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Grace Alone (Deuteronomy 9-10)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au
  1. My bathroom scales and Moses

This morning I have something to confess. I have this love/hate relationship with my bathroom scales. In one sense I really appreciate the bathroom scales. They tell me what I really need to know about myself and how I’m doing with my weight. But I also hate my scales because of they tell me what I really need to know about myself and how I’m doing with my weight. They tell me the truth about myself, when sometimes I don’t won’t to hear it.

I can lie to myself and tell myself that a second helping of dinner and eating desert or a late-night piece/s of chocolate won’t make a whole lot of difference but when I stand on the scales the next day the morning don’t lie. They don’t let me hide from what I’m really like and now days with my scales connected to my phone they don’t let you forget. They’ve kept a record of just how I’ve been going over the last few years, the ups and downs, but mostly ups.

I might not like what they tell me, but they tell me what I need to know.  Of course, I don’t tend to stand on them when I don’t want to be reminded of this. But whenever I go into the bathroom, they are there daring me to stop ignoring what I am really like.

It might seem a little odd to be comparing Moses to my bathroom scales but that is kind of what Moses has been doing in these sermons that he gave Israel before they entered the promised land. He has confronted them with what they were really like and warned them what they needed to not forget. He has been reminding them to not forget the Lord for apart from the grace of God they would never get to enter the Promised Land. Today, as we look at what Moses reminded the Israelites about themselves, we too will be reminded of what we are prone to forget about ourselves. We will be confronted with what we need to remember so that we don’t forget just how much we need to keep on trusting the Lord and his grace and in turn how we should respond to his incredible grace and mercy.

  1. What the Israelites need to understand

The Lord had taught the Israelites how much they need him in the desert over 40 years. It was also a lesson they had to learn the hard way because they were just so stubborn and rebellious, that they would not learn it any other way. We saw last week one of the things that they needed to understand.

2.1 Man does not live by bread alone

Moses explained what they needed to know and how the Lord had taught them this in chapter 8 and verse 3 that Pastor Mark looked at last Sunday.

Deuteronomy 8:3

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.


The people need to be taught this lesson because when in the future they were living in the Promised Land and things were going well for them and life seemed to be easy it would be a lesson that they would be tempted to quickly forget[1]. Moses warned them about the type of proud and arrogant attitude that he knew they were in danger of developing.

Deut. 8: 17-18

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.


Moses knew that they were in danger of developing a self-confident, self-reliant, self-dependant attitude that would result in them forgetting the Lord and turning away from him. Today in chapter 9 and 10 he tackles another arrogant or proud attitude that they were in danger of developing – that of self-righteousness.

2.2 Not your righteousness

After reassuring them in the first three verses that the Lord would drive out the people who they feared Moses made it clear in verses 4 to 6 of chapter 9 that the Lord wasn’t doing this on account of their righteousness or integrity.

Deut. 9:4-6

After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Moses like my bathroom scales tells them the truth about themselves and what they weren’t to think about themselves. Three times they are told in this passage that it not on account of their righteousness. Moses told them that these nations were being driven out because of their own wickedness. We looked at this a few weeks ago when dealing with chapter 7. But Moses in this passage went on to say that this didn’t imply that they were receiving the Land because they had been righteous. This is the point of this paragraph. Moses began in verse 4 saying this is what they were not to say to themselves. He told them it wasn’t because of their righteousness in verse 5. He also concluded in verse 6 that this is what they needed to understand, that it wasn’t on account of their righteousness but God’s faithfulness to his promise. It wasn’t because of their integrity but it was because of who God was that they were going to get to enter the land. It wasn’t because of their righteousness because as Moses concluded they were a stiff-necked people.

  • You are a stiff-necked people (9:7-24)

Being stiff-necked is about being stubborn and obstinate. It has been suggested by one writer that it was an expression that came out of farming. Oxen wore a yoke around the neck so that they might work together under the direction of the farmer. But some oxen instead of following the farmers lead, resisted the farmers direction and these were thought of as being stiff-necked[2].

This is what Moses said to the Israelites that they were like. In chapters 9 and 10 Moses has described just how stiff-necked and rebellious they had been and how Moses had to intercede for them on numerous occasions so that they weren’t destroyed by the Lord. If the Lord had given them what they deserved, then wouldn’t have been standing there at all. Time after time they had aroused the anger of the Lord their God so much so that if they had been given what they had deserved they would have been destroyed.

Deuteronomy 9:7-8
Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the LORD your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 At Horeb you aroused the LORD’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you.

  • At Horeb they had rebelled against the Lord

To make his point Moses recounted what happened at Mount Horeb when Israel rebelled against the Lord. It was very early days for the nation of Israel. They had just been rescued out of Egypt and had just agreed to enter a covenant with the Lord declaring that they would do all that the Lord had commanded (see Exodus 19:7-8). They had just heard God speak the ten commandments, and while Moses was up on the mountain getting a hard copy of them on tablets of stone, the people at the bottom of the mountain started breaking the commandments that they had just promised to keep them. Admitted Moses was up the mountain for forty days and nights but that was all it took for the people to become corrupt and turn away from what the Lord and do exactly what the Lord had told them not to do and break the covenant that they had just entered into with him.

They broke the first and second commandment and probably more. They made an idol for themselves in the shape of a calf and Aaron who should have known better proclaimed that this bovine image was their god that had brought them out of Egypt (see Ex. 32). How much of an afront is that to God and his glory and majesty? Moses makes it clear several times that the Lord was angry enough to destroy both Aaron and the people and to start over again with Moses and make him a great nation. The Lord could have done this and still fulfilled his promise except for Moses interceding for them.

  • I (Moses) had to intercede for you

Moses makes it clear that without him interceding for them that they would never have even left Horeb/Sinai.  Moses has described what he did to interceded for them in verses 18 to 20 and what he prayed for them in verses 25 to 29 of chapter 9. I want us to just briefly look with you at that what it was that he prayed for them.

Deuteronomy 9:25-29

I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said he would destroy you. 26 I prayed to the LORD and said, “Sovereign LORD, do not destroy your people, your own inheritance that you redeemed by your great power and brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their sin. 28 Otherwise, the country from which you brought us will say, ‘Because the LORD was not able to take them into the land he had promised them, and because he hated them, he brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.’ 29 But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.

Moses had laid prostate appealing to God to not destroy the Israelites even though they were wicked and sinful and stubborn. He reminded the Lord that they were the Lord’s people that he had brought out of Egypt and that they belonged to him. They were his inheritance. By mentioning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he reminded the Lord of his promise to their forefathers.  He also made the point that if he destroyed them then Egypt would say that although the Lord got them out of Egypt, he wasn’t able to get them all the way to the Promised Land. Therefore, Moses implored the Lord to overlook their stubbornness and their wickedness and sinfulness and to not destroy them which is what they deserved. Moses reported in verses 19 of chapter 9 that again the Lord listened to him. The language here suggested that Moses had to intercede for them on more than one occasion.

  • It wasn’t an isolated case

And just in case someone was to argue that it had been a onetime thing, a momentary lapse in judgment in what had been a largely a good track record on the part of the Israelites, Moses made it clear that it wasn’t isolated case, but something that had happened over and over again.

Deuteronomy 9:22-24

22 You also made the LORD angry at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth Hattaavah. 23 And when the LORD sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, he said, “Go up and take possession of the land I have given you.” But you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You did not trust him or obey him. 24 You have been rebellious against the LORD ever since I have known you.

Moses made it clear that they had been stiff-necked and rebellious since the beginning. It wasn’t on account of their righteousness at all. They weren’t to think that. If they had got what they had deserved the Lord would have destroyed them. But the Lord listened to Moses and instead he showed them mercy and overlooked their stubbornness and their wickedness and sin.

  • It had not been the will of the Lord to destroy them

Moses explained in chapter 10 that it had been the will of the Lord to not destroy them.

Deuteronomy 10:10-11

Now I had stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights, as I did the first time, and the LORD listened to me at this time also. It was not his will to destroy you. 11 “Go,” the LORD said to me, “and lead the people on their way, so that they may enter and possess the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”

It had been the will of the Lord to not destroy them but to show mercy and to listen to Moses who he had appointed in the first place. Without God being willing to overlook their sin and listen to the intercession of Moses, they would have been destroyed a long time ago. What they needed to understand about themselves was that they were a stiff-necked people who had been rebellious, wicked, and sinful and that they had been that way right from the very beginning. Moses said that they had been that way all the time that he had known them. What they needed to understand was that it wasn’t on account of their righteousness that they would enter the Promised Land.

Moses like my bathroom scales tells it how it really is. He has spent the last few chapters making it clear to the generation because our tendency as people is to glorify ourselves rather than God. It is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Roman 12:3) rather than trust God and what he has done for us. What they needed to understand was that it wasn’t account of their righteousness. It was on account of the Lord’s grace and mercy and his faithfulness to his promise.

This is a lesson that we all find difficult because we all like to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. But, the Bible makes it clear that there is no one righteousness not even one. Paul wrote there is no one who seeks God. We have all turned away (see Romans 3:10). No one enters that place where we get to live and dwell with God and enjoy his blessings apart from God’s grace and mercy, in providing the way for that to happen. The way that the Lord Jesus would do that would ultimately be by dealing with our sin and being the one who would intercede for us and meet our every need. The writer of Hebrews wrote about Jesus that…

Hebrews 10:24

He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

He is the one who dealt with our sin so that we can be forgiven. The writer of Hebrews went to explain…

Hebrews 10:27.

He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.


It is not our righteousness. Is the grace and mercy of God. We are all sinners saved by grace. The NT reminds believers of this. This is what the apostle Paul reminded Ephesians of in chapter 2 of his letter to them. In chapter 2 he reminded the believers of who they had been. He wrote they were those who had been dead in their transgressions and sin, gratifying the cravings of the flesh and like the rest of humanity they were deserving of God’s wrath. But he went on and explained, because of God’s great love for us, who is rich in mercy, God made us alive even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved through faith (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

We need to remember – it’s not our righteousness, but the grace and mercy of God that has been poured on us through the Lord Jesus Christ. We are totally dependent on him. But how do you respond to God’s grace and mercy?

  1. Circumcise your hearts

This is the question that Moses asked in chapter 10 and verse 12 and then proceeds to answer it in the remainder of the chapter.

Deut. 10:12

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God asks of you….

We don’t have time to explore all of what Moses says here and some of it we have encountered before, I just want to refer to verse 16 first. Moses told the people.

Deut. 10:16

Circumcise your hearts, therefore and do not be stiff-necked any longer.

3.1 Don’t be stiff-necked any longer hold fast to him

They were to humble themselves before the Lord. It would mean an end to the proud and stubborn attitude that saw them ignoring the Lord and not trusting him. As verse 20 puts it they were to hold fast to him and be faithful. What this would look like is described in verses 12 and 13.

Deut. 10:12-13

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

3.2 Fear and love the Lord

It would mean two new attitudes. They were to fear and the love the Lord. They were to give God the place that he ought to have in their lives – to fear or reverence him, to honour him. In verses 17 Moses reminded them that the Lord their God is the Lord of Lords and the God of gods, the great and mighty and awesome God. They were to fear or respect him for who he is and walk in his ways.

At the same they were also to love him (10v12) with all their hearts and souls, not so that he might love them, but because he did love them and had shown them incredible kindness. Moses said in verse 15 that even though all the heavens are God’s and the whole earth and everything in it, the Lord had set his affection on their ancestors and that he loved them, and he had chosen them. As the apostle John has written in his first letter. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

  • Serve the Lord and walk in his ways

Loving the Lord means that we will want to serve him and walk in his ways. That’s how we are to respond to his grace and mercy. As Paul explained to the Corinthains. The love of Christ compels us so that we no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us and was raised again (see 2 Cor. 4:15). It’s not a begrudging obedience but the grateful response to the grace and mercy of God who has saved us through sending his Son to deal with our wickedness and sin.

3.4 Don’t ignore him

I find it sometimes easier to ignore what I’m really like than deal with it – to tell myself I’m not that bad – there are lot of heavier people than me – besides I work out two or three times a week – that’s got to count for something. And that’s what we are tempted to do when it comes to us and God. But we need to understand what we are really like and what we really deserve – none of us are righteous not even one. But it took one who was righteous to bring us to God. As Peter wrote…

1 Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God.

The Lord Jesus is the only righteous one but the righteous one died for the unrighteous to bring us to God. We must stop being stiff-necked. We must humble ourselves. Don’t ignore him but come to him trust him.

4.5 Don’t forget him

But also, if you have started out on the journey by trusting him don’t grow proud or arrogant or stubborn. Don’t be stiff-necked. Don’t forget the Lord, but hold fast to him and respond to his grace by loving and serving him with all your heart and all your soul.

[1] When you’ve got a pillar of cloud to guide you by day and a pillar of fire at night (Ex. 13:21-22; Ex.14:24, Num. 14:14) and manna falling from heaven in the morning and flocks of quail doing kamikaze dives into your campsite at evening so that you have more meat than you can eat it’s pretty obvious that it is God who you are dependent on. But even with all this going on Israel had struggled to not grow proud and arrogant and to remember that they needed the Lord. But just imagine how much more difficult it would be once they no longer needed to be feed and led this way. Once they were in the Promised land there would be streams and springs to drink from and it was a land of wheat and barley, figs and pomegranates where they would lack nothing (see 8:6-10).

[2] Block, Deuteronomy, The NIV Application Commentary, page 242.