gigantic people, descendants of the Anakites - you've heard all about them; you've heard the saying, "No one can stand up to an Anakite."
Today know this: God, your God, is crossing the river ahead of you - he's a consuming fire. He will destroy the nations, he will put them under your power. You will dispossess them and very quickly wipe them out, just as God promised you would.
But when God pushes them out ahead of you, don't start thinking to yourselves, "It's because of all the good I've done that God has brought me in here to dispossess these nations." Actually it's because of all the evil these nations have done.
No, it's nothing good that you've done, no record for decency that you've built up, that got you here; it's because of the vile wickedness of these nations that God, your God, is dispossessing them before you so that he can keep his promised word to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Know this and don't ever forget it: It's not because of any good that you've done that God is giving you this good land to own. Anything but! You're stubborn as mules.
Keep in mind and don't ever forget how angry you made God, your God, in the wilderness. You've kicked and screamed against God from the day you left Egypt until you got to this place, rebels all the way.
You made God angry at Horeb, made him so angry that he wanted to destroy you.
When I climbed the mountain to receive the slabs of stone, the tablets of the covenant that God made with you, I stayed there on the mountain forty days and nights: I ate no food; I drank no water.
Then God gave me the two slabs of stone, engraved with the finger of God. They contained word for word everything that God spoke to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.
It was at the end of the forty days and nights that God gave me the two slabs of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
God said to me, "Get going, and quickly. Get down there, because your people whom you led out of Egypt have ruined everything. In almost no time at all they have left the road that I laid out for them and gone off and made for themselves a cast god."
God said, "I look at this people and all I see are hardheaded, hardhearted rebels.
Get out of my way now so I can destroy them. I'm going to wipe them off the face of the map. Then I'll start over with you to make a nation far better and bigger than they could ever be."
I turned around and started down the mountain - by now the mountain was blazing with fire - carrying the two tablets of the covenant in my two arms.
That's when I saw it: There you were, sinning against God, your God - you had made yourselves a cast god in the shape of a calf! So soon you had left the road that God had commanded you to walk on.
I held the two stone slabs high and threw them down, smashing them to bits as you watched.
Then I prostrated myself before God, just as I had at the beginning of the forty days and nights. I ate no food; I drank no water. I did this because of you, all your sins, sinning against God, doing what is evil in God's eyes and making him angry.
I was terrified of God's furious anger, his blazing anger. I was sure he would destroy you. But once again God listened to me.
And Aaron! How furious he was with Aaron - ready to destroy him. But I prayed also for Aaron at that same time.
But that sin-thing that you made, that calf-god, I took and burned in the fire, pounded and ground it until it was crushed into a fine powder, then threw it into the stream that comes down the mountain.
And then there was Camp Taberah (Blaze), Massah (Testing-Place), and Camp Kibroth Hattaavah (Graves-of-the-Craving) - more occasions when you made God furious with you.
The most recent was when God sent you out from Kadesh Barnea, ordering you: "Go. Possess the land that I'm giving you." And what did you do? You rebelled. Rebelled against the clear orders of God, your God. Refused to trust him. Wouldn't obey him.
You've been rebels against God from the first day I knew you.
When I was on my face, prostrate before God those forty days and nights after God said he would destroy you,
I prayed to God for you, "My Master, God, don't destroy your people, your inheritance whom, in your immense generosity, you redeemed, using your enormous strength to get them out of Egypt.
"Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; don't make too much of the stubbornness of this people, their evil and their sin,
lest the Egyptians from whom you rescued them say, 'God couldn't do it; he got tired and wasn't able to take them to the land he promised them. He ended up hating them and dumped them in the wilderness to die.'
"They are your people still, your inheritance whom you powerfully and sovereignly rescued."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)