I will say it again: The LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are righteous, for you are not—you are a stubborn people. - Deuteronomy 9:6
The man who walks with his nose in the air is liable to land in trouble. Or if you prefer, “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18). By contrast, the humble man walks with his nose down and his eyes fixed on the road, because he knows his propensity for going wrong, his capacity for missteps.
It would not have been surprising if the children of Israel had assumed that they merited God’s extraordinarily generous treatment of them. God had delivered them from their bondage in Egypt, had taken the initiative to make a unique covenant with them, and had fed them and protected them for forty hair-raising years in a desolate wilderness. And finally he was giving them the land that had previously belonged to other people. They must have been righteous!
The reality is, the Israelites were anything but righteous. So Moses took steps to bring them face-to-face with reality, which would lead to appropriate humility. He told them, “Don’t say to yourselves, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are so righteous!’ . . . The Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are righteous, for you are not—you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:4-6). Then he embarked on a long recital of events that showed unequivocally that they were remarkably undeserving of the blessings bestowed upon them. For them to think they were blessed because they deserved it would have been rank fantasy.
God was not being unkind in reminding Israel of their unworthiness. He knew that the more self-satisfied they became, the more they were in danger of spiritual pride and eventual downfall. On the other hand, the more they recognized God’s grace and mercy, the more their hearts would be gripped by his love, moved by his grace, and touched by his mercy. Hearts so affected become loving, obedient hearts. That’s where true blessing is found, and that is what God wanted for his people.
It’s hard for men today to be humble, since they are so smart and have accomplished so much. But a few reflective moments will help us realize that humility is necessary and anything else would be grossly inappropriate. The thoughtful man knows that unless God provides him air to breathe, food to eat, and raw materials with which to work, he cannot produce. And the insightful man sees that unless God gives him blessings that are completely undeserved, he cannot even exist! Reality is humbling, but those who humble themselves make God proud.
For Further Study: Deuteronomy 9:1-21
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