Reader: ““The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!”
Response: “it was simply that the Lord loves you.”
Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:1-11
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, he will clear away many nations ahead of you: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These seven nations are greater and more numerous than you. When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you. This is what you must do. You must break down their pagan altars and shatter their sacred pillars. Cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols. For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.
“The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Lest we ever think that God chose us because of something inherently wonderful or good about us, this passage serves to clarify things! Beginning with Abram, God promised that he would give land to Abram’s people, his descendants. About 600 years later [Have you ever noticed that God does not seem to be in a rush?] the Israelites, now a nation, are on the doorstep of entering this God-given Promised Land. The problem is that the land is occupied by several other nations that are much larger and stronger than God’s people. The peoples of these lands lived in what is modern day Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. God’s original land gift was to extend from the Mediterrean Sea to the Euphrates River. The Israelites never did fully conquer all the land.
Did you notice as you read that as Moses is talking to his people he makes very clear that God is the one who will drive out each of these nations? God’s word is that the Israelites are to completely destroy the people (they didn’t), make no treaties (they did), show no mercy (they did), do not intermarry (they did), do not worship their gods (they did), and cut down their idols (they didn’t)! How is that for obedience? And we wonder why God was angry with his people.
God’s word to his people as to how to treat these nations may seem a bit harsh to us. What we may not realize is that these nations actively sacrificed their children to the gods, burning them on bronze altars. They were involved in all kinds of sexual deviancy and in all forms of incest and beastiality. These people were immorally corrupt in every way. Over time the Israelites succumbed to the pagan culture resulting in the severe judgment of God. (When you read in Leviticus about all the sexual taboos for the Israelites, God didn’t make those up out of the blue, those were the practices going on among the pagan nations the Israelites were to drive out.)
God endeavored to set his people apart to be a holy people. Holy means “to set apart.” God’s people were and are to be different from the people of this world. They are to be citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Then comes the most beautiful picture of God’s heart of love. We hear these lovely words to the Israelites.“Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations . . . rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you and kept his promise, his covenant with Abram.” God in his covenant vowed to protect and care for you Israelites.
Moses is putting the charge as simply as possible. God chose us because he loves us. There is nothing inherently worthy about us. God will care, protect, and provide for us in every way. Our responsibility is to love God and we do that by obeying what he has told us so clearly. If we do that, God’s blessing will rest on us. Love and obey. That’s it! And that is the struggle throughout the First Testament, the New Testament, and every century since.
What is so very humbling is that God chose you and me for the same reason he chose Israel to be his set apart people, his children. There is nothing inherent in us that would in any way make us worthy of being chosen. It is simply that God loves us and asks of us the same things he asked of the Israelites in 1400 BC; love him and obey what he has said in his Book, which is why we spend time with it each day. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in John 15:5, “For apart from me you can do nothing.” There’s that word again. We are the result of God’s grace and faithfulness. It’s good to gain the true perspective for we tend to forget that only Jesus is worthy.
Music: “The Love of God” Gaither Vocal Band
Bonus: “God’s Love” Corrie Ten Boom (41:19) If you have extra time!
Lord God, how grateful I am that your love never ends. It never stops, never gives up, never quits. It is relentless. Likewise, your kindnesses are not spent and they never run out. You never get tired or bored. Every morning, of every day, of every month, of every year, of every decade, of every century, of every millenia, from the dawn of creation your love and kindnesses are new! The greatness of your faithfulness is truly more that I can comprehend. Lord, you are my portion, my ultimate destiny, my Savior. You are abundantly good to me and my complete trust is in you. You are the one I seek for in you is the fullness of life and joy. My loving Lord, I wait quietly for you and your ultimate salvation. Your never-failing love is my resting place. I pray this in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen.
―Daniel Sharp, based on Lam. 3:22-25