“Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness.” (v. 6)

Deuteronomy 9:4-14 Friday 5 July 2013


In yesterday's passage, the Israelites were urgednot to suppose that their economic stability came from their ownefforts. Today, the focus changes to their spiritualwell-being.

There is a strand in Old Testament thought which suggests thatprosperity is God's gift to those who honour and obey God. KingDavid's success, for example, is seen as a consequence of hisdevotion to God (eg Psalm 89). But in today's passage, the peopleare discouraged from using this model to interpret their goodfortune. It is easy to move from this idea to thinking thatprosperity is a mark of righteousness, and even to hold theopposite idea, that trouble is a sign of wickedness - one of thethemes of the book of Job is a contradiction of exactly this view(see Job 4).

Moses does not allow his hearers to engage in such sloppythinking. If they enjoy prosperity in the land, it is theconsequence of God's grace, not of their righteousness. There is noroom for smugness or complacency, or for what we now call'self-righteousness'. The idea that the people have achievedrighteousness through their own ability, or that they can earnGod's blessing, is simply ruled out. Moses proves his point byrecalling in detail the story of their unfaithfulness at Sinai,when they made the image of the golden calf (Exodus32), and this theme emerges over and over again (Psalm95:7-11).

So why has God chosen to lead the people into the promised land?This has already been explained: "It was not because you were morenumerous ... that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you was because the Lord loved you" (Deuteronomy 7:7). The choice, the promise tothe ancestors, depends simply on God's love - God is free,independent, and works in the world through the choice ofindividual people and groups to be God's agents. But this is a markof God's grace, not a sign that the people are better than othersor that they especially deserve God's blessing. God'sunpredictable, inexplicable love has fallen on them - and only Godknows why.

To Ponder

  • What has God given you, as an individual and as part of acommunity?
  • How can you foster a culture of thankfulness, rather thantaking God's gifts for granted or seeing material prosperity orspiritual well-being as your right?

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