From Deuteronomy 8-10
Moses tells Israel they will conquer the nations in the promised land. Not because of their righteousness, but for two quite different reasons. For the sake of God’s promise to their forefathers and because of the other nations’ wickedness. He goes on to say the Israelites were far from being ‘righteous’. On the contrary their record showed they were stiff-necked and stubbornly resistant to God’s will.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In a previous chapter Moses said the LORD did not choose them because they were more numerous or mightier than any other nation. Quite the opposite, they were small and needed help. The LORD chose them because He loved them and is faithful to the promises He made to their fathers (Dt 7).
In today’s passage Moses tells them they are about to cross over into the promised land and with the LORD’s help they will claim it as their own. Wary they might think these things will happen because of anything good of themselves. Moses rejects other possible reasons why the LORD chose them and is giving them the promised land.
9 “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you. (Dt 9.1-3)
The people they will face are big and strong. But Israel will still win over them. They will wipe them out. This might go to their heads. The people hearing this might become proud and think the LORD is doing this because of how great they are or what they have done for the LORD.
If you knew the LORD was about to do great things for you. How would you feel?
4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Dt 9.4-5)
Israel is not about to invade a land of innocents. The existing residents are wicked. They sin and worship idols. The LORD has judged them and is about to punish them.
We could feel sympathy for the inhabitants. But we need to be reminded the LORD is justified in punishing them.
The LORD is not doing it for Israel or for anything they have done. He is destroying the inhabitants because of their sin. He is also removing them from the land and giving it to Israel because of his covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.
7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.
8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.
9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ (Dt 9.6-12)
There is nothing in the way Israel has behaved that has motivated the LORD into giving them the land. Quite the opposite. They do not deserve it in any way. They have repeatedly angered the LORD.
Despite all this the LORD still has to be faithful to his promises.
The LORD follows through with his word and hands over the promised land to Israel. Despite the LORD’s grace and mercy to them Israel still persisted in sinning and angering the LORD. The LORD sent many prophets and righteous men with the hope of turning them around. Sadly they were unsuccessful. Eventually the LORD turned the judgment and punishment on Israel and Judah. Like the nations before them he destroyed Israel and sent Judah into exile.
Israel may have had promising beginnings, but she turned away from the LORD and was punished. The gospel seems to work in reverse. God chooses the weak, lowly and sinful of this world, and being changed by Jesus they go into the kingdom.
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.
31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Mt 21.28-32)
The LORD Jesus did not choose to save us for the righteousness we had done. God being faithful to his promises sent Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners (Rom 5.7-9).
Like the first son, have you changed your mind and started working for him?
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