The Word Made Fresh
1“So listen, Israelites! You are about to go across the Jordan and take over territory that now belongs to nations bigger and stronger than you, in cities with great towers reaching to the sky. 2The people there are big and strong, descendants of the Anakim. You’ve heard all about them. You’ve heard people say things like, ‘Who would dare to stand up to the Anakim?’ 3Today, be assured that the LORD your God will cross over ahead of you like a raging fire and will beat them down and weaken them so that you will be able to do away with them quickly as the LORD has promised.
4“When the LORD you God pushes them out before you, don’t ever dare to think to yourselves that the LORD is giving the land to you because you are so righteous. The LORD is doing it because of the wickedness of those people. 5You are not going to occupy the land because you are righteous and blameless, but because of the wickedness of the people there now, and the LORD is doing this for you to fulfill the promise made to your ancestors — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
6“Don’t ever dare claim that the LORD gave you the land because you’re so good. You are a stubborn bunch of people. 7Never forget how you made the LORD your God angry in the wilderness. You have rebelled against the LORD from the day you left Egypt. 8At Horeb you made the LORD mad enough to do away with you. 9When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets that contained the pact the LORD made with you, I was there for forty days and nights. I had nothing to eat or drink. 10The LORD gave me two stone tablets on which were written with God’s finger all the words the LORD spoke to you out of the fire on the day we all gathered. 11The LORD gave me the stones containing the laws after forty days and nights on the mountain.
12“It was then that the LORD told me to go down. ‘Those people you brought from Egypt have done a foolish thing; so quickly they have turned away from my laws and have made for themselves a cast idol.’ 13The LORD then said, ‘These people are hard-headed. 14Get out of the way! I will do away with them and no one will remember that they ever existed. Then I will make of you a people even more numerous and stronger than they are.’
15“At that, I immediately came down from the fiery mountain carrying the two stone tablets in my hands, 16and right away I saw that you had sinned against the LORD. You had cast an image of a calf and turned from the words the LORD had given you. 17So I threw the two tablets to the ground in front of you and smashed them, 18and I lay face down before the LORD for forty days and nights. I ate no bread; I drank no water because of the evil you had done in the LORD’s sight, 19and I was afraid the LORD was so angry that you were in real danger of complete destruction. But the LORD heard my plea that time also.
20 “The LORD was bitterly angry with Aaron, and was about to destroy him, but I was able to intercede for Aaron as well. 21Then I took that awful calf you had made and scorched it in the fire and beat it into dust and threw it into the creek that runs down the mountain.
22“You also made the LORD angry at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibroth-Hattaavah. 23When the LORD told you to go up and take over the land the LORD had given you, you rebelled. You didn’t trust the LORD and were disobedient. 24You have been defiant against the LORD as long as I have known you.
25“When the LORD was going to destroy you and I lay on my face forty days and nights, 26I begged the LORD not to harm you. ‘They are your very own people,’ I said. ‘You saved them! You brought them out of Egypt with a strong hand. 27Think of your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and overlook the stubbornness and wickedness and sinfulness of these people. 28If you don’t, the people in the land you brought them out of will say you weren’t able to lead them to the land you promised to give them because you hated them, and you really brought them out to die in the wilderness.’
29“But they are your people. They belong to you, and you rescued them with power and a mighty arm.”
1-3: Moses continues his “pep talk” to prepare the people to cross over the Jordan and conquer the Promised Land. He assures them that God will cross the river with them.
4-5: He tells them not to think God is giving them the land because they are righteous, but rather because the people who now inhabit the land are wicked.
6-7: He hammers the point home, three times telling them that they are not inheriting the land because of any merit on their part. Indeed, they have been disobedient from the start. He recites a list of their shortcomings: they are stubborn; they provoked God to wrath in the wilderness; they rebelled against God from day one. If the people of the land are being disposed of because of their wickedness, we wonder on what basis the Israelites will be allowed to possess the land!
8-21: Moses describes at some length the story of God giving him the tablets of the Law on Mt. Horeb and the episode of the golden calf, emphasizing the hardships he himself endured on the mountain (forty days of fasting). The account of the event in Exodus 32 gave us the story from Aaron’s point of view; here we read the story from Moses’ point of view. The emphasis, not surprisingly, is Moses’ intercession on behalf of the people and on behalf of Aaron who had cast the golden calf for them. Twice, he tells them, he went for forty days with nothing to eat or drink.
22-29: Over and over, he says, they rebelled but he, Moses, turned away God’s anger by reminding God of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Aside from Moses’ braggadocio, what we really have in chapter 9 is a repetition of God’s goodness and determination to secure the future of the people of Israel. Regardless of the multitude of accusations being thrown around, remember that all of this will eventually lead to God redeeming not just Israel, but the whole world through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.