Deuteronomy 11-12, John 15
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. – John 15:22 ESV
The people of Israel were without excuse. They had seen the hand of God in their lives. He had rescued them from captivity in Egypt, led them through the wilderness for more than 40 years, and now had them poised to enter into the long-awaited land of promise. Moses told them, “For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did” (Deuteronomy 11:7 ESV). All that they had seen God do over the years on their behalf should have empowered them to obey Him. They should have had no problem believing in God and his ability to lead, provide for and protect them. As they entered the Promised Land, they should have been fully confident in God’s ability to do what He had promised to do. Not only had He said He would give them the land, He had told them that the land would be rich and abundant and, if they obeyed Him, it would get ever better. Moses reminded them, “he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full” (Deuteronomy 11:14-15 ESV).
But in spite of all that God had done for them, the Israelites continued to struggle with believing and obeying. Moses had to repeatedly warn them not to worship other gods. He made sure they fully understood that they were going to have to destroy all the nations living in the land, along with all their false gods. They were going to have to remove every imaginable temptation to turn their attention from God and worship anything or anyone other than Him. God had made His will clear. Moses had made the conditions regarding God’s promises non-negotiable. So whatever happened in the days ahead, they would be without excuse.
What does this passage reveal about God?
From the very beginning, God has made Himself known to man in a variety of ways. God’s creation reveals His divine nature, power, and presence. Paul wrote, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20 ESV). God is not hidden from man. He has displayed His glory all around them. But man has tended to worship the creation rather than the creator, making gods out of animals, trees, the planets, and even one another.
In the days following the fall of man, when Adam and Eve sinned against God, mankind found itslef on a trajectory of disobedience and rebellion against Him. Each of the nations developed a whole host of other gods to worship. By the time Abram received his call from God, idolatry was in full-swing. So God revealed Himself to Abraham in a remarkable way, making Himself known more intimately to man than ever before. Over the centuries, God would continue to reveal Himself to the descendants of Abraham – visibly and even verbally. He would reveal Himself through His law and the sacrificial system. He would display His power. He would allow them to enjoy His divine presence. No longer would they be limited to learning about God through nature. His revelation of Himself had become intimate and immediate. So they were without excuse. They knew that God existed. They knew He was faithful. They knew He was powerful. They knew He was holy, righteous, and just. And they knew He had a strong hatred for sin and had to punish it unapologetically.
And yet, they continued to struggle with belief and obedience.
What does this passage reveal about man?
The problem with man is not that God is impossible to discover, but simply that the God of the universe is not the God they want. They prefer a god of their own making. They don’t want an all-powerful, must-be-obeyed-at-all-costs God. They want a loving, merciful, gracious, gift-giving, wish-granting god who exists for their benefit. The truth was, the Israelites had experienced God’s abundant grace, mercy, and generosity. But His gifts came with requirements. He demanded allegiance and faithfulness. He required fidelity. God had made man for His glory. Man had turned that idea on its ears, insisting that God existed for their glory. Even the Israelites had slowly begun to believe that they were somehow special because God had chosen them. They convinced themselves that He owed them His undivided attention and affection. In their minds, God owed them something. He had to bless them. He had to prosper them. But they had forgotten that God chosen them in spite of them, not because of them. Rather than seeing themselves as dependent on God, they had somehow convinced themselves to believe that God needed them. They believed themselves to be indispensable to God. After all, they were His “chosen people.”
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
God was not done revealing Himself to man. With the coming of Jesus, God had chosen a new way to make Himself known. Jesus was “God incarnate” – God in the flesh. He was Immanuel, “God with us.” But even when Jesus left heaven and took on human flesh, men chose to reject Him. Even after He had performed miracles and given them sign after sign of His deity, they just couldn’t bring themselves to believe in Him. Why? Because He was not who they were expecting or offering what they wanted. As always, God’s revelation of Himself blatantly exposed the sinfulness of man. Jesus came to keep the law that no man had ever been able to keep. He came to offer them salvation from sin. But Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22 ESV). He had arrived on earth proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. They were looking for a kingdom on earth. He had come to offer salvation from sin. They wanted freedom from Roman rule. He came demanding that they must believe in Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But they refused to believe Him. His arrival had demanded a decision on their part. They either had to believe in Him or reject Him. But Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 15:24 ESV). His signs and miracles were intended to reveal His deity. They were meant to validate His claim to be the Son of God. But the people worshiped His miracles instead of Him. They wanted to see signs and wonders, but rejected His offer of salvation. And they were without excuse.
God wants to offer me so much more than just a better life and temporal blessings that fade with time. He wants to provide me with more than simply good health and a trouble-free existence in this life. He sent His Son to pay for my sins and offer me eternal life, free from condemnation and the fear of death. Jesus offers me abundant life, but based on the promise of a life after this one. The tendency is to make this life the goal, to attempt to get everything I can here and now, and forget about the hereafter. God wants us to live in dependence upon Him, allowing Him to bless us as He sees fit in this life, but focusing our hopes and desires on the life to come. Jesus promised us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). We must rely on Him. We must depend upon Him. We must allow His life to flow through us, producing the fruit of His Spirit, not the deeds of our own sinful flesh. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. And if we attempt to live this life in our own power, focused on our own selfish desires, believing that God exists to make us happy, we are without excuse.
Father, I can so easily make it all about me. Help me to understand that I can do nothing without You. I am helpless and hopeless without Your Son and His gift of salvation – available to me every day of my life. May I continually learn to live for You and Your Kingdom, not my own. I have no excuse for believing that this life is all there is or that You somehow owe me a favor. May my life bring you glory each and every day I live. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men