DEUTERONOMY CHAPTER 9.
Warning against Self-Righteousness.
SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS DENOUNCED. ó V.1. Hear, O Israel! Moses calls out to them to attend, to heed his warning. Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, all arrangements and preparations having been made at this present time, the entry into the country west of Jordan was to be expected at any time, in the very near future, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thy self, both more numerous and more warlike, cities great and fenced up to heaven, to all appearances unconquerable on account of the strength of their fortifications, v.2. a people great and tall, of giant stature and strength, the children of the Anakim, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak! They had the reputation of being invincible. V.3. Understand, therefore, this day (or: Thou understandest) that the Lord, thy God, is he which goeth over before thee, as the Leader and Champion of the people; as a consuming fire He shall destroy them, as a great fire might devour a handful of tinder, and He shall bring them down before thy face, humble them by taking their courage from them; so shalt thou drive them out and destroy them quickly, that is, when any nation would be attacked, their aim should be its extermination in the shortest possible space of time, as the Lord hath said unto thee, Ex. 23, 23. 27. In this connection Moses issues his warning against self-righteousness, for it is not only the pride and presumption which ascribes good fortune and wealth to oneís own strength and ingenuity that must be curbed, but also that attitude which accepts success as due the merits of oneís own virtue and perfection. V.4. Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord, thy God, hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land, that being the manner in which smirking self-satisfaction expresses itself; but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. V.5. Not for thy righteousness or for the uprightness of thine heart, for that imaginary personal excellence, dost thou go to possess their land, this factor, if it existed, did not enter into the Lordís calculations; but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord, thy God, doth drive them out from before thee, and that He may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The wickedness of the Canaanites alone would have been reason enough for the Lord to exterminate them and to give their land to the children of Israel, but His chief reason was founded upon His faithfulness, since He wanted to fulfill the promise given to the patriarchs. It is a fact which should be kept in remembrance at all times, that all blessings and benefits of Jehovah are expressions of His unmerited kindness and mercy, this being true especially of all spiritual gifts. V.6. Understand, therefore, that the Lord, thy God, giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people, Ex. 32, 9; 33, 3; 34, 9. That was the Lordís estimate of the children of Israel, and that is His judgment regarding all men by nature, John 3, 6. The fact that all gifts of God come to us through His love and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us, should serve to keep us humble in His sight.
INSTANCES OF REBELLIOUS BEHAVIOR. ó In support of the term ďstiff-necked people,Ē which he had just applied to the children of Israel, Moses now adduces a few incidents from the wilderness journey. V.7. Remember and forget not how thou provokedst the Lord, thy God, to wrath in the wilderness, their rebelliousness had been a constant challenge to the wrath of God; from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt until ye came unto this place ye have been rebellious against the Lord. It was an unsparing censure, a sharp reproof, for it was necessary that the people feel the heinousness of their sin, in order to remain in the fellowship of the Lord in proper humility. V.8. Also in Horeb ye provoked the Lord to wrath, in the matter of the golden calf, so that the Lord was angry with you to have destroyed you, Ex. 32, 4-10. V.9. When I was gone up in to the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, of which the Decalog was the nucleus, when the people should have awaited his return with the most reverential suspense and attention, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water, Ex. 24, 18; v.10. and the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God, engraved by the Lord Himself in some miraculous manner; and on them was written according to all the words which the Lord spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly, when the children of Israel, by Godís command, had been gathered at the foot of the mountain, Ex. 19. 17. V.11. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights that the Lord gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments. as the basis of the covenant between Jehovah and His people, Ex. 19, 5. V.12. And the Lord said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image. They had left the way of the Lord and entered upon one of their own choosing, of idolatry and enmity toward God. V.13. Furthermore, the Lord spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people; v.14. let Me alone that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven, by a judgment of utter extermination; and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they, Ex. 32, 9. 10. V.15. So I turned, after entering his first intercessory plea, Ex. 32, 11-14, and came down, from the mount, and the mount burned with fire; and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. V.16. And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the Lord, your God, and had made you a molten calf; ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the Lord had commanded you, for He had laid great emphasis upon the exclusion of every form of idolatry in their midst. V.17. And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes, Ex, 32, 19. V.18. And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights, Ex. 32, 31; I did neither eat bread nor drink water because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. It was an act of intense and continued intercession without parallel in the annals of mere human beings by which Moses succeeded in gaining the Lordís consent to forgive the people and to accept them as His children once more. V.19. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you, for such was the intention of Jehovah at that time. But the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also, Ex. 32, 14; 33, 17. V.20. And the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him, this fact being related here to supplement the story in Exodus; and I prayed for Aaron also the same time. Moses includes this fact in his address in order to indicate that the selection of Aaron for the office of high priest was also a manifestation of pure divine grace. V.21. And I took your sin, the visible expression of their idolatry, the calf which ye had made, and burned it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust; and I cast the dust thereof in to the brook that descended out of the mount, Ex. 32, 20. Moses now refers to other instances which proved that the Israelites were a rebellious and stiff-necked people. V.22, And at Taberah, Num. 11, 1-3, and at Massah, Ex. 17, 7, and at Kibroth-hattaavah, Ex. 11, 4-34, ye provoked the Lord to wrath, for theirs was a chronic rebellious dissatisfaction. V.23. Likewise, when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, upon their first arrival at the border of Canaan, when the spies were to report on the best roads to take, Num. 13, 3; 14, 1; chap. 1, 20. 21, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you, then ye rebelled against the commandment of the Lord, your God, and ye believed Him not, nor hearkened to His voice, Ps. 106, 24. 25. V.24. Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you. All these facts emphasized his admonition against self-righteousness. After this digression, Moses returns to the relation of events at Horeb. V.25. Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first, because the Lord had said He would destroy you, and it was the intention of Moses to avert this catastrophe by his prayer. V.26. I prayed, therefore, unto the Lord and said, O Lord God, destroy not Thy people and Thine inheritance, this statement including a correction of the Lordís charge, in which He had called them the people of Moses, v.12, which thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness, which Thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Moses thus reminded the Lord of both His almighty power and of His mercy, as He had manifested them in setting Israel free from the bondage of Egypt. V.27. Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, their godless tendencies, nor to their sin; Moses pleaded that the Lord would show the same love and forbearance to the children that He had shown to the fathers; and there is always a delicate reference to the promise of the Lord, as given to the patriarchs; v.28. lest the land whence Thou broughtest us out say, Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness. Moses wants the honor of Jehovah, His reputation for love toward His people, unstained before the heathen nations, even if Israel thought so little of that honor. V.29. Yet they are Thy people and Thine inheritance, which Thou broughtest out by Thy mighty power and by Thy stretched out arm. This prayer, if compared with that given Ex. 32, 11-13. 31. 32, shows that Moses here noted down the gist of his intercessory pleading during those memorable forty days, when he varied his petition from time to time, as he struggled with the Lord for the people whom he loved. The true prayer of intercession is importunate, but not willful, and bases its arguments upon the promises of the Lord, appealing to His honor and love.