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The subject that your pastor has asked me to speak about today, both morning and evening, is in one word “curses.” Although that’s a negative word, I hope that by the end of the messages the total impact will not be negative. It’s a very difficult theme to deal with, it’s a very big theme. There’s a great deal about it in the Bible and it’s hard to bring it all together. I’m sure there are some things in it that I do not fully understand. I cannot communicate to you more than I understand. I make it a principle not to give up on the things I understand because of the things I don’t understand. There’s always an area out there that we haven’t entered into but where we know we have proved truth, let’s hold fast to it, let’s communicate it, let’s live by it.
I would say that I’ve come into an understanding in this area as a result of personal experience. Most of the things that one sees in scripture are related to one’s experience. Very rarely, I think, do we see truth totally in the abstract without any reference to our own personal experience or situation. In fact, I don’t believe that’s the way that God really normally brings us into truth. I believe our experience should go side by side with the revelation we get of Scripture.
Ruth and I have discovered in the last couple of years, particularly in ministering to people who are sick or have other forms of problems, that in some cases God supernaturally shows us that there’s a curse over that person’s life or family. In most cases curses do not relate merely to individuals, they relate to families. When we’re praying for people together, even on the platform, Ruth may say to me quietly, “I think there’s a curse over this person.” We agree together and break the curse. Sometimes the results are very dramatic and very immediate. We have come to see that if we hadn’t dealt with the curse the healing or the deliverance would not have come.
I go back in my mind to something that happened probably a dozen years ago which was a little kind of preview, I think, of what the Lord is now making more clear. I was in the basement of a Presbyterian church in the Midwest conducting a deliverance service. It was a church that had opened up to the ministry of deliverance but it kind of felt it was safer to do it in the basement. Which was probably right, there was less furniture to break up there! I’d come to the point of being about to minister to a group of people and on the front row, if I remember rightly, was a family: father, mother and teenage daughter. The teenage daughter had her left leg in a plaster cast from the hip right down to the bottom of the foot. Something seemed to say to me there’s a curse over that family. I stepped up to the father and I said to him, “Sir, I think the Lord is showing me that there’s a curse over your family. Would you like me to break it?” He immediately said yes. I never met him before, I didn’t know what kind of a person he was. I stepped back behind the little pulpit which was just like the one I’m standing behind now and with a very simple prayer I broke the curse over that family in the name of Jesus. When I came to that part of the prayer where I said, “In the name of Jesus,” there was a very distinct physical reaction in each of those three persons. I was not touching them.
Then I went back and I said, “Would you like me to pray for your daughter’s leg?” He said, “Yes, but you need to know the history. She has broken the same leg three times in 18 months. The doctor says that it will not heal.” I said, “All I can do is just hold the bottom of the cast because there’s nothing else I can do and pray.” So, I prayed a very simple prayer and that was the end of it for that particular moment.
Some weeks later I got a letter from the father and he reminded me who he was and where it had all happened. He said, “We went back to the clinic and my daughter said that she felt that her leg was healed but they wouldn’t take the cast off. So we waited six weeks and went back again. They took the cast off, the leg was healed.” The father believed it was already healed six weeks previously.
Well, that was a real lesson to me because thinking it over I came to the conclusion that if I hadn’t been prompted by the Holy Spirit to break the curse over the family, the girl’s leg would never have been healed.
Also, amongst the various evidences of a curse, which I will list in due course, there is one which obviously was true in that case which was being accident prone. I don’t have any question in my mind today that if a person is abnormally accident prone there is something more than a purely natural situation that we’re dealing with.
With that introduction let me do a little definition and then try to present to you this morning the various different ways in which curses come and which they operate. That will be the close of the message for this morning.
Now, we need to understand in many cases things go in opposites. Like cold and hot, clever and stupid, strong and weak and so on. One of the ways in learning a language or in studying the meaning of words is to consider words in relationship to their opposite. There’s a very obvious opposite to curse which is what? Blessing. Everybody knows that. Let’s look at both. What is the nature of them? Well, in essence, they are words that are spoken, pronounced. In most cases they’re pronounced audibly, in some cases they may merely be pronounced inwardly. There is always something that is said.
The other main feature of both blessings and curses is that in most cases they continue on in time from generation to generation. So, blessings and curses are words spoken with some particular form of spiritual power or authority, either good or evil, that sets in motion something that will probably go on from generation to generation.
Rather than try to do too much defining I’d rather go to examples. I want to give you two examples, first of all, of blessings. The first is a blessing that God himself pronounced. The second is a blessing that was pronounced by a man of God with God’s authority. We’ll see that in both cases of blessings and cursings there is an authority which is exercised directly by God or there is authority exercised by man on behalf of God or, in the case of curses, on behalf of Satan. But behind the actual words and the human person there is a spiritual power and authority.
We’ll turn, first of all, to Genesis 22 and we’ll look at the words with which the Lord blessed Abraham. This is a good example from various points of view. Abraham had been instructed by the Lord to bring his son Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. That’s the background. He had complied and at the last moment the angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham from heaven and told him that he didn’t need to kill his son and a ram was provided, caught in a thicket, which he was told to offer in place of Isaac. Verse 15:
“Then the angel of the Lord...”
And I want to tell you this is a very special angel. I believe that this is the eternal Son of God.
“The angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son: indeed I will greatly bless you...”
Where it says “indeed” and “greatly” the Hebrew says “blessing I will bless you.” That’s the Hebrew form of emphasis, is to double the verb.
“...blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed...”
Notice there’s a principle that Abraham was blessed but his seed was multiplied. It was his seed, his son, that he’d offered up to God. So, if you want something multiplied, offer it to God. But, don’t try and play games with God.
“...because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son: blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies [or his enemies]; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice.”
Notice the great basic cause that releases God’s blessing, it’s what? Obeying God’s voice. Notice that this blessing extended from generation to generation. In fact, the primary emphasis is not on Abraham but on his seed, his descendants. Let’s notice that it has to a great extent determined the course of subsequent history up to this time. When you get into the realm of blessings and cursings, you begin to understand history from a different point of view.
Now let’s look at the case of a man who pronounced a blessing on behalf of God in Genesis 27:27–29. This man was Isaac and this is an example that’s almost comical because though he’s blessing his son Jacob, he thinks he’s blessing Esau. What I want to point out to you is afterwards he realized he could not reverse the blessing. He knew that what he’d spoken was not just his own wishes, he had been the mouthpiece of God even though he really didn’t know what he was doing. He was spiritual enough to know that he couldn’t undo what he’d done. He couldn’t unsay what he said.
And, incidentally, that is often true in our lives. There are times when I know that I’ve said something that didn’t proceed from me and though I said it I don’t have the power to reverse it. It’s said, it’s settled.
All right. This is what he said to Jacob but he thought he was speaking to Esau.
“So he came close, and kissed him: and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed.”
The comical thing is it was Esau’s garments that he was smelling.
“May God give you of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine: may people serve you, and nations bow down to you: be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you: cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”
Notice both curse and blessing there.
Now, a little while later in comes Esau and Isaac realizes his mistake. He says in verse 33:
“Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”
In other words, there’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s gone out, it’s irrevocable, it’s going to go on from generation to generation, it’s going to determine the course of history.
Then you remember Esau said, “Well, don’t you have a blessing for me?” Isaac kind of searched in the bottom of the bag and came up with something but I don’t even know whether you’d call it a blessing. It’s a destiny. Again, note something like 3,700 years later this is exactly the way it is with the people of whom he spoke, the Arab nations. Verse 39:
“Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above...”
That is, you’re going to live in the deserts which is basically true of the Arab peoples from then ‘til now.
“...and by your sword you shall live...”
Bear in mind that their specific manifested religion is Islam which is called the religion of the sword.
“...and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless [which is just about now], then you shall break the yoke from your neck.”
We don’t want to dwell on that too long but you see there we’re confronted with the fact that words spoken in blessing or cursing when they have behind them spiritual authority determine the course of history. They flow on from generation to generation.
Now, I want to turn to the theme of curses. I want to point out, which I think I’ve already said, that the same principle applies to curses. Before we turn to specific incidents I would like to give you just one general principle in Proverbs 26:2. This is very important that everybody here who has any kind of problem lay hold of this. Proverbs 26:2:
“Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, so a curse without cause does not alight.”
Wherever a curse alights there is a cause for it. Much of what I’m going to be dealing with and much of what you’ve probably need to deal with is determining two things: Is there a curse and if so, what is the cause?
Let’s take some examples of curses. First of all, curses spoken by God himself, they are the word of God. Either directly from the mouth of God or by a man who was simply a mouthpiece of God directly. We go back to the book of Genesis. So much today that you need to understand in human history that’s going on starts in the book of Genesis. The word genesis means origin, the do source. One of the interesting facts about human history is that so far as the whole civilized world is concerned, history began in the Middle East and history is going back to the Middle East. The center of world events today is no longer United States nor Europe, it’s the Middle East. That is, Genesis set it in motion and Revelation will complete it. It will come back right where it started. There has been an amazing change in the focus of wealth and influence in the last 10 years. Things aren’t what they were 10 years ago. It’s greatly affected and is affecting the United States.
Genesis 12, the Lord’s promise to Abraham. It is a sevenfold promise. Verses 1–3, let’s see if you can pick out the seven sections of it.
“Now the Lord said to Abraham, Go forth from your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s house, to the land which I shall show you: I will make you a great nation [number one], I will bless you [number two], I will make your name great [number three], you shall be a blessing [number four], I will bless those who bless you [number five], the one who curses you I will curse [number six], and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
That’s the sevenfold blessing of Abraham promised to him on one condition which was what? One word. Obedience, that’s right.
We’re only concerned with part of verse 3.
“I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”
It goes into the singular there, it becomes individual. I will bless those, plural, but the one who curses you, I, God, will curse. Two different words are used for curse there. The one who reviles you will come under my curse. That’s a very, very frightening thing when you think how full the world is today of people who are reviling the chosen descendants of Abraham.
There is one major cause of a curse. It’s anti-Semitism. We need to all examine our own hearts, attitudes, family background because the church is riddled with anti-Semitism. It’s not the world that we’re concerned about, it’s the church. There are many historical reasons for that. Some is the theology which has been handed down to the church from the 4th century and onwards. Some of you would absolutely be overwhelmed if I were to quote to you some of the statements of the great theologians of the Christian church concerning the Jews. So wicked and scurrilous and abusive that no preacher today would even pen them about the devil. Not least amongst them, Martin Luther. In fact, the Nazis in their campaign against the Jews really didn’t need much more ammunition than Luther had already provided. So we are talking about something very close at hand.
I discovered, to my amazement, after I had become a servant of the Lord and committed my life to him and working in the land of Israel that my father’s father all his life offered every year to the Society for the Conversion of the Jews. It was to my amazement because there was nothing in my father that would give me any reason to think that he had such a background. I really believe in many ways it has a lot to do with who I am and where I am today.
Going on to Deuteronomy 27:15–26. This is a whole series of curses. These are actually pronounced by Moses but they are the direct word of God that was given to Moses. As I go through this list of curses I invite you to examine the main actions which cause curses because they haven’t changed. I’ll just pause briefly with some of them and just mention a word or two.
“Cursed is the man that makes any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.”
That’s the first and still the primary cause of all curses, is turning away from the true Lord and from his worship and turning aside into what is, in effect, the occult. That is having dealings with other gods. Without any question that is the primary cause of curses. In fact, I’m coming to believe that if you trace anything back far enough that’s evil and disastrous, you’ll find it originates always in the occult.
“Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.”
There’s a curse that’s on millions in the United States today. The blessing is honor thy father and mother that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest live long on the earth. So, all of us, in a sense, there because all of us have fathers and mothers...that’s one thing about all of us and there are no exceptions here this morning...we’re poised between blessing and curse. There’s very little room for neutrality. We either honor or we dishonor. I dealt with many young people who have rebelled against their parents, kicked up their heels and gone their own way. Often for very strong and cogent reasons. But I still want to tell you that if you want it well with you you’re going to have to honor your father and mother, it’s a condition God has laid down. You can argue with him as much as you like but he’s not changing his requirements.
“Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.”
Why are we all laughing at that? Well, see, the root thing there is mistreating your neighbor. Again, that’s in the commandments. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and thy neighbor as thyself.”
“Cursed is the man who misleads a blind person on the road.”
A wrong attitude toward the helpless which comes out in various ways.
“Cursed is he who distorts the justice due to an alien, orphan and widow.”
That again is the helpless.
“Cursed is he who lies with his father’s wife; because he has uncovered his father’s skirt.”
That’s incest which is far more common than I ever realized. And, again, is an invariable cause of a curse. There’s no way that incest can come into a family without bringing a curse.
“Cursed is he who lies with an animal.”
That’s bestiality. Very common today, I’m amazed but so it is.
“Cursed is he who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother.”
“Cursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law.”
“Cursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret.”
“Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.”
What they call a hit team, isn’t that what they call them today? Strange it’s there in the Bible.
“Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.”
See, this is outside the scope of our real theme but when you come under the law you’re left no neutrality. If you keep it you’re blessed, if you break it you’re cursed. Coming under it you have to pronounce a curse on yourself if you break it. So who would want to be under the law?
Jeremiah 17:5–6. This is actually somewhat related to just what I’ve been talking about.
“Thus says the Lord; cursed is the man who trusts in mankind [or man], and makes flesh his strength, and his heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a heath in the desert, and will not see when prosperity comes; but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, in a land of salt without inhabitants.”
What’s the essence of the curse there? It’s very important to see. It’s turning back to reliance on the flesh, on self, after you have known the grace and power of God. I think half the Christian church is under that curse.
Let’s look in Galatians for a moment. Galatians 3:1–3:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to know from you, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Notice that’s the curse pronounced in Jeremiah. The man who trusts in man, makes flesh his strength and his heart departs from the Lord. Here Paul specifically states it in relation to Christians who have been baptized in the Spirit. He said you received the Spirit but how did you receive it? And, very interesting, he attributes it to witchcraft. He says, “Who has bewitched you?” Can Spirit baptized Christians be bewitched? What does scripture say? He says, “Who has bewitched you?”
This became very real to me with my first wife Lydia. There came the pastor of a church on the west coast. I went there from the midwest. They told me that all 12 members of the Board voted unanimously to offer me the pastorate. When I got there I discovered the 12 members of the Board were the only people left in the church! After I’d been there a month, all the members of the Board except one had resigned. Lydia and I found ourselves in a difficult position. The real source of the problem was the wife of the previous pastor who had divorced her husband the pastor, enticed one of the Board members, got him to divorce his wife and then married him. I did not know what I was struggling against but one day my eye fell on that scripture, “Who has bewitched you?” I saw that whole congregation was bewitched by the wife of the previous pastor. I only met her once and that was enough! It was frightening. She had those people, she played with them like a cat played with a mouse.
When Lydia and I saw what we were dealing with we came against it and we broke it. We eventually had the victory but had I not identified the situation and the cause, it would have defeated us.
I would like to say in the train of all that probably 10 marriages in that congregation broke up. One thing I have to tell you is that witchcraft and curses are marriage breakers number one. Wherever they prevail, marriages are going to be in difficulty.
One more pronounced by the Lord. Zechariah 5:1–4.
“Then I lifted up my eyes again, and behold there was flying scroll. And he said to me, What do you see? And I answered, I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits [that’s about 30 feet], and its width ten cubits [about fifteen feet]. Then he said to me, This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land: surely every one who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side; and every one who swears [I think you need to put in swears falsely] will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. I will make it go forth, declares the Lord of hosts, and it will enter the house of the thief, and the house of the one who swears falsely by my name: and it will spend the night in that house and consume it with its timber and stones.”
There again is a God ordained curse that will destroy a complete house. The causes for the curse there are stealing and perjury of which again, the United States is filled. Not only the United States but this is where we’re at.
Now, I want to deal also with curses spoken by men on behalf of God. I’m going to go quickly but it’s important to go through them. Joshua 6. Again, I’m trying to point out to you the cause for the curse. Joshua 6:26, after the Israelites had taken and destroyed the city of Jericho.
“Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho: with the loss of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.”
You see again the curse goes on through history. At any point in subsequent history where anybody rebuilds Jericho, this is what will happen.
Turn and compare 1Kings 16:34.
“In his days [the days of King Ahab] Hiel the Bethelite did build Jericho: he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”
There’s the curse, there’s its outworking. Precisely what Joshua said happened.
What was the reason? Rebuilding something that God had placed under an eternal curse. The word used by the Lord about Jericho was it was to be under a ban, something set apart to total destruction forever.
I’m reminded of a situation which is in some ways not unlike that. Some considerable number of years ago a minister in a certain well known Protestant denomination came to me and he said, “I want your help to exorcise the manse of the church where I’m living. It’s haunted, all sorts of evil things are in there.” I was pretty gung-ho and I thought, you know, let’s go in and do it. I felt some restraint from the Lord so I questioned him and I let him talk to me. He told me that the church itself and the manse had been built by a previous minister from that denomination who was an out and out modernist. Who denied the divinity of Jesus, didn’t believe in the power of the blood of Jesus, denied the virgin birth, just was totally anti-scriptural. As I thought it over I said to that man, “I don’t think that God wants me to take the curse off that house. I think God put the curse on that house. I don’t think anybody can remove the curse from that house. The very nature and character of the man that built it has determined it. I don’t have faith to come and exorcise your house.” And, I didn’t. He got rather upset with me but I then discerned that he really knew he wasn’t where God wanted him to be. But for certain material advantages he wanted to stay in that particular pastorate. It was a real lesson to me. I don’t believe anybody could ever get that house cleansed of what had been released into it at its building.
2Samuel 3:28–29. This is a really frightening curse. It was pronounced by David on Joab who was his commander in chief. Joab was a strange character. Joab and his brother Abishai are always known as the sons of Zeruiah who was a woman and who was David’s aunt. It was a family affair. It was a very remarkable fact that their father’s name is not mentioned. I don’t know the reason but I think there’s something there. Joab was a very effective warrior, commander in chief, and in many ways totally devoted to David but very unscrupulous. Anybody that got in Joab’s way was for trouble. Amongst others, Abner the commander of the forces of Saul’s contingent was to be promoted above Joab by David...I think as a political move. Joab decided this wasn’t going to happen so he invited Abner to have a friendly conversation in the gate, pulled out his sword and struck him in the stomach and killed him. When David heard about it he immediately disclaimed any responsibility because he knew that if he didn’t, that curse would come on him, his house and his kingdom. He was very immediate and careful to disclaim it. This is what he said:
“And afterward when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are innocent before the Lord forever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner: may it fall on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house...”
What I think David sensed was there’s a curse here, let me divert it. I can’t cut it off but I can divert it. Now listen to the curse.
“...may there not fail from the house of Joab one who has a discharge, or who is a leper, or takes hold of a staff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.”
Forever. Notice all those things can be the outworking of a curse. Just go over them in your mind. A discharge, a running sore, a leper, one who is crippled and had to lean on a staff, one who dies a violent death, or one who lacks bread.
I hope you see the thinking of David because it’s important. David knew that there was a curse coming but let me divert it from me and my house because we’re innocent. But you see how it works out generation after generation.
Then in Psalm 109, which is a psalm of David, you have a prophetic curse pronounced on Judas Iscariot. You need to see that the whole of this psalm is essentially a Messianic psalm. Beginning at verse 3:
“They have also surrounded me with words of hatred; and fought against me without cause. In return for my love they act as my accusers: but I am in prayer. They have repaid me evil for good, and hatred for my love.”
We’ll see again and again another source of a curse is repaying evil for good. Now we have this prophetic curse pronounced on Judas and it’s a fearful thing to read.
“Appoint a wicked man over him: and let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him come forth guilty: let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; let another take his office.”
That was quoted by Peter in Acts 1:20 when they found a successor for Judas.
“Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.”
Which was true because he committed suicide.
“Let his children wander about and beg, and let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.”
All this came true because the Roman armies destroyed the entire area.
“Let the creditor seize all that he has; and let strangers plunder the product of his labor. Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, not any to be gracious to his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in a following generation let their name be blotted out.”
That is frightening, isn’t it? But, it happened.
I’d like to turn just by way of confirmation to Proverbs 17:13. I hope by now you see as I see that we’re not dealing with anything that’s a game.
“He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.”
When I think of some of the major figures of recent American history, some of the main families who played such a major part, I’m almost driven to the conclusion that somewhere in the background was someone who rendered evil for good because it says evil will not depart from their house. I could name those that I believe it would apply to but I’m not interested in a libel suit so I’m going to leave it to your fertile imaginations.
To me, it’s become very obvious. I mean, I just cannot doubt somebody somewhere did a very crooked business deal or drove someone to bankruptcy who had done him good and the Bible says evil shall not depart from his house.
Then in the New Testament, Mark 11, Jesus and the fig tree. Mark 11:12–14. We don’t have time to go into the background, I trust you’re familiar with it.
“And on the next day when they had departed from Bethany, he [Jesus] became hungry: and seeing in a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if perhaps he could find anything on it: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he answered and said to it [the tree]...”
Do you think he was a little bit strange talking to a tree? Some of us would feel very strange talking to a tree.
“...May no one ever eat fruit from you again. And his disciples were listening.”
Mark 11:21–21. This is the comment.
“Being reminded, Peter said to him, Rabbi, behold the fig tree which you cursed has withered.”
And so on. So, Peter saw that Jesus’ words spoken to the fig tree were a curse. You see, they went right into the future, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” So powerful was the result of the curse the fig tree withered within 24 hours. That proves curses have power.
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree? Without going into a whole lot of botanical details, I believe myself he wasn’t looking for figs but he was looking for something else that comes before figs which the Arabs call ?nafal?. I believe the principle is that if it doesn’t have ?nafal? it won’t have figs. It had all the leaves so it looked as though it was going to have figs. So, what is the thing that brings the curse? It’s having the appearance of fruitfulness without delivering the goods. I think it’s a type of the Judaism of his day which had all the leaves but no fruits.
Let’s not just point to Judaism because there’s a lot of Christian fig trees full of leaves but with no fruit. I believe God’s response is a curse.
Now we’re going to a different source of cursing which I call persons with relational authority. Here is another fact. You may not like it but it’s a fact. God has arranged the universe that way. There are people in our lives who because of their relationship to us have a measure of authority over us. If they pronounce a curse on us, it’s going to affect us. I would say probably quite a number of you, maybe that’s the source of your problem. If you have a problem. If you have no problem, praise the Lord.
The first one I’m going to look at is Jacob in Genesis 31. You’ll find Genesis is a rich source of truth for this whole area. Genesis 31:30–32. Jacob had taken off to leave his uncle Laban and he’d taken with him, as he had every right to do, his two wives, two concubines and the various children and all the flocks and herds by which he’d come in a perfectly legitimate way. He was not doing anything wrong. But he didn’t know that his favorite wife, Rachel, when she took off from her father’s house took with her her father’s terraphim which are generally believed to be little sort of idols. Almost like good luck charms. She really wanted her father’s good luck to go with her and she’d run off with these and they meant a lot to her sentimentally, so she stole them. She took them. Jacob didn’t know. Laban pursues after Jacob, catches up with him, scolds him for leaving and they have an argument. Then he says, “If you left, at least you didn’t have to take my household gods.” Jacob said, “I haven’t taken your gods. You can search and see.” With a very typical feminine ruse Rachel avoided having herself searched and consequently got away with it. As she thought. But she didn’t.
Now let’s look at what Jacob said. Verse 30 and following. Laban is speaking first.
“Now you have indeed gone away because you long greatly for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods? Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, lest you would take your daughters from me by force.”
That’s why he ran away but not why he didn’t take the gods. Then he said:
“The one with whom you find your gods shall not live, in the presence of your kinsmen, find out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.”
He spoke that as Rachel’s husband. He said the one who took your gods shall not live. What did he do? He pronounced a death sentence on Rachel...which was carried out. Turn to Genesis 35:16.
“Then they journeyed from Bethel; and there was still some distance to go to Ephrath [which is Bethlehem]; Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. It came about when she was in severe labor that the midwife said to her, Do not fear, for now you have another son. And it came about as her soul was departing, (for she died) that she named him Ben-oni [son of my sorrow]: but his father called him Benjamin [son of my right hand].”
Jacob did not know that he sentenced his wife to death. Frightening thought. Let’s be careful what we say about whom and how we say it.
Then in Judges 9 we have a complicated story about the descendants of Gideon and I cannot go into all the details. What happened was Gideon, who had rescued Israel from the Midianites, had 70 sons. He also had a concubine who gave birth to a son named Abimelech. After the death of Gideon, in order to get the position of leadership, Abimelech murdered his 70 brothers. One brother named Jotham escaped and Jotham then got onto a high hill where he could be heard without being caught and he pronounced a curse on Abimelech. Let’s look at it. Judges 9:19–21. He’s talking to Abimelech and the men of Shechem because the men of Shechem had sided with Abimelech.
“If then you have dealt in truth and sincerity with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you. But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and consume the men of Shechem, and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech.”
It’s a curse.
“Then Jotham escaped, and fled, and went to Beer, and remained there, because of Abimelech his brother.
Now, read the end of the chapter. Verses 56–57.
“Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech which he had done to his father in killing his seventy brothers: also God returned all the wickedness of the men of Shechem on their heads and the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal came upon them.”
See? So Jotham as the representative of his father pronounced a curse on the murderers of his brothers and the betrayers of his father. And the curse came on them, they turned against one another and fought one another. That’s another way that a curse works, producing disharmony, division.
Some self imposed curses, people who pronounce curses on themselves. We’re going back to Genesis 27:11–13. Here we are again in this very significant scene where Jacob, in a sense, swindles his way into the blessing. But, believe me, it was expensive for everybody involved. Rebekah, who is the contriver of this whole thing, has a dialogue with Jacob. Jacob really didn’t want to do it but his mother persuaded him. I have to say...and I hope this will not offend anybody...Rebekah to me is the first Yiddish ?yamama?, she really tried to arrange for everybody in her household: her husband, her sons and so on. She’s the real first manipulating, scheming wife and mother. She has a long line of descendants, not all Jewish! She got everybody into trouble, I want you to know that. Jacob says, “I don’t want to do this, I’m scared. I want the blessing but if my father gets to know who I am, instead of getting blessed I’ll get cursed.”
“Jacob answered his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me and then I shall be as a deceiver in his sight; and I shall bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing. But his mother said to him, Your curse be on me, my son: only obey my voice, and go get them for me.”
She died. She never saw her son alive again. She pronounced a curse on herself. “Your curse be on me.” You read the story, she never set eyes on Jacob from the time he left. She lost her son out of her life. Frightening.
And then one I’m always reluctant to look to but it’s so very clear, in Matthew 27 at the trial of Jesus. Verses 24–26.
“When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water, and washed his hands in front of the multitudes, saying, I am innocent of this man’s blood: see to that yourselves.”
He was not innocent because he was the judge.
“And all the people answered and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
The Scripture says the next word is “then.”
“Then he released Barabbas...”
That was a curse pronounced by themselves upon themselves. Nineteen centuries of history bear testimony. It’s a tragedy but it’s there. It’s not a curse that cannot be reversed because Jesus opened the way when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” But, nevertheless, it’s a self-pronounced curse.
If you turn to John’s gospel...and you don’t need to...there’s a slightly different presentation of the dialogue. And there the Jewish religious leaders are talking to Pilate and Pilate says, “Shall I crucify your king?” referring to Jesus, cynically, sarcastically. They answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” It says then he released Barabbas.
See, again, in a certain sense they pronounced their own destiny. They said, “We have no king but Caesar, we want Barabbas.” Caesar is the typical, Gentile ruler. He’s the type of Gentile emperor. Barabbas is the criminal, the agitator, the violent man. What did they do? They put themselves under Caesar and Barabbas and for 19 centuries that has been their destiny. Climaxing, so far s history goes, up to this point with Adolf Hitler who was the expression of a philosophy that was initiated by a man named ?Aushwat? Spengler in which his theme was we need another Caesar. That was really the philosophy that brought Hitler to power and inspired Hitler. When Hitler came to power he opened the jails, took out the Barabbases and put them over the Jewish people. What I’m trying to emphasize to you is the solemnity of what we say.
We have dealt, in case you haven’t been following or you’ve got too involved, we dealt with curses pronounced by God himself, with curses pronounced by men on behalf of God, curses pronounced by persons with relational authority...in a family for instance...self imposed curses.
Now, this morning I’m going to close with the last kind of curse, curses that are the produce of Satanic influence. Notice up to this time they haven’t been. I want to look at two kinds of curses that we may have to face. The first is what I call emotional reviling where people get mad at us and start to curse us. That probably happens quite frequently in the United States but it’s very, very common in the Middle East. I could give you the standard Arabic curses because living in an Arab village, I got to know them. They usually center on cursing the person’s father. You’ll hear any little Arab child repeating them. The Arabs are a people who curse. As a matter of fact, I remember just about the time the State of Israel was coming into being, Lydia was going through the streets of Jerusalem. At that time many Jewish people spoke Arabic rather than Hebrew. In order to be patriotic they had now decided they were going to give up talking in Arabic and speak Hebrew. Lydia was walking along the street and she heard two Jewish men arguing and cursing one another in Arabic. She said to them in Arabic, “I thought you were supposed not to speak Arabic any longer.” One of them answered her, “It’s good enough to curse in anyhow.”
Well, I don’t want to be misunderstood, but Arabic is a language given to cursing. A lot of things that one says one just picks up are curses if one doesn’t know them.
Well, it’s very common. If you, for instance, walk into a store, look at a pair of shoes and you decide not to buy them, the storekeeper will quite likely curse you as you walk out. That’s not uncommon. You know, we all are prone to encounter. Some poor ladies are cursed by their own husbands. Sometimes children are cursed by their fathers.
Dealing with what I call emotional curses which are probably demonic...in other words there’s a demon behind that...I believe it’s important we understand how to protect ourselves. I think the protection consists in immediately adopting the right attitude. Let me look at three passages of scripture. Romans 12:14.
“Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not.”
I believe that basically we have to overcome the negative by the positive. I think that’s summed up in the last verse of that chapter. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Really, in such a situation you are either going to give way to evil or you’re going to overcome it with good. There’s no third option. So, when somebody curses you, reviles you, you may not do it out loud but bless them, take a positive attitude, keep your own spirit clear.
1Corinthians 4:12, speaking about the apostles Paul says:
“We toil, working with our own hands: when we are reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure.”
Basically you’ve got to do something. Jesus said when someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other. The natural thing is hit them back. The spiritual thing is turn the other cheek. But the big mistake is to deny that. If you hit him back you’ve released it, if you turn the other cheek you’ve released it. If you just let it boil inside, you’ve started a problem. So, don’t imagine that in such a situation you can be neutral. You’re either going to be positive or negative.
One other scripture, all of them bring out the same point. 1 Peter 3:9. We could go into the background but it’s not necessary really.
“Not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult; but giving a blessing instead: for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
Okay? So when we’re cursed, what do we do? Bless, that’s right. It may not change the attitude of the person who is cursing but it will insure our own spiritual purity.
Now, the other kind of curse that’s Satanic in origin comes from what I call the professional. It’s planned. That is, the servant of Satan. I don’t know whether you’re so naive as not to know that this nation and all our western culture is filled with professional servants of Satan. Witches, wizards, fortune tellers, mediums and so on. They are serving Satan by choice. A lot of them serve Satan because they think he’s the strongest person around. Many, many people do not realize that the Lord is stronger than the devil. Particularly in Africa. I discovered in dealing with Africans, they have been brought up to know the power of the devil. That’s in their background. Don’t go to them and tell them there isn’t a devil, that’s silly. In a crisis many, many Africans, even if they’re born again Christians, will turn back to the devil for help. Mind you, it’s not without some basis in experience because the devil does do things for people...with limits, with strings attached. In the long run, you’ll be sorry. But in the short run, there are results often.
There are far more professional practitioners of Satan in Germany today than there are Christian ministers. Germany is, you know, obviously a very highly cultivated, progressive society by materialistic standards. In fact, much of Europe is absolutely riddled with professional servants of Satan.
I was hearing about one of the most successful hamburger chains which I will not name...in a certain area of North Carolina, there is a center for training witches. It’s not secret, it’s there. I don’t want to name names. The witches in training went to this particular hamburger outlet and wanted their hamburgers black on one side and raw on the other. The people cooking them refused to do them that way. So the witches put a curse on the hamburger stand, it’s out of business, it folded up. Yet, in every other part of the country it’s successful.
Don’t imagine that you’re not encountering these things at pretty close quarters, because you are. A fellowship that’s very close to me, many of you know the name of the leader, was deliberately infiltrated by the local witch’s coven. They sent one of their top witches to profess a desire to become a member of the fellowship, to show interest in the things of God. She was instructed to put curses on the people in the fellowship, particularly the leaders and their families and particularly in the realm of their health. The leader himself, who is one of the most committed Christians I know, nearly died of a strange, unexpected, internal problem. His wife developed a malignancy and his son was born two and a half months premature. Now they are all doing well but believe me, that was not unconnected with that invasion. We are not dealing with theories. If you’re walking around with your eyes shut, you’re liable to fall into a pit and then wonder how you got there. We are surrounded by enemies. If you think this is new, just take time to read the psalms of David sometime. Read the countless times he appeals to God for help against his enemies. You and I can echo every one of those prayers with appropriate application. We’re just as much surrounded by enemies as David was.
Okay. We’ll take just one example, a very outstanding example of Balaam. Balaam was called a soothsayer which is the old fashioned word. He’s called a diviner in the modern translations. He had a reputation, he had a large clientele. Numbers 22, Israel has arrived on the borders of their inheritance and Moab is very uneasy because of this tremendous influx of people. And so, they want to do something against Israel and they know they can’t defeat them by warfare so they go to the occult. To me, I think it’s very significant. This is the final obstacle that Israel had to overcome before entering the Promised Land. I think it’s no accident the final obstacle was the occult. I think it’s probably true with us today.
“Moab said to the elders of Midian, Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, [this horde is Israel] as the ox licks up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. He sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is near the river Euphrates in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, to invite him, saying, Behold, the people came out of Egypt. Behold they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. Now therefore, please come, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me: perhaps I may be able to defeat them, and drive them out of the land: for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”
That was his reputation. It worked.
I don’t want to go into the details of that, you can read it for yourself. Let me just say that none of this has gone out of date. One of my African students is a committed Christian. In fact, he’s the one that’s referred to in my book Shaping History, Wilson ?Umbellaya? told me this story himself. In his village way back in the hills, what’s called the ?Keefee? hills, two families in the village quarreled. They did what was natural. One of them went to the local witch doctor and said, “Put a hex on that other family.” They gave him a goat or whatever it was they had to pay. The witch doctor, he must have been a very acute psychologist. He said, “All right. At midnight on a certain night a jackal will cry in the village and then the son of this family will die.” Well, believe me, when midnight came, that family was cowering in terror in their hut. A jackal cried, the child died. Probably of pure fright. I mean, that’s the way it works. Pay me, I’ll curse your enemy. That’s it, this goes back to 3,500 years ago. It’s something that’s gone on through human history and it’s more active today perhaps than at any previous time in human history...like all the spiritual forces, good and evil.
I want to close this morning by speaking about forms that curses take. The great standard example is found in Deuteronomy 28. The first 14 verses are blessings and the remaining approximately 54 verses are curses. By the time you’ve read that chapter carefully you have a good picture of which are blessings and which are curses. It’s important because I believe a lot of Christians are enduring curses when they should be enjoying blessings. They don’t even know that what they have is a curse and not a blessing.
What is the great basic reason for curses and blessings? They’re given in this chapter very clearly. Deuteronomy 28, beginning at verse 1 opening up the blessings. I have to say that both the NIV and the NASB unfortunately use a rather unsatisfactory translation. The King James is better and the NASB which I’m reading is right in the margin.
“Now it shall be, if you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and be careful to do all his commandments...”
What’s the source of all blessings? Listening to the voice of the Lord and doing what he says. All blessings ultimately go back to that original source.
What’s the source of all the curses? Very simple. Verse 15.
“But it shall come about, if you will not listen to the voice of the Lord your God...”
Okay? Cursed, cursed, cursed, cursed. The basic issues are very, very simple. Listening and doing brings blessing. Failing to listen brings curses. After all, if you don’t listen you can’t do because you won’t know what to do. That’s the starting point and it’s like a watershed. You know what a watershed is? I discovered when somebody took me to the Rockies in Colorado years ago. They pointed out westward and they said, “That’s the watershed, the Continental Divide of the United States. I built a picture in my mind what happened to two little drops of rain that fell two inches apart. One on the east and one on the west. Although they were only two inches apart when they fell, their destinies were thousands of miles apart because they were on opposite sides of the watershed, the Continental Divide. One would end in the Gulf of Mexico, the other in the Pacific Ocean. That’s how you and I determine our destiny. You may be sitting few inches away from the person next to you and yet you may be on opposite sides of the Continental Divide that will determine your destiny. What is the Continental Divide? “If thou will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord.” That’s it. Some listen, some don’t. Which are you?
If you go through that list of blessings and curses it will take you a long while, it’s worth doing. I’m going to read you a summation of both, a summation of the blessings and a summation of the cures which will only take me a minute or two. The following is my summary of the blessings in verses 1–14. Exaltation [being lifted up], health, reproductiveness, prosperity, victory and God’s favor. I’ll read them again. Exaltation, health, reproductiveness, prosperity, victory and God’s favor. I invite you to check for yourself. You would do well to see if you agree with my summation.
On the other side, this is the curses. Humiliation, mental and physical sickness, family breakdown, poverty, defeat, oppression, failure and God’s disfavor. I’ll read them once more. Humiliation, mental and physical sickness, family breakdown, poverty, defeat, oppression, failure and God’s disfavor.
In closing I will also list the evidences of a curse which I have discovered by personal experience. This is a subjective list, it’s based merely on what I’ve discovered through dealing with people. It isn’t theology, it’s experience. However, if your theology doesn’t work from experience you better do something about it. I have six.
Number one, mental and emotional breakdown. We’re thinking mainly now in terms of family, though it’s not excluding individuals. I’m thinking in terms of if within your knowledge of your family’s background and history there are several examples of any of these things.
Number two, repeated or chronic sicknesses, especially without clear medical diagnosis.
Number three, repeated miscarriages or related female problems.
Number four, breakdown of marriage and family alienation...which really go together. It’s more than just husband and wife being divorced, there’s bad relationships between parents and children, between brothers and sisters and so on.
Number five, continuing financial insufficiency, especially where the income appears sufficient. That’s a remarkable thing but I’ve dealt with many people. According to all the figures they should be able to make it but they never quite did. There was a member of my family who is with the Lord now. I don’t want to name him but it’s very vivid to me. He died in great suffering, very boldly and bravely endured. But about a week before he died there appeared at the foot of his bed an old man in rags and just stood there. I remember him saying, “I had to tell him to go several times before he disappeared.” I didn’t hesitate, I knew immediately that was poverty. Looking back although many times he made absolutely sufficient for the needs of himself and his family, they never really ever had enough. It was so vivid to me, he was so matter of fact about it. He was far from being out of his mind, he was very, very sober. I often think when I hear people’s stories that there’s that old man in rags somewhere in your background.
Then, the sixth I mentioned already, being accident prone. That was true of the same member of my family. He had an incredible history of improbable accidents. In fact, although he was an expert auto mechanic he gave up driving his car and let his wife drive him. I mean, there are some things so vivid to me I could speak about that one situation for half an hour without running out of material. His mother was a spiritist. And, he never really forgave her. If ever there’s a lesson in my life about making sure your attitude to your parents is right, that’s it.
I’ll read them again and then we’ll close for this morning. I apologize for ending on a negative note. Number one, mental and emotional breakdown. Number two, repeated or chronic sicknesses, especially without clear medical diagnosis. Number three, repeated miscarriages or related female problems. Like women that have real problems at the times of their periods. Number four, breakdown of marriage, family alienation. Number five, continuing financial insufficiency, especially where the income appears sufficient. Number six, being accident prone.