The Blessing of the World
Gen 1:22: “And God blessed [the animals], saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on earth.”
Gen 1:28: “And God blessed [humanity]. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
The Cursing of the World
God curses the serpent, humanity, and all of creation. The blessings are frustrated. Being fruitful and multiplying now involves pain in childbirth. Cultivating the ground now involves futility and unrest. The life breathed into humans now leaves and we return to the dust.
Gen 3:17: “cursed is the ground because of you”
The Promise of Blessing for the World
But the fivefold repetition of ‘curse’ in Genesis 3-11 (3:14, 17; 4:11; 5:29; 9:24) is now replaced by the fivefold repetition of ‘blessing’ in Genesis 12:1-3:
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
The Blessing and Curse… and Promised Blessing of Israel
Israel, the new humanity in the new-Eden of Canaan, enters into a covenant with God. Blessing and curse are set before them.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God… all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:1-2)
“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God… then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:15)
There are 12 verses of curse (28:15-26), followed by 12 verses of blessing (28:3-14), followed by 53 more verses of curse (28:16-68). The small glimmer of sunshine is bookended by clouds of gloom.
As Moses later explains, the blessings will come for a while, but then the curses are sure to follow. Like Adam and Eve before them, they will be cast out of the presence of God and of their land. Yet, when the curses have come upon them for their disobedience there is still hope that God will bring them back and give them the blessings (Deut 30:1-10).
The Blessed One Takes the Curse In Order to Share the Blessing
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles…” (Galatians 3:13-14).
All of the curses promised to Israel and the world are fulfilled in the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. And all of the blessings promised to Israel and the world are fulfilled in Jesus through his life, death, resurrection, exaltation, and return. As Luther said, “all the curses of the Law were gathered in Him… [and] all the promises of Scripture… are fulfilled in Christ once for all” (Works, 26:289).
Jesus received our curse of exile from God’s presence on the cross and he received the blessing of restoration to God’s presence in the resurrection. Through faith, we join him.
He took our curse that we might share in his blessing. “Joy to the world… He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
Writing on this curse-bearing work of Christ, Martin Luther wrote, “These are the adorable mysteries of Scripture”