Deuteronomy 9:3 – A Consuming Fire

God created us with an ego, but that sure can get out of hand!  The Oxford English dictionary says about ego that it’s “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.”  Certainly the self-esteem part of the definition is critical simply so we can function on a daily basis.  We have to feel a sense of self-worth; otherwise, how we value ourselves would be minimal.  Many people consider themselves useless because they have no self-esteem.

On the other hand, once self-esteem creeps into the area of self-importance, that’s when we begin seeing ourselves as greater than we are.  An exaggerated sense of self-importance leads to pride and arrogance.  We think who we are and what we accomplish is beyond what they actually are.

Yahweh knew the Israelites had this problem; they were human – we all tend toward pride as a condition of being alive.  It may be one reason the Bible emphasizes that Moses was so humble (Numbers 12:3).

As Moses continued to remind the children of Israel of who they were in God prior to their crossing the Jordan River, he warned them about the danger of forgetting humility.  Yahweh was giving them an abundant land.  He would be going before them to cause their enemies to flee.  It was He who had sustained them in the wilderness.  Yet He knew the danger of pride in that it causes one to believe he is the reason for all that he has.  Moses in Deuteronomy 8:14,17 said that if the Israelites thought this way…

“Then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’”

They had already encountered the sons of Anak – the Anakim and the Amorites.  They were Rephaim; a remnant of the Nephilim of old.  As such, they were great and mighty warriors, huge and fearsome.  Moses minced no words.  “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” (Deuteronomy 9:2)

The Israelites couldn’t, but God was with them.  Moses gives them this comfort and encouragement in Deuteronomy 9:3:

“Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.”

But, here’s the thing:  God wouldn’t do this because of how wonderful, humble, faithful, and righteous the Israelites were.  No.  Moses tells them in Deuteronomy 9:4:

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.”

The people in the land of Canaan were wicked.  They were a stench in God’s nostrils.  It was because of how sinful and depraved they were that Yahweh was thrusting them from the land.  Moses wanted the Israelites to know exactly how God considered them.  In Deuteronomy 9:6, he says:

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

It’s all because of God and who He is.  The sense of self-importance the Israelites were prone to in their pride was nothing.  God as a consuming fire was the reason for all that His children had throughout those forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and all they would have in the Promised Land.  Moses hoped and prayed they’d remember this.  But, of course, they wouldn’t.

How different are we?  Does our exceedingly humble nature cause us to fall flat before the Lord when someone impinges upon our sensibilities?  When our ego is hurt for some minor reason, do we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice before God like Moses did?  Do we say to the Lord, “Slay me, but do good to that other person?”  If you’re like me in any way, that attitude is difficult, to say the least.

Progressive/liberal Christians today want to do away with the Old Testament.  They want us in our modern Christianity to “unhitch” from that antiquated book.  Some of them even believe that Yahweh in the OT is a different God from the One we encounter in the New Testament.

For true, born-again believers who actually read their Bibles, this is nonsense.  God – Jesus Christ – is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It is He who created us.  It is He who provides everything necessary for our lives.  It is He who saves us.

As Moses reminded the Israelites, let us remind ourselves.  We ourselves are not the source of who we are and what we have.  All things come from our loving God.  Let’s give Him praise and glory for the goodness in our lives.

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