"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. -- Deuteronomy 28: 1-2 (ESV)
I remember years ago listening to Kenneth Copeland defend being presented with two Bentley Luxury Automobiles as gifts from people in his congregation. This is the same man who spews the prosperity Gospel to the tune of a self-worth in excess of 650 million dollars. He lives in a 6.5 million dollar mansion which he has the chutzpah to write off to the federal government as a "parsonage." His defense was that Deuteronomy 28:2 says that you will be overtaken by the blessings of God and hallelujah, he was just being overtaken. I thought it was odd at the time that he referenced verse 2 and quickly sought out verse 1, which was of course the qualifier. Deuteronomy is the culmination of the law. In totality there are 613 Mosaic Laws that were presented to the people of Israel. So when verse 1 of our key verses says be careful to do all I have commanded you it is directly referring to keeping all 613 laws. Only then will the "blessings overtake you." How exactly did Israel fare in keeping the Mosaic Law? Horrible of course. In fact, they were so bad at keeping the law that God had to send His only Son to die for our sins. Another little killjoy in Deuteronomy 28 is that while the first 14 verses outline the blessings for obedience, the next 54 verses spell out the curses for disobedience. Funny, Copeland didn't mention those.
Before we go thinking this is reserved for the likes of heavy weight charlatans alone, Deuteronomy 28 is a go-to chapter for seeker-friendly preaching all over the country. The sugar coated bless me theologies rely upon wresting verses such as the ones found in Deuteronomy 28 horribly out of context and applying them to us as Christians when they have no such application. Please beloved, do not confuse this. It is not just a matter of poor hermeneutics or a disagreement over interpretation. We are talking about things God did not say to us that preachers today claim He did. You may want to sit down for this one but God never said He was going to make you the head and not the tail. It is time to tip this sacred Pentecostal cow over and be set free by the Word of God.
And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. -- Deuteronomy 28: 13-14 (ESV)
Let us reason together starting with the only logical way one could misconstrue these verses as applying to the church. I doubt any would argue that Israel did not comply and obey the Mosaic Law. I further doubt anyone would make the argument that we can or should even try, considering the New Covenant and the fact that Jesus Christ nailed the law to the cross. So if no one has been able to keep the law, how does one make claim to the blessings promised under this agreement? Only vicariously through Christ. The only argument that might have a logical strand running through it is that since Jesus lived a sinless life and we are found in Him, that we get these blessings as if we had completely obeyed the Mosaic Law. There are far too many problems with that line of thinking however.
The first problem is that these promises were not made to any individual. They were promised to the nation of Israel. In order to co-opt them you must engage in what is known as Replacement Theology. This false teaching says that the church has replaced Israel in the plans of God. This is of course absurd. God has never given up on His people. They are still the apple of His eye. The church is grafted into Israel, it does not replace it. I do not even think pastors and preachers realize they are doing this when they claim the blessings of Deuteronomy 28 but the only way we would have access to them is if we were Israel and we kept all of the Mosaic Law. We are not and we could not. The blessings we already enjoy are found in our eternal life beyond this world. But the bless me preachers of today are not selling eternal blessings because the vast amount of their listeners are not actually saved. Thus the things of God are foolishness to them. Eternal life is still a myth to them. But temporal blessings? Two Bentleys in the driveway? Being overtaken by blessings? The windows of heaven being thrown open to rain blessings down upon them? Count me in! Secondly, the teachings of Jesus Christ do not line up with this head and not the tail arrogance.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." -- Luke 14: 7-11 (ESV)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. -- Philippians 2: 3 (ESV)
Is the Gospel of the Kingdom about making one the head and not the tail or is it in fact the opposite? Jesus notices that people were very preoccupied with stature on this earth so He gives them this parable in the Gospel of Luke. The teaching point is what we need to internalize. For everyone that exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted. The Bible also says that the first will be last. In the Philippians verse we see yet another version of this teaching. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. In humility count others more significant than yourselves. That does not seem to be endorsing the notion that we are the head and not the tail beloved.
The false teachers of today cannot even see their own irony. The opening line of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life is -- "It's not about you." He then proceeds to make everything about you. The entire purpose driven church growth theories, seeker friendly industrial complex teachings, and all of the false heresies we see infiltrating the body of Christ today seek to make Christianity about us instead of about Christ and offer the temporal riches of this world as reward. Consider the lyrics for Blessing of Abraham, sung as worship throughout churches today:
It's Your Inheritance
Get Your Inheritance
You Are The Seed, By Faith Receive
The Blessing Of Abraham
The Blessing Of Abraham
It's Your Inheritance
(God made you)
The Head, Not The Tail
Above, Not Beneath
A Lender, Not A Borrower
How in the world is it worshiping God to literally yell at Him that you are going to get your inheritance? Just like it is not worship to tell God that you are His friend, especially when your life says the opposite. We must understand beloved that our praise music informs our theology. If you say get your inheritance eight times over and over again, you start to believe it. You internalize it. Then after a half hour of false worship you hear a half message about you. Somewhere in it you may even hear the sermon point that God made us the head and not the tail, just like you sang. Was Jesus acting as the head and not the tail when He willingly went to the cross? As a lamb to the slaughter? One day He will return as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. But between now and then we are in His age of grace. Is Christianity meant to be an arrogant religion? Absolutely not! The world is arrogant -- we are supposed to be humble! The world is unforgiving -- we are called to forgive! The world demands to be the head -- not the church!
The third reason why the head and not the tail theology is inaccurate for the church is that it cannot apply across Christendom. I know that the models for church growth have altered Christianity to be about these walled off churches that we try to grow individually. False prophets and teachers all came out with alleged words from the Holy Spirit for 2017 recently. The problem was all the words were different depending on what congregation you were in. One church claimed the Spirit said the word for 2017 was transformation and another said accelerate. Well which is it? Isn't there but one Spirit? Are we not one church? The reality is that our brothers and sisters are being crucified in the Middle East and have to hide underground in China. A simple test of the veracity of a theology is whether or not it is viable across the entire body of Christ. The Gospel of the kingdom works in Asia and Iraq as well as in America because the focus is not on this world! It is on Jesus Christ and His offer of eternal life! Let's go through the blessings in Deuteronomy 28 and see if they can apply across the faith.