Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Deuteronomy 9:1–6

Deuteronomy 9:1–6: God didn’t choose Israel because of the Israelites’ righteousness


This is a short passage, and rather than summarizing it, I’ll just quote it.

Hear, O Israel. You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall—Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: “Who can stand up against the Anakites?” But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you.

After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

(verses 1–6)

One of these days I’m going to get in trouble for doing so much quoting of the Bible; maybe I’ll have to switch to a non-copyrighted version of the Bible, like the King James Version or something…


The Anakites have been mentioned before (although I don’t remember how much I wrote about it). They were a very tall people, which is why the Israelites were always afraid to fight them in battle. But, as he often does, Moses reminds the people that they won’t be fighting the Anakites, the LORD will be doing it, through them. To quote a song that I like (because it’s fun to play on the guitar), “the battle belongs to the LORD.”

But obviously the more important message here is that God is not removing the nations currently living in the Promised Land because of the Israelites’ righteousness—in fact, He specifically says that over and over again in this passage. “It’s not because of your own righteousness, it’s not because of your own righteousness, it’s not because of your own righteousness…”

There may be those who would say that this was rather mean-spirited of the LORD to say to the Israelites. It’s not very affirming to tell them over and over again that they’re not righteous! Wasn’t He worried about giving the Israelites low self esteem?!? But God is more concerned with truth than with feelings. The Israelites were not righteous—they were human. The Israelites couldn’t get by on their own righteousness, and neither can the modern-day Christian. If they were to try, they would fail, just as we would fail to get to God by trying to rely on our own righteousness. In fact, throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites often did try to get by on their own righteousness, ignoring God, and they always failed. Not because they lacked a positive mental attitude, but because they needed God to succeed.

This is the “Good News” of the Bible all over again—we’re not able to save ourselves, so God came down and saved us in His own power. The Israelites weren’t able to defeat the other nations on their own, but God came down and did it for them.

Self-reliance is never advocated in the Bible; instead, dependence on God is stressed over and over and over again. This doesn’t seem right, to our 21st century ears, but that’s because we don’t think properly when it comes to the spiritual realm. We highly value self-centredness, and self-reliance—to our own downfall. (Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways.)

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