Deuteronomy 9 (English Standard Version)
Not Because of Righteousness
1“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2a 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?’ 3Know 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.
God was leading Israel into something too big for them. It was a challenge they could only meet if they trusted in God. The cities they would battle against were mighty and the people they would battle against were great and tall. Yet God had called them to enter into this seemingly impossible battle. It was a battle too big for Israel, but not too big for the Lord. Israel could know both facts: That in themselves, the job was impossible (without Me you can do nothing, John 15:5), but in God the battle could not be lost (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4;13).
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.
Israel’s temptation to pride did not come in something they would actually say out loud. Long before we will say proud words we think proud thoughts in our heart. Therefore Israel must not think in their heart that it was because of their righteousness that the Lord has given them the land.
This is a preview of salvation by grace through faith, in which we cannot think that it is our righteousness that has obtained it. Instead, it is the righteousness we have received in Jesus Christ. When we receive any gift from God, we are tempted to take it and use it to glorify ourselves. Israel must not do this in regard to the gift of the Promised Land, and we must not do it in regard to any gift the Lord would give us.
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.
Romans 3:10-11 (NLT)
As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.”
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. 7Remember 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. 8Even 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. 10And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God,
Psalm 8:3 (NASB)
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained . . .
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.
11And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12Then 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.’
The Golden Calf
13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’
15 So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. 17So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes.
18Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also. 20And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 21Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.
22“At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. 23And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and take possession of the land that I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God and did not believe him or obey his voice. 24 You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
25 “So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you. 26 And I prayed to the LORD,
This great prayer of intercession from Moses is described more fully in Exodus 32. Moses asked for mercy upon Israel because of God’s past faithfulness to them.
Hebrews 3:5 (NIV)
Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house.
‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, 28lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” 29 For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.’
We can seek the mercy and power of God through prayer by praying with the same heart and by pleading the same reasons before the Lord. Prayer on solid reasons like these is far more effective than merely casting wishes up towards heaven.
- Because of God’s past faithfulness to us
- Because of His past faithfulness to our forefathers
- Because of His own glory and reputation among the nations
- Because we are His people
Keeping these things in mind is also a way to refine our prayers. When we pray only for the things consistent with God’s glory, we have our hearts set on the right things.
HERE — From Australia, Hillsong United and “Consuming Fire.” So many good connections in this song — that we obey the commandment to honor the Name of the God — that God has “exalted above all things my name and my word,” according to Psalm 138 — that it is all the work of the Spirit — Enjoy!
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.