“You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, the Lord your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:5-6, HCSB).
First, let me say that I’m not calling you (the reader) stupid. So please don’t be offended by the title. Rather, these are the words that I’m imagining Moses would have really liked to declare to the Israelites after their forty-year wandering in the wilderness.
And, I suppose I’m directing this declaration at myself as well because like the ancient Israelites, I am a “stiff-necked” person. (Stiff-necked means willful.)
The Israelites were about to experience great success in conquering and possessing the land of Canaan. So Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s grace and mercy. But, I suspect that these are the words that Moses muttered under his breath to the rebellious and disobedient Israelites in this warning about self-righteousness!
“It’s God’s grace, stupid”!
So God gave Israel possession of the promised land not because of the righteousness and integrity of the Israelites, for they were anything but righteous. Moses could have just as easily said, “You are going to take possession of the land in spite of your unrighteousness, your self-righteousness, your willfulness.”
You may think that I’m speaking harshly of the Israelites. I probably am, but only because they are me–I am them. I am like them! I am exactly like them!
I have received God’s unmerited favor and blessing and then things start going my way and I begin to think that I must really be somebody with God. God must think I’m really special because I’m such a righteous guy.
Even if I happen to be special to God (and I hope that I am), all my “specialness” does not warrant His favor. Being a nice person doesn’t mean God has to be gracious to me.
God is gracious because He is love. It’s His very nature to be gracious and merciful toward His creation. And, He promised He would be! God promised He would win back this world that had been usurped by Satan: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were part of God’s plan. Conquering the land of Canaan, the promised land, was part of God’s plan. But God’s redemptive plan was ultimately fulfilled in the coming of His Son, Jesus, as a human being: “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned” (John 3:17-18, HCSB).
The lyrics from the Casting Crowns song titled, Who Am I?, expresses it best: “Not because of who I am but because of what You’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done but because of who You are.”
So, if like me you happen to be a bit willful and self-righteous, then stop and remind yourself every now and then (or maybe even more often): “It’s God’s Grace, Stupid!”