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D'varim/Deuteronomy 9:4 Do not say in your heart when Adonai your G-d pushes them from before you ...
Rashi makes one of his briefer and more enigmatic comments to this text: "Do not say in your heart - my righteousness and the wickedness of the nations caused" as if the Israelites could be tempted to think that HaShem is giving them the Land because of the wickedness of the nations and because of Israel's righteousness. Avigdor Bonchek, in the "D'varim" volume of his series "What's Bothering Rashi?" (Feldheim), explains that Rashi is warning us against thinking that the righteousness of the people was involved either in the expulsion of the Gentiles from the Land or in the people being able to possess the Land; the former - as the next verse tells us - is entirely due to the wickedness of the Gentiles, as foretold by HaShem to Avraham: "And the fourth generation shall return here, because the iniquity of the Emori is not yet complete" (B'resheet 15:15). The latter - the possession of the Land - is due to G-d's promises to the fathers: Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov.
G-d makes it plain that the initiative is from His side during the exile in Babylon. "Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the L-rd G-d: it is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you were'" (Ezekiel 36:22, NASB). G-d is going to gather the people from all the nations, wash them and make them clean, give them a new heart and spirit, put His Spirit in them and bring them to live in their own land. All this is to be done by G-d Himself; it is beyond the power or capability of the people - it can only be done by G-d. "'I am not doing this for your sake', declares the L-rd G-d, 'let it be known to you'" (v.32, NASB). Although Israel is to be the beneficiary of G-d's actions, not only is it not because of anything Israel has done but - to the contrary - it is despite what they have done.
We are all in the same place as Israel was: dependant on G-d's grace and mercy. Rav Sha'ul wrote, "For at one time, we too were foolish and disobedient, deceived and enslaved by a variety of passions and pleasures. We spent our lives in evil and envy; people hated us and we hated each other. But when the kindness and love for mankind of G-d our deliverer was revealed, He delivered us. It was not on the ground of any righteous deeds we had done, but on the ground of His own mercy" (Titus 3:3-5, CJB). None of us should think that who we are, what we had done or what we could do, made any difference at all. "G-d saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from G-d. It's not the result of anything you've done, so no-one can brag about it" (Ephesians 2:8-9, GWT). Just as Israel was given the Land to possess and hold because of G-d's covenant faithfulness, so we have been given the kingdom to possess and hold because of G-d's grace towards us in Messiah Yeshua.
Further Study: Psalm 115:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5
Application: Do you worry about whether you do enough to merit G-d's love for you? Relax! He loves you anyway and has demonstrated how much He loves you by sending Yeshua to die for you. From the highest to the lowest, from the tallest to the shortest, from the fattest to the thinnest, G-d offers us all His grace in Yeshua.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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