Deuteronomy
1-3 The LORD Crosses over Before His People 4-6 Not Because of Their Righteousness 7-8 Israel Provoked the LORD to Wrath 9-11 Receiving the Law by Moses 12-14 The LORD Wanted to Destroy Israel 15-17 The Two Tablets Smashed 18-20 The Intercession of Moses 21 The Calf Grinded Until Dust 22-24 Even More Rebelliousness 25-29 Even More Intercession of Moses
The LORD Crosses over Before His People

1“Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, 2a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard [it said], ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3Know therefore today that it is the LORD your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the LORD has spoken to you.

The word “listen” (or “hear”) that begins this chapter is characteristic of Deuteronomy (Deu 4:11“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.; 5:11Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully.; 6:33O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do [it], that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, [in] a land flowing with milk and honey.). It is to call attention to the words of God, to what He has to say.

To describe the power of the enemy, Moses uses the same words as the unbelieving spies (Deu 1:2828Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.”‘), for that power is reality. We should not belittle the power of the enemy, but rely on a much greater power: the power of God.


Not Because of Their Righteousness

4“Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but [it is] because of the wickedness of these nations [that] the LORD is dispossessing them before you. 5It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but [it is] because of the wickedness of these nations [that] the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6“Know, then, [it is] not because of your righteousness [that] the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.

In Deuteronomy 8 the warning is that they should not think that they will have conquered the land by their own power (Deu 8:1717Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’). Here is a warning for the thought that they got the land because they are better than the people in the land. Thus, as Christians, we should not think that God has given us spiritual blessings because we are better people than the people around us. As if we are more faithful and by our own merit have received those blessings.

Proofs of undeserved grace can be abused by the flesh by interpreting them as proof of its own justice and excellence. God shows that it is not a question of their righteousness, where the flesh is going to boast, but that they have entered the land because of the iniquity of the peoples. Israel is the rod in God’s hand to judge those peoples. Later Nebuchadnezzar will be the rod in God’s hand to remove Israel from the land (2Chr 36:20-21a20Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia,21to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.).

Another aspect is the promise made to the fathers. That is what we see in the counsel of God. He has intended it and promised it to his fathers. The time of fulfilment of that promise has come.

God emphasizes the fact that there is no righteousness from us that underlies the blessing He has given us (cf. Eze 36:3232I am not doing [this] for your sake,” declares the Lord GOD, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!”). That we may now possess blessings is only because Christ defeated our enemies on the cross: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col 2:13-1513When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.15When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.).


Israel Provoked the LORD to Wrath

7Remember, do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that He would have destroyed you.

The history of the golden calf should remind them that they were not chosen because of their righteousness. They must remember how the LORD was for them during the journey (Deu 8:22You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.). He didn't make it difficult for them, but He was busy with them to finally do them good. In Deuteronomy 8 the failure of the people is not remembered. At the same time, as is said here, they must remember that they provoked the LORD to wrath (verse 99When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.). They have shown, in different forms all the time, what is in them, even after forty years of wilderness experiences.


Receiving the Law by Moses

9When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10The LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God; and on them [were] all the words which the LORD had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11It came about at the end of forty days and nights that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.

Moses reminds the people how he was on the mountain with the LORD and received from His hand the law of the covenant.


The LORD Wanted to Destroy Israel

12Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down from here quickly, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made a molten image for themselves.’ 13The LORD spoke further to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stubborn people. 14Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

While Moses is on the mountain with the LORD, the LORD sees how the people have made a golden calf (Exo 32:1-51Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”2Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring [them] to me.”3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought [them] to Aaron.4He took [this] from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”5Now when Aaron saw [this], he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow [shall be] a feast to the LORD.”). He talks about how they were “quick” to deviate. That is man.

He says to Moses that they are a stubborn people and asks Moses permission, as it were, to destroy them. His proposal then is to make Moses a great people. Here we see how the people deserved the judgment. This should make them all the more grateful that they are now about to enter the land that God has given them as a gift. They deserve to be destroyed rather than blessed with a gift.


The Two Tablets Smashed

15“So I turned and came down from the mountain while the mountain was burning with fire, and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16And I saw that you had indeed sinned against the LORD your God. You had made for yourselves a molten calf; you had turned aside quickly from the way which the LORD had commanded you. 17I took hold of the two tablets and threw them from my hands and smashed them before your eyes.

When Moses saw the sin of the people, he smashed the two tablets of the law in pieces before their eyes. The people have seen it happen. The smashing of the tablets into pieces expresses the fact that the people have smashed their relationship with the LORD. Moses seals that by smashing the tablets to pieces.


The Intercession of Moses

18I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger. 19For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was wrathful against you in order to destroy you, but the LORD listened to me that time also. 20The LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time.

After the tablets of the law were broken, not the people fell down before the LORD with confession of their sin, but Moses. He was impressed by God’s righteous anger. This led him to intercede for the people of God and his brother. The fact that Moses prayed for Aaron makes it clear that the priesthood is also a work of God’s grace. Later Aaron himself became an intercessor (Psa 99:6,86Moses and Aaron were among His priests,
And Samuel was among those who called on His name;
They called upon the LORD and He answered them.
8O LORD our God, You answered them;
You were a forgiving God to them,
And [yet] an avenger of their [evil] deeds.
; cf. Lk 22:3232but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”). The LORD heard Moses, as God hears the Lord Jesus.

Moses and Samuel are valued by the LORD as intercessors for the people (1Sam 7:5,8-95Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.”8Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”9Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the LORD; and Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him.; Jer 15:11Then the LORD said to me, “Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go!). Are we, too, intercessors for Gods people?


The Calf Grinded Until Dust

21I took your sinful [thing], the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that came down from the mountain.

Intercession does not make the exercise of judgment about sin superfluous. Moses has grinded the calf, which he calls “your sin”, until it was as fine as dust, and made it unfit for any reuse. It is infinite grace, which accepts the destruction and devastation of the idol instead of the destruction and devastation of the idolaters.

Similarly, any object that is connected with sin in our lives must be thoroughly disposed of from our lives. This is only possible after prayer. When we become aware of this, it is the result of the intercession of the Lord Jesus, the true Moses.


Even More Rebelliousness

22“Again at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. 23When the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice. 24You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day I knew you.

The sin of the golden calf has not been an incident. The rebelliousness of Israel is a characteristic that has repeatedly manifested itself. As long as Moses knows them, they are so. The Lord Jesus also knows us as an ever-wandering people who are led by their own willfulness and are not willing to be led by Him.

1. At Taberah, the people were influenced by the rabble that went with Israel out of Egypt (Num 11:1-101Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard [it], His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed [some] of the outskirts of the camp.2The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD and the fire died out.3So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them.4The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?5We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,6but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”7Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.8The people would go about and gather [it] and grind [it] between two millstones or beat [it] in the mortar, and boil [it] in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil.9When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.10Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased.). They have become dissatisfied and have grumbled upon God.
2. At Massah they have asked the LORD whether He is in their midst (Exo 17:77He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”). As if He has never cared about them before, while the evidence is so abundantly present in their redemption from Egypt.
3. At Kibroth-hattaavah they were carried away by their desire for meat (Num 11:31-3431Now there went forth a wind from the LORD and it brought quail from the sea, and let [them] fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp and about two cubits [deep] on the surface of the ground.32The people spent all day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers) and they spread [them] out for themselves all around the camp.33While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very severe plague.34So the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had been greedy.; Psa 78:2929So they ate and were well filled,
And their desire He gave to them.
).
4. Kadesh-barnea speaks of unbelief. From there the spies were sent to the land because the people are not content with the promise of the LORD (Num 32:8-138This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land.9For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the sons of Israel so that they did not go into the land which the LORD had given them.10So the LORD’s anger burned in that day, and He swore, saying,11‘None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully,12except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.’13So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed.).


Even More Intercession of Moses

25“So I fell down before the LORD the forty days and nights, which I did because the LORD had said He would destroy you. 26I prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD GOD, do not destroy Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. 28Otherwise the land from which You brought us may say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.” 29Yet they are Your people, even Your inheritance, whom You have brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm.’

These verses connect to verses 11-1411It came about at the end of forty days and nights that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.12Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down from here quickly, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made a molten image for themselves.’13The LORD spoke further to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stubborn people.14Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ of this chapter. In both parts it is about intercession in the first forty days on Mount Horeb. In verse 1818I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger. it is the second forty days on Mount Horeb, after Moses broke the first stone tablets because of the golden calf.

In verse 2727Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. we read the third “remember” (Deu 8:22You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.; 9:77Remember, do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.), but Moses doesn’t say this here to the people, but to God. The true Moses says to God that He should not look at the stubbornness and wickedness of the people, but asks Him to think of His own Being. Here we see the intervening of the Lord Jesus and His performance as Advocate with the Father.

Before the times of the ages, the Father made the promise of eternal life to the Son (Tit 1:2a2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,). The Son reminds us of this promise of eternal life before the times of the ages. For two thousand years now, he has said to the Father: “Remember.” God has heard the Lord Jesus on behalf of us many times already (verse 1919For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was wrathful against you in order to destroy you, but the LORD listened to me that time also.). On that basis, God’s desire for a testimony on earth from a people longing for the blessing of the land is yet still met.


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