I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was following my mother around Walmart. I was in fifth or sixth grade. We had probably stopped at the store on our way home from school.
We turned a corner, and up ahead I saw a girl about my age. She was super pretty. She had better hair than me. She was skinnier than me. Instantly, a wave of humiliation and anxiety came over me. I felt inferior. I felt ugly. I stared at my feet, waiting for the moment to pass.
And then I felt like slapping myself across the face. Why was I so insecure? I was almost 13. I couldn’t keep feeling like this. In an instant, I made up my mind to work on my insecurities and improve my self-esteem.
That was more than ten years ago. Have I succeeded? Sometimes insecurities overwhelm me. But other times I look at myself and feel so darn proud.
Where’s the balance? How should I feel about myself? How do I love myself?
Do you think the Israelites loved themselves?
They were, at the very least, full of themselves. So much so that Moses had to knock them down a peg. In the NIV, Deuteronomy 9, this whole section of his farewell sermon to them is called “Not Because of Israel’s Righteousness”. In other words, “y’all didn’t do this”. “Don’t be proud of yourselves.”
But would they take the message?
Don’t get it twisted
Humanity is a prideful bunch, especially those of us who are Christians.
Admit it! We think so well of ourselves, congratulating ourselves for completing our spiritual chores, like praying and going to church. We excuse ourselves for small sins, slips of tongue, accidents, reassuring ourselves that “God understands”. And then we get angry at God when things don’t go our way, blaming Him – and what’s at the root of that except a firm belief that He has no right to let bad things happen to people like us, who believe in Him, who try our best??
The Israelites tried their best. And they probably thought their best was pretty good. But Moses lays out in excruciating detail exactly how badly the Israelites had messed up. He recounts one of their lowest moments – creating a golden calf to worship instead of the God who had rescued them out of slavery. Then he caps it all off with a final pronouncement: “You have been rebellious against the Lord ever since I have known you.” (verse 24)
He really read them to filth. It had to have been hard to hear. But why did Moses say it? Why rehash the past? What happened to forgiveness and grace?
Maybe they needed a reminder. Maybe they, just like some of us, were getting too proud of themselves. Maybe they needed to be told, “This is who you are. Don’t get it twisted.”
“It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land…” (verse 5)
Maybe the Israelites felt bad and bougie, powerful and undefeated, but God gave it to them straight. These blessings aren’t coming to you because you’re good people.
I’m not blessing you because you try really hard or because you did your best. Your church attendance, tithes and offerings receipts, and fifteen minute prayers won’t earn you anything.
Because no matter what we do or how hard we try, we aren’t good. We are sinners. We’re terrible people. Our hearts are deceitful and extremely wicked. And all too often we choose to forget those things, and instead pump ourselves full of pride.
“Even so, I want to show you mercy.”
If we look at the facts and make an honest assessment of ourselves, our lives, and our hearts, there’s only one logical conclusion: God should leave us high and dry. That’s what we deserve.
But notice the assumption in that verse: “It is not because of your righteousness…that you are going in to take possession of their land… [or] that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess…” (verses 5-6).
We don’t deserve God’s goodness, but He still gives it to us.
The Israelites had messed up big time, but God still worked miracles for them. The Israelites were sinners, but God still loved them, guided them, helped them, and delivered them.
“They are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.” (verse 29).
Because we’re His.
That’s how we love ourselves. Not by gassing ourselves up, hyping ourselves, or basking in all the good things we’ve done.
We love ourselves because we know that despite our endless flaws, Jesus first loved us. We love ourselves by reminding ourselves that the God we have treated worse than anyone else still loves us more than anything.
My people. My inheritance.
God calls you that. That, that is love.
Pray for the heart to love Him back.
And then, love yourself.
What do you think? What does this chapter say about God, and us, and love? Comment below and share this.