Have you ever wanted to change the rules halfway through a board game? Around our dining room table, sometimes we’ll do that – to make the game less harsh and more fun to play. One time we were playing The Farming Game – a board game where each player is a farmer navigating their way through four seasons of farming. There’s a stack of “opportunity” cards which allow you to invest in equipment and seed, and there’s a stack of “consequence” or “cost” cards where you incur other expenses along the way. One time we left out all these “cost” or “curse” cards, which meant no taxes, no fines, no bad weather, no disease, no money spent on weed control – and guess what? We all got rich (and had fun playing).
But, life is not like that, is it?
Joshua understood that Israel thought they could ignore the curse cards – the consequences of violating His covenant. Adherence to the Law expressed in Deuteronomy 28 would make or break Israel. Trust and obey Him and they would be able to rest in the land that flowed with milk and honey. Sin and rebel and they would be brought so low other nations would be in horror at their plight. They could not simply ignore the curses or consequences that God had established as part of his covenant.
The curse cards are part of Israel’s reality. But so were the blessing cards.
So, with that reality in mind, in chapter 8, Joshua takes them back to the rules of the game: Deuteronomy. After a series of victories (Crossing the Jordan, Jericho), a stinging defeat at Ai, followed by victory at Ai, Joshua points them to the reality of God’s word. They can’t change it. Maybe they don’t like it. Maybe they wish they could sidestep the covenant stipulations and consequences by just leaving all the “curse” cards out of the game and play the game according to their own rules. It seems they tried that. Didn’t work out.
Changing the rules of a board game may be fun, but in life we can’t change the rules of God’s moral universe. That’s why Jesus had to die to satisfy God’s righteous demands. Jesus took the consequences for our sin so we can live in fellowship with God. God loves it when we trust Him and obey Him and He disciplines us (as any loving Father would do) when we choose to ignore Him and the principles he has set up in His Word.
Why are there consequences in life? Because God wants us to learn to walk with him through both the opportunities He gives us and the consequence of our choices (good and bad).
The next time you get hit with a consequence or curse card (even if it’s not your own doing)– try to remember that God still longs for intimacy with you. Can you move towards Him in that season of difficulty?