“…all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God” Deuteronomy 28:2
Conditional statements, like the one above, often come out of the mouth of God to Israel. In fact, one might get the impression that God has set Israel up for a salvation based upon Israel’s own merit. This impression has had serious consequences for the Jews. Martin Luther, furious with any attempt to use merit as part of salvation, railed against the Jews. He projected onto the Jews his beliefs about the Catholic church claiming that the Jewish religion bolstered itself up by works righteousness. In other words, Jews and Catholics, believed that one earned God’s acceptance and love. The seeds of antisemitism were planted and grew into the venomous tree bearing fruit in Nazi Germany, as well as other places. Martin Luther had many good qualities, this is not one of them. As has been written before, we are all saints and sinners.
With that said, the if/then statement of blessing given by God through Moses to Israel comes at the point where they have already been saved from Egypt. Salvation has already been accomplished. The rest of the Old Testament will tell of their faithfulness or lack thereof with sobering clarity. Yet, God does not reject Israel, though like a spurned lover, threatens to do so. God keeps coming back, again, and again, and again, and again. God refuses to give up on providing blessing to Israel. We call this grace. The if/then statements provide a framework for Israel to navigate the world, as God’s chosen and beloved people. It is not enough for Israel to be chosen by God for blessing, they must live like God’s chosen. Blending back into the surrounding nations isn’t an option. You do not win the lottery, only to go back to the living like you had not won. God, in Jesus Christ, has chosen all, will all choose God? We do not know, but those that do choose to take up their cross have a life to live to God.
“Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds.” Ephesians 4:17
The issue for Paul here is identity, and identity correlates directly to how one lives in the world. Paul says you used to be this, now be this, for you are in Christ. In other terms, put off the old self and put on the new self. With a change in self comes a change in behavior and habit. Were you in the habit of using your hands to steal? If so, now make your new habit caring for the poor using your hands. A more contemporary example might be, were you in the habit of charging exorbitant interest on loans to the poor? Now, make your habit paying off the loans of the poor, create scholarships and advocate for equity. Laying claim to the identity Christ follower includes laying claim to a new way of life in the world. In short, Paul tells us our faith is a 24/7 faith.