The Righteousness Of Israel


Deuteronomy 9


In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.


In a previous comment, I had noted that God often teaches us through comparison. I observed that the only way we knew that Dane Clark was tall is because I am short. (Then I went on to the next topic and left you completely in the dark as to why I bothered to point that out. But my writing style is not at issue.) But in Deuteronomy 9, we see how frail human judgments of such a measure can be. Dane and I could stand in front of the congregation; we could put on a "Mutt and Jeff" act (pun intended); and the whole body of FBCUM would know that Dane is tall, and I am short.


But not so fast. Human judgment jumps to conclusions far too rapidly. (That is not a criticism; we have no choice.) Suppose I were to step down, and suppose Lebron James were to take my place. Suddenly Dane is the one who is short. And the demonstration holds if Dane had stepped down, and if Willie Schumacher stood next to me. Then suddenly I become tall.


Israel was about to cross the Jordan River and capture Canaan. The Canaanites were about to be expelled from their land because they were unrighteous. It stood therefore that Israel must be righteous. And God took the whole of Deuteronomy 9 to set the record straight: Israel is rebellious; Canaan is abjectly wicked. This was no mere passing observation. God dedicated a whole chapter of scripture to make this point.


It was an easy mistake on Israel's part. For from the limited scope that man can judge, Israel was the righteous nation. And surely that would make God their teammate. But Israel's righteousness stands only because their scope of comparison included Israel and Canaan alone. God could look on the whole range of the human condition. And He slotted Israel as rebellious.


God does require that we do periodic self-evaluations. And it's invalid to evaluate yourself by comparing yourself to other people. This is particularly true when you can hand-pick your comparison base. A soft core criminal can justify any illegal act he has ever committed by judging others in his cell and reasoning: "It's not like I killed someone." A Godly self-evaluation requires that you be measured by God's view. And God's view has nothing to do with how well you line up against other people.


Finally, when two nations collide, we cannot necessarily determine which nation is the more righteous by whom God directs to win the battle. The whole book of Habakkuk reflects on a reversal in our manmade scale of righteousness. And we observe a prophet of God thrown into complete confusion when God reveals He will send the wicked Babylon to judge unrighteous Judah. When Habakkuk lined Judah up against God's righteous standard (Amos called it a plumbline), his human perspective saw wickedness in Judah. When he lined Judah up against Babylon, he saw Judah's errors as minor. Habakkuk needed God's intervention to guide him through a crisis that was generated when God revealed to him that the less righteous nation will prevail.


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