Deuteronomy 7 & Psalm 90

Deuteronomy 7

    “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire.

    “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

    “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers. He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock. And the LORD will take away from you all sickness, and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which you knew, will he inflict on you, but he will lay them on all who hate you. And you shall consume all the peoples that the LORD your God will give over to you. Your eye shall not pity them, neither shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.

    “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the LORD your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.

(Deuteronomy 7 ESV)

Psalm 90

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

    Lord, you have been our dwelling place
        in all generations.
    Before the mountains were brought forth,
        or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
        from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
    You return man to dust
        and say, “Return, O children of man!”
    For a thousand years in your sight
        are but as yesterday when it is past,
        or as a watch in the night.
    You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
        like grass that is renewed in the morning:
    in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
        in the evening it fades and withers.
    For we are brought to an end by your anger;
        by your wrath we are dismayed.
    You have set our iniquities before you,
        our secret sins in the light of your presence.
    For all our days pass away under your wrath;
        we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
    The years of our life are seventy,
        or even by reason of strength eighty;
    yet their span is but toil and trouble;
        they are soon gone, and we fly away.
    Who considers the power of your anger,
        and your wrath according to the fear of you?
    So teach us to number our days
        that we may get a heart of wisdom.
    Return, O LORD! How long?
        Have pity on your servants!
    Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
        that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
    Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
        and for as many years as we have seen evil.
    Let your work be shown to your servants,
        and your glorious power to their children.
    Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
        and establish the work of our hands upon us;
        yes, establish the work of our hands!

(Psalm 90 ESV)

Something to Consider

Deuteronomy 7: Although these issues have been addressed previously in the Pentateuch, we need to often be reminded of difficult truths found in Scripture in order to avoid the temptations of error. Here we are once again confronted with deep theological truths that profoundly determine whether we will view our Lord rightly or with uncertainty. So in this passage, we are reminded of some big questions that challenge our faith: Is God just in commanding the complete destruction of entire nations and people to give the Israelites the Promised Land? Is God's salvation dependent upon who we are and what we do? And is God's love conditional or unconditional? 

Is God just in commanding the complete destruction of entire nations and people to give the Israelites the Promised Land?

The nations that were inhabiting the Promised Land had reached a level of idolatry and immorality that warranted their complete destruction by the wrath and judgement of God (Genesis 15:16). God strictly ordered Israel to not contend with any other nations in the surrounding areas except these specific nations in this specific area of Land. In God's sovereign and perfect execution of His plans and purposes, He used Israel as His instruments of wrath and judgement against these nations while simultaneously fulfilling His promise to Israel that He would one day give them this specific area of land. Any mercy shown by Israel to those whom God was judging would have compromised God's act of judgement and therefore would have made Israel vulnerable to such judgement as well. God's commands concerning the Promised Land display His perfect justice, and the way in which He sovereignly executes His plans and purposes perfectly.

Is God's salvation dependent upon who we are and what we do?

Moses reminds the people that the Lord’s love for His people derives from His love for their fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) rather than from their own works and merits. When we observe God's relationship and dealings with the patriarchs, we begin to see the gospel of grace as opposed to any sort of salvation or selection by works. Abraham was called by God out of a pagan land and a pagan family to be the father of God's faithful people. Isaac was a promised child born through a miracle birth given by God to the elderly barren wife of Abraham. Jacob was chosen by God over his elder brother Esau before they even came out of the womb (Romans 9). As we see clearly from the patriarchs, God's people are a chosen people through God's sovereign grace alone apart from who we are and what we do.

And finally, is God's love conditional or unconditional?

Moses encourages the Israelites to "know that the LORD your God is the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." This seems to communicate that God's love rests on His faithfulness to His people and is therefore unconditional. However, then Moses exhorts the Israelites to "listen to these rules and keep and do them so the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that he swore to your fathers." This seems to communicate that God's love rests on our faithfulness to His commands and is therefore conditional. We must remember that all the way through the end of the O.T., the tension of this question concerning God's love increases. But then all of a sudden after four hundred years of silence, an Answer is finally revealed. 

It is only in the cross of Christ that we come to understand that God’s love is in fact conditional and unconditional. It is conditional in the fact that His love is so pure that it demands punishment for our disobedience. It is unconditional in the fact that He took on that punishment Himself. Only in the cross of Christ do we come to understand how God can actually forsake the sinner while at the same time prove His faithfulness to love the sinner as well. The tension of God’s love and faithfulness towards His people which thickens throughout the O.T. finds its ultimate revelation and rest in the cross of Christ. So is God’s love conditional or unconditional? The answer is “Yes.” God's unconditional love has come with a conditional cost - a cost paid by Christ.