There are certain words that have almost universal associations with them. If you use such a word, everyone will be drawing from a similar frame of reference. Consider the word “Nazi” and you see my point. If anyone calls you that name, we all know it’s not a compliment.
The word “Amorite” had a similar connotation for the Israelites. They knew a couple things about the Amorites, but the two that most dominated the Jewish mind was that they were notorious sinners and that they were keeping the Jews out of the Promised Land. In fact, in God’s very first covenant with Abraham (then Abram), you would read this from God’s own mouth:
In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure. — Genesis 15:16
For this reason, they’re mentioned six times in the first chapter of Deuteronomy. Moses is subtly reminding them that God’s judgment and justice against this people is now in effect. For four hundred years, the grace and patience of God has allowed the Amorites to exist. This time, which could have been spent in seeking God (Acts 17:27) and repentance (Romans 2:4) was instead spent in reaching the full measure of their sinfulness.
And now as they enter the Promised Land and execute the judgment God commanded on the wicked inhabitants, Moses’ farewell speech hits some important themes. He reminds them that God is a righteous judge and never deals unjustly. He reminds them that God carries out justice through natural and supernatural means.
The balance of God’s justice and mercy is always present. Mercy towards the Amorites in his patience, justice in their destruction. Mercy towards the Jews in their release from Egypt, justice in their desert wanderings.
But for the Christian it is slightly different. We are shown utter mercy in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And God’s justice? That was dealt upon Christ as he stood in as our representative, our substitute on the cross. Christ received the justice of God toward us, so that we would receive only mercy.
1. Why don’t we as Christians march around clearing our own “Promised Lands” like the Israelites? How do we respond to those who compare OT Israel to modern-day religious militants?
2. Are there people today you think are like the Amorites—God’s patience with them is only leading to greater sin? How should you respond?
3. Since you have received so great a gift, how do you respond? When wronged, do you deal out justice or give mercy? How might the example of Christ on your behalf change the way you behave at home? At work? How might it change the way you pray?
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