The call to attention (Deut. 9:1), Hear, O Israel, intimates that this was a new discourse, delivered at some distance of time after the former, probably the next sabbath day.
I. Moses represents to the people the formidable strength of the enemies which they were now to encounter, Deut. 9:1. The nations they were to dispossess were mightier than themselves, not a rude and undisciplined rout, like the natives of America, that were easily made a prey of. But, should they besiege them, they would find their cities well fortified, according as the art of fortification then was; should they engage them in the field, they would find the people great and tall, of whom common fame had reported that there was no standing before them, Deut. 9:2. This representation is much the same with that which the evil spies had made (Num. 13:28, 33), but made with a very different intention: that was designed to drive them from God and to discourage their hope in him; this to drive them to God and to engage their hope in him, since no power less than that which is almighty could secure and prosper them.
II. He assures them of victory, by the presence of God with them, notwithstanding the strength of the enemy, Deut. 9:3. “Understand therefore what thou must trust to for success, and which way thou must look; it is the Lord thy God that goes before thee, not only as thy captain, or commander-in-chief, to give direction, but as a consuming fire, to do execution among them. Observe, He shall destroy them, and then thou shalt drive them out. Thou canst not drive them out, unless he destroy them and bring them down. But he will not destroy them and bring them down, unless thou set thyself in good earnest to drive them out.” We must do our endeavour in dependence upon God’s grace, and we shall have that grace if we do our endeavour.
III. He cautions them not to entertain the least thought of their own righteousness, as if that had procured them this favour at God’s hand: “Say not. For my righteousness (either with regard to my good character or in recompence for any good service) the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land (Deut. 9:4); never think it is for thy righteousness or the uprightness of thy heart, that it is in consideration either of thy good conversation or of they good disposition,” Deut. 9:5. And again (Deut. 9:6) it is insisted on, because it is hard to bring people from a conceit of their own merit, and yet very necessary that it be done: “Understand (know it, and believe it, and consider it) that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this land for thy righteousness. Hadst thou been to come to it upon that condition, thou wouldst have been for ever shut out of it, for thou art a stiff-necked people.” Note, Our gaining possession of the heavenly Canaan, as it must be attributed to God’s power and not to our own might, so it must be ascribed to God’s grace and not to our own merit: in Christ we have both righteousness and strength; in him therefore we must glory, and not in ourselves, or any sufficiency of our own.
IV. He intimates to them the true reasons why God would take this good land out of the hands of the Canaanites, and settle it upon Israel, and they are borrowed from his own honour, not from Israel’s deserts. 1. He will be honoured in the destruction of idolaters; they are justly looked upon as haters of him, and therefore he will visit their iniquity upon them. It is for the wickedness of these nations that God drives them out, Deut. 9:4; and again, Deut. 9:5. All those whom God rejects are rejected for their own wickedness: but none of those whom he accepts are accepted for their own righteousness. 2. He will be honoured in the performance of his promise to those that are in covenant with him: God swore to the patriarchs, who loved him and left all to follow him, that he would give this land to their seed; and therefore he would keep that promised mercy for thousands of those that loved him and kept his commandments; he would not suffer his promise to fail. It was for their fathers’ sakes that they were beloved, Rom. 11:28. Thus boasting is for ever excluded. See Eph. 1:9, 11.