Meditations in Deuteronomy : 27 : Learn from your Failures
(Focus: Deut 9:7-29)
Deut 9:7 Remember this and never forget how you provoked the LORD your God to anger in the desert. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the LORD
In the previous passage Moses has just pointed out to Israel that God had chosen them, not because of their righteousness, because in fact they had been a stubborn people, and stubbornness is not righteousness. The remainder of the chapter justifies that statement! Moses takes them back to remember all that has gone on in the past but this time it is to make this particular point: realise your very existence is down to the grace and mercy of God, not down to any merit you might think you have. So, he starts out, think about this and remember you have provoked the Lord all the way along the line from Egypt’s deliverance right through to the present day!
Let’s ignore the Exodus (implied) and start with Horeb or Mount Sinai: “At Horeb you aroused the LORD’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you.” (v.8) He then recounts how he had gone up on the mountain for forty days and received the Ten Commandments (v.9-11) but at the end of that time, “Then the LORD told me, “Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made a cast idol for themselves.” (v.12) The Lord had seen the episode of the golden calf (v.16), “And the LORD said to me, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.” (v.13,14). Moses had pleaded for them (v.18-21) and only a limited number had died.
But then they had also grumbled at Taberah (v.22 – see Num 11:1-4) and again at Massah (v.22) over lack of water (see Ex 17:3-7) and at Kibroth Hattaavah (v.22) over lack of food (see Num 11:31-35). Those had just been some of the times when Israel had provoked the Lord by their lack of trust in Him despite having seen His miraculous power at work for them. Then he reminds them of their failure at Kadesh Barnea, where he had said, “Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.” but “you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You did not trust him or obey him.” (v.23)
Indeed, he concludes, “You have been rebellious against the LORD ever since I have known you.” (v.24) Wow, what a condemnation! But it was true. He tells again how he had laid before the Lord forty days pleading for them (v.25,26). He had reminded the Lord about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v.27) and pleaded for Israel, “Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin. Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, `Because the LORD was not able to take them into the land he had promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to put them to death in the desert.’ But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.” (v.27-29) His only grounds for pleading for Israel before the Lord was the fact that the Lord had promised the Patriarchs that He would make a great people out of them, and this is what had happened. Surely God’s plan had not been to then destroy them after all that had gone before!
Thus Moses came to understand the Lord’s plan; as he pleaded he came to realise it. Yes, there would be discipline, yes there would be judgments, but the Lord sought to maintain most of the people, for His plan was to take them into the Promised Land and make them a light to the rest of the world.
But fundamental to all of this was the need for Israel to respond to the Lord and completely trust Him. Indeed, surely Moses is trying to convince them that the Lord is for them. After all they have given Him so many causes to destroy them or cast them off and start again with someone else, that the truth must be that He is utterly committed to them.
Isn’t this the same truth today, with the fuller revelation of His love that has been revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ? Isn’t that famous verse, Jn 3:16, the very proof of this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” God’s love for the world was expressed in His sending His one and only Jesus to live here and die here for our sins. Can there be any question that God loves us and is for us, when you look at and think about this verse. That is why the apostle Paul could end Romans 8 with that declaration that is basically summed up as ‘nothing but nothing can separate from the love of God.’ God is for us, totally for us and He’s not going to let anything keep that love away from us. We may reject it, as many do, but it will be there for the taking – always! Hallelujah!