Deuteronomy Chapter Nine
Some years ago, I was given a book of daily readings by CS Lewis and was quite shocked to find that the subject of ‘pride’ came up day after day. I would have thought a day or two on the subject would be enough, but the theme went on for a couple of weeks. Lewis calls pride “the essential vice, the utmost evil” and “the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began”. He goes on to explain that one of the reasons God seeks our humility is to free us from the miserable life of “posing and posturing”.
Deuteronomy 9 is a wise and gentle lesson in humility – the fifth ‘facet’ of the covenant ‘diamond’ that the Lord has given His Bride, His people. (So far, we have seen the facets of His grace, uniqueness, exclusivity and our dependence). This chapter begins with the impossible task (for them) of taking the Land and goes on to describe the Lord who will go ahead and make it possible (9:2-3).Moses drives this home by saying the “Lord will go ahead” and “He will destroy… He will subdue…. drive them out…. as… promised” (9:3).
Then comes the danger for the people –namely pride. Not so much that they will feel they achieved the victory as that they deserved the victory .The danger is that they will think it’s “because of my righteousness” (9:4) And in an almost hilarious way the Lord says “no” it’s their wickedness, it’s “not because of your righteousness” so “understand then that it is not because of your righteousness” (9:4-6)! Are you starting to get the point?
I wonder if it ever creeps into our minds that we were saved by Jesus because of something honourable about us, or that our response to Him was praiseworthy or our life since has been slightly superior to the average person’s life. These verses in Deuteronomy are echoed powerfully in Ephesians 2 where we are reminded of what we were and what we have become -by grace - from start to finish. And this doesn’t crush us (or destroy self-esteem) but fills us with astonishment at His mercy and goodness that gives more than we can fathom. His love for us is an anchor that no-one (including ourselves) can produce.
In Deuteronomy 9:7-29 (for twenty-three verses) Moses then recounts the tragic events at Sinai when the people of God – on their ‘honeymoon’ with God – went and prostituted themselves to an idol. As someone has said Moses shows them that far from being a ‘gold medal’ people they are in fact a ‘gold calf’ people. The potential to shift from God to idol, from singing in church to sinning at home, from preaching His glory to practising evil is huge.
Did we say the lesson was humility? And does the world despise humility and value pride today? We must learn that humility is sanity and clarity. It means seeing the greatness and goodness of Jesus more clearly, tracing every good thing to Him and rejoicing in His love towards us. Our hearts may have the ‘gold calf’ seeds in them but He has made us new and clean and soon we will be wearing the gold crowns that He freely (and amazingly) gives to us (2 Tim 4:8).
Heavenly Father, when we stray into pride in all its subtle forms, bring us back to our senses and to those praises that you are worthy to receive – in Jesus’ name, Amen.