Read: Deuteronomy 9:1-6
Consider: The Israelites had wandered around the desert for forty years and were now ready to enter the promised land. This was a new generation, one that had not been present when the Israelites originally refused to enter the promised land (Numbers 13-14). Twelve men were sent into Canaan to spy it out and ten gave bad reports, while only two (Caleb and Joshua) gave good reports. Joshua pleaded with the people not to rebel against the Lord, but they gave in to their fear of the people who lived in the land. Joshua’s reasoning for entering Canaan was very straightforward; he said: ‘… do not be afraid of them …’ and ‘… the LORD is with us’ (Numbers 14:9). Joshua and Caleb saw the same people of the land as the other ten spies and recognised how strong they were, but they also saw the hand of God in his dealings with the people during their wanderings in the desert.
Returning to Deuteronomy 9, forty years has passed and the Israelites are again standing on the banks of the river Jordan ready to cross over. In Deuteronomy 9:3 we read: But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. You may have wondered why God gave the Israelites possession of Canaan. As the Israelites might be tempted to think God had blessed them because they were righteous, we read: After the LORD your God has driven them out, do not say to yourself, ‘The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness’ (9:4). God explains to the Israelites that it is because of the wickedness of the nations occupying Canaan, that he would allow the Israelites to drive them out.
Does this seem harsh to you? Our twenty-first century sensibilities are challenged by what God allowed to happen to these nations, but we must keep in mind that God is a holy God and he abhors wickedness. God knew that if the Israelites took up joint residence beside these other nations, they would integrate and assimilate their gods and evil practices.
In Deuteronomy 9:6 we read: 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.
What do you think has brought you to this point in your life? If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you will understand that your salvation is not based on anything you can do, but purely on God’s grace. Perhaps as you read this, you know that you are not a Christian and have been relying on your own righteousness and integrity (goodness) to get you to heaven! If so, you need to realise that God knows you intimately and sees the true condition of your heart. God knows that you need to seek his forgiveness and put your trust in Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. Think on these words from Paul’s letter to the Romans: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22-24).
Pray: Father, we acknowledge how easy it is for mankind to fall into the trap of believing in salvation through works. We ask that your Holy Spirit would be working in people’s hearts, bringing them to a realisation of their true sinfulness and their need for forgiveness. Amen