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Today’s Reading

Devotional

Several complex themes intertwine in Deuteronomy 7. Here I want to reflect on two of them.

The first is the emphasis on election. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deut. 7:6). Why so? Was it on the ground of some intrinsic superiority, some greater intelligence, some moral superiority, or some military prowess that the Lord made his choice? Not so. “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:7-8).

Two observations: (1) In the Bible, God’s utter sovereignty does not diminish human responsibility; conversely, human beings are moral agents who choose, believe, obey, disbelieve, and disobey, and this fact does not make God’s sovereignty finally contingent. That is clear from the way God’s sovereignty manifests itself in this chapter, that is, in election, even while the chapter bristles with the responsibilities laid on the people. People who do not believe both truths — that God is sovereign and human beings are responsible — sooner or later introduce some intolerable wobbles into the structure of their faith. (2) Here God’s love is selective. God chooses Israel because he sets his affection on them, and not for anything in themselves. The thought recurs elsewhere (e.g., Mal. 1:2-3). But this is not the only way that the Bible speaks of the love of God (e.g., John 3:16).

The second theme is the encouragement God gives his people not to fear the people they will have to fight as they take over the Promised Land (Deut. 7:17-22). The reason is the Exodus. Any God that could produce the plagues, divide the Red Sea, and free his people from a regional superpower like Egypt is not the kind of God who is going to have trouble with a few pagan and immoral Canaanites. Fear is the opposite of faith. The Israelites are encouraged not to be afraid, not because they are stronger or better, but because they are the people of God, and God is unbeatable.

These two themes — and several others — intertwine in this chapter. The God who chooses people is strong enough to accomplish all his purposes in them; the people chosen by God ought to respond not only with grateful obedience, but with unshakable trust.

Deut. 7

A Chosen People

7:1 “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.1 You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

12 “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers. 13 He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. 14 You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock. 15 And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. 16 And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. 21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once,2 lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. 24 And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. 25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26 And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction3 like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.

Footnotes

[1] 7:2 That is, set apart (devote) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
[2] 7:22 Or quickly
[3] 7:26 That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); twice in this verse

(ESV)

Psalm 90

Book Four

From Everlasting to Everlasting

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

90:1   Lord, you have been our dwelling place1
    in all generations.
  Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
  You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”2
  For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
  You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.
  For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
  You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
  For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10   The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
  yet their span3 is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11   Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12   So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13   Return, O LORD! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
14   Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15   Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16   Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17   Let the favor4 of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

Footnotes

[1] 90:1 Some Hebrew manuscripts (compare Septuagint) our refuge
[2] 90:3 Or of Adam
[3] 90:10 Or pride
[4] 90:17 Or beauty

(ESV)

Isaiah 35

The Ransomed Shall Return

35:1   The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
  it shall blossom abundantly
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
  The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
  They shall see the glory of the LORD,
    the majesty of our God.
  Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
  Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
  Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
  with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”
  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
  then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
  For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
  the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
  in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
  And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
  the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.1
  No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
  they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
10   And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
  everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Footnotes

[1] 35:8 Or if they are fools, they shall not wander in it

(ESV)

Revelation 5

The Scroll and the Lamb

5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

  “Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
  for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10   and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
  to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
  and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
  be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

(ESV)

Resources

God’s Justice in the Land of Canaan

Even those who accept the authority of Scripture can have a difficult time understanding God’s command to utterly destroy the people of the land of Canaan. Can a God of love and justice ever command genocide?

Is God Guilty of Genocide?

There are key differences between the Canaanite conquest and modern-day genocide.