Deut 9-10: Greatness Demonstrated Through Failure

Posted: September 4, 2008 in Deuteronomy

On the cusp of the Promised Land, Moses has given a series of discourses to the Israelites. So far, they’ve reviewed their journeys – they’ve reviewed the 10 Commandments – they’ve reviewed God’s faithfulness – and now, they’re going to review their failures. Is this just a bunch of pessimism? Is Moses browbeating the nation? No. Instead, he’s pleading with them not to make the same mistakes as their fathers. Oft-quoted philosopher George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” That may not be Scripture, but it’s absolutely true! The more we remember where we came from, the greater we appreciate where God is taking us…and that’s the lesson Moses is trying to teach the Israelites.
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Deuteronomy 9 (NKJV)
1 “Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?’ 3 Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you.
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A. They heard it said because it was their fathers who had said it! 40 years earlier, their forefathers sat on the edge of the Promised Land & stared at giant people rather than God’s giant provision. The people who are in the army at this time were there when it happened (under 18yrs old) – they’ve seen the result of disobedience. Moses has GOT to remind them of this so that they don’t make the same mistake!
B. Fundamental understanding that God is the one fighting their battle. No one is mightier than God! He’s an all-consuming fire – He’s all-powerful – He’s all-knowing. There would be no chance of success if the Hebrews were to go into Canaan in their own power; but as long as they follow the Lord, there’ no chance of failure! If God is for us, who can be against us?
__a. Helps them be strong. There’s no reason to fear when God is fighting the battle. The ruddy young shepherd boy David could walk up to 9-ft tall Goliath & cut off his head ONLY because God was fighting the battle for him. But because God did fight for him, David could stroll up to the battle with confidence.
__b. Helps them be humble…because it’s not due to either their strength or their worth. See vs. 4…
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4 “Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 6 Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.
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A. They’re not getting the land because they deserve it. They absolutely DON’T deserve it! If they were getting justice, God could have left them in the land of Egypt in perpetual slavery – or simply wipe them off the face of the planet. Keep in mind that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) & ONE sin is all it takes. If we break the law in one place, we’re guilty of the whole thing (James 2:10). Yet the nation of Israel reviled the initial work of Moses when he confronted Pharaoh – they accused God of trying to kill them at the Red Sea – they rebelled against God regarding food & water. Every turn they took in the wilderness was a turn of rebellion (as Moses will remind them) – they are absolutely NOT worthy.
__a. Neither are we! Not a one among us deserves our salvation – we all deserved death multiple times over every day all our lives. BUT. God HAS saved us – He’s shown us His mercy & grace through Jesus Christ! PTL!!
B. So why ARE they getting the land? Because the previous nations were wicked. We’ve gone over the extent of their wickedness before…suffice to say they were an abomination who filled up on the measure of God’s wrath for over 400 years in which they could have repented. The point? Neither the Canaanites NOR the Israelites deserved the land. The only difference is the grace of God. Because God is faithful to His word & promise, God would deliver…that’s it.
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– Going to contrast God’s faithfulness with the Hebrews faithlessness. All part of keeping them humble before God & reliant on Him during the conquest.
7 “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.
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A. From Day 1 until now. They’ve ALWAYS been rebellious…
B. They’ve got a bad track record. So do we. BUT (and that’s a glorious word) we’ve been clothed with the righteousness of Christ! God doesn’t see us in our failure; He sees us in Jesus’ victory! Positionally speaking, we stand before God in holiness & without blame (Eph 1:4) – we’ve been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 6:11) – we’ve been made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21) – God sees us IN CHRIST…and we praise the Lord for it!
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8 Also in Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry enough with you to have destroyed you. 9 When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 Then the LORD delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. 11 And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
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A. Receiving of the Law at Mt. Sinai (Horeb)…
B. 10 Commandments written with the finger of God…awesome! 🙂
C. This should have been a time of celebration & worship. It was, but to the wrong god. Instead, it became a time of idolatry & rebellion.
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12 “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly; they have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molded image.’ 13 “Furthermore the LORD spoke to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed they are a stiff-necked 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.’
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A. Original recounting in Exodus 32…goes into a bit more detail. Exodus 32:10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” [] God wasn’t just kind of ‘ticked’ – He was furious! He was completely ready for His wrath to burn hot against His people in destructive judgment.
B. It’s not that God is hot-tempered; it’s that sin is THAT bad. The Israelites had just been blessed with a personal covenant with our Creator God. Instead of worshiping in gratefulness & praising His name, they turn almost immediately around and commit adultery with other gods.
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15 “So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned 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—had made for yourselves a molded calf! You had turned aside quickly from the way which the LORD had commanded you. 17 Then I took the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. 18 And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
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A. How bad was their sin? Bad enough to take what would have been the most valuable item on the face of the whole planet (the Law of God physically written with the finger of God) and smash them to pieces. … Why not? That was what the Israelites had done in their hearts already.
B. Moses’ response? Mourning over sin & repentance. As Courson notes, the 1st time Moses fasted for 40 days it was in spiritual worship; the 2nd time it was in spiritual warfare as he interceded for his people. As the representative of his people to God, he mourned & fasted on their behalf – wishing himself accursed if it would save his people (Ex 32:32).
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19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also. 20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.
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A. Aaron was more than complicit; he enabled the sin to take place… And gave the worst excuse in history to cover it up (I threw the gold into the fire & whaddya know? Out pops this golden calf! Who’da thunk it? – Ex 32:24).
__a. Yet how is Aaron remembered? As a saint (Ps 106:16) – THAT’s the forgiveness & mercy of the Lord!
B. Praise God for our Intercessor who is greater-than-Moses…who prays for us at our worst times & lowest points! Every single one of us struggles with sin (not just some of the time…every day!) – this is no surprise to God (I’m not sure why we think it is). In Christ, He has made provision for us – God may convict our conscience to repentance, but He does not accuse us; He intercedes for us. Romans 8:33-34 (33) Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (34) Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. []
__a. Jesus is praying for you!!
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21 Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain.
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A. Doesn’t recount it here, but he also made them drink it (Ex 32:20).
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22 “Also at Taberah and Massah and Kibroth Hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath. [water & provision] 23 Likewise, when the LORD sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, ‘Go up and possess the land which I have given you,’ then you rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and you did not believe Him nor obey His voice.
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A. Rebelling at the edge of the promised land.
B. A lack of obedience fundamentally reveals a lack of faith. If we truly believed God, we would trust Him enough to do what He says. By not walking into the Promised Land, the Israelites were saying to God: “We don’t trust that You can or that You will actually do this. You may have fed us daily manna & delivered us from Egypt, but you can’t do this.”
__a. A lot of Christians get stuck in this spot. They know what they ought to do – but they consistently choose to do things the way of the world, while still trying to ride the fence in worship. “I believe you God – I know what Your word says; I just can’t trust You with this part.” Yet God proclaims that to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22) – take a step of faith & believe that God can & will do what He says!
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24 You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
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A. Reiterates vs. 7…but takes it further. Since even BEFORE they departed Egypt, they were rebellious against the Lord. I.e., even in the time when they were crying out for the Lord to deliver them, they were sinning against God at the same time.
B. Humans are a depraved people! If it were not for the righteousness of Christ Jesus, we would have none at all.
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25 “Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you. 26 Therefore I prayed to the LORD, and said: ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
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A. Moses appealed to God’s Fatherhood. They were HIS people…God had redeemed them and personally bought them through Passover. He specifically made this point in Ex 32:7 when God told Moses the Hebrews were “your people” – Moses immediately turned around & affirmed they were God’s people that God had brought out of Egypt (Ex 32:11).
__a. WE are God’s people…born-again into His family & given the spirit of adoption…
B. Moses appealed to God’s glory. Because God is great & powerful & merciful, we can appeal to Him on that basis as He glorifies Himself through the grace He showers down upon His people.
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27 Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look on the stubbornness of this people, or on their wickedness or their sin, 28 lest the land from which You brought us should say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them to the land which He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.” 29 Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your outstretched arm.’
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A. Moses appealed to God’s covenant (His word). God is the faithful God (Deut 7:9) and He will ALWAYS keep His word. By looking back to the covenant to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, Moses was saying, “You promised to multiply the nation; not destroy them.” [] Likewise, we can stand firm on the promises of God knowing that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Gen 18:25).
B. Moses appealed to God’s testimony. God intended far more things than to merely have this one people glorify Him. God intended to use the Hebrews to help the whole world glorify Him through Christ Jesus. Again, God was going to be faithful to His word & promise…and His testimony was a vital part of that. [] We can intercede based on how God will spread the gospel through His action.
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Deuteronomy 10 (NKJV)
1 “At that time the LORD said to me, ‘Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to Me on the mountain and make yourself an ark of wood. 2 And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke; and you shall put them in the ark.’ 3 “So I made an ark of acacia wood, hewed two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain, having the two tablets in my hand. 4 And He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the LORD had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in 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 which I had made; and there they are, just as the LORD commanded me.”
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A. How merciful is our God? Not only did He NOT destroy Israel. Not only did He give them a 2nd chance (even in discipline). Not only did He renew the covenant. He actually gave them another physical copy of the 10 commandments by His hand!
B. Technically, did Moses make the ark? No – but he commanded that it be made according to the Lord’s instructions…
C. Note the typology here. The Law couldn’t even make it down the mountain in the hands of Moses. However, when placed within the ark (typifying Jesus Christ), the perfect Law of God could dwell among His imperfect people. Likewise, until the perfect God became man in the flesh, all the law could do is drive us to our knees in desperation. Now, we can turn to the Savior! (John 1:17)
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6 (Now the children of Israel journeyed from the wells of Bene Jaakan to Moserah, where Aaron died, and where he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered as priest in his stead. 7 From there they journeyed to Gudgodah, and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of rivers of water. 8 At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear 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 nor inheritance with his brethren; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God promised him.)
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A. Parenthetical insert – possibly by Moses; possibly later on (inspired either way). Jumps ahead to the death of Aaron, which sets up Eleazar as high priest.
B. Also discusses Levi…which is the reason why this parenthesis makes sense in relation to the golden calf incident. It was at that time that Moses asked ‘who was on the Lord’s side’ & Levi rose to the occasion to administer the stark justice that was needed. After that point, God took Levi to Himself to minister to God as priests, with the ministry being their inheritance.
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10 “As at the first time, I stayed in the mountain forty days and forty nights; the LORD also heard me at that time, and the LORD chose not to destroy you.
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A. Note that. God CHOSE not to destroy them. It’s not that He lacked the power or that He lacked the justification. But in His mercy & grace, God chose not to exercise His right to pour out His wrath upon them.
B. God does not HAVE to save anyone. Our culture has developed such a low view of God that people think they can manipulate God into eternal life because they were such ‘good’ people. That’s not the case! None is good but God alone – all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God. As with Israel in Ch 9, there is nothing worthy about us; we deserve death…that would be justice. But God CHOOSES to save us!
__a. For all the debate about free-will/predestination we sometimes forget that God has a free will too. And His will is that people would respond to the gospel & be saved!
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11 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, begin your journey before the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’
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A. Again – the inheritance is based upon God’s covenant; nothing else.
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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 and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?
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A. Fear the Lord: Churches don’t often talk about “fearing” God any more… Simply means to reverence Him, see Him as He is, give Him the glory & awe & worship He deserves. It’s a good thing to fear the Lord! It’s the beginning of knowledge (Pro 1:7)
B. Obey the Lord (walk): We are by no means under the law, but we dare not downplay the importance of walking in the ways of the Lord. We use similar terminology with Christ – we walk with Him. The distinguishing mark of a disciple is that we would pick up our cross & follow Him (Matt 16:24).
C. Love the Lord: Isn’t it amazing that God desires for His people to love Him? God is no Divine Despot or Dictator…to every Christian, He is our Abba Father! And thus we love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deut 6:5).
D. Serve the Lord: As the bondservant who willingly loves his master & desires to stay in his house all his life, so are we to willingly serve our Lord & King. Paul repeatedly calls himself the bondservant of Christ – and it is a joyful description!
E. ‘But this is impossible!!’ Absolutely. That’s exactly the conclusion we’re supposed to come to. It’s supposed to drive us to our knees at the feet of Christ.
__a. BTW, He does ALL of this. He perfectly fulfills it! And as a Christian, you are in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit as a new creation. What was flagrantly impossible before is now entirely possible in Him. …
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14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. 15 The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.
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A. All creation belongs to God… There are a ton of ramifications from this we don’t have time to look at tonight. Suffice to say that all things are in His hands – He is our provider, and we are also stewards of what He provides for us.
B. And since it does, it makes it all the more special that God chose THIS people out of all the people of the earth, in order to show His favor.
__a. Likewise, of all the people in all creation – of all the people who could have been chosen by God for salvation – God chose you. For no other reason than to show His glory & how good of a God He is!
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16 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
A. That’s what God desires – the covenant of circumcision wasn’t supposed to be a cultural ritual. It was supposed be symbolic of something greater: a people set apart to serve the Lord God.
__a. Paul says the same thing in Romans. Romans 2:28-29 (28) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; (29) but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. []
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17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.
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A. The LORD is their God: He was the one they served! The pagan cultures they would be conquering worshiped all sorts of false ideas about demons and imaginary gods; but the Israelites worshiped GOD!
B. The LORD is God of gods & Lord of lords: Even over the various principalities and powers that do exist, the Lord is lord over them. There is none that even compare to Him b/c He is the Creator & they are all created. They owe their existence to Him, and one day they will owe their eternal destruction to them as well.
C. The LORD is the great God: He is the only true God. He is exceedingly more noble, powerful, honorable, and glorious than anything in existence b/c God precedes existence.
D. The LORD is mighty: He is omnipotent; there is nothing outside His power – nothing beyond His reach. (Not even you or me…or even the hardest family member you have to share the gospel with.)
E. The LORD is just/fair: God shows partiality with no one. We are all equal in our infinite sin towards an infinite God & all equally in need of an infinite Savior. It doesn’t matter how much we think we might be able to offer God; the best we can offer outside of Christ is filthy & defiled…and thus God cannot be bribed by anyone.
F. The LORD is compassionate: Throughout the Scripture, God proclaims His heart for the widow & fatherless. He fights on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves…and logically, that includes all of us! He fought for our salvation & won it at Calvary!
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19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
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A. Because our God is compassionate, we should be compassionate. Specifically because our God was compassionate on us! When we see people in need, we’re seeing people for whom Christ died. Thus however we can help them, we do so – ultimately sharing the gospel at the same time, having our words backed up by our deeds.
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20 You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name.
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A. What should be our response to all His greatness & compassion? The same things we saw in vs. 12. The only logical response is fearing & worshiping God!
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21 He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven in multitude.
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A. Why? Because God is our praise! He’s not only worthy of praise; He is the reason we CAN praise in the 1st place. Worshipping God is impossible in our sin…
B. Why else? Because God has proven Himself worthy through our salvation & deliverance. Just as God was faithful to His promise to Abraham in multiplying a ragtag family of 70+ people to a nation of millions, so is God faithful to bring those in Christ into a new family & kingdom. He is worthy of praise!
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Conclusion:
The God Who continually reached out to Israel in mercy and grace time & time again – failure after failure – this is the same God who saved us! This is the same God Who cleanses us & continually invites to love, fear, worship, and serve Him through Christ Jesus.

Have you been holding back because of your perceived failures? If you’re in Christ, THAT’s who God sees! Don’t hold back any longer – He IS your praise & is worthy of it all!

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