“but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul.” (Deut 28:65 NAS95S)
God’s curse lays heavily upon the people of Israel, because “you would not obey” (28:45); “you did not serve” (28:47); “if you are not careful” (28:58). This curse was the promise of God for disobedience, just as blessing was God’s promise for obedience. Today, as participants, not in the Old Covenant, but in the New Covenant, Christ has borne the curse for us. And yet I believe that there may be a spiritual warning here, even as God saw fit to communicate aspects of this curse in figurative language. Is it possible that, even for believers, there are these internal, spiritual consequences for not properly paying attention and taking care?
A Trembling Heart – a sense of dread exerts tremendous pressure on every aspect of a person. What he fears in his mind is experienced in his body. What weighs heavily on his heart causes his strength to melt away. Habakkuk 3:16 shows the physical aspect inwardly.
I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
Is this dreadfulness actually a gift from God, to lead us to acknowledge our powerlessness, and lean more totally on Him? Perhaps this trembling at dread can be replaced by trembling before the divine:
The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble;
He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake! Psa. 99:1
Failing Of Eyes – the rarely used word can be found in the LXX, and indicates being used up, often in reference to death (my time is used up). The eyes no longer see as they once did – the horizon, the panorama, the grand vista is no longer available. One’s sense of hope is chained to the present, limited by loss of vision. It would be easy to run headlong into the whole “vision” thing at this point, but it may be helpful to think about what happens when we lose a vision of God’s glory, when we lose attentiveness to God’s Word, when our love grows cold and our endurance falters. Old Christians who are not constantly renewed are poor leaders, just as outdoor experts with poor eyesight have lost their ability to serve as guides.
Despair Of Soul – a soul that melts is one that has lost its internal pressure, the sustaining breath of God that is fundamental for life. It seeks to survive from poorer sources. He is no longer the satisfied soul that delights in God, but rather has become the shriveled soul that has forgotten God.
The remedy for any of these conditions is a return to God in humility, asking him to do what only he can do, bring revival of heart, eyes, and soul – of the whole person, as I return to him in repentance and trust. In so doing, I am thankful even for the unpleasant gifts, since their intent is to drive this sheep back to the Shepherd: “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” 1 Peter 2:25.