Have you ever heard the saying “In the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed; in the New Testament the Old Testament is revealed”? I like that saying and often think of it when reading the Bible. Right now I am reading through Deuteronomy and I came across a scripture that seems to validate that saying.
After the Lord your God has driven them (the various nations in the Promised Land) out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
There are some interesting questions brought up in this Scripture, aren’t there? For one, the Lord is taking someone else’s land and giving it to people who are far from perfect. In other words, they didn’t deserve it. Why would He do that? For two, how wicked were these pagan nations anyway? They must have been pretty bad (historians and archaeologists confirm that this was true; we know that they regularly burned children alive to appease their gods and made prostitution of men and women a requirement at their temples, as a form of worship to Baal and Asherah). Another question is why are God’s chosen people “stiff-necked” (ie. stubborn). What might He be saying about us, His people, then today? Aiyaiyai!
I think this passage in Deuteronomy gives us an amazing insight into God’s character that we can see so clearly in Jesus and what He has done for us. We, Christ-followers don’t enter our “Promised Land” (the Kingdom of God) by our righteousness any more than the Israelites entered Canaan because of theirs. Are we “stiff-necked”? I would answer with a resounding “YES”! Are we hard of hearing? YES! Are we often blind to the things of God? YES! Are we often more self-centered than God-centered? YES! So are we perfect or righteous? NO! Why do we get to enter the Kingdom of Heaven then?
Well, in the Deuteronomy passage, I believe the wickedness of the nations who lived in the land was a secondary reason for God giving the land to the Israelites. The primary reason was that God had sworn years before to give this land to Abraham. And God does not break His promises. God was able to “see” His beloved Abraham when He looked upon Abraham’s offspring. Abraham was a man whose righteousness was simply made up of his strong faith and trust in God. When God looks at us today, He “sees” Jesus in whom we have put our faith and trust. Because of Jesus, even we who are broken and imperfect, may enter into God’s presence because of the promises He has made.
What God DOES is often unpredictable, but who God IS never changes. He is faithful and just and does not forget His promises. He never has and He never will. What are the promises He has made to you? Hold on to them.
Dt 9:4-6 (see above)
Ps 111:7-8 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.