We find in the first few chapters of Deuteronomy that God is helping Moses get everything in place for the Israelites to finally inherit the Promised Land. Moses himself will not enjoy this promise because of his prior disobedience, but he will be used to prepare Joshua and the people. Part of this preparation is warning the Israelites against their pride that goes deeper than they know.
Even though they are about to finally receive what they’ve wanted for a long time, they don’t know that as it relates to matters of the heart, the wilderness is a better place to be. Day after day, they’ve had to depend on God to provide food and drink. They have been taught and trained to seek out his counsel and to follow his instructions. And when so much is on the line, our resolve toward obedience tends to be stronger.
It’s in our times of abundance, we often forget God. What’s natural is for us is to drift toward self-reliance, not God dependence. This is the reason for the warnings God gives:
“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did notbuild, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deut. 6:10-12, emphasis added by me)
The Israelites are about to experience a gracious, lavishing of gifts that they contributed nothing to. And he warns them because he knows how much pride is in their hearts:
“Beware, lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’” (Deut. 8:17)
“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land’” (Deut. 9:4).
The default programming of our hearts is giving ourselves the credit for the good in our lives, not to God. Now while God issues warnings in Deuteronomy against our pride, he also provides ways we can break free from it. Let me offer three of them:
1. Remember who you are apart from God’s kindness and grace in your life.
God calls the Israelites to remember their sin against him while they were in the wilderness (9:7-8). While it may be painful to remember our ugliness, it’s a protective means to crush our inflated ego. To look honestly in the mirror is to say, “I’m far worse than I could imagine. I only need to look to yesterday to see all the ways I’ve made things about me. I’m selfish and I need God’s grace at work within me.”
2. Remember where God has brought you from.
God had miraculously intervened to save the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and brutality. He could have left the Israelites to their own demise. But he had chosen them and he loved them. Pride is so self-absorbed that it can no longer remember how others have stepped in during their time of need. God had done that. When we can remember all God has done for us, especially in sending Jesus to defeat sin, Satan, and death, pride will be broken as we move from arrogance to thankfulness.
3. Remember your weakness and his strength.
Sometimes it’s good to stop and think about all the things you can’t do. As hard as you might try, you can’t part a body of water. You can’t make food fall from heaven. You can’t make the earth tremble and quake. You can’t command frogs and locusts, light and darkness. Yet, God can. He is strong and we are not. God calls on the Israelites to remember his power (7:17-19) and that he is “great and awesome” (Deut. 7:21).
If we want pride out of our lives, it is no easy task. It goes down to the core of who we are. Yet, God is able to free us from it as we take our eyes off of us and onto him.
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