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Thursday, September 25, 2014

God's Love and Our Unworthiness Deuteronomy 9:1-10:11

Deuteronomy 9:1-10:11

Chapters 9 and 10 continue Moses’ sermon on the Ten Commandments, most specifically on the First Commandment, which says, “You shall have no other gods before” (Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7). The thematic verse of chapter eight is verse eleven, which says, “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today.” In chapters 9 and 10, Moses spoke about righteousness and the Israelites lack of it through five examples. The theme of these two chapters revolves around the word “possess.” Moses used the word repetitively, as well as its opposite, “dispossess.” You find these two words nine times in these verses of chapters nine and ten. As you read these two chapters, another key word encountered is “righteous.” “Righteous” and “upright” occur four times and their opposite, “wickedness,” “stubbornness,” “rebellious,” and related terms occur eighteen times. The verses state the result of their stubbornness, such as “destruction,” nineteen times. From such extensive use of these words, Israel’s stubbornness and sinfulness juxtaposes with the word “possess” and the First Commandment. If the Israelites worshipped and trusted the one true God instead of their selves, then God would have called them righteous. Today’s study today shows they were not righteous. The Israelites’ disobedience and fear showed their lack of reverence of God and doubt in His supremacy. They did not believe Deuteronomy 6:4 wholeheartedly, which says, “Hear O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD is one.” Moses gave five commands in these forty verses and they each occur within the first seven verses of chapter nine. Verses 1 to 3 include the two commands “Hear O Israel” and “know.” The first three verses are the call to holy war with God as the Israelites’ leader. In the first verse, Moses spoke as if the Israelites were the ones to route the nations in Canaan. He said, “Hear, O Israel, you are crossing over the Jordan today to go into dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’” He clarified what he said in verse three. First, though, let us look at these two verses closer.

In the first verse, the command “hear” comes from the same root word as the word “keep” (shamar) and it means to hear and obey. In these two verses, Moses did not give them instructions for how God wanted them to defeat the nations. Moses reminded them of the bigger and stronger nations in Canaan with the giant people the twelve spies encountered (Numbers 13:28 & 33) forty years ago. These giant people were from the tribe called the Anakim who come from the descendents of Anak, the son of Arba (Joshua 15:13 and 21:11). The Anakim were giants among men. Their name means “long-necked.” In Hebrews, the writer recorded them as descendents of Anok who lived near Hebron before the Israelites conquered them. They were the descendents of the Nephilim who dominated the pre-Flood world (Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33). Only God could give the Israelites victory over nations bigger and mightier than they could. The size of this tribe of people frightened people. Still, though, God did not tell them how to defeat them. They were still to “hear,” which includes obey, so they must still listen and follow God.

To make sure the Israelites did not interpret the command of verses one through two wrong and go in and route the Canaanites their own way, Moses told them in verse three, “Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you.” This verse gives the “how” of the Canaanite peoples’ destruction. The LORD will consume them. The Israelites’ obedience included following God into Canaan. (Remember in Deuteronomy 8:2, when God said He led them, the word “led” is halak in Hebrew and means He walked with them.) God did not tell them to cross the Jordan River without Him. He was with them every step of the way. God gave them victory over Egypt, the desert, and the Amorites. He would give them victory over the Canaanites. God receives the glory, not the Israelites. If the Israelites thought they were the ones defeating the Canaanites or feared that they were to defeat them by themselves, then they usurped God’s place of preeminence and worship in their lives. Their fear dethroned God in their lives. If the Israelites thought afterwards that they destroyed the Canaanites, Moses made sure they understood God crossed over the Jordan River before them to consume and destroy the Canaanites. The Israelites were foot soldiers in God’s army. They were one part of God’s plan. Remember in chapter seven God spoke of using hornets and confusion to defeat the Canaanites. Knowing (yada) God in the way Moses stated meant that, through time and their relationship with God, they perceived, then recognized, acknowledged, and confessed God was almighty God, the one true God, just as the Shema states in Deuteronomy 6:4. By knowing God in this way, they could have said as Paul did in 2 Timothy 1:12, and as we do in a hymn, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” This depth of knowing God came during their forty-year wilderness experience. God took the time to discipline them, to know them, and they to know Him (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).

In verse four, Moses commanded them a third time in this chapter. He said,

Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. [NASB]

When the Israelites, in their obedience, drove the Canaanites out and destroyed them, they were an arm of God. The word “drive” in this verse comes from the same Hebrew word, yarash, as “possess” and “dispossess” and means to take possession of something or dispossess someone. By dispossessing the Canaanites, the Israelites were gaining the inheritance of Abraham from God. God fulfilled His covenant with Abraham in this way. Moses said this in Deuteronomy 7:24. He warned the Israelites that their human nature would encourage them to think they routed the Canaanites by themselves and that God gave them the land because they were righteous. Moses, in later verses, showed them they must not determine their righteousness based on the Canaanite nations’ unrighteousness, but on God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is based on His right acts in His works and judgments (Genesis 18:25, Deuteronomy 32:4, et al). The Israelites experienced God’s righteousness when He, in faithfulness, kept His covenant with Abraham. Moses brought to the Israelites’ memory their unrighteousness as compared to God’s righteousness.

In verse five, Moses told the Israelites that the wickedness of the nations dispossessed them from their own land, not the righteousness of the Israelites. The LORD drove out the Canaanites for another reason. He drove these nations from Canaan because of their unrighteousness. The other reason God gave Canaan to the Israelites was that He “confirmed” His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God fulfilled His covenant with them (Genesis 12:7). In verse six, Moses commanded them, “Know (yada), then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” In this emphatic reiteration of verse five, Moses told them precisely what God judged in them that kept them from righteousness, their stubbornness. God knew the Israelites to be stubborn or stiff-necked (Deuteronomy 9:13, 10:16, 31:27). They provoked God to wrath.

In verse seven, Moses commanded them to remember and not forget they provoked God to wrath from the day they left Egypt. He said they were rebellious. In earlier chapters, Moses commanded the Israelites to remember God provided for them, rescued them, and loved them. He commanded they remember and keep their covenant with God from Mount Sinai, too. In this verse, Moses reminded them of their faults and rebelliousness, their unrighteousness. Sin is unrighteousness. Sin is rebelling against God. They provoked the LORD to wrath in the wilderness because of their rebelliousness. They displeased God and made Him angry at their disobedience. Remember, God’s characteristic of righteousness has another side. The other side is judgment. God cannot be in the presence of sin. As a loving Father, He must give judgment on the sinner. The word “rebellious” in verse seven is the Hebrew word marah, which means contentious and disobedient. If the Israelites complained or griped against God, they contended with God. When they chose to follow God in their own way, they were disobedient. This still happens today. God may tell someone He has called him or her into the ministry. They may hear that and then run with it on their own. The fruit of their ministry is not godly fruit, but instead selfish and greedy seeking for aggrandizement and material gain. God must guide each step of life not just the first step when He tells you where He wants you to serve Him. As another example, a parent tells his or her child, “Do not let me see you doing that anymore.” The child decides to follow the parent’s command literally and does what he or she wants, but not when the parent is watching. Each of these examples shows contending and disobedient people sidestepping the will of God.

Moses, in the next twenty-two verses, reminded the Israelites of five instances where they disobeyed their covenant with God and where they provoked God to anger against them. In verses eight through twenty-two, he reminded them of the golden calf they made and worshipped when he was on Mount Sinai forty days and nights with God in which time God inscribed the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets (vs. 8-11). After those days, God told Moses, “Your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made a molten image for themselves” (vs. 12). First, note God no longer claimed the Israelites as His people. They were now Moses’ people. Second, notice they broke the First Commandment within forty days after making their covenant with God. Third, God wanted to destroy them and make a new nation from Moses’ family. The Israelites did not keep their covenant with God. They heard God speak the Ten Commandments from the mountain that was on fire, but were too afraid to go up the mountain and meet with Yahweh God, so they sent Moses as their representative. Within forty days, the Israelites showed their faithlessness. From this point, Moses took on a new role. He interceded for them with God and became a savior for them. This was the first image of a messiah the Israelites had. Moses descended the mountain, destroyed the calf, reminded the people of their covenant with God, proclaimed their rebelliousness against God, destroyed their idol (just as God commanded the Israelites do to the gods of Canaan in chapter 8), smashed the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments that represented the broken covenant, and then ascended the mountain again to intercede, mediate, and save the Israelites from God’s wrath. The second time up the mountain was the second time he interceded for the Israelites (vs. 18-19). The third time of intercession occurred when the LORD wanted to destroy Aaron for leading the Israelites astray by breaking the First Commandment and by taking God’s glory for himself at Meribah (Numbers 20:8-12). Moses recorded Aaron’s death in Deuteronomy 10:6. While the Israelites waited to cross the Jordan River, Moses recalled to them their molding a god for themselves while he was on Mount Sinai. He told them it was a disobedient and rebellious act against God.

Added to this instance, Moses recalled four other instances of the Israelites’ wickedness/unrighteousness/rebelliousness. He reminded them of their time at Taberah when the greedy rabble-rousers instigated the people to complain to God (Numbers 11:3). Their complaining showed their rebelliousness, fear, and greed. They did not trust God. They tested Him with their complaining and God’s anger burned against them. Moses interceded for them and the fire died. At Massah, which means temptation, the people complained to God and tested Him about providing food and drink for them. They said He brought them from Egypt to the desert to make them die of thirst (Exodus 17:1-7). The people tested God and complained. They did not trust the LORD to give everything. He was not a god to them. Again, in Kibroth-hattaavah, which means graves of greediness, when God supplied quail for them, the people in their greed collected more quail than they could eat before it spoiled (Numbers 11:22 & 34). Their greed showed their fear and that they did not look to the LORD as the one true God. The Israelites’ fear and stomachs became their god. The final instance of which Moses reminded the Israelites of their wickedness and unrighteousness occurred when they camped at Kadesh-barnea in the extreme south of Judah (Numbers 13:26; 32:8; Deuteronomy 1:2, 19-25; 9:23). From this place in southernmost Judah, Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan to scout the land and people. When the spies returned, ten of them convinced the Israelites the people of the land were giants and they could not defeat them. The Israelites’ fear made them disobey God when He told them to go into the land He was giving to them in fulfillment of His oath to their forefathers. The LORD burned with anger then and Moses interceded for the people so He would not destroy them. Moses told God the nations around them and Egypt would laugh at the Israelites and their God because He took them out of Egypt to destroy them (Deuteronomy 9:23-29). God’s anger relented, but He said those who were adults at that time would die before He gave the Promised Land to the Israelites.

Chapter 10 gives more detail of what occurred when Moses descended the mountain a second time with the Ten Commandments (vs. 1-5). God enacted his punishment on Aaron of not entering the Promised Land (vs. 6). God set apart (consecrated) the tribe of Levi to be His priests and declared their inheritance (vs. 7-9). Verses 10-11 give us more detail of what occurred after Moses descended Mount. Sinai the second time, placed the tablets in the art of the covenant, and set apart the Levites. The LORD listened to Moses’ intercession for the Israelites and did not destroy them. He gave His blessing for the Israelites to go in and possess the land.

Many times, the Israelites broke covenant with God. The righteousness of God requires judgment be administered when wickedness and disobedience occur. Moses reminded the Israelites of five times they rebelled against God and deserved His judgment. The Israelites were not righteous by God’s standard. Because of this, they did not deserve God’s blessings - the Promised Land and its wealth. Yet because of God’s faithfulness to His covenants and promises to their forefathers, He gave the Israelites the Promised Land. He fulfilled His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Israelites were stubborn and not worthy of God’s blessings. They lived in a way that said God was not big enough to give them what they needed, He could not take them into Canaan, and He could not route the nations there. Fear became one of their gods. God was not their one God. Their fear removed God from the premier spot in their lives. God is worthy of complete devotion, love, reverence, and obedience as Moses taught them in chapters six through eight. He is one as Deuteronomy 6:4 says. God’s love for the Israelites was due to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and nothing to do with the Israelites’ worthiness. His election/choosing of every person has nothing to do with the person’s worthiness and everything to do with His love and grace.

God does not give blessings because of what a person is or has done. He gives blessings because of who He is and His love for humankind. Every person has rebelled against God and His rules. Everyone deserves judgment. God loves humankind so much that He had a plan from the beginning of time to rescue us from our sin and the future that brings. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take the penalty of every person and pay the redemption price for our lives with His life. In this way, God made a way for us to be with Him forever. This shows His great love and grace. We do not deserve God’s love, but instead deserve punishment. As the loving Father, He created the way for us to return to Him. Our inheritance with Him is completely about His love and has nothing to do with our worthiness. God says this in John 3:16.

God waits for you to come to Him. He will not push you to give your heart and life to Him. God promises in Matthew 7:7-8 that when we seek Him we will find Him. The hymn, “The Savior is Waiting,” comes to mind when I think of God wanting and waiting for us to ask, seek, and knock for Him. Will you ask Him to come into your life?

The Savior is Waiting

Time after time, He has waited before

And now He is waiting again,

To see if you’re willing to open the door,

Oh how He wants to come in.