Chapter 9


Warning Against Self-Righteousness

        • Listen Israel: Today, you’re about to cross the Jordan River and take over the land occupied by nations that are much larger and more powerful than you. Their cities have well fortified walls that reach up to the heavens. The people themselves are tall and strong, being descendants of the Anakim. You’ve heard what is said about them, ‘Who can stand up against the Anakites?” However, you must understand that the Lord is crossing over in front of you like a consuming fire to devastate and subdue them so that you will be able to drive them out and destroy them quickly just as the Lord has told you.

          • Guzik writes, “God was leading Israel into something too big for them. It was a challenge they could only meet if they trusted in God…There was no way Israel could do this in the flesh, or on their strength. God commanded them to do something that was just beyond their ability to do in themselves…Obviously, God did not inspire Israel with a false sense of confidence or hype. He wanted them to realistically know what the battle ahead would be like…In the same way, Jesus never calls us with hype or false promises that would lead to false confidence. He plainly says, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24) Jesus let us know right from the beginning that following Him would require giving God everything.”

          • Guzik also adds, “God was also calling Israel to a partnership in winning the battles. He will destroy them does not contradict you shall quickly drive them out and destroy them quickly. Was God going to do it, or was Israel going to do it? Both, really – God was calling Israel to be workers together with Him (2 Corinthians 6:1).”

        • What does Moses mean when he says the walls of the cities reach into the heavens? NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “This figurative language emphasizes the impossibility of breaching these walls by human effort alone. If Israel were to enjoy success, God must lead the way and fight the battle.”

        • After the Lord has driven out these nations before you don’t think to yourselves, ‘The Lord has given me this land because I am so righteous.’ This is false. The Lord isn’t giving you this land because you are righteous and full of integrity. On the contrary, the Lord is driving these nations out of these lands because of their own wickedness and to fulfill the promise He made to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord isn’t giving you this land because of your righteousness. You aren’t righteous. Instead you are a very stubborn, hard-headed people.

          • Guzik notes, “This is a preview of salvation by grace through faith, in which we cannot think that it is our righteousness that has obtained it. Instead, it is the righteousness we have received in Jesus Christ…When we receive any gift from God, we are tempted to take it and use it to glorify ourselves. Israel must not do this in regard to the gift of the Promised Land, and we must not do it in regard to any gift the LORD would give us…Sayings or proverbs of the ancient world reflect man’s desire to earn his own righteousness and justification before God. ‘I will not have heaven for nothing’ said one, and another said, ‘Give me heaven, for Thou owe it to me.’ The same idea is expressed in an old Roman Catholic teaching that dying men should pray, ‘LORD, join my righteousness with Christ’s righteousness’ as if the two together could accomplish something. Instead, we look to the righteousness of Jesus alone.”

Remembering the Golden Calf

        • Never forget how angry you made the Lord your God in the wilderness. You have been consistently rebelling against the Lord since He brought you out of Egypt and all the way up until now. You made the Lord so angry with you at Mount Sinai (Horeb) that He was ready to destroy you. I had gone up the mountain to receive the stone tablets on which the Lord inscribed with His finger the very words of the covenant that He made with you when He spoke to you from the fire on the mountain. I was up on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. During this time I didn’t eat or drink anything. At the end of this time, the Lord gave me the two stone tablets inscribed with the words of the covenant. Then He said, ‘Hurry, go back down the mountain. Your people you brought out of Egypt have already acted corruptly. They have turned away from the commands I gave them and made an idol out of gold for themselves. I have seen what a stubborn, rebellious, and hard-headed people they are. Leave Me alone and I’ll completely destroy them. Then, I’ll make your descendants into a nation that is larger and more powerful than they are.”

          • On the stone tablets being inscribed by God’s “finger” the HCSB commentary notes, “The reference to the finger of God is an obvious anthropomorphism, or use of human comparison to describe a divine activity. “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and has no bodily parts. The figure is used to make the point that the Ten Commandments…were composed by the Lord Himself and not by Moses.”

          • Would God really have destroyed the nation of Israel and begun building a new nation from Moses’ descendants? If so, wouldn’t He have broken His promise to the patriarchs that their descendants would endure forever? The answers to these questions are discussed more fully in the notes for Exodus chapter 32. However, I’ll briefly mention two points here:

            • As the HCSB notes, hypothetically, God could have wiped out Israel and started over with Moses without breaking His promise to the patriarchs, “…as one of those descendants [of the patriarchs] Moses was qualified to be the Lord’s instrument in establishing a new Israel if need be.”

            • However, as is clear from the context of Exodus 32:10, this incident is more of a test for Moses which he passed with flying colors. He had the opportunity to essentially be the “new Abraham,” but instead he selflessly chose to intercede for Israel. Guzik writes, “God did not destroy Israel, and He knew that He would not destroy Israel. Yet He deliberately put Moses into this crucial place of intercession, so that Moses would display and develop God’s heart for the people, a heart of love and compassion. Moses prayed just as God wanted him to – as if heaven and earth, salvation or destruction, depended on his prayer. This is how God waits for us to pray.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible makes the following notes regarding Moses’ 40 day and 40 night period with no food or drink, “The common biblical expression forty days and forty nights represents trial or testing (Exodus 34:28). Moses’ fast was like Jesus’ fast (Matthew 4:2). It is physically possible to go without food for forty days, but a person cannot ordinarily survive without water for more than a few days. Moses was directly sustained by God (cp Matthew 4:11).”

        • So, I descended from the mountain, which was still blazing with fire, holding the two stone tablets of the covenant. When I saw how quickly you had turned from the Lord, sinning against the Lord your God by making an idol in the form of a golden calf, I threw the stone tablets to the ground where they broke into pieces before your very eyes. Then, I threw myself down before the Lord again and fasted another 40 days and 40 nights, neither eating nor drinking. I did this because of the horrible sin you had committed in doing what the Lord hates and provoking His anger. I was terrified that you had made the Lord so angry that He would destroy you all. The Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him also, but I prayed for you as well as for Aaron and the Lord listened to me. I melted down the golden calf that you had made, ground it into fine powder, and threw it in the stream that flows down from the mountain.

          • Guzik notes, “The Hebrew word here is a rare word, translated in the Septuagint by the strong word ekphobos, which means ‘exceedingly frightened’ or ‘stricken with terror.’ When he saw the sin of Israel and knew the holiness of God, Moses was very afraid for the sake of the people of Israel.”

        • You also made the Lord angry when we were at Taberah, Massah, and Kibroth-hattaavah. When we were in Kadesh-barnea and the Lord told you to go and take the land that He had promised to you, you rebelled again- not believing Him or obeying Him. As long as I have known you, you have been rebelling against the Lord.

          • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible reminds us of these three specific instances, “Shortly after Israel left Sinai, the people began to murmur against the Lord so incessantly and bitterly that he sent a fiery judgment to slay some of them at Taberah (Taberah means ‘place of burning’). Even earlier, the people came to Massah, a place where they tested the Lord to see if he could supply their need for water (Massah means ‘place of testing’). At Kibroth-hattaavah, the Israelites demanded food other than manna. The Lord miraculously provided quail, with which they gorged themselves. Many of them paid for this sin of gluttony with their lives. Kibroth-hattaavah means ‘graves of gluttony.’”

        • This is why I fell down before the Lord for forty days and forty nights- because the Lord said that He would destroy you. This is what I prayed to Him:

          • Please, O Sovereign Lord, don’t destroy Your people, Your inheritance, whom You rescued from Egypt by Your mighty power. Please overlook the stubbornness, wickedness, and sin of this people and remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If You destroy them, the Egyptians will say that You brought them out into the wilderness to destroy them because You hated them, or that You weren’t capable of bringing them to the land You promised them. But, they are Your specially chosen people, Your inheritance, whom You rescued from Egypt by Your great power and strength.”

          • On Moses’ intercessory prayer Guzik writes, “Moses asked for mercy upon Israel because they were God’s people...We can seek the mercy and power of God through prayer by praying with the same heart and by pleading the same reasons before the LORD. Prayer on solid reasons like these is far more effective than merely casting wishes up towards heaven: Because of God’s past faithfulness to us; because of His past faithfulness to our forefathers; because of His own glory and reputation among the nations; because we are His people…Keeping these things in mind is also a way to refine our prayers. When we pray only for the things consistent with God’s glory, we have our hearts set on the right things.”

        • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible takes this opportunity to call attention to yet another vast difference between the character of God as opposed to the supposed character of ancient Near Eastern deities. Moses indicates this dichotomy when he mentions what the Egyptians will think if God destroys His people. “Gods in the ancient Near East were not omnipotent, and could fail to accomplish something they set out to do. In addition, they were not seen to be friendly, predictable, reliable, or forthright. An example from Mesopotamia is the god Ea telling the human Adapa that he will die from eating bread that would have made him immortal. Mortuary texts in Egypt are targeted against hostile deities. The Sumerian city laments feature gods who decide that it is simply time for a city to be destroyed. The gods were not characterized by foresight and they did not work according to long-range plans. In all of these areas, Yahweh was distinct in his consistency and his ultimate goodness.”