As the Israelites came into the promised land, the book of Deuteronomy records that Moses told them their history. A whole generation passed away while in the desert, so it was important for them to have everything straight before they crossed the Jordan.
In Deuteronomy chapter 7, Moses warns about the need for Israel to stay away from the gods of other cultures. Just so they know who they are, just so they don't forget where they came from, Moses reminds them.
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by 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, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. "Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them. Deuteronomy 7:6-11
Moses tells them the truth about Israel's past so they can be ready for the future.
1. They are chosen by God. Verse 6 says that God chose Israel out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.
2. They are not chosen because of anything they have done, or because they were the most numerous, but because God loved them. Verse 7 even says that they were the “fewest of all peoples.”
3. God's promises to Abraham in the past moved him to work on behalf of Israel in the present. Verse 8 says that God moved to keep the oath that He made to their fathers.
4. God's work in the past and the present gives us a promise for the future. Verse 9 says that God is so faithful that he keeps His covenant to a thousand generations.
5. Because of all these things, Israel is to keep the commandments of God. Verse 11 says that they are not to keep his commandments to earn His acceptance. Rather, they keep his commandments because they have been accepted and chosen by God.
This is the gospel, this is the good news for Israel. Their works cannot take them out of God's favor because their works didn't put them into God's favor. This is the gospel not only for Israel but for you and I as well. We are not chosen because of what we can do or have done, but out of God's lovingkindness and goodness. We were chosen by God before the foundations of the world, and because of his acceptance and love, we obey. What more could we do for one who has loved us so?
I do have a problem with this, though. It’s all very moving to my heart. It’s good to know that God is working on my behalf, that his faithfulness endures, and that His promises will remain until the end. But it seems to me that these verses are out of order. If it was up to me, it would make sense the opposite way. It seems to my natural mind that the order should be in reverse. I obey, so God takes care of me. That teaches me if I obey more God will take care of me more. And then because I obey, God then accepts and chooses me as his own. This is the message of almost everything else in the world. We obey and we are counted worthy. We perform and we are worth saving. We have value in what we can contribute. And it is completely opposite of the Gospel.
Moses spoke these words to Israel so that they would get the order right. Moses himself knew God chose him from the desert when he was doing nothing but herding sheep. Moses instructions to Israel are instructions to us as well. Get the order right, and rest in the goodness of God. Any other order is not good news at all.