What is the meaning of Deuteronomy 28:7-9?
To understand this passage and others like it from the Old Testament we first need to look at the context in which the promises were given. We must then look at how the promises have been fulfilled in the history of Israel, in Christ’s person and work and in the history of the Church. Then we must try to discern from the rest of scripture whether there is still some element of the promise awaiting fulfilment at the end of this age.
“The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways.” Deuteronomy 28:7-9 (NIV)
This promise was given to Israel at the time when they were preparing to pass through the Jordan into the promised land. Moses was about to hand over the leadership of Israel to Joshua but before his farewell he gave a series of speeches reminding the people about the word of the law. The people that gathered to hear him were the generation of Israelites who had grown up wandering in the wilderness and who had not experienced the amazing exodus out of Egypt. Moses was therefore making sure that this new generation – who would go into take possession of the promised land – knew what the Lord expected of them. Other verses also form part of the blessings that the Lord is holding out to Israel if they are obedient to His word. They apply primarily to the nation of Israel when they settled in the Land. The simple meaning is that the Lord would fight the Israelites battles for them as He did on numerous occasions (cf Joshua 10:25, 23:10; 2 Chronicles 20:17; Jeremiah 15:20). But the blessings depended on the people’s obedience to the word of the Lord - the covenant.
Fulfilment in Israel
Now of course we know from the rest of the bible that Israel failed to obey the Word of the Lord fully. That is why the covenant curses in the latter half of Deuteronomy 28 came into effect. See especially Deuteronomy 28:36b “You shall be uprooted from the Land you are entering to possess.” Indeed they did go into exile and God graciously left a remnant to rebuild the ruins.
Fulfilment in Christ
However God did not give up on His promises just because Israel sinned. The promises of Deuteronomy 28 were ultimately fulfilled in Christ Jesus who defeated our enemies (sin, Satan and death) on the cross (cf Colossians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 15:26-28). And the same promises still hold firm for all those who trust in Christ today. We do not need to fear those enemies – the Lord himself has fought for us! The promise of entering the Lord’s Rest (the spiritual Promised Land) still stands for those who are obedient to the word of the Lord (cf Hebrews 4:1). And He will establish us as His holy People (cf 2 Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 8:10; Revelation 21:3). if we walk in His ways we will be welcomed into his Kingdom as sons with an inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you” 1 Peter 1:4 (NIV). So Deuteronomy 28:7-9 is primarily a promise to the faithful who look to the Lord to give them their promised inheritance of the physical land. But today God has not promised us a physical land but an eternal inheritance. He remains our provider, but the scope of that provision is much wider than the physical dimensions of the Promised Land to Israel all those years ago. We have a reward, but not here; we have blessing but not necessarily in material things; we have deliverance from Satan's oppression but not necessarily from our enemies. So to take the verse out of context and make it a promise of material prosperity is not true to Scripture. However, every promise does find its fulfilment in Christ (as it says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. ESV) and we look to Him to give what is for our good and His glory.