As the children of Israel were about to cross over the Jordan River and begin the conquest of the land of Canaan, the promised land, the Lord assured them that he would go before them and it would be he who would destroy the nations. “Therefore understand today that the Lord your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you…” (Deuteronomy 9:3). It is after that promise that God gives the children of Israel a warning; “Do no think in your heart, after the Lord you God has cast them out before you saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess the land…’” (Deuteronomy 9:4). The Lord knew that the success would bring about arrogance, and so he cautions them.
After almost every successful play in a professional football game the receiver, defender, runner, etc., spends a few seconds in front of the camera demonstrating an arrogant attitude. The player’s team may be losing 30 to 0, and it may be the fourth quarter and the first good play that he has made, but a moment of success will be translated into a few seconds of arrogance and showmanship. A little success can often bring about a great deal of arrogance and so God warned the children of Israel to no become arrogant and think that their success came about because of their righteousness.
God went on to provide two reasons as to why he would drive the other nations from the land of Canaan. One reason was simply because the other nations had rejected God, worshiped false gods and they were wicked. “…but because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God drives them from before you…” (Deuteronomy 9:5). The second reason was in order that he might be able to complete his promise, “…and that He may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 9:5). The fact was that the children of Israel had often proven themselves to be “rebellious against the Lord” (Deuteronomy 9:7) just as the Lord’s people sometimes are today.
The United States of America is a blessed nation, but never should it be thought that it is because of its righteousness. Yes, the Constitution is in basic keeping with biblical sentiments, but the Constitution is not the Bible. Yes, many laws have been enacted that are in keeping with biblical principles, but there are laws in effect that are in direct opposition to the Word of God. It is true as the wise man wrote that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
The Lord’s church had much success numerically in the 20th Century for which we are thankful, but the warning to the children of Israel of old is still valid in principle for the people of God today. The Lord’s people should not think that it is because of their righteousness that there is material success. The power remains in the people of true faith carrying out the true message. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation…” (Romans 1:16). As Paul wrote in the next verse; “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). True success comes by living faithfully for God every day.
by Wayne Brewer