Deuteronomy 9

 

 

              DISSUASIVES FROM SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS (vs. 1-6)

 

Israel might acknowledge that it was of God’s free gift that they possessed the land of

Canaan, and yet might flatter themselves by thinking it was because of their righteousness

and goodness that the gift was bestowed. To guard against this, Moses tells them that

not because of their righteousness would God go before them and drive out the mighty

peoples that then occupied the land, but because of the wickedness of these peoples

themselves were they to be extirpated. He further reminds them of their transgressions

in the past, and how they thereby came under the Divine displeasure, and were saved

from destruction only through his earnest intercession (vs. 7-24).

 

1  Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day,” - at this time, very

Soon - “to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities

great and fenced up to heaven,”  Nations -(compare ch.7:1) - Cities (ch.1:28).

 

2 “A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou

knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before

the children of Anak!”  Anakim (Ibid). It was a common saying,

Who can stand before the sons of Anak? But even these gigantic foes

should be unable to stand before Israel (ch. 7:24).

 

3 “Understand therefore this day,” -  rather, And thou knowest today or now.

The expression corresponds to v. 1, “Thou art to pass… and thou knowest.”

In the victory they had obtained over Sihon and Og, they had already had experience

of the Lord’s going before them, and leading them on in triumph. The repetition of the

He in this verse is very emphatic - “that the LORD thy God is He which

goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire” -  (compare ch. 4:24) - “He shall

destroy them, and He shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou

drive them out, and destroy them quickly,” -  or suddenly. There is no

contradiction here of what is said in ch.7:22; for there the reference is to the

possession of the land by Israel, here it is to the destruction which was to come

on the Canaanites — the former was to be by degrees, the latter was to come

suddenly and overwhelmingly -  “as the LORD hath said unto thee.”

Exodus 23:23, 27; ch.2:24).

 

4 “Speak not thou in thine heart,” – (see ch. 8:17) – “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: but for the wickedness

of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.

5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart,” -  The

Distinction between righteousness and uprightness (straightness) of heart, is

that the former (d,x,) has reference to rectitude of conduct, the latter (rv,y) to

rectitude of motive and purpose. “By naming justice [righteousness], he

excludeth all merit of works, and by righteousness [uprightness] of heart,

all inward affections and purposes. which men might plead,

notwithstanding that they fail in action. Yet these two are the chief things

which God respecteth in men (Psalm 15:1-2; I Chronicles 29:17) - “dost

thou go to possess their land: 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 swear unto thy

fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

 

6 “Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this

good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a

stiffnecked people.” - hard of neck; stubborn, obstinate, rebellious.

 

In the rest of the chapter Moses reminds them of many instances of their

rebelliousness by which they had provoked the Lord, from the time of their

escape out of Egypt until their arrival in the plains of Moab. Their rebellion

began even before they had wholly escaped from their oppressors, before

they had passed through the Bed Sea (Exodus 14:11). Even at Horeb,

where, amid the most affecting manifestations alike of the Divine majesty

and the Divine grace, just after the Lord had spoken to them directly out of

the fire, and whilst Moses had gone up to receive the tables of the Law, on

which the covenant of God with Israel was based, and whilst that covenant

was being struck, they had sinned so grievously as to make to themselves a

molten image, which they worshipped with idolatrous rites (Exodus 31:18-

32:6).

 

7 “Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst 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.  8 Also in Horeb ye provoked the

LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed

you.  9  When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone,

even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you,

then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did

eat bread nor drink water:” – The last clause runs on as a parenthesis.

 

10 “And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with

the finger of God; 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.” -  the day when the people, called out by Moses, were gathered

together in the plain at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:17).

 

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.”

 

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.”

 

 

A Six-Weeks Religion (vs. 6-12)

 

About fifty days after leaving Egypt, they were gathered beneath Mount

Sinai, to receive the Law from the Great Supreme. They reverently

watched when Moses went up; they saw the bounds put, beyond which

they must not pass; they trembled at the majesty which was before and

above them, and awaited the words which should be spoken. The words of

the vow went up from their lips, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will

do.” Having received the Law, Moses went down and rehearsed it to them.

A second time they responded, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will

do.” This was not enough. The Law was to be written, and read over to them,

that their vow might be neither blind nor rash. And a third time the same response

was returned, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.”  Whereupon the

covenant was ratified with blood, which was sprinkled on the book and all the

people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant” (see Exodus 24:3-8).

It seemed as if a fair start had been made. Egypt had been conquered, the people

had thankfully accepted the new state of things on which they had entered, and

nothing was wanting but the carrying out of that allegiance they had so

 repeatedly vowed. Moses, however, has yet to be a while in solitude with God,

to receive further instructions; hence, having made arrangements for the conduct of

affairs in his absence, he again ascends the mount, and is there for forty days.

Unable to understand the reasons for so long a delay, the people think that

Moses has deserted them, or that he is lost on the mountain, or has perished

 In the flame! The thought, once conceived, gathers strength, and the very

people who a few weeks before had seemed so impressible for good, are

now as inflammable for evil! They rush upon Aaron, saying, “Up, make us

gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses.....we wot not what

has become of him” (Exodus 32:1).  They wish for something to strike the

 senses!  (Apparently, like many modern contemporary Christians – CY – 2012)

THE PURE CONCEPTION OF AN UNSEEN GOD they were not

cultured enough to retain. Aaron was far too easily wrought upon by them.

The calf is made. It is not the calf, however, that they worship, for they

proclaim a feast to Jehovah; it is the second commandment they are

breaking, not the first. Alas! alas! their triple vow, ratified with blood, they

break, and in less than six weeks they are openly and riotously setting at

naught the very Law they had sworn to obey! How can such a fearfully

rapid retrogression be accounted for? If we regard it as a mere piece of

history, with which we have no concern, we shall miss the intent of the

writer (for see I Corinthians 10:1-13).

 

(Hopefully, our religion is deeper than this and that it cannot be said that our

religion is not like “ the morning cloud and the early dew, it goeth away!”-

Hosea 6:4 - CY – 2012)

 

13  Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this

people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:  14 Let me alone,” –

(Compare Exodus 32:7-10.) Let me alone; literally, Desist from me, i.e. Do not

by pleadings and entreaties attempt to prevent me; in Exodus 32:10 the expression

used is, “Let me rest; leave me in quiet” (yli hj;yN;h"); cease to urge me” -

that I  may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven:

and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.

15  So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned

with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.

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.”

 

17 “And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and

brake them before your eyes.”  Moses cast from him the two tables of stone

on which God had inscribed the words of the Law, and broke them in pieces in

the view of the people, when he came down from the mount and saw how they

had turned aside from the right way, and were become idolaters. This was not

the effect of a burst of indignation on his part; it was a solemn declaration that the

covenant of God with His people had been nullified and broken by their sinful

apostasy.

 

18  And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and

forty nights: 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.  19  For I was afraid of the anger and hot

displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you.

But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.  20 And the LORD

was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron

also the same time.” Moses interceded with God for the people before he came

down from the mount (Exodus 32:11-13); but this he passes over here, merely

referring to it in the words, “as at the first.” In the account in Exodus nothing is

said of Moses interceding for Aaron specially, as well as for the people generally;

but prominence is given to this here, not only that he might make the people

thoroughly aware that at that time Israel could not boast even of the righteousness

of its eminent men (compare Isaiah 43:27), but also to bring out the fact, which

is described still more fully in ch. 10:6-9, that Aaron’s investiture with the priesthood

and the maintenance of this institution was purely a work of Divine grace. That Aaron,

however, was regarded as especially to be blamed in this matter is clearly intimated

 in Exodus 32:21-22.

 

21 “And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt 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 into the brook that descended out of the mount.”

 

 

A GREAT CRISIS (vs. 13-21)

 

Israel was making a feast unto Jehovah, letting the calf represent to them the

God who had brought them out of Egypt. The people were observing the

customs of the very nation from which they had been redeemed — dancing

before the idol, polluting themselves with unclean and unhallowed rites,

and making the hills to reecho with their boisterous revelry and song!

And all this beneath that very mount where they had sworn, “All that the Lord

 hath spoken we will do!”

 

  • In the first instance, the lamentable defection of the people was made

known to Moses, either by a silent suggestion from God, with whom he

was in adoring fellowship, or by one of the angel bands with whom he

was surrounded (Exodus 32:7-8; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:1-4).

 

  • God bids Moses “go down” — not merely, as might at first seem, “go

down and see,” but “Continue the fellowship no more; leave me alone; I

will make of thee a great nation. Let my wrath wax hot against them,

 that I may consume them!” Awful words (vs. 13-14)] ‘Tis a terrible crisis

in the great leader’s experience. With agonizing heart, he comes down to see

not without pleading with God for Israel  — and he reaches Joshua,

where, though even yet too far off to see, he is near enough to hear

the shouts wildly ringing through the air.

 

  • At length Moses gets near enough to see (v. 16). There they are — the

calf, the dancing, the impure orgies as of a heathen feast! Oh, how

bitter must have been the anguish of Moses at such a sight!

 

  • And what an alarming possibility he had to face — even that of the

entire rupture of the whole covenant between the people and Jehovah!

Hear how the Voice on the mount spake, “Thy people have broken the

covenant; let me alone.”  In what stronger way, ah! in what other way,

could the people at such a time have been taught that, as they were now

actually breaking the very covenant God was confirming with Moses for

them, if God now dealt with them after their sins, He would have cast them

off completely? THEY WERE NOT NECESSARY TO THE

FULFILLMENT MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS!   Moses was

of Abraham’s seed, and God might have begun afresh with him, and have

made of him a nation greater, mightier, more loyal than they! Was there ever

such a crisis? With all the responsibility Moses had resting on him, he must

have been crushed had he not been divinely sustained. But great crises

bring out the greatness of great men. Moses was a man “slow of speech,”

and probably slow to act, but he had strong convictions of truth and duty,

and when wrought up to a white heat, he would show the true nobility of his

character.

 

 

The Reaction of Moses

 

  • He is angry (Exodus 32:19). This was a holy anger; the sight roused

the meekest of men, and well it might. It would have been wicked in Moses

if he had not been angry! There is a wide difference between a passionate

feeling of personal resentment, and indignation at witnessing an outrage on

right. The holier a man is, the more will he suppress the one, the more will

he develop the other!  (Compare Ezekiel 9:4)

 

  • He breaks the tables (v. 17). This is a symbolic act, reminding the

people that by their apostasy they had violated their covenant vows.

 

  • He grinds the calf to powder and makes the people drink it in water

(v. 21).  Another symbolic act, meaning, “This sin will come back to

them again; it will mar their joy for long to come.” 

 

  • He calls Aaron to account (Exodus 32:21-24). “There came out this

calf.” Aaron! you, the eloquent man, making a silly speech like that! Oh,

the wonderful touches of nature in the Old Book! Moses, the truly brave

man, though slow of speech, can speak to purpose at such a time as this;

but Aaron, eloquent as he is, when his conscience is ill at ease, makes the

lamest excuse.

 

  • He ascertains how far the contagion has spread (Ibid. vs.25-29).

Was it a revolt of all the people, or had many been drawn away at

suggestion of the few? “Who is on the Lord’s side?”  The sons of

Levi come  forward, and are entrusted with the awful task of stamping

out the evil. Better for 3000 to die than for 2,000,000 to be infected

with a mortal poison! That was a holy defensive war. And it speaks

volumes for the grandeur of the moral power of Moses, that he could

so inspire the men of his own tribe to chastise the revolt and save the people.

 

  • But the most striking feature of the spiritual heroism of Israel’s leader is,

that he pleads with God.

 

Ř      He acknowledges the greatness of the sin. At first, before he

was near enough to see, he asks, “Lord, why doth thy wrath?” etc.

But afterwards, he puts no such question. “Oh! this people have

 sinned a great sin.” He cannot palliate it.

 

Ř      He entreats the Lord not to consume them, but to turn from His

fierce wrath, and to bring them yet into the Promised Land.

 

Ř      He pleads the Divine promises; “remember Abraham”

 

Ř      Moses prays for Aaron (v. 20)! Aaron “can speak well,” but he

Acted ill. He broke down when put in charge. Though appointed

by God as special helper to Moses, he proved himself unreliable.

Yet not. a word of complaint appears to have been uttered to him,

only a prayer offered for him by the very brother who had relied on

him in vain!

 

Ř      There is a more wonderful feature still in his prayer, viz. this: a

conception which to self-seekers would have been most captivating,

has for him no charm whatever — “I will make of thee a great

nation;” “let me alone, that I may destroy them,” and I will begin

afresh with you, and make you the head of a less unworthy race!

Would not that have fired his ambition, if he had had any? But no!

see the lot which he preferred (Exodus 32:32-33): “No! I cannot

 accept any position, however elevated, if they perish! Oh, forgive

 them! If not, let us all perish together.”  Noble captain he! If the

ship sinks, he will go down with it. He would rather not live if vessel

and passengers are beneath the waves! (compare Romans 9:1-4, with

which Paul’s passionate fervor may well be compared.)

 

Ř      This intercession was long continued (v. 25): “forty days and

Forty nights!” All this while the cry was ever and anon going up from

his heart? “Forgive them! Forgive! Forgive!”

 

Have we not here, in Moses, a model of intercessory prayer? Men who can thus plead

with God are the greatest heroes of the Church. But who are the men who are to be relied

on when the crises come? Where was Aaron now? What of him? There is no

indication that he ever caught a glimpse of the tremendous crisis he had

helped to bring about! There came out this calf! How Moses could

restrain himself at such words, we cannot imagine. But even if Aaron had

not shown such utter inability to perceive the seriousness of the moment,

how could he now take any active part in vindicating the injured rights of

God before the people, or in craving mercy for the people from God?

COMPLICITY WITH EVIL MEANS PARALYSIS OF POWER IN

THE SPEEDING OF RIGHT!   If Aaron had not had a brother to plead for

him with God, he would have been swept away with the BESOM OF

DESTRUCTION! He can talk well rather than stand firm. There is a similar

contrast here between Moses and Aaron, to that between Abraham and Lot.

Abraham pleaded for the doomed city. Lot’s aims in life had been too selfish

for him to be a pleader. And we fear there are some who, if their own dear land

were brought to a mighty crisis, (LIKE OURS IS TODAY IN THE UNITED

STATES OF AMERICA – CY – 2012) would just read the daily papers (or

watch the nightly news) to  gratify curiosity, or to give them something to talk about,

but as for taking the case of a nation on their hearts before God, THEY

COULD DO NOTHING OF THE KIND!  If they are succumbing to the evils

of the day, they can have no strength in intercessory prayer, (“if I regard iniquity

in my heart the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18) - nor can they be of any

use in national struggles. The Moses of Exodus 32, is the same self-forgetful

Moses of Exodus 2. If men want to be the heroes of their age, let them try the power

of intercessory prayer. Such heroism is of a kind the world cannot appreciate, but is

recorded in God’s book of remembrance; “And they shall be mine, saith the

Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.”  (Malachi 3:17)

 

MAY WE TRULY APPRECIATE OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR, JESUS

CHRIST “who ever liveth to make intercession for us!”  (Hebrews 7:25)

 

 

22 “And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibrothhattaavah, ye provoked the

LORD to wrath. 23 Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea,

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.”  Not only at Horeb, but at other places and on other

occasions, had Israel provoked the Lord to wrath by their contumacy. At Taberah,

by their complaining and discontent (Numbers 11:1-3); at Massah, by their murmuring

because of the want of water (Exodus 17. l-7); at Kibroth-hattaavah, by despising

the manna, and lusting for flesh to eat (Numbers 11:4-35); and at Kadesh-barnea,

when on the confines of the Promised Land, they distrusted God, reproached Him for

having brought them there to be destroyed, and sought to return to Egypt (Numbers

14:1-4; ch. 1:26). The list is not arranged chronologically, but advances from

the smaller to the more serious forms of guilt: For Moses was seeking to sharpen the

consciences of the people, and to impress upon them the fact that they had been

rebellious against the Lord (see at v. 7) from the very beginning, 24 “Ye have been

rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.”

 

Having enumerated these instances of the rebelliousness of the people, in vs. 25-29,

Moses reverts to the apostasy at Sinai, in order still more to impress on the minds

of the people the conviction that not for any righteousness or merit of theirs,

but solely of His own grace, was God fulfilling to them His covenant with

 their fathers.

 

25 “Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I

fell down at the first;” - rather, the forty days and forty nights in which I fell

 down. The reference is to the intercession before Moses came down from the

mount, described in Exodus 32:11-13 - “because the LORD had said He

would destroy you.”

 

26 “I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy

not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy

greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

27  Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto

the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin:”

In these two verses the substance of Moses’ intercession is given, and it is

substantially in agreement with the account in Exodus. Moses pleaded with God

not to destroy that people which was His own, which He had redeemed for Himself

and brought out of Egypt; besought Him to remember their pious ancestors, and not

to look on the stubbornness and sin of the people; and urged that the Divine honor

was concerned in their being conducted to Canaan, and not let them perish in the

wilderness.

 

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.

29 Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out

by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.” The people of the land are

the Egyptians. Were the Israelites to perish in the wilderness, the Egyptians might

say that God had destroyed them, either because He was unable to obtain for

them the land He had promised them, or because He had ceased to regard them

with favor, and had become their enemy. Neither of these could be, for were they

not the people of His inheritance, (I recommend Deuteronomy ch 32 v 9 – God’s

Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this web site – CY – 2012) and had He not showed

His power already in delivering them out of Egypt?  Moses in this chapter recalls to

the remembrance of Israel this and that place, time, and occasion of their

sinning, so should each OF US  often seriously reflect on his past life!  This

conduces to humility, to watchfulness, and to effort at improvement -

 

 

 

 

 

 

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