(In Spite of Our Rebellion) 

September 7, 2008 ~ Bay Ridges Long Term Care Centre


Israel’s deliverance and journey from Egyptian captivity to freedom in the land that God gave them can be seen as an example, or type, of our own deliverance and journey from captivity in sin to freedom in the land that God has promised us. Just as Israel was found by God to be in a state over which they had no control and from which they could not remove themselves so it is with us. We are found by God to be an a sinful state over which we have no control and from which we cannot remove ourselves. For both the Israelites and us deliverance from our initial state could only be achieved by a Power beyond ourselves, this power is our God.


“But why?” we might ask ourselves. “Why did God choose to save us from where we were so that we could be with Him?” This is a valid question that all too often receives an invalid answer in concluding that we were saved because of our own merit; we were worth something to God even as we were and so He had no choice but to save us so that He could benefit from our deliverance.


The passages we will be studying today show that such an answer is untrue. We were not saved because of our own worthiness. We were not saved because God could not do without us. The passages we will read show that we were saved solely because of God’s love for us…in spite of who we were. All can be saved because of God’s love for them…in spite of who they are.


Listen to what Moses told the Israelites after leading them through the wilderness for forty years and finally arriving on the threshold of the Promised Land:


Deuteronomy 9:1-10:21 ESV  "Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven,  (2)  a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, 'Who can stand before the sons of Anak?'  (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.  (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.  (5)  Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  (6)  "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.  (7)  Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.  (8)  Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.  (9)  When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.  (10)  And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly.  (11)  And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.  (12)  Then the LORD said to me, 'Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.'  (13)  "Furthermore, the LORD said to me, 'I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people.  (14)  Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.'  (15)  So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands.  (16)  And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you.  (17)  So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes.  (18)  Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger.  (19)  For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also.  (20)  And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.  (21)  Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.  (22)  "At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath.  (23)  And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, 'Go up and take possession of the land that I have given you,' then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God and did not believe him or obey his voice.  (24)  You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.  (25)  "So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you.  (26)  And I prayed to the LORD, 'O Lord GOD, do not destroy your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  (27)  Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin,  (28)  lest the land from which you brought us say, "Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness."  (29)  For they are your people and your heritage, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.'  (10:1)  "At that time the LORD said to me, 'Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood.  (2)  And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.'  (3)  So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand.  (4)  And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me.  (5)  Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the LORD commanded me."  (6)  (The people of Israel journeyed from Beeroth Bene-jaakan to Moserah. There Aaron died, and there he was buried. And his son Eleazar ministered as priest in his place.  (7)  From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land with brooks of water.  (8)  At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD to stand before the LORD to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day.  (9)  Therefore Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God said to him.)  (10)  "I myself stayed on the mountain, as at the first time, forty days and forty nights, and the LORD listened to me that time also. The LORD was unwilling to destroy you.  (11)  And the LORD said to me, 'Arise, go on your journey at the head of the people, so that they may go in and possess the land, which I swore to their fathers to give them.'  (12)  "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,  (13)  and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?  (14)  Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.  (15)  Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.  (16)  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.  (17)  For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  (18)  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.  (19)  Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.  (20)  You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.  (21)  He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.


The following points can be compressed from the previous reading:


  1. God chose the Israelites, not because of who they were but because of who He is. They were not worthy of His choice, He chose them because He loved them.

  2. Israel would conquer the Canaanites by the power of God. They would not conquer because they were a superior people but because God wanted the Canaanites destroyed.

  3. Regardless of all that He had done for them, the Israelites had continued to be a stubborn and rebellious people. The very reason that they were still in the wilderness after forty years was their lack of faith that God could and would help them conquer the Canaanites when they first came to conquer the land.

  4. Regardless of their rebellion, God had continued to be faithful to them. Although provoked He allowed Moses to plead successfully for the lives of the people on multiple occasions and He is now about the fulfill the promise that the Israelites had reneged on forty years earlier.

  5. God’s faithfulness to His people required faithfulness of the people to their God. His holiness demanded nothing less.


It is possible to further compress these points to:


  1. People are stubborn and rebellious.

  2. God is loving and faithful.


FIRST – People are Stubborn and Rebellious - I don’t know about you, but from most points of view I have had an awesome summer. We took my family on an excellent vacation out to Gaspé. Work at the office has been going well and the weather has been fantastic. All-in-all, it has been a great summer. There’s just the one little niggling problem that It has not been a very satisfying summer.


The problem is that I have no routine during the summer. In the winter, when the children are at school and my wife is teaching, I have a routine. I get up, shave, shower, read my Bible and pray. In the summer, because no-one is getting up with me to “force” me into my routine and I have no will-power I don’t often get the chance to read my Bible and I pray even less often. By the time that the first week of September comes around I’m feeling like I’ve died inside. It feels like the flame of my faithfulness, flickering weakly at the best of times, has been reduced to a barely glowing ember that the slightest sin can quench completely.


It’s almost impossible, under these conditions, for me to believe that God cares for me; even though I’ve seen Him do remarkable things in my own life. (I’m still here to say these words so I know that He has preserved my life on numerous occasions, many of which I’m very much aware of.) It becomes ever harder to care about God as sin becomes ever more appealing and the strength to resist it becomes ever more insubstantial.


Now the Israelites were in a similar-but-not-exactly-the-same situation. They had seen God do great things for them. Many of them had seen the might of God arrayed against Egypt, the world power of that time. They regularly commemorated their deliverance from Egypt and the destruction of the Egyptian armies in the Red Sea. They had seen the cloud of God’s presence upon Mount. Sinai and heard the thunder of His voice as He spoke to Moses. And finally, on a daily basis they harvested the Manna that God gave them for their food. They experienced God’s provision and love more intimately than most of us do today. And yet, given the least bit of hardship they would complain and act as though He had done nothing for them.


By the end of the summer I’m much the same way, ready to curse anything that goes wrong at the drop of a hat. There was no way that anyone could argue that I deserved anything from God. I wasn’t even capable of acting like I deserved God’s favour.


But, thankfully, God’s love is superior to my failing.


SECOND – God is Loving and Faithful – In the previous section I mentioned that there were several occasions where I am very aware that God has saved my life. I am also aware of a constant stream of gifts that He gives me. Several of these occasions were received during the past couple of months. At least one was received today, when I realized how much my wife loves me. All while I was casually ignoring Him. How great a God is that who gives what I need and preserves my life even while I don’t pay Him the mind that I ought to? Is it enough to move me back in the direction that I need to move in order to increase my faith? I don’t yet know, but I do know that it is a start and that today I feel closer to God than I have in some time.


I also know that this is not because of anything that I have done or am doing. It is solely because of what God has done and is doing for me. This confirms for me the words of Jesus’ disciple, Peter, who wrote that:


2 Peter 3:9 ESV  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.


He was patient with the Israelites, giving them every chance to remain faithful and obtain the fulfillment of the promise that God had given Abraham:


Genesis 15:18-21 ESV  On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,  (19)  the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,  (20)  the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,  (21)  the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."


He is just as patient with me, and  even sometimes maybe more so. Fulfilling the promise that God through the Holy Spirit makes to all mankind:


Acts 2:17-21 ESV  "'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;  (18)  even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.  (19)  And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;  (20)  the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.  (21)  And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'


THIRD – What’s the Point? – The point of all of this, or one of them, is that there is a great difference between labelling one’s self a Christian and being a Christian. Both myself and the Israelites may have call ourselves God’s and though ourselves saved but the fact remains that we thought we were God’s children only because we were fulfilling the ritual of our faith (sacrifices & etc. with the Israelites and proper behaviour with me). We were not loving God so much as we were living His law. And this ultimately leads to the very thing that Jesus was criticizing in the Pharisees.


Matthew 23:23-27 ESV  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.  (24)  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!  (25)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  (26)  You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.  (27)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.


When He discussed the practice of religion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus explained how true worship of God reveals itself:


John 4:19-24 ESV  The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  (20)  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship."  (21)  Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  (22)  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  (23)  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  (24)  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."


The woman was asking her question to resolve her confusion over the religious practices of her forefathers and the ritual of the Jews and Jesus responded by belling her what I needed to remember over the summer and what God had told the Jews 1,500 years earlier:


Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV   "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.


My problem, and the Israelite’s problem, was that we equated serving God with strict obedience of His law; whereas true service to God is to love Him above all else and to praise and worship Him for what He has done, and continues to do for us. He has given me life. He has saved my life. I have so much from Him that I did not deserve that I should be unfaithful if I do anything but live in constant praise and gratitude toward Him. But once I loose sight of that I get caught up in the World’s way of doing things and cease to live so much for Him as I do for myself.


Legalism does not and cannot save. It does no more than make us miserable and vindictive adherents of a God we have ceased to love and leaves us cold on the road to our destruction.


Love can and will save; not because of our love for God but because that love shows our right attitude toward Him and our devotion to Him. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair sets the example for us:


Luke 7:36-48 ESV  One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.  (37)  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  (38)  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.  (39)  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner."  (40)  And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "Say it, Teacher."  (41)  "A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  (42)  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?"  (43)  Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."  (44)  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  (45)  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  (46)  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  (47)  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."  (48)  And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."


“Your sins are forgiven!” Can anything be more important than hearing those words spoken to us by Jesus? Can our response be any less than giving our all to Him?