Deuteronomy 9:7-29 – Reminders That We Do Not Earn Or Even Deserve Grace!

Posted: January 15, 2017 in Book of Numbers
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Deuteronomy 9:7-29

Remembering the Gold Calf

 

Have you ever had someone bring up your past repeatedly? I knew you when! How can you be preparing for ministry when you have had the past that you have had? Two divorces and a history of being ruled by seeking approval from women no matter what it cost you. You were a “party boy” too. The classic rebellious preacher’s kid. In my quest for full-time ministry, I have had the issue of multiple marriages come up frequently during this process of the last two and half years since graduating from North Greenville University with my master’s degree in Christian Ministry. It seems that I have been almost there but not quite there all of my life.

 

I was a Methodist preacher’s kid who had the ability to make friends. But I was never quite there because I was ultimately an outsider. I didn’t have the “since we started school together” history of the others. Close by not quite there. I was married while in college so I never really experienced the college life. I was an outsider at my own college (it was a personal choice – see reference above about seeking approval no matter the cost). I was at a school for smart rich kids, Furman University. I was close but not quite there. I was neither rich nor naturally gifted as kids who grew up rich often are. I had to bust my tail to be a 3.0 student at Furman. Out of school and early in my career, it seemed I was always up against people that just seemed to be so much smarter than me about accounting. I had to bust my tail, work harder, work longer just to make myself feel even with them. I was close but not quite there. That feeling of not being good but not quite good enough fueled my career. I have always worked my tail off in my career to get where I am.

 

Then, God calls me into full-time ministry. I go to seminary at North Greenville University’s Brashier Graduate School. There are students in most of my classes that are already serving the Lord and have had careers in ministry or are just starting their careers in ministry. They have more experience in leading ministry already that I do while I am there. I am close but not quite there. Again, because of their background and experience, I feel like I am few steps behind. Good enough to hang with the big boys but at a disadvantage. I came to the party late. I came to the party but forgot to bring gifts. You know that feeling. That feeling of being a step behind, a day late, a dollar short has been a part of my life from the beginning. There was this perception I have had that there was something inadequate about me. I have always felt inferior in some way. It has driven me to work harder than everyone else so that, in my mind, that I could stay even with them. It is a feeling that you are an outsider looking in. It is a feeling that you do not belong. It is a feeling that you have warts and people see them.

 

The last two and a half years of trying to follow God’s call into full-time ministry has been a similar trek. Because I do not have the experience of others even in my part-time ministry position, I feel like I am at the pool but do not know how to swim like the others. I am a part of the team but not good enough to be first string. God has taught me so much in these last two years under the tutelage of the elders/pastors at my church, don’t get me wrong and I love my job at my church. I really do. But some qualities of who we are follow us all of our lives. I have had always this feeling that I am not quite good enough to make the grade. Trying to find a full-time gig in ministry has been a grueling experience these past two and half yeas since graduation that has kid fed that feeling as well.

 

The doors just have been opening and it has made me feel less than adequate for what God has called me to do. Coming to the game of serving God in full-time ministry late. Having the past that I have had makes me feel sometimes like that kid that is just not as coordinated as others on the playground and is always the last one picked. It is like I don’t know the secret handshake of the profession. I don’t have these common experiences of others. I have the disabilities of my past that stand out that make me feel less than these people who have served the Lord all of their lives. This is their ranch that has been passed down to them for generations and I feel like a hired hand who has just come onto the scene.

 

When I read through this passage, the fact that I cannot change my past and the feelings of inadequacy for the task that God has called me to came to mind. Let’s read through the passage together, Deuteronomy 9:7-29, this morning, and then we will see how this all ties together in God’s purposes, for Israel and for me…and maybe you:

 

7 Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord. 8 At Horeb you aroused the Lord’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you. 9 When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water. 10 The Lord gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the Lord proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.

 

11 At the end of the forty days and forty nights, the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the Lord told me, “Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves.”

 

13 And the Lord said to me, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.”

 

15 So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands. 16 When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the Lord your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the Lord had commanded you. 17 So I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes.

 

18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight and so arousing his anger. 19 I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me. 20 And the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. 21 Also I took that sinful thing of yours, the calf you had made, and burned it in the fire. Then I crushed it and ground it to powder as fine as dust and threw the dust into a stream that flowed down the mountain.

 

22 You also made the Lord angry at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah.

 

23 And when the Lord sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, he said, “Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.” But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You did not trust him or obey him. 24 You have been rebellious against the Lord ever since I have known you.

 

25 I lay prostrate before the Lord those forty days and forty nights because the Lord had said he would destroy you. 26 I prayed to the Lord and said, “Sovereign Lord, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin. 28 Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, ‘Because the Lord was not able to take them into the land he had promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.’ 29 But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.”

 

In this passage, we see that Israel is being reminded of their rebellious, stiff-necked past. Their sins are known to God and known to them and is being reminded to the next generation as they stand ready to enter and conquer the Promised Land. They are reminded that, though they had seen the mighty miracles of God in Egypt and in the Sinai, they were a complaining, rebellious people. Even though they were constantly complaining and constantly rebelling, God still provided for them and still considered them His chosen people. This passage, to me, is a reminder to the people of Israel that they do not deserve the gift of the Promised Land that they are being given. God could have easily and rightfully destroyed them at the foot of the Sinai mountain and so many other times too. God is reminding them of the grace that He has given them. He is reminding them that they do not deserve His protection. So, it ultimately reminds them that they should be forever thankful for the grace given to them by God and for His continued love and protection. Otherwise, the Israelites will begin to think that they deserved the Promised Land. Otherwise, they will become proud. Otherwise, when they become proud they will turn from God and think that they have a right to be where they are because of their own merit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Is this not true for us as Christ followers? We do not deserve the grace that we have been given. We are sinners with warts all over us because of our sins. They are visible to God and to others. We do not deserve grace. We do not earn grace. We do not have a natural claim to grace. We have warts and we are made beautiful and clean before God only through the grace of the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. We do not deserve grace. We, thus, should be the most joyous people on the planet because of the grace we have been given but do not deserve. We are rebels against God that deserve to be cast into the fiery pit of hell for an eternity of suffering. But it is through Jesus that we know that our eternity is secure in heaven. Not by effort, not by checklists completed, not by being good enough, but only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. That’s humbling and that gives us the right perspective. Even we as Christ followers can forget the day of our salvation and make it about effort and make it about working hard at ministry, but forgetting that we too have a past that marks us for hell. We all have a past that by all rights should cast us in the fiery lake even now. It is only through Jesus that we have claim to the prize of heaven with God eternally. Let us never forget the joy of our salvation. May it be that the grace we have been given fuels us to lives of joy and thanksgiving that is honoring to the one who gave us grace.

 

For me, maybe all of this a reminder of His grace. Maybe it is a reminder that God does call the qualified. He qualifies the called. Maybe, in the right situation at the right time, he will bring me into full-time ministry and where my past is part of my ministry. The good – my career in accounting, the bad – my littered past of marriage mistakes, and the ugly – my feeling of needing approval from others, to give me effective ministry. Maybe, my past will be used to minister to others. Maybe, just maybe I need to remember that Moses was a murder. David was an adulterer and guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Maybe I need to remember that Moses served as a sheepherder in Midian for forty years before God called Him to be the father/leader of Israel. Maybe, I need to remember that Joseph was in prison for 12 years before He became governor of Egypt. Maybe, I need to remember that Moses felt less than because of his speech impediment. Moses always keep in perspective that it was God not Him. Maybe, that’s the point.

I know that I do not deserve to be in full-time ministry on my own merits. I have come to know that if anything happens with my ministry efforts it will be only because God made it happen.

 

My wife and I pray daily in our own prayers and our prayers in unison that God will open only the doors that He wants open. Otherwise, we might think it is because of our efforts not His. We both know that we are far from the perfect preacher couple. We did not accept Christ as a child or as a teenager. We have multiple marriages. We came late to the game. Whatever we do in ministry as a couple and as individuals from this point forward is not because we have the perfect preacher couple resume, it will be solely and only because God ordained it and God made it happen.

 

That’s the amazing thing. That God will do what God will do. He is just allowing us to be here for the ride and document and share the greatness of our God.

 

Amen and Amen.

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