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Daily Devotional • February 28

Lauren Cripps
God's Chosen People
A Reading from Deuteronomy 9:4-12

4 When the Lord your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, “It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to occupy this land”; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the Lord made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 6 Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. 9 When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the Lord gave me the two stone tablets written with the finger of God; on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken to you at the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the Lord said to me, “Get up, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have been quick to turn from the way that I commanded them; they have cast an image for themselves.” 

I could see how this generation of Israelites might want to distance themselves from their predecessors. After all, it was the previous generation that manufactured the idolatrous golden calf, even as God was in the process of forging a covenant with them. Sure, their ancestors screwed up big time, they might acknowledge, but it’s a new day. They represent a new generation, a people ready to cross the Jordan, ready to claim the land, ready to enjoy the fulfillment of God’s promises. Not so fast, Moses says. 

In today’s excerpt of Moses’ speech, he repeats (three times!) that it is not because of the Israelites’ righteousness that God will bring them victory, driving the point home with an unflinching account of their ancestors’ unfaithfulness. It would be tempting for the Israelites to rest on a false notion of God’s favoritism toward them — God did choose them, after all. But Moses leaves no room for this self-congratulatory way of thinking. They are not different from their fathers and mothers, he reminds them. Though chosen by God, the Israelites are a stiff-necked people, a people prone to rebellion. 

God isn’t about to deliver his people victory because of their track record (which was checkered), but rather because of the wickedness of the current inhabitants of the land. God must fulfill his promises and uphold justice — it is his nature. This reality ought to drive the Israelites to a place of humility. 

In this season of Lent, today’s admonition is particularly timely. In the people’s failings, we see ourselves — our proclivity to wander, our fickleness in devotion, our preference for expediency over holiness, our boundless capacity to make new idols. We’re not so different from our fathers and mothers, after all. This reality ought to drive us to a place of humility, self-examination, and repentance in light of God’s unmerited favor, unending kindness, and unrelenting faithfulness toward his people. 

Lauren Anderson-Cripps oversees communications and marketing for Nashotah House Theological Seminary and writes for a variety of publications, including The Living Church. Lauren currently lives in Dallas with her husband, Sam, and their dog, Tennessee Jed. 

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The Diocese of Quebec – The Anglican Church of Canada
Christ Church Cathedral, Plano, Texas
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