were to stand in the valley between them and shout “Amen!” for each of the blessings and each of the curses: “So let it be!”
I sometimes think following God would be so much easier if we were to see those blessings shower down upon us when we are obedient and the curses shower down when we are disobedient. So often I find disobedience in my life unpunished and obedience met with difficulty. And in those times, I long for the motivation of Gerizim and Ebal.
But in reality, were that to happen, we might live more obediently to God’s law, but we would do so out of selfish ambition or self-preservation, not out of love for God Himself. We’d obey because it would get us blessed, and we would avoid disobeying because the pain of the curses wouldn’t be worth it.
When my children were young, I knew I could get them to do what I asked with a simple show of force. “You put your pants back on or it’s a time out in your room!” But this didn’t teach them the value of what I was trying to teach them, and the obedience seldom lasted long. Instead, if they saw that I loved them even when I didn’t get them a new toy, and if they saw me comforting them when their bad decisions had caused real pain, or even when their bad decisions didn’t lead to anything bad at all, it was then that they learned obedience. In the midst of that obedience, love.
I wonder if God thought the same thing.