November 16, 2012

Scripture and Commentary, Saturday after the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 55, 2 Kings 25:8-26, Col. 3:18-4:6
Evening - Ps. 93, 98, Dt. 9, Mt. 27:1-10

Commentary, Deuteronomy 9

Israel is camped on the eastern bank of the Jordan as Moses delivers the farewell addresses preserved in Deuteronomy.  She will soon cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land.  She will face people greater in number and in stature than herself (9:1).  The Anakims (9:2) seem to be a people noted for their size and physical strength.  They must have also been powerful in battle for verse 2 quotes a saying, "Who can stand before the children of Anak."  The Anakim were the giants so feared by Israel forty years earlier (Num. 13:22-33).

The point Moses is making is stated in verses 4-6; Israel cannot take the land by her own power, nor has she earned it from God through her own righteousness.  The Canaanites are stronger than she, and Israel is a stiffnecked people, like a horse that will not easily respond to the bit. God is giving the land to them by His own power, and He is doing so, in part because He is keeping the promise He made to Abraham, and in part because of the wickedness of the Canaanites.  We have already seen the idolatry and immorality of the Canaanites, including the ritual murdering of children by burning them alive as sacrifices to their gods ( see commentary on Dt. 7:1-13, Wednesday after Sunday after Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity).  Israel has earned nothing good from God.  He would have been completely justified to leave her to suffer for her sins with the rest of the world.  Her calling and redemption are all gifts of God's grace.

The remainder of the chapter bids Israel to "Remember, and forget not, how thou provokest the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: 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" (9:7).  Moses calls her to remember the idolatry of the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments (8-21).  In verse 22 he reminds her of the complaining against God at Taberah (Num 11:1-3), Massah, where the people murmured for water (Ex. 17:1-7), and Kibroth hattaavah, where, not content with the manna from heaven, they clamoured for meat (Num, 11:4-34).  Kadesh barnea (9:23) is where Israel decided to turn back to the desert rather than trust God to deliver Canaan into her possession (Num. 13: 25-33).  Moses summarises the behaviour of Israel in verse 24; "Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you."

Moses now recalls his prayers and intercessions for Israel.  He asks for mercy because of God's promise to Abraham and the fathers (9:27), and for the sake of His glory, lest the Egyptians 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" (9:28).  Finally, he asks God to have mercy just because He is merciful; because He chose Israel to be His inheritance and brought them out of Egypt by His mighty power (9:29).

It does not take a great imagination to see the parallels between Israel and our own lives.  We were called and redeemed by God's grace, when we deserved to be left in the bondage of our sins.  God has led us through the wilderness, while we have rebelled against Him and disdained His gifts.  He has given us Manna from Heaven while we lusted for the flesh of the world.  As Moses interceded for Israel, Christ intercedes for us.  Let us not be a stiffnecked people.