Contact Us

  • Phone: (509) 747-3007
  • Email:
  • Mosaic Address:
    606 West 3rd Ave., Spokane, WA 99201

Service Times

  • Sunday:  8:30 am, 10 am, 11:30 am
  • Infant through 5th grade Sunday School classes available
  • FREE Parking!



Back To List

Jul 30, 2023

Life-Giving Lessons from Life-Taking Failures

Passage: Deuteronomy 9:1-10:11

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Deuteronomy

Keywords: sin, leadership, rebellion, idolatry, intercession, hardness of heart, family systems


As difficult as failures are, they are an opportunity to learn and grow. This passage deals with some of the failures of the Israelites coming out of Egypt and what we as New Covenant believers can learn from them.


Life-Giving Lessons from Life-Taking Failures

Deuteronomy 9:1-10:11

July 30, 2023

Last week:  Andrew helped us see some of the blessings of life’s wilderness experiences.  What were they?

  1. God is their Author…and Sustainer of our wildernesses
  2. Wildernesses are meant to humble us.
  3. God tests us in wildernesses to reveal our hearts and refine our love for Him.
  4. He brings us blessings in them we won’t get anywhere else.
  5. He means to meet us and care for us with His presence in the wilderness.
  6. Wildernesses discipline us for our good.

This week:  Moses is going to drill down a bit on the specific lessons the nation of Israel should and could learn from their former failures. 

ILL:  Working with pre-marital couples, we have frequent discussions about what the couple have learned from their families of origin/parents when it comes to life-skills in things like conflict resolution, communication, financial management, roles of men and women, commitment, values, etc.  So many of our life skills…or lack of good skills at handling life…seem to come from the modeling that we’ve grown up under as children and youth. 

            We find there are several common characteristics about what people learn from their families of origin:

  1. Every family is sinful, broken and dysfunctional to some degree.
  2. We can learn from both good and bad modeling.
  3. In our flesh, everyone tends to repeat the sins, failures and dysfunction of their parents, even when they swear they won’t.

This is essentially Moses’ premise with the people of God in Deut. 9:

  1. You come from sinful, broken and dysfunctional forefathers.
  2. You can learn from their failures as well as their successes… and have a better life if you will.
  3. If you don’t learn from them, you will probably repeat their sins, suffer for it and miss some of the blessing of God

We’re going to be taking larger chunks of Deuteronomy as we continue to work through this very life-instructive book.  In order to do that, we won’t have time to read every one of the 39 verses in today’s passage.  So let me encourage you to go back sometime before today is out and read straight through this passage as a sort of review and opportunity for God to speak further to you about the lessons you can learn from both the failures of Israel in the wilderness…and your own family in life. 

Deuteronomy 9

  1. Face Reality:  don’t minimize either the challenges or God.
    1. About the challenges, vss. 1-2. “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?

Phrase “who can stand before” is used to indicate that it is a human impossibility in the face of some overwhelmingly powerful (and usually angry) foe.  Mostly used of the impossibility of standing against God when His wrath is aroused:

See Malachi 3:2-- But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 

Rev. 6:15-17—Speaking of the6th “seal” of judgment-- 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave[d] and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Interestingly, this passage in Deut. 9 also deals quite extensively with God’s wrath, but against the rebellious Israelites.  It’s a reminder to fear God, not men.  We must face the reality that some human powers, be they nations or individuals, problems or crises, are overwhelmingly powerful to us.  That is reality. 

            But life that fails to factor in the power of God on behalf of His people and either only or predominantly looks at the “giants in the land” God calls us to fight, is a faith-less life. 

ILLFriend of ours who has so allowed fear of illness to grip his life since Covid that, upon retiring recently, he won’t go to the store or out to get a haircut or to church, requiring that everyone that comes to their home be vaxed and wear a mask. Rather than enjoying retirement and traveling like he used to, he is a prisoner to his own fears. True, Covid could kill him…but so can a million other things any day of the week.  He is forgetting that the God he claims to serve is quadrillions of times more powerful than any illness…and fear robbing him of life.

            Instead of allowing truly powerful evils to dominate our lives, God calls His people to live out faith in the reality that the God we serve is incomprehensibly more powerful and to be feared than anything in this life.   

  1. Embrace the realityabout God in life’s challenges (vs. 3)-- Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lordyour God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you. 

ILLGideon: This is the kind of faith that allowed God to whittle-down his army from thousands to 300 hundred and defeat the overpowering Midianites (Judges 7).

ILLDietrich Bonhoffer : This is the same kind of faith that allowed Isaiah to die in faith by being sawn in two and Dietrich Bonhoffer to spend 2 years in Nazi prisons only to die by hanging 1 month (April 9, 1945) before the end of WWII (May 9, 1945).

            Whether in life or death, we must hold onto the reality that God is IN life’s biggest challenges and He will carry us through them VICTORIOUSLY.

So Moses calls the people of God to live in reality—both about the immensity of the challenges and giants we face but even more so about the immensity and power of the God who is taking us into those challenges.  Just as Andrew reminded us last week that God takes us into wildernesses and is with us in them, the parallel reality of this chapter is that God prepares overwhelming challenges for us that demand he goes before us and be with us in the battle.

From the vital truth about the battle and the God we have, Moses now turns our attention to the critical nature of TRUTH about ourselves and God.  Not only must we face reality about the opposition and God; we must embrace reality about yourselves and God.

  1. Embrace truth about yourself and God.

“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,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. 

  1. “It’s not by my goodness that I’m in God’s family and good graces.” (vs. 4)

At first glance, this truth seems to run counter to one of the basic themes of Deuteronomy:  obey God and you will be blessed.  Disobey and you will lose God’s blessing.  But obedience and a righteous life in Christ that follows our initial response to the call of God on our lives…to His saving work…must never replace the constant awareness that my best efforts had nothing to do with God including me in His family.  They may have a lot to do with God blessing me in that family, but not placing me into it.   Christians who forget that difference become arrogant, judgmental and self-righteous…just like the Jewish nation did over the next millennium.  But Christians who always live in the shadow of the cross, realizing it is by Christ alone that we’re in the family of God, will be a humble breath of fresh air even around the most unrighteous of people. 

            At the same time as we reject lies that lead to self-righteous arrogance, we must embrace truths that will always keep us living into the humility of Christ.  Moses reminds God’s people headed into His place of unparalleled blessing and national dominance, that  it is Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land….”

  1. God is utterly gracious to me apart from my sinful performance in life (vs. 5)

Salvation has always been “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8), even for O.T. saints.  The moment we forget that, we start down the road to legalism or license that will shipwreck our faith.  Unless you know that you’ve been “saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourself; it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast,” I can guarantee you that you will think and live and relate to other people in critical, unloving and arrogant ways.  Being gripped by the reality that my best efforts had nothing to do with God choosing me should mark us every day of life in a way that leads us to live towards saints and sinners alike in ways that promote humility and crucify pride.

            Part of embracing that mindset is living in the grateful shadow of a couple of parallel realities:

  1. I’m not as evil as I could be. (vs. 5b)—…but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lordyour God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

God continually points to the depth of evil and depravity of the nations surrounding His people as the reason for some of His actions towards Israel as well as some of the actions He and His people were called to take against those nations. 

APP:  People are always accusing God of evil because He doesn’t immediately and directly punish certain forms or levels of evil we may find abhorrent at any given time in history. 

  • We find the Nazi holocaust that took 15 million innocent people’s lives away from them abhorrent and unthinkable. We wonder why a good God would allow such human evil to proliferate and dominate even for a decade. 
  • BUT we lack the same sense of horror and hatred of the evil in our day that has claimed in this country alone, the lives of over 60 million completely innocent children through what we euphemistically call “women’s health care”, namely abortion. We would have God strike dead every complicit Nazi but we recoil at thinking He should do the same to every man or woman, doctor or clinic worker, involved with killing children in our day.

The evil we see around us in this unredeemed world should always remind us, “that IS me—my heart, my actions—apart from God doing a work of grace in me.

APP:  What are the evils of our culture, our day, this world, that are grieving your heart?  We must be people who are always conscious of the fact that, apart from the grace of God, THAT is exactly the kind of person, boss, politician, spouse, gang member, abuser I would be.  The evil of others around us must always move us to humility and gratitude for the grace of God at work in us.  Thanks be to God that I’m not as evil as I would be today apart from God. 

The 4rd truth God through Moses reminds His people is this:

  1. My heart apart from God is stubbornly rebellious against God. (vs. 6)

Starting in vs. 6, Moses begins to chronicle the stubborn rebellion of the people of God against God whenever they stopped worshipping Him as God.  “Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.  This is a rather stinging indictment.  He’s saying that they haven’t learned a whole lot from their parent’s mistakes.  They continue to demonstrate the same rebellions and sins of their parents.  And for the next 18 verses, Moses illustrates the kind of rebellion in their parents that he says they are continuing to demonstrate. 

            This section brings us face-to-face with the need we all have to seriously and honestly address the sin patterns that tend to get passed down from generation to generation.  If you can’t name two or three that you need to or have needed to fight against in your life, you either are too young to realize what they might be… or you’ve never been married…or the glasses you put on first thing in the morning to look in the mirror are way too rose-colored

Recognizing generational sin doesn’t mean your parents were spiritual failures. It just means generational sin is a reality we all have to confront if we are serious about taking our experience with God to the next level. Sometimes our weaknesses are even our strengths (or parent’s strengths) in excess.



  • Sandy’s family (not because hers is easier to see but because she has broken the chain). The “root of bitterness” issue.
  • My family: because I’m still working on it—unrighteous anger.  One of my parents modeled explosive anger very well during much of my formative years.  They eventually mellowed significantly but not until the chain had been passed to me.  My anger outbursts were too frequent and too damaging for too long in my family life. Consequently I know that some of my children have to fight that battle much more than they would have if I’d been more successful.  So I keep fighting…and part of that is to own that I’m not out of the woods with my anger issues yet. 

Remembering the sins of our families can be harboring bitterness.  But trying to forget them without recognizing that they are a danger for us is folly.  Yes, God forgives when we repent.  But denial does not facilitate repentance.  If the people close to you keep telling you that you have a problem and are damaging them by it, excuse-making, minimizing, avoiding them and a host of other denial-behaviors will not serve you or any generations after you well. 

APP:   That is one very refreshing…and challenging…thing about Mosaic. Some of you have ‘taken the bull by the horns’ and tackled the generational sins in your life. The result is that you are transparent, humble, more gracious and more enjoyable to be with.  But the other side of that coin is that ‘recovery ministry’ means we will also experience a lot of people who know they need to escape the negative effects of their destructive behaviors but actually won’t be willing to do the hard work required to actually cut the chains. That will be trying and costly for those who actually care for and love them (as we will see in just a moment with Moses). 

  1. 6-24:  One of the things that may help us do this is to call our sinful family patterns what they are:  a rejection of God himself. 

            Multiple times Moses calls the Israelite’s sin “rebellion” against the Lord himself.  Every one of the illustrations he gives of their rebellion could easily have been labeled something more mild or palatable.  Take the creation of the golden calf that Moses refers to quite a bit in this chapter.  If you really didn’t want to acknowledge that you were just flat-out rejecting God when you shared in the building of the golden calf or the pagan partying that accompanied that, you would probably have said it was more like “just a little entertainment that went too far,” or “impatience” with leadership after waiting for Moses for 5 weeks.  You might have excused it as “artistic license” or “a momentary lapse of judgment”.  But rejecting God?  Seems a little harsh.

The reality is…

  1. Sin is always a rejection of God, no matter how small the sin is. Sin is me saying I want to be in charge.  Sin is saying God doesn’t know what is best for me; I do.  Sin is always a violation of the nature of God and the Word of God.  The sooner we acknowledge that every sin is fundamentally a rejection of God and something about his nature, the sooner we will be able to deal with the sin that entangles us. 
  2. This passage also teaches that rebellion, disbelief and failure to obey God’s voice (vs. 23) provokes God. The further truth is, we need the anger of God against our sin.  Four times this passage says that their behavior “provoked the Lord to wrath” (vss. 7, 8, 18, 22). 

ILL  Doesn’t every child prefer to have their parent rejoice over them, applaud them, cheer for them and brag about them?  Who in their right mind wanted their truly loving, kind and good parent to get angry with them?  (It’s understandable with parents that don’t give either the right kind or any attention to their kids.  But that’s NOT God.)  Anger is the appropriate and good response to rebellion that we as parents know will ultimately damage a child unchecked.  This is why it is appropriate for children to see their parents get angry with them when they openly, defiantly and willfully disobey clear instructions and clear, reasonable rules.  I’m not talking anger that is violent or abusive.  But God-like anger that knows clear rebellion and disobedience will lead a child to ruin has its place.  In fact, parents who show no anger at a child who runs into the street when told not to do their child no favors.  They are, in fact, not good parents when they react to that kind of behavior with an unemotional, calm, dispassionate little lecture.  The stakes are too high!  That IS time for protective, righteous anger.

APP:  Do we have room in our theology and experience of God for Him being angry with us when we sin?  Anger can be a very loving response to evil and wrong behavior…and, YES, even OURS!  And people that expect others to treat the without some level of anger when they repeatedly sin against them are not healthy people. 

Anger helps us learn from and be changed by our family failures, especially when the anger is from God (since it is always righteous and holy, never petty or selfish).   

  1. God’s presence is the antidote to our sin-patterns. This entire passage sets up the contrast between how Moses handled the call and covenant of God and how the rebellious nation did.  You’ll remember earlier that rather than press into the fearsome presence of God at Mt. Sinai, the nation asked Moses to go do that for them.  They wanted God at a distance.  I wonder why?  So they could keep their sin at close range.  Either the presence of God will drive sin from us or the distance of God will invite sin into us. 

ILL: Moses spent 40 days and nights in the presence of God and was miraculously sustained so that he didn’t even need food or water.  The Israelites spent 40 days and nights with God at “arm’s length”.   They had food, water, companionship, rest, safety, health, protection and a lot more, yet they ended up rejecting God and diving into sin.  The difference?  The presence or distance of God. 

APP:  If we really want a life with less sin we must have a life with more of the presence of God.  (This is why some of us are praying for definite visitations of the presence of God in our churches, our worship, our praying, our families, or city. 

Which brings us to the last truth from today’s text.  Knowing that we are all sinners who will need continued saving from sin…

  1. God always provides the needed advocates in our times of failure.

(Explain what Moses does in leaving the presence of God, coming down to the people, being grieved by their idolatry and rebellion, spending 40 more days fasting and crying out to God for the nation, then returning to the presence of God to receive the renewed copy of the Law….)

Moses actions on behalf of Israel in this situation foreshadows the ultimate Advocate on behalf of the world, Jesus Christ.  From the 40 days he spends praying and fasting for the children of Israel to the time he spends alone in the presence of God on Mt. Sinai, Moses is a powerful precursor to the sacrificial intercessory work Jesus does on our behalf. 

  • As Moses left the presence of God to go turn the Jews from their idolatry, Jesus left the presence of the Father to come and turn sinners to God and away from destruction.
  • As Moses suffered the humanly impossible 120 days of fasting and prayer to turn away the wrath of God from destroying the entire nation, Jesus, the sinless one, absorbed the just and holy wrath of God against our sin, offering to us salvation when the justice of God called for eternal death.
  • Hebrews 7:25—"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Every one of us has a “Moses” of the most amazing kind in the person of Jesus.  When all others have had enough of our sin and stop going to bat for us, Jesus has just begun.  Yes, God will get angry about our sin and discipline us.  But Jesus Christ will always be there ‘standing in the gap’ for us at the same time. 

And what I have found is that God also places around us in the Body of Christ other “intercessors” who will usually

  • Speak the truth to us about our sin.
  • Be willing to pay a price to help restore us.
  • Do the hard work of helping us forsake and destroy the idols of our lives that will destroy us (just as Moses did a lot of hard work to destroy the golden calf).

When that happens,

  • Don’t despise them for telling you the truth; esteem them.
  • Don’t try and make excuses for the idols of sin God is calling you on; ask for their help in destroying them.
  • Look to and listen to them when God has you ‘retake the exam’ through additional tests and trials. (Just as the people of Israel had to re-run Moses’ 40 days on the Mount with God, so God will give us “retakes” of the tests we fail. But He will also give us people who we can continue to look to for a better outcome.