Deuteronomy 4 

 

 

       ADMONITIONS AND EXHORTATIONS (vs. 1-40)

 

Moses, having presented to the people certain facts in their recent history which had

in them a specially animating and encouraging tendency, proceeds to direct his

discourse to the inculcation of duties and exhortations to obedience to the Divine

enactments. This portion also of his address is of an introductory character as well

as what precedes.

 

 

Exhortation to the Observance of the Law Generally (vs. 1-8)

 

The Law was to be kept as a complete whole; nothing was to be taken from it,

nor anything added to it; it comprised the commandments of Jehovah, and

therefore they were not only to do it as what Moses, their leader and lawgiver, had

enjoined, but to keep it as a sacred deposit, not to be altered or tampered

with, and to observe it as what God their Sovereign had enacted for them.

The dignity and worth of the Law are here asserted, and also its completeness as

given by Moses. Any addition to it, no less than any subtraction from it, would mar

its integrity and affect its perfection.  Altered circumstances in process of time might,

indeed, lead to the desuetude of some parts of the Mosaic enactments, and new

institutions or laws might be required to meet a new condition of things, or even in

that new condition to fence and sustain the primitive code; but that cede was to

remain intact in the Statute-Book, and no alterations were to be made upon

it that should affect its substance or nullify any of its principles. New laws

and institutions appointed by God would, of course, have the same authority as

those originally ordained by Moses; and such, it can hardly be doubted, were in

point of fact under the Hebrew monarchy introduced by the prophets speaking in

the name of God. The Law, nevertheless, was kept substantially entire.

Even under  the new dispensation, the Law has not been abolished. Christ,

as He Himself declared, came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to

fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The sin of the Pharisees, for which they were censured

by our Lord, lay in this, that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men

(Ibid. 15:9), and had “made the commandments of God of none effect by

their traditions” (Ibid. v. 6).

 

The Divine Law asserts its authority over the whole of man:

 

  • over the intellect, for it demands attention, investigation, comparison,

and discrimination.

  • has authority over the affections, for it demands reverence, esteem,

 choice, and love.

  • has authority over the moral faculty; for it demands assent, response,

and loyalty.

  • over the active powers, for it requires watchfulness, self-restraint,

uninterrupted deference, and uncompromising service.

 

1 “Now therefore” -  rather And now. With this Moses passes from referring to

what God had done for Israel to admonish Israel as to what they had to

do as the subjects of God and the recipients of His favor.  They were to give

heed to ALL the statutes and judgments which Moses, as the servant of God,

had taught them, in order that they might do them - “hearken, O Israel, unto

the statutes” - (חֻקִּים), the things prescribed or enacted by law, whether moral,

ritual, or civil; “and unto the judgments,” - (מִשְׁפָטִים), rights, whether public

or private, all that each could claim as his due, and all he was bound to render to

God or to his fellow-men as their due - These two comprehend the whole Law as

binding on Israel. On the doing of these by the people depended life; these had been

made known to them, not merely for their information, but specifically that they might

do them, and thereby have life; not long life in the Promised Land alone, though this

also is included (v. 40; ch.5:33; 6:2), but that higher life, that life which man lives

“by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (ch. 8:3;

compare Leviticus 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11; Jesus refers to it:  Matthew 4:4), that

spiritual life which is in God’s favor (Psalm 30:5). Enjoying this life as the fruit of

obedience, they should also possess as their inheritance the laud promised to

their fathers - “which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in

and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. 

2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall

ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of

the LORD your God which I command you.”

 

 

 

                                    Acceptable Obedience (vs. 1-2)

 

·         ITS BASIS — the Divine command. “Statutes and judgments.” Action

originating in self-will, however correct in moral form, is not obedience. It

is God’s command which is the rule and starting-point. Recognition of His

authority is essential. Kant distinguishes religion from morality thus’’

Religion is the doing of all duties as if they were Divine commandments.”

The objective rule is found in the inspired Scriptures.

 

·         ITS CHARACTER. It must be:

 

Ø      Entire, not partial. Having respect to all that God reveals.

Ø      Honest, neither altering, mutilating, adding to, nor subtracting from

      (compare Matthew 5:19; 15:6, 9).

Ø      Persevering.

 

·         ITS REWARD. “Life,” possession of blessings. This reward not legal,

but of grace through Christ, as on the legal basis no one can attain to it

(Romans 3:20). But though, as sinful, we cannot have life through

obedience, we still have it in obedience. “Not every one that saith unto me,

Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the

will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21;  Romans 2:7).

 

3 “Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for

all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them

from among you.”  The people had had personal experience of the danger, on

the one hand, of transgressing, and the benefit, on the other, of keeping

God’s Law; they had seen how those who sinned in worshipping Baal-peer

were destroyed (Numbers 25:3, 9), whilst those who remained faithful

to the Lord were kept alive. This experience the people had had only lately

before, so that a reference to it would be all the more impressive. Baalpeor,

the idol whose cultus was observed at Peor. Baal (Bal, Be’ cf., Bel,

Lord) was the common name of the supreme deity among the northern of

the Semitic-speaking people, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the

Aramaeans, and the Assyrians. There were thus many Baals. Followed:

walked after; a common Biblical expression for religious adherence and

service (compare Jeremiah 8:2; 9:14; and with a different formula,

Numbers 32:12; ch. 1:36; Joshua 14:8; Judges 2:12).

 

4  “But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God” -  “To cleave unto

one” is expressive of the closest, most intimate attachment and communion

(compare Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 14:1). The phrase is frequently used of

devotion to the service and worship of the true God (ch.10:20; Joshua 22:5;

23. 8); here it expresses the contrast between the conduct of those who remained

faithful to Jehovah and those who forsook Him to worship Baal - “are alive every

one of you this day.” Thus they that keep themselves pure in general defections,

are saved from the common destruction (Ezekiel 9:4-6; II Timothy 2:19;

Revelation 20:4).

 

 

     Life and Prosperity Dependent on Obedience to God (vs. 1-4)

 

In this paragraph Moses indicates, by the word “therefore,” the purpose he

has had in the review in which he had been indulging. It was not for the

mere rehearsal’s sake that the varied incidents in Israel’s career were thus

recalled to memory, but to stimulate the people anew to obedience, by

reminding them how strong was the reason for it, and how great would be

the blessedness of it. It was then, as it is now, “godliness is profitable for

all things; having promise of the life that now is and of that which is

to come” (I Timothy 4:8) and though that would be a low standard of virtue

attained by a man who served God merely for what he could get by it, yet, on

the other hand, if no good came of it, the reason for it would certainly be

seriously affected in the influence it had on a man. There is a mean and selfish

form of utilitarianism. But if, when a man contends for utility as the foundation

of virtue, he means by utility “a tendency to promote the highest good, on

the largest scale, for the longest period,” there is nothing selfish or mean

about the theory then, whether we accept it as sound philosophy or no.

And it is certain that our Lord Jesus Christ meant considerations of profit

to weigh with men (see Matthew 16:25-26). Observe:

 

  • GOD’S STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS ARE THE BEST MORAL

AND SPIRITUAL FURNITURE WITH WHICH A PEOPLE CAN BE

ENRICHED. The word “statutes” includes “the moral commandments and

statutory covenant laws.” “Judgments” are precepts enjoining what is due

from men to man or to God. Sometimes we get the word “commandments,”

including both the former; at other times we have the word “testimonies”;

in which duty is looked at as that concerning which God bears testimony to man.

Now, men will rise or fall according as the moral nature is cultured or

Neglected!  And it is because the Divine precepts constitute a directory

 for our highest selves, that they are so invaluable to us. Doubtless, to

some extent, the Law of God is still graven in the hearts and consciences of

men; and if men were perfect, the Law written on the heart would be clear

enough. But as men neglect God’s Law, they come to fail in discerning

 it. The characters written inwardly are more and more faint, and, lest it

should cease from among men, our God has had His will graciously

recorded in a Book, our constant standard of appeal, our unvarying

directory of right!

 

  • THESE STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS ARE TO BE PRESERVED

INTACT.Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you,

neither shall ye diminish ought from it” (v.2; ch. 12:32).  The manifestation

of the tendency of men to do one or the other, yea both, is one of the saddest

chapters in human history. (Compare Jeremiah 26:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation

22:18-19; [we are either for God or against Him!  There is no straddling the fence;

Matthew 12:30; 5:19; 15:1-13.) Skepticism violates God’s Law by subtracting

from it; superstition, by adding to it. Our appeal must ever be “To the Law and

 to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, IT IS

BECAUSE THERE IS NO LIGHT IN THEM!”Isaiah 8:20) and the appeal

will only be valid, nay, will only be possible, as both are preserved intact

and kept free from the tampering of men.

 

  • THEY ARE TO BE PRESERVED IN THEIR ENTIRETY, IN

ORDER THAT THEY MAY BE OBEYED IS THEIR ENTIRETY.

Hearken, for to do them (see John 13:17; James 1:22). A mere reverence

for the letter, without obedience to the spirit, is displeasing to

God. Jesus Christ complained of this among the Jews (John 5:38-40).

A written law, honored as to its preservation, but yet neglected in life, is a

silent witness against us (John 5:45). Men may rest in having the

oracles of God, and may cherish even up to the last, vain hopes of

acceptance on the ground of privilege, but they will be undeceived

(Matthew 7:21-27). Obedience to the Law of God includes the two

great duties of trust in a great salvation and loyalty to moral precepts. No

man was allowed to trifle with the sacrificial code any more than with the

ethical: both formed parts of the Law; both were to be observed with equal

exactitude.

 

  • OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW WOULD BE FOR ISRAEL’S WEAL,

AND WAS THE CONDITION OF THEIR CONTINUANCE IN THE

LAND.  That ye may live,” (v. 1).  The word “life” is very far from being a

mere synonym for “existence.” It is equivalent to “healthful existence,” a

state of being in which all his powers and functions are in harmonious

exercise, and directed to their proper objects and ends. Nor can any one

doubt that obedience to the laws of God has a tendency to promote true

comfort and success in this life, while it is certainly the truest, yea, the

only, preparation for the next. Besides, the blessing of God is promised

 to the obedient. If a man’s life accords with the laws of God, he will find out

how conducive obedience is to good. But if he “strives with his Maker”

(Isaiah 45:9), his life-course will bristle up with prickles everywhere.

 

  • AS WE LOOK ROUND, WE MAY SEE SAD EXAMPLES OF THE

REVERSE, FROM WHICH WE MAY TAKE WARNING. (See the sad

history of Baal-peor, referred to in v. 3; Numbers 25).   Surely we should take

warning from that, and from too many similar instances. The prevalence of lust

will be destructive of LIFE’S BEAUTY, PEACE, POWER and HOPE.

(“For to be carnally minded is death; but to the spiritually minded is

LIFE and PEACE.”  - Romans 8:6)

.

  • THE EXPERIENCE OF THE PEACE AND JOY, ATTENDANT

UPON A LIFE OF LOYALTY TO GOD, IS A STRONG ARGUMENT

FOR CONTINUANCE THEREIN.   “Ye that did cleave unto the Lord

 your God are alive every one of you this day” (v. 4).  What would the

victims of lust and greed and passion give if they could but have the calm

peacefulness of one who follows the Lord fully!   But that cannot be! The test

of a life for God is God’s own seal to its worth in His eye (Psalm 91.); while

long life is ensured by the healthy state of body which a righteous life induces.

(Contrast Romans 1:27 “receiving in themselves that recompence of their

error which was meet” and Proverbs 5:11 “And thou mourn at the last,

when thy flesh and thy body are consumed.” – I interpret this in light of

today’s sexual revolution as a reference to STD’s, VD’s and AIDS – CY –

2012)    And the hope — the good hope through grace — which gilds the

outlook, oh, the unutterable joy of that!

 

§         IN CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      It is just as imperative, in a Christian point of view, for us to combine

obedience to the sacrificial and ethical law of the gospel, as it was for the

Hebrews to obey both parts of their Law. No outside virtues performed in

a legal, self-righteous spirit will save us. Nor will any trust in the

sacrifice of Christ, apart; from holiness, be accepted. Both faith in Christ

and holy living, form inseparable parts of a true obedience to God.

 

Ø      The rich fullness of peace which those enjoy who trust, love, and obey,

is far greater under the gospel than it could have been under the Law of

Moses, because, in Christ, the revelation of Divine love is so much clearer,

and the “blessed hope” is so much brighter. Christ gives us a rest in

Himself, and the life He quickens and sustains in believers is a restful life

(see Romans 5:1-11; Philippians 4:4-7). Though now we see Him

not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

(I Peter 1:8)  This is life indeed!

 

5  “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD

my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to

possess it.  6  Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your

understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these

statutes, and say,” - The institutes of Moses were the commandments of Jehovah,

and therefore obedience to them was imperative.  By this was conditioned the

enjoyment by Israel of the Promised Land; and this would be their wisdom and

 understanding in the sight of the nations; to themselves it would be life, and to

the nations it would convey an impression of  their being the depository of true

wisdom and knowledge, so that they should be constrained to say, “Surely this

great nation is a wise and understanding people.” “The fruit of the righteous

is a tree of life; and he that is wise winneth souls” (Proverbs 11:30). God’s

statutes make wise the simple (Psalm 19:7; 119:98-99); and they who are thus

made wise attract the attention of others by the fame of their wisdom. Thus the

Queen of Sheba heard in her distant country of the wisdom of Solomon, and came

to him to commune with him of all that was in her heart (1 Kings 10:1, etc.); and

many throughout the ages who were seeking after truth among the heathen, were

drawn to Israel by seeing how with them was the true knowledge of God. Israel

was thus exalted because God was nigh to them, ready to hear their cry and to

give them what they needed; which none of the gods of the nations were or could

be to their votaries; and because, in the Law which God had given them, they had

such instruction and direction as no heathen nation possessed.

 

7 “For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the

LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?  8  And what nation

is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law,

which I set before you this day?”  Translate, For what great nation is there that

hath gods that draw near to it, as Jehovah our God whenever we call upon Him?

And what great nation is there that hath righteous statutes and ordinances like

this whole Law which I am giving before you this day? (compare ch.33:29;

Psalm 34:17-20; 145:18; I Samuel 14:36; I Kings 18:26-29, 37; James 4:8).

True right has its roots in God; and with the obscuration of the knowledge

of God, law and right, with their divinely established foundations, are also

shaken and obscured (Romans 1:26-32).

 

The possession of the oracles of God by Israel was a benefit to them only as these

were kept in mind and reverently obeyed. Therefore they were to take heed and

diligently beware of forgetting the circumstances under which the Law had been

 received at Horeb. God had then commanded the people to be gathered together,

so that they stood before the Lord, were in His manifested presence, and were

made to hear His voice speaking to them from amidst the fire and the clouds that

covered the mount. They had thus actual evidence and guarantee that the

Law they had received was Divine; and this they were to keep in mind as long

as they lived, and to communicate to their children in all coming time, that so they

might fear the Lord; for on this rested that covenant which God had made with

Israel, and which they were to keep as the condition of their continuing to enjoy

privilege and life.

 

9 “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently,” - i.e. Be very

careful to preserve thy life (Proverbs 13:3; 16:17; 19:16; in all which passages the

same formula is used as here). The Hebrew (נֶפֻשׁ) means primarily breath,

then vital principle, natural life (anima), then soul life, the soul or mind (animus).

The forgetting of the wonders they had seen would lead to their forgetting

God, and so to their departing from Him, and this would mar and

ultimately destroy their life (Joshua 23. 11-16) -  “lest thou forget the

things which thine eyes have seen,” -  (see Exodus 19:16-20) - “and lest

they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy

sons, and thy sons’ sons;”

 

 

      National Greatness Dependent on Obedience to God (vs. 5-9)

 

In these verses we have a continuation of the address of Moses to the people. He had

previously reminded them of incidents which had occurred. He here points out to them

the advantageous position they are privileged to occupy, and shows them how to

MAINTAIN and PERPETUATE it. He reminds them:

 

  • That theirs was the very special privilege of having God nigh unto them

as the Lord their God (see also vs.32-34).

 

  • That they would occupy a prominent place among the nations round

about (Exodus 9:16; 15:14; Numbers 14:13-21; ch. 28:10).

 

  • That the cornerstone of their national life and honor was the

 worship of God and the practice of righteousness. Their “statutes

and judgments” were characterized by this special mark — they were

righteous above those of any other nation. (v. 8).

 

  • That the carrying out into action of these precepts was their only

Wise course (v. 6).

 

  • That such wisdom would be their true greatness, and such greatness

would win them regard and honor from surrounding peoples (v. 6). [This

was actually the case to a very large extent. Our space will not allow us

even to touch on the matter here; but careful research will show the

student how Israel’s greatness has manifested itself in the influence exerted

by them in modifying the religion, philosophy, literature, politics,

institutions, and moral judgments of the world. First, among the Egyptians,

Canaanites, and Phoenicians; and then among the Assyrians, Persians,

Greeks, and Romans]

 

  • That it behooves them to “keep and do” these precepts, to retain them in

their heart, to hand them down to their children, and to take constant care

of themselves. In turning all this to pulpit use for modern times, observe:

 

THERE ARE CERTAIN PRINCIPLES, THE APPLICATION OF WHICH

          WILL SECURE THE TRUE GREATNESS OF A PEOPLE.

 

It is becoming to a true patriot to think of his country as being renowned

among the nations of the earth, Jehovah evidently meant the people to be

moved by such an ambition. It is far more healthful to direct natural desires

into a right channel than to try to suppress them. Let a man cherish the

most fervent wish to see his country unsurpassed among the people. God

promises this as the result of His blessing. Thou shalt be “the head, and not

the tail” (ch. 28:13).  But observe: No conspicuousness is so much to be

 desired as that arising from wisdom and understanding. The prominence

which arises from moral influence is that alone which is worth striving

after. Any influence by which we help to lift up other nations in virtue and power,

is worth infinitely more than that which comes of martial valor, or diplomatic

tactics, or such supremacy over a people as shall simply make them stand

amazed at the length of our purse, or the precision and deadly fire of out

arms. To be known as the wisest people, so that others seek in friendly

emulation to learn from us — this is an eminence any patriot well may

desire for the land he loves. But observe: This will depend on the amount

of moral culture in a people, i.e. on the degree of clearness with which a

people see what is right, on the measure of force they put forth in the

pursuit of it, and on the firmness with which they insist on the right being

paramount to any considerations of power, expediency, or gain. “The

throne shall be established in righteousness.” (Proverbs 25:5);

“Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.”

(Ibid. 14:34).  Not only in the individual, the family, and the social life

must righteousness be the chief corner-stone of a common weal, but in

those acts in which a man has to play the part of a citizen, and in which a nation

has to do with other nations. Righteousness may not be eliminated from

 politics, nor may it play a subordinate part. UNIVERSAL, ETERNAL,

UNCHANGEABLE are the laws of righteousness  and by whomsoever

they are violated — by individuals, families, Churches, or nations — such

violation will surely be followed by remorse and shame.

 

The truest form of moral culture is loyalty to the Divine Being and His

commands. No nation ever has or ever can thrive without the recognition

of a Great Supreme. It is only the fool, the “nabal,” the withered one, who

says there is no God. And no nation which ignores the duty of loyalty to

God will ever be great. But then in the Book, as the world’s grandest

moral text-book, there are statutes, precepts, testimonies, judgments, for

THE REGULATION OF LIFE  both individually and collectively.

The appeal of v. 8 is still valid, “What nation is there... that hath statutes

 and judgments so righteous as all this Law, which I set before you this day?”

(Now contrast this verse with Jeremiah 2:10-13 – CY – 2012).  We know how

the Law may be summed up: “All the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in

this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his

neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law” (Romans 13:9-10).

 

And this principle of love to all, carried out in loyalty to God, will ensure

that greatness which is most worth having. The Egyptians were at one time

renowned for learning, the Phoenicians for their commerce; the men of Bashan for

their giant strength; Greece for its philosophy; Rome for her “imperium et

libertas” (empire and liberty).  Their sway has gone. But the Hebrew race, by

whom first and alone this law of love was proclaimed as the one guiding principle

of a nation’s life, is living in its literature the grandest of all lives, and swaying,

with the scepter of its ONE PERFECT MAN, JESUS CHRIST THE

RIGHTEOUS,  men of different nations, tribes, and tongues in every quarter

of the globe. Yes, this one law of love has given to the Hebrew race a greatness

it will never lose. The brightest streaks of light on the globe now are to be

discerned only where the law of love is known and obeyed; that law given by

Moses, GRACE was brought in by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).And in

proportion as nations follow and act out this law, will they attain to the only

greatness on which heaven smiles. “The world passeth away and the lusts

 thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” (I John

2:17).  This righteousness is in itself an armor of lightA NATION’S

BEST DEFENSE!  For on “the righteous nation which keepeth the truth”

will God’s blessing rest, and, next to the Divine blessing, the good will of the

nations is our surest and happiest guard.

 

 

   HERE IS AN APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS TO

TAKE HEED TO THESE PRINCIPLES.

 

The appeal is fourfold in this paragraph.

 

  • “Keep therefore and do them.” There is as much obedience to God in

the nation as is rendered to Him by individual souls, and no more. Hence it

is the part of the true patriot who desires his nation’s greatness to see

that he is living the life which will help to make the nation great.

 

  • This is not to be superficial work, but the Law is to be in the heart. Not

an accidental, surface life, but an intelligent and designed direction of the

inner and outer life according to God’s ways and Word.

 

  • This LAW of RIGHTEOUSNESS, TRUTH AND LOVE  is to be

handed down FROM SIRE TO SON, AND SO ON TO GENERATION

AFTER GENERATION!   The parent is to be the true depositor,

 conservator, teacher, and transmitter of God’s Law. He is to live after

he has gone in the truth he has taught, and, when he is dead, his speech

is to be molding the young hearts of a nation.

 

  • Each one is to put a careful guard around himself, lest any of the baneful

influences around him should destroy or weaken his loyalty to God and

the right. “Take care of thyself;” — such is the meaning of the phrase in

v. 9 (compare Proverbs 4:23, Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out

 of it are the issues of life”). It is easy to gather from the Book of

Deuteronomy against what influences the ancient Hebrews would have to

guard. These influences, hostile to unswerving loyalty, vary with each land

and race and age. A careful observation and knowledge of the times will show

us against what foes we have at all points to be armed. LET US TAKE

THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD!  (Ephesians 6:11-18).   “Let us save

ourselves from this untoward generation.”  (Acts 2:38)  Let us play

the man and the citizen, with HEARTS LOYAL TO OUR SAVIOUR,

JEALUS FOR THE RIGHT AND TRUE, FEARING GOD, but having

no fear beside!

 

 

                        The Religious Education of Children (v. 9)

 

This is God’s way of:

 

1. Handing down the fruits of present privilege.

2. Maintaining His witness in the world.

3. Extending Hs Church.

 

The natural law of the increase of population leads, where parents are

faithful, to a constant increase in the number of the godly.

 

10 “Specially the day” - The word “specially,” introduced by the

translators into the Authorized Version, is a needless interpolation. With

this verse begins a new sentence, which is continued in v. 11 on to the

end of v. 13. Render, On the day [i.e. at the time, the μwy, is an adverbial

accusative] when ye stood before Jehovah your God in Horeb... when ye

came near and stood,… then Jehovah spake to you -  “that thou stoodest

before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me,

Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words,

that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon

the earth, and that they may teach their children.”

                       

 

 

                                    A Nation’s Glory (vs. 6-10)

 

·         A NATION POSSESSING GOD’S WORD IS SUPREMELY

FAVORED. (v. 8.) Even to have such a Law as Israel possessed exalted

her to a position of unique greatness. The knowledge of the true God —

light on the great principles of conduct-equitable statutes-institutions

 were adapted to promote material, moral, and spiritual well-being.

Our own nation is exceptionally favored in the plentiful enjoyment of

religious privileges — Bibles, churches, Sabbath schools, evangelistic

agencies, Christian literature, etc., bringing the highest knowledge within

the reach of the humblest; while the laws, institutions, etc., under which

we live, as the fruit of a Christian civilization, are not surpassed by any

on the earth.  God has indeed, favored us to an unexampled degree in

every religious respect.  (Though this was written a couple of hundred

years ago, how true it is today!  I can type three or four words of any

passage in the Bible in my browser and it immediately shows up!

I utilize biblehub.com., katabiblion.com., Smith’s Bible Dictionary

Online, Online Greek Interlinear Bible, etc.  There are so many

available sources under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to where

we have plenteous access to educational and spiritual resources, to

where it is almost miraculous, even though secular interests think they

control everything.  CY – 2020)

 

·         A NATION ENLIGHTENED BY GOD’S WORD IS SUPREMELY

WISE.  (America once could be described this way,  but the secular

attempt to separate God from the public has taken its toll.  “God is not

unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love.  Hebrews 6:10 –

CY – 2020)   To have is much, but to be truly “a wise and understanding

people,” we must “keep and do” (v. 6). It is not in knowing, but in adopting,

the wise course that we show ourselves truly wise. Wisdom is the course that

conduces to the formation of a brave, noble, resolute, happy, and

contented people; and the nation that loves God’s Word, fears God

himself, and applies the teaching he has given it in the various spheres of

domestic, social, commercial, and political existence, is indubitably in

possession of that wisdom. It is to be regretted that the nations most

peculiarly privileged do not always set that store upon their privileges

which they should do, or make a good use of them. The amount of

irreligion, infidelity, and general indifference to the Word of God in our

own land is A STARTLING OMEN FOR THE FUTURE!   America’s

greatness is obviously waning else why should a popular political slogan

“Make America great again” be in vogue?  That class, wisdom and

greatness soon wanes when respect for the Bible, the Sabbath, and the

guiding principles of revelation are abandoned!  “The wicked shall be

turned into hell and all nations that forget God!”  (Psalm 9:17)

 

·         A NATION ORDERING ITSELF BY GOD’S WORD IS SUPREMELY

      EMINENT. (v. 7.) Its prosperity:

 

Ø      Rests on a solid foundation.

Ø      Is built up under conditions that ensure its permanence.

Ø      Is secured by a special blessing of God. And this is a matter

admitting of ample historical verification.

 

Compare:

 

Ø      Pagan nations with Christian.

Ø      Unbelieving nations with believing (France: Britain).

Ø      Roman Catholic nations with Protestant (see Laveleye on ‘Protestantism

and Catholicism in their bearing upon the Liberty and Prosperity of

Nations’).

Ø      Sabbath-desecrating nations with Sabbath-keeping. It will be found that

the Bible-loving, Bible-obeying, Sabbath-keeping nations exhibit:

 

o       an intellectual superiority;

o       an ethical superiority;

o       a superiority in political institutions;

o       a superiority in material respects (trade, commerce, wealth,

etc.).

 

·         A NATION OBEYING GOD’S WORD WILL HAVE THE

SOURCE OF ITS GREATNESS ACKNOWLEDGED BY OTHERS.

(v. 6.) They will not only own to its eminence, but they will discern its

true cause, and acknowledge that it springs from its religious faithfulness.

Numerous testimonies of this kind exist to the source of the national

greatness of our own country.

 

·         LESSONS:

 

Ø      Value our religious privileges.

Ø      Seek the furtherance of religion in the community.

Ø      Be diligent in the training of our children (v. 9).

Ø      Extend our blessings to others.

 

11 “And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain

burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, [unto the heart]” -  i.e. up to the

very skies; a rhetorical description of the mighty pillar of fire that blazed on Sinai,

and betokened the presence of Him whose symbol is fire. With darkness, clouds

[cloud], and thick darkness; underneath the fire was a cloud of deep darkness,

out of which it blazed, the “thick cloud” of Exodus 19:9, 16, and the “smoke”

out of which the lightnings flashed, and over which the glory of the Lord, like

devouring fire, rested on the top of the mountain (Ibid. v.18; 20:18; 24:16-17) -

 “with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.”

 

12 “And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye

heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard

a voice.”  On this occasion the people heard the voice of the words,

but saw no similitude; there was no form or shape apparent to the eye.

No man can see God’s face (Exodus 33:20, 23); “no man hath seen

God at any time” (John 1:18); and though the nobles or elders of Israel

who went up with Moses into the mount are said to have seen God, it is

evident that what they saw was only some luminous manifestation of His

glory, and not a form or shape of which a similitude could be made

(Exodus 24:9-17). Even Moses, with whom God said that He would

speak mouth to month, and who should behold the similitude of God

(Numbers 12:8), was told that he could not see His face, His essential

personality, but only his back, the reflection of His glory (Exodus

33:18-23).

 

God surrounded Himself with these signs of His greatness, power, wrath,

and holiness:

 

Ø      That we may reverence and fear Him.

Ø      That we may be kept from presumption in our approaches to Him.

 

Recalling this scene, the Israelites should have been preserved from ever trifling

 with it.   God’s Word should be handled and read with a deep feeling of

reverence.

 

13 “And He declared unto you His covenant,” - God’s gracious engagement

with Israel for their good, and by which they were bound to observe all His

commandments. God declared this at Sinai when He uttered the ten

commandments (words, μyrib;d]), “the words of the covenant, the ten words”

(Exodus 34:28), which He afterwards gave to Moses on two tables of stone,

written with the finger of God (Exodus 24:12; 31:18). Besides these, there

were other statutes and ordinances which Moses was commanded to teach the

people, and which, with them, comprised the Law given at Sinai (see Exodus 21

and following chapters) - “which He commanded you to perform, even

ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone.

 

 

                        The Sacredness of the Divine Law (vs. 1-13)

 

Law, being the utterance of righteousness, is unalterable as righteousness

itself, permanent amid all the mutations of human affairs. Its requirements

are statutes, stable as the everlasting hills.

 

·         LAW IS THE VERITABLE VOICE OF GOD; the manifestation of His

thought; the mirror of His mind. “The Lord spake unto you.” “Out of the

midst of the fire” the flame of holiness and zeal — issues every command.

If man’s moral nature has an open ear, it may often detect the imperial

voice of Heaven. ‘Tis not to sight God reveals Himself, but to the ear. His

messengers are emphatically “a voice.” “Faith comes by hearing.”

 

·         LAW, IN ITS SPHERE, IS PERFECT. Over every work of His hands

God pronounces the verdict “Very good;” and Law, being the instrument

with which He works, is “holy, just, and good.” (Romans 7:12)  For unrighteous

man there may be something more precious than Law; but when restored to God,

Law is His delight. (Psalm 1:2)  In the domain of belief we cannot augment or

diminish God’s Law without self-injury. Perfection cannot be improved upon.

(ibid. ch. 19:7)  In the sphere of practice, to halt short of the line of duty,

or to go beyond the line, is alike an offence. Self-mutilation, or blemish,

is the effect.

 

·         THE VERACITY OF LAW ATTESTED BY ACTUAL EXPERIENCE.

      Every honest minded man may discover whether or not the written Word

embodies a Divine Law. If a genuine Law, its authority is ratified by an

honest conscience; as sanctions, whether of commendation or

curse, are witnessed by every clear-sighted eye. Every truthful man is a

witness that God’s laws (whether written in external nature, in man’s

constitution, or in Scripture)

 

Ø      bring life to the obedient,

Ø      death to the transgressor.

 

Not a Law is revealed in the Scriptures, but it tends to:

 

Ø      righteousness,

Ø      happiness, and

Ø      life!

 

·         DIVINE LAW ASSERTS ITS AUTHORITY OVER THE WHOLE MAN.

 

Ø      Authority over the intellect, for it demands:

o       attention,

o       investigation,

o       comparison, and

o       discrimination.

Ø      Authority over the affections, for it demands:

o       reverence,

o       esteem,

o       choice, and

o       love.

Ø      Authority over the moral faculty; for it demands:

o       assent,

o       response, and

o       loyalty.

 

Ø      Authority over the active powers, for it requires:

o       watchfulness,

o       self-restraint,

o       uninterrupted deference (humble submission), and

o       uncompromising service.

 

·         LAW IS THE PATHWAY TO TRUE EMINENCE. Every successful

application of science to practical life is simply a treading of the pathway of

law. So long as man finds the footprints of God’s Law, he moves onward.

There is no real progress in any department of human life, except along

THE LINE OF GOD’S LAW!   To find that, and to follow it, IS SUCCESS!

This is equally true in the spiritual province. This is the quintessence of

wisdom — the stepping-stone to eminence! What men — what nation —

have ever reached to permanent greatness, save they who have trodden

THE PATH OF DIVINE LAW!

 

·         LOYALTY TO GOD’S LAW BRINGS US NEAR TO GOD. As

when we follow up the footprints of a man rapidly enough, we at length

come up with the man himself; so, as we pursue the pathway of Law, we

come soon without the hallowed precincts of God’s presence. We see the

working of the heavenly machinery, the movements of God’s thought and

purpose. We move with it, and ever come nearer to the central light and

love. It is a narrow path, and few they are who find it.  (Matthew 7:14)

 

·         A SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE IS SELF-PROPAGATING. Like plants

in the garden, every righteous man bears seed after his own kind. Without

formal teaching, the beauty of his life will be a living lesson — the

fragrance of his deeds will be contagious. They who love God’s Law will

be zealous to teach God’s Law, and to commend it to others. A fine trait in

Abraham’s character comes into view when God said, “I know Abraham,

that he will command his children and his household after him.”

(Genesis 18:19)  Every man bequeaths to posterity a large legacy:

 

Ø      of blessing or

Ø      of bane.

 

·         THE LAW OF GOD IS DESTINED TO HAVE PERMANENCE

IN HUMAN LIFE. There was high significance in the fact that the

Decalogue was written, not in rays of light upon the sapphire firmament,

nor in legible characters upon parchment, but on stone. The stone of Sinai

is said to belong to one of the oldest formations — the granite period. The

forms and modes of law may undergo change to meet the growing

necessities of men; but the inner sense — the kernel — of every law still

abides.  Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words

shall not pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35)  All material structure may

undergo radical change — but the words of God can undergo no change.

What is TRUE ONCE is TRUE ALWAYS! What was right a myriad

of ages since, RETAINS ALL ITS AUTHORITY TODAY, AND WILL

BE OBLIGATORY WORLD WITHOUT END!  The sum and substance

of moral law is writ by the finger of God, and graven on the solid rock!

 

14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes

and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go

over to possess it.”

 

 

       

                        Obedience the Secret of Success (vs. 1-14)

 

Moses here reminds Israel of the privilege it possesses as a nation in having

the oracles of God committed unto it (Romans 3:2). He urges

obedience upon them as the one purpose for which they are to be

introduced into the Promised Land. National prosperity depends upon this.

And here we have to notice:

 

·         DISOBEDIENCE HAS ALREADY PROVED FATAL. He recalls the

terrible experience in connection with Baal-peor — how the people in large

numbers became lewd idolaters with the Israelites (Numbers 25), and how

fierce anger from the Lord visited the people. In Canaan they shall be

exposed to similar temptations, but the chastisement at Baal-peor must not

be lost upon them. Past judgments are to secure more complete obedience.

 

·         GOD’S NEARNESS TO THEM SHOULD PROVE A HALLOWING

PRIVILEGE. How gracious is God to dwell among them, always near at

hand to be inquired of, a most serviceable King! He dwelt in their midst as

a Pilgrim with his people. Upon his accessibility and wisdom they could

always calculate. This distinguished Israel from the other nations. Such a

privilege should of itself hallow them, and make them to abide under His

shadow. Equally near is God still to all of us who seek Him.

 

·         HIS LAW IS WISER THAN ALL MAN’S DEVELOPED

LEGISLATION. The surrounding nations had their laws and customs, but

the superiority of the Mosaic code was admitted by all acquainted with it.

It was an immense moral advance for Israel, as great an advance as in that

rude age they could take in. Similarly, the morality of the gospel is ahead

of all jurisprudence. (Something lost on the American Civil Liberties Union,

many members of Congress, many judges in American jurisprudence, and

especially the Supreme Court from 1960 to present, and on much of the

general populace “who love to have it so.”  - Jeremiah 5:31 – CY – 2020)

Indeed, enlightened legislation and reform tend towards the scriptural ideal.

God is wiser than man, and the Bible better than all acts of parliament.

 

·         THE LAW WAS GIVEN AS A RULE OF LIFE FOR A

COVENANT PEOPLE. They were redeemed from bondage, and then

received the Law at Sinai to guide their redeemed lives. Obedience should

be a matter of gratitude for deliverance, and would prove the secret of

success. (“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel walked

in my ways.....” Psalm 81:13-16)  It is so still. “Christ redeems us from the

curse of the Law, being made a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13)  But as grateful and saved people, we feel that we are“under the Law to Christ” (I Corinthians 9:21). And this grateful obedience proves the secret of comfort and success. It is the meat of life to do the wilt of Him who hath sent us, and to finish His work (John 4:34).  Palestine becomes “paradise regained” to the grateful and obedient souls. We find a Promised Land where God’s precepts are gratefully observed by

redeemed souls. It is the attitude within, rather than the circumstances

without, which constitutes life a blessed country and an antepast (a first

course to whet the appetite) of heaven.

 

 

 

                        The Revelation at Horeb (vs. 10-14)

 

A revelation:

 

·         OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF GODS NATURE. “Ye saw no

similitude” (v. 12). A wonderful truth to be impressed on the minds of a

people fresh from contact with the debasing idolatries of Egypt. A truth:

 

Ø      Difficult to grasp.

Ø      Elevating in its influence.

Ø      The apprehension of which is necessary for spiritual worship

(John 4:24).

 

·         OF THE HOLINESS OF GOD’S CHARACTER. The lightnings that

played about the mountain, the fire burning in the midst of it (v. 11), the

fiery law that was given, — all bespoke the awful and terrible holiness of

Him whose voice was uttering words of dreadful import to transgressors.

 

·         OF THE VERITIES OF GOD’S LAW. Then were spoken the ten

commandments (vs. 10, 12) — the sum and substance of moral duty —

the rule of life to believers — the Law which condemns and slays

transgressors. Christ is “the end of the Law of righteousness to every one

that believeth,” and only IN HIM can we escape from its condemning power

(Romans 8:1; 10:4).

 

·         OF THE TERRORS OF GOD’S MAJESTY, God surrounded Himself

with these signs of:

 

Ø      His greatness,

Ø      power,

Ø      wrath, and

Ø      holiness:

 

1. That we may reverence and fear Him.

2. That we may be kept from presumption in our approaches to Him.

3. That we may feel the awfulness of His Word. Recalling this scene, the

    Israelites should have been preserved from ever trifling with it. God’s

    Word should be handled and read with a deep feeling of reverence.

4. These terrors suggested that the Law, in itself considered, is not a

    saving, but a destroying power. The whole manifestation was overcast

    with threatening.

 

As the people had seen no form or figure when God spake to them, so they

were to beware for their very lives (v. 9) of acting corruptly by making any kind

of image, whether of man or of beast, for the purpose of worshipping God as

represented by it; they were also to beware of being so attracted by the splendor

of the heavenly bodies as to be forcibly seduced to worship them and offer them

religious service. They were not in this respect to imitate the heathen; for God,

who had delivered them out of the furnace of Egyptian bondage, had taken them

for Himself to be His special possession; and therefore they were to take heed not to

forget the covenant of Jehovah their God, nor to offend Him by making any

image or representation of Him as the object of worship. Among the

heathen, and especially in Egypt, images were the very pillar and support of

religion; but in Israel, as God had revealed Himself to them without form, it

was as a spirit He was to be worshipped, and not under any outward

representation.

 

15 “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no

manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in

Horeb out of the midst of the fire:  16  Lest ye corrupt yourselves,

and make you a graven image,” -  Graven image (פֶסֶל) carved work

or sculpture, whether of wood, or metal, or stone  - “the similitude of any

figure,” - the form of any idol (סֶמֶל - form, statue, idol) - “the likeness

(figure (תַבְנִית, a building, a model, a form, or figure) of male or female,”

- in apposition to graven image, and illustrative of it.

 

17 “The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any

winged fowl that flieth in the air,  18  The likeness of any thing that

creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters

beneath the earth:” – A warning against the animal-worship of Egypt.

 

We are made for better things than weakly to associate in our minds the

invisible and eternal God with the creatures of sense. Let us give faith proper

scope, and the worship of God will prove both possible and delightful. But the

worship of God through images makes stocks and stones of men.They

that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them”

(Psalm 115:8). May our worship raise us and not degrade us! Superstition

degrades, but worship of the invisible God in the Spirit elevates and ennobles

our souls.  “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true

worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:  for

the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit:  and they

that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”  (John 4:23-24).

 

19 “And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest

the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven,” -

The worship of the heavenly bodies, especially star-worship, prevailed among the

Canaanites and many of the Semitic tribes, but was not confined to them;

the Egyptians also reverenced the sun as Re, the moon as Isis, and the stars

as the symbols of deities. The Israelites were thus, both from past

associations and from what they might encounter in Canaan, exposed to

the danger of being seduced into idolatry - shouldest be driven

to worship them,” – shouldest be urged on, drawn, or constrained

(compare ch.13:13) - “and serve them, which the LORD thy God

hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.”   God had

allotted (ql"j;) to all mankind the heavenly bodies for their advantage

(Genesis 1:14-18; Psalm 104:19; Jeremiah 31:35); it was, therefore, not

competent for any one nation to seek to appropriate them as specially theirs,

and it was absurd for any to offer religious service to objects intended

for the service of man.  

 

  • There is no distinction here between the Hebrews and the other nations

of the earth; “all nations” includes them as well as the heathen.

 

  • Though God permitted the heathen to worship the heavenly bodies, He

never allotted these to men in order that they might worship them.

 

"It noteth God's bounty in giving all people the use of those creatures, and

the base mind of man to worship such things as are given for servants unto

men" (Ainsworth).

 

20 “But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the

iron furnace,” -  furnace for smelting iron is used as a figure of the burning

the torment in Egypt. This reference to the smelting of iron shows that, though

the implements of the ancient Egyptians were mostly of copper, iron must

also have been in extensive use among them. Other references to the use of

iron are to be found in the Pentateuch; see Genesis 4:22; Leviticus 26:19;

Numbers 35:16; ch.3:11; 8:9; 19:5; 27:5  - “even out of Egypt, to be unto

Him a people of inheritance,” – (Exodus 19:4-6;  ch. 7:6) – “as ye are

this day.”  (I recommend Deuteronomy ch.32 v. 9 – God’s Inheritance by

Arthur Pink – this web site - CY – 2012).

 

 

 

                        Israel’s Peculiar Relation to God (vs. 11-20)

 

This paragraph sets forth in earnest appeal the peculiar and distinctive

relation to God in which Israel was placed. (For the precise details of the

point in their history here referred to, see Exodus 19.; and for the

application of several of the expressions used both here and there to

believers in Christ under the Christian dispensation, see I Peter 2:9.)

Here is a noble theme:  Israel’s special relation to God, typical of and

fulfilled in the present relation of Christian people to Him.

 

·         LET US STUDY THE PECULIAR RELATION OF ISRAEL TO

GOD. “The Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron

furnace... to be unto Him a people of inheritance,” i.e. a purchased or

acquired people. So in Exodus 19:5-6. The Lord had called Abraham,

had made promises to him and to his seed. These promises ran down

through Isaac and Jacob and the twelve patriarchs. Now their descendants

had become numerous enough to form a nation; as such they had been duly

constituted, with this peculiar feature — they were to be God’s nation.

They had been freed by Him, they were consecrated to Him, and were being

trained by and for Him. Hence, as Kalisch remarks, every subject is as it

were a priest, and every civil action assumes the sanctity of a religious

function: idolatry was an offence against His sovereignty, and therefore

punishable with death; so blasphemy, false prophecy, Sabbath-breaking,

were visited with the like punishment. Disrespect to elders, disobedience to

parents (they being the representatives of God), were visited with sore

penalties. Hence, too, the whole land belonged to God. The people were

but tenants, and in the year of jubilee land reverted to its former owner or

his heirs. The Israelites were the subjects and servants of God alone.

Slavery, therefore, though not peremptorily put down, was so regulated

that the slave went out free in the seventh year; and if he did not desire the

freedom, he was branded with an ignominious mark because he refused the

immediate sovereignty of God. Now, this expression, “God’s nation,” is

the key wherewith to interpret many of the enactments which seem to us

unintelligible, and many of the punishments which seem unusually severe.

This truth, that Israel is the Lord’s people, runs through the Old Testament

Scriptures, as will be seen if we note the varied names by which they are

distinguished.

 

1. God’s son, His firstborn (Exodus 4:22-23; Jeremiah 3:4, 9; Hosea 11:1).

2. Firstfruits (Jeremiah 2:3).

3. The people of God (Psalm 81:8-11; II Samuel 7:23-24).

4. God’s inheritance (ch. 32:9).

5. The people (ch. 33:29).

6. The chosen ones (Psalm 33:12; here, ch.7:6).

7. His flock (Jeremiah 13:17; Psalm 100:3).

8. The holy people (ch. 7:6).

9. The righteous people (Numbers 23:10; Exodus 19:6).

10. The house or the family of God (Isaiah 1:2).

11. A kingdom (Psalm 89:18).

 

Thus all Israelites were subjects of the same eternal, perfect King, all equal

in dignity, rights, and duties. There was among them no institution

resembling caste. All were equal in Heaven’s eye; all enjoyed scope for the

development of their spiritual nature. The poorest herdsman might become

a prophet, if filled with the Spirit of God. And the intended differential

feature of the whole nation was given to it by the revealed character of its

King, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” It is no wonder that a people, selected

thus for such a close relationship to God, should be called in the text, “a

people of inheritance.” Not, indeed, in Israel alone, was there a theocratic

form of government. The kings of Egypt, the monarchs of Persia and

Thibet, pretended to rule as the representatives of the gods. Minos among

the Cretans, Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian, Numa of Rome, and

Mohammed, all pretended to have in some sort Divine authority; but these

were only the mimicry of the true, and were all lacking in the supreme

point to and for which Jehovah was educating Israel, even for

“righteousness and true holiness.” It is easy enough to win converts by a

certain mimicry of the Divine. The early history of many a nation is laden

with mythology, but the early history of Israel stands out in clear and

startling distinction from that of other peoples, in the clearness with which

they witness for the one living and true God, the accordance of their early

records with known life and manners, and the clear and striking demand in

their precepts for love and goodness, holiness and truth. This was at the

time, and ever will be in the history of that age, the one bright spot amid

the surrounding gloom. The people were “a peculiar treasure to God above

all people.”

 

·         WHAT ISRAEL WAS DESIGNED TO BE AMONG THE

NATIONS, CHRISTIAN PEOPLE ARE TO BE WHEREVER THEY

ARE: a holy people unto the Lord their God. The Apostle Peter intimates

this in the verse to which we referred at the outset (I Peter 2:9; see also

Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10; I Peter 1:15-16). There are many more passages in

which believers are spoken of not only individually but collectively, as

making up a family, a household, a city, a commonwealth (Ephesians

2:12, 19; Philippians 3:20, Greek). And there are four features which

mark this new commonwealth, which correspond to those which marked

that of the Hebrews.

 

Ø      The members of this Christian commonwealth are redeemed (compare

      I Peter 1:18, 19). From the curse of the Law, from the bondage of sin,

believers have been redeemed by an offering of unspeakable value, even

THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST!

 

Ø      Thus redeemed, they come to have such a knowledge of God as their

God as the world has not and cannot have (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7).

They are redeemed out of a state of servitude into a state of sonship

(compare John 8:34-36).

 

Ø      They are redeemed to A LIFE OF CLOSE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD!

(compare v. 7; I John 1:1-3). They are at home IN GOD!

 

Ø      They are redeemed to this close fellowship with God, that thereby they

may become pure; and that in this life of purity they may “show forth the

praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into HIS MARVELOUS

LIGHT!”  (I Peter 2;9)  Not one of these four stages must be lost sight of.

Redeemed:

 

o        out of sin and servitude,

o        into sonship,

o        into fellowship,

o        for holiness.

 

Not one of these features must be left out; nor can the order in which we

have put them be reversed or even transposed. The only mark by which the

world can know God’s people is their holiness (Hebrews 12:14). It is not

for naught that Scripture speaks of A GREAT REDEMPTION!   And no

preacher preaches the gospel fully, who does not insist on:

 

o        its side of ethics, as well as on

o        its side of grace.

 

And no professing Christian is worthy of the name he bears, who loses

sight of holiness as the end to be attained, any more than he would be

if he were to lose sight of the grace of God as that by which alone he can

attain the end. How many of the controversies in the Church of God have

arisen from an unequal perception of the varied truths of God’s holy

gospel! Out of an inadequate view of the evil of sin and of its affront to

God’s honor and government, many have felt but feebly the need of the

Great Atoning Sacrifice, whereby the injured honor of the Law was

vindicated and a redemption for man made possible! And then, on the other

hand, through dwelling all but exclusively on the evil from which man is

rescued, others have failed to insist sufficiently on the holiness for the sake

of enabling him to attain which his rescue was effected AT SUCH A COST!

Perhaps few preachers present in perfection an exactly balanced gospel. It

is a doctrine according to godliness. Some decry doctrine because they see

around them such a lack of godliness. But if we would have the godliness

which is to illustrate the doctrine, we shall never secure the end by

weakening the exhibition of the doctrine which, rightly used, will certainly

lead to it. And not only do preachers need to take heed to both doctrine

and practice, but private professors also. If we want the world to

understand the value of the Christian religion as an object of revelation, we

must show its power in a holy, personal life. If we want others to believe

its doctrines to be superior to any other doctrines, we must show that the

life it secures is superior to any other life. Thus must we be, like Israel, a

peculiar people; showing to others that we have not been redeemed in vain.

Be it ours to let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good

works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)  Thus

shall we show we are His people indeed.

 

 Moses, after again referring to his being not permitted to enter Canaan, takes

occasion anew to warn the people against forgetting the covenant of Jehovah and

making any image of God, seeing He is a jealous God, and a consuming fire.

 

 

                        Warning against Heathenish Idolatry (vs. 15-20)

 

·         THE ORIGIN OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY. The result of a

“corruption” (v. 16). Not a stage in the advance upwards from fetishism,

etc.; but, as inquiries are tending more and more to show, the consequence:

 

1. Of a depravation of the idea of God.

2. Of a corruption of the worship of God.

3. Arising in turn from the substitution of the creature for God in

    the affections (compare Romans 1:20-26).

 

·         THE FORMS OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY.

 

1. Hero-worship (v. 16).

2. Animal-worship (vs. 17-18).

3. Nature-worship (v. 19).

 

Greek idolatry furnishes conspicuous instances of the first; Egypt was

notorious for the second, so Hinduism; while Parseeism, and the early

Vedic worship illustrates the third (compare Job 31:21).

 

·         THE FRUITS OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY.

 

1. A degraded intellect.

2. Degraded affections.

3. Degraded morals (Romans 1:20-32).

 

Therefore Israel must not “corrupt” themselves.

 

 

 

                                    The Iron Furnace (v. 20)

 

God had passed His people through a hot furnace in the terrible sufferings

they endured in Egypt, but with the gracious purpose of ultimately

delivering them, and giving them an inheritance in Canaan. We learn:

 

·         THAT GOD’S PEOPLE ARE SOMETIMES SUBJECTED TO

SUFFERINGS OF INCREDIBLE SEVERITY. The expression an ‘iron

furnace,” i.e. a furnace for smelting iron, conveys no weaker an idea. We

know that in fact it sometimes is so. Bodily anguish — mental anguish —

stroke after stroke of heaviest trial. An instance in the history of Job

shakes faith to its foundations — seems to argue that God has utterly

forsaken them.

 

·         THAT THESE SUFFERINGS ARE APPOINTED, AND SERVE

DISCIPLINARY ENDS. The use of the figure of a furnace implies a

purpose in the sufferings. Iron is put into the furnace deliberately, and with

a design. Trials, difficult enough to bear in the faith that God sends them,

would ofttimes be absolutely intolerable without that faith. The furnace

acts on the tough, hard, impure iron to separate it from dross, and make it

soft and workable. The severe sufferings through which God passes

believers:

 

Ø      Purify character.

Ø      Make the nature pliable to God’s will, and subdue it to

meekness.

Ø      Fit the man thus sanctified for new and higher uses.

 

·         GOD HAS AN INHERITANCE IN STORE FOR THOSE WHO

ENDURE THE FURNACE SUCCESSFULLY.

 

Ø      Their sufferings fit them to be God’s inheritance. “To be unto him a

people of inheritance.” He has to melt, mold, and spiritually prepare for His own indwelling those whom He chooses.  (I recommend Deuteronomy ch 32 v 9 – God’s Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this website CY – 2020)

 

Ø      Their sufferings fit them for the inheritance which God gives them

(I Peter 1:3-10) by:

 

o       creating a pure, chastened, heavenly disposition,

o       strengthening faith, brightening hope, and increasing love,

o       subduing pride, rebellion, and impatience; and

o       making the will absolutely pliant in the hands of the Divine.

 

21 “Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and

sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in

unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an

inheritance:”  Neither in Numbers 20:12, nor (Ibid. 27:12-14, is there any

mention of God’s having sworn that Moses should not enter Canaan with the

people; but it is absurd to suppose, as some have done, that the writer here has

confounded this with what is recorded in Ibid. 14:21, 28, — that is

inconceivable; and it certainly does not follow, because no mention is made

in Numbers of God’s having sworn, that He did not swear on this occasion;

if He confirmed with an oath His decree that the generation that rebelled at

Kadesh should not enter Canaan, the probability surely is that He would do

the same when He announced to Moses the decree that he should not

conduct Israel into the promised laud. Obviously, from ch. 3:23-28, not all

the details are given in the historical account of the event referred to”.

 

22 “But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall

go over, and possess that good land.  23 Take heed unto yourselves,

lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which He made with

you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing,” - literally,

a graven (sculptured) image of a form of all that Jehovah thy God hath

 commanded thee;  (compare chps. 16-18 and ch. 2:37) -“which the LORD

thy God hath forbidden thee. 24  For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire,”

 When God spoke to Israel at Sinai, His glory appeared “like devouring (consuming)

fire on the top of the mount” (Exodus 24:17); and in allusion to this Moses here

calls God “a consuming fire.” He is so to all His enemies, and to all who disobey Him;

by severe inflictions He will punish, and, if they persist in their hostility and rebellion,

will ultimately destroy them (compare ch.9:3; Isaiah 10:16-18; Amos 5:6; Zephaniah

1:18; Hebrews 12:29) - “even a jealous God.” Septuagint., Θεὸς ζηλωτής Theos

zaelotaesa jealous God.  God has a burning zeal for His own glory; He guards it with

jealous care; and He will not spare those who do Him dishonor, especially those who

are guilty of idolatry, whereby they “change the truth of God into a lie” (Romans 1:25;

compare Exodus 20:5; ch.6:14-15; 32:16; Psalm 78:58; Nahum 1:2). He is jealous also

over His people, because He loves them, and will not endure any rival in their

 affection  and devotion.

 

 

 

 

                        The Divine Jealousy of Graven Images (15-24)

 

The great temptation of Israel was to idolatry. Images were worshipped by

all those nations among whom they came, and they were in constant danger

of conforming to the sinful practice. Hence this warning and statement

about the Divine jealousy. Let us observe:

 

·         THAT JEALOUSY PRESUPPOSES LOVE. Love must be strong as

death, else jealousy will not be cruel as the grave; nor will its coals prove

coals of fire, having a most vehement flame (Song of Solomon 8:6).

The God who proves so jealous is He whose essence is love. If God did not

love men so much, He would not be so jealous when they turn away from

Him. He knows that, as a wife cannot be happy separated from her loving

husband, no more can the human spirit be, AWAY FROM HIM!   Israel then

and we now have to deal with A GOD OF LOVE!

 

·         GOD IS JEALOUS WHEN MEN GIVE HIM VISIBILITY. Idolatry

is trying to help worship through the aid of the senses. The image is not

regarded as the god, but His likeness. Man embodies his ideas of God in

outward forms. But imagination is not creative; it combines in new

relations what has already been given to it. Hence idolatry has never done

more than place the creatures, whether beast, or bird, or fish, or reptile, or

the heavenly bodies, in new relations to THE INVISIBLE DEITY!

God resents this visibility as degradation. He knows that man becomes

degraded by such associations. Hence His deserved wrath against idolatry.

 

·         IF GOD BE NOT OUR KINDLING FLAME, HE WILL IN

JEALOUSY BE OUR CONSUMING FIRE. It is at the torch of the Divine

that the human soul becomes enkindled. The flaming fires of Pentecost

sublimate the soul and fit it for primeval powers. It is this warning,

elevating influence that is love’s natural action. But when rebellious man

turns the grace of God into lasciviousness; when love is ignored instead of

returned, and the soul seeks in the things of sense WHAT ONLY GOD CAN

GIVE — then love begins to burn as jealousy with a vehement, consuming flame.

 

·         IT BECOMES US CONSEQUENTLY TO WORSHIP GOD IN THE

SPIRIT. We must keep upon the serene heights of faith, and not fall into

the degradation of superstition. We are made for better things than weakly

to associate in our minds THE INVISIBLE AND ETERNAL GOD  with the creatures of sense. Let us give faith proper scope, and the worship of God will prove both possible and delightful. But the worship of God through images

makes stocks and stones of men. “They that make them are like unto them;

so is every one that trusteth in them” (Psalm 115:8). May our worship

raise us and not degrade us! Superstition degrades, but worship of the

invisible God in the Spirit elevates and ennobles our souls.

 

 

 

                                    God a Consuming Fire (vs. 21-24)

 

“The Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” This is no

obsolete sentence. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it, and

urges the truth it expresses as a reason for serving God “with reverence

and godly fear; for,” he adds, even “our God is a consuming fire.” Perhaps

the first impression which these words would convey to the earnest and

thoughtful mind would be that of terror. Perhaps, too, some may even

almost shudder at such a representation of God, and may at once declare

that it belongs to a past age, and to a decaying order of ideas. But others

who are more cautious would be likely to say, “We must be quite sure that

we understand the phrase before we say that.” Doubtless we say with

pleasure, “God is light,” “God is love,” but who can delight in saying,

“God is fire?” Is it possible that any one can go even further, and delight in

saying, “Our God — the God who is in covenant relation to us — is a

consuming fire”? Does not the phrase act as a repellent force, and inspire

one with dread? No doubt it may have that effect in many cases, specially if

men have carelessly fastened on one aspect of things, or where they have

been misled by a popular misquotation, “God out of Christ is a consuming

fire.” For whatever the phrase means, it is just as true that God in Christ is

a consuming fire, as that God out of Christ is so. The phrase is one which

should be thoughtfully and devoutly studied in the general light of

Scripture teaching, in order that in God’s light we may see light. It may be,

if thus we try to feel our way to its meaning, that it opens up views of God

with which we would not willingly part.

 

·         WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE IN THE TEXT? It

must have often struck an attentive reader of the Bible how frequently the

figure of “fire” is found therein, both in connection with man’s offerings to

God, and with God’s manifestations of Himself to man (compare Genesis

3:24; 8:20; 15:17; Exodus chapters 3 and 19; Isaiah chapter 4; 31:9). Now,

whatever may be the attribute of God here set forth under the figure of fire,

it, like all God’s attributes, must he twofold in its action in a sinful world.

The action of fire is according to the object on which it acts.

 

Ø      There is a terrific action of fire.

 

o        It tries what is bad (I Corinthians 3:13).

o        It consumes (Leviticus 10:2).

o        It appalls (Numbers 11:1-3; Isaiah 33:14).

o        It destroys (II Kings 1:12; Luke 3:17; John 15:6; Hebrews 6:8).

 

Ø      There is a kindly action of flame.

 

o        It enkindles (Leviticus 9:24).

o        It tries (I Peter 1:7; Isaiah 48:10).

o        It purifies (Psalm 12:6).

o        It guards (Zechariah 2:5; II Kings 6:17; here ch. 9:3).

o        It escorts (II Kings 2:11).

o        It guides (Exodus 40:38).

o        It enlightens (Psalm 78:14).

o        It is as a pavilion of glory (Exodus 3:2; Isaiah 33:14-17).

 

Now, widely different as is the action or the meaning of flaming

fire from heaven in all these cases, the difference is not in the flame, but in

the material on which it acts. The same fire that melts the wax will bake the

clay. So the very same attribute of God in which the righteous may glory

will be a terror to His enemies.

 

Ø      Fire, when spoken of in reference to God, is an emblem of:

 

o        Purity. In Exodus 3:2-5, God would signify that in His redeeming

love He, the holy God, would dwell with men, and that men might

dwell in the midst of His blazing holiness, and yet be perfectly

at home.

o        Power (ch. 9:3; 7:8). Power exerting itself on behalf of those who

      love Him.

o        Jealousy (here, vs. 23-24).

o        Anger (ch. 6:15). Thus there are these four conceptions to be attached

      to the use of the phrase “a consuming fire,” viz.:

 

§         a pavilion of purity in which Israel might dwell unharmed;

§         a jealousy which could brook no rival;

§         an anger which would go forth against sin;

§         a power which would guard its own as with tongues, yea,

      with walls of flame.

 

Ø      But we may take another step, and reduce this fourfold conception to a

twofold one. There is anger against sin because of spotless purity. There is

jealousy which will brook no rival, and a power, that will guard its own

because of intensest love. Thus the consuming fire is purity, in which

righteousness may dwell, and in which sin is consumed; and love, which is

mighty in its active care, and jealous of any rival in the human heart.

 

Ø      We may simplify yet again, and reduce the twofold conception to a

unity, and say that God is a consuming fire, inasmuch as He is perfect love

— pure love, active love, jealous love; so that our text is but another way

of saying, “God is light, God is love.” Let us now:

 

·         LOOK AT THESE THREE FORMS OF THE EXPRESSION

“PERFECT LOVE,” AND SEE WHAT THEY INVOLVE.

 

Ø      Pure love. God is a flaming fire of infinite purity, and yet a burning flame

of tenderest love. He receives the sinner on a basis of righteousness. He

makes men who are in covenant relation to Him perfectly pure. They are to

be tried and purified and made white, till they are without fault before the

throne of God. Would we have it otherwise? God’s love without its purity

would be worthless to us!

 

Ø      Active love. God castles his saints in a wall of fire (Isaiah 4:6), while

He also destroys their foes as with a tongue of fire.

 

Ø      Jealous love. There is a hateful jealousy. There is a rightful one. The

first it would be unworthy of a man to possess; the second, a man would be

unworthy of himself if he did not. A father would be worth little if he were

not jealous for the purity of his child; so would a husband if not jealous for

the honor of his wife; or an Englishman, if not jealous for the honor of his

queen! Even so, it would be unworthy of God if He were not jealous, in the

scriptural sense. Note:

 

o        God’s love is jealous for the first place in our hearts.

o        God is jealous for His own purity, holiness, and truth.

o        He is jealous for the honor of His Son.

 

He will not let one be lost who receives Him, nor will He let one be saved

who trifles with Him. To go against CHRIST is to rush into the consuming

flame!

 

·         WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL USES TO BE MADE OF THIS

SUBLIME ATTRIBUTE OF GOD? (See the use made of it in the Epistle

to the Hebrews, Deuteronomy 12:29-32).

 

Ø      Is God thus a consuming fire? Then let us never attempt to draw nigh

unto Him without a recognition both of His purity and of our sinfulness. No

service is accepted before God which does not take account of sin, and in

connection with which there is not “reverence and godly fear.” 

(Hebrews 12:28)

 

Ø      Do not let us think of any mode of recognition of sin which ignores

God’s own way, viz. THAT OF AN ATONING SACRIFICE! . God will

jealously guard the honor of His dear Son. “If they escaped not who

refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape,

if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven.”  (ibid. v. 25)

 

 

Ø      If thus we are penitently making use of the atoning sacrifice of Christ as

our only means of approach to and ground of hope in God, then let us

glory in this holy, jealous love, which guards us as with a wall of fire, and

is our everlasting guarantee that we shall not be put to shame.

 

Ø      Let us remember that it depends on ourselves whether the “consuming

fire” is a flame at which we tremble, or a pavilion in which we can hide.

God cannot deny Himself. (II Timothy 2:13)  He will not deal with the

sinner on any principle which ignores the great atonement which His Son

has effected, or which admits of His accepting the service of a divided heart.

It is for us to say whether the great redeeming work of Jesus shall be the

means by which we are raised to fellowship in infinite holiness, or whether

it shall be to us the savor of death unto death. (II Corinthians 2:15-16)

It must be one or the other. If we receive it, it will bring us to eternal rest

in God; if we reject it, it will deepen our condemnation more terribly

than if no Savior had been provided! Our God is a consuming fire.

 

o        If, in Jesus, we draw near to Him, that burning, blazing holiness

      shall be the secret place of His tabernacle in which we are safely

hidden.  (“For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His

pavillion:  in the secret of His tabernacle shall he hide me, He

shall set me upon a rock.”  Psalm 27:5)

 

o        If we neglect this great salvation, as men unpardoned and unsaved,

we shall remain, and at the flame of Jehovah’s purity we shall

tremble forever! Sinner, shall this fire of God’s perfect love

surround you ever as a wall of protection, or shall it terrify

and consume you as devouring flame?

 

Moses enforces the warning against idolatry, by predicting the evil that should come

upon the nation through the apostasy of those who should in after times turn from

Jehovah to strange gods. When they should have begotten children and children’s

children, and had been long in the land, i.e. when in after years a generation should

arise that had not known the things they had seen, or had forgotten them (v. 9), and

the nation should then become wanton and corrupt, and fall into idolatry

ch. 6:10-12; 8:7-20; 31:20-21; 32:15; Hosea 13:6-9); then should they utterly

 perish from off the land of which they were now about to take possession.

 

25 “When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye

shall have remained long in the land,” - literally, have become old,

an ancient nation -  . “and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven

image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the

LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:” -  i.e. so as that He should be

displeased and grieved, and roused to punish.

 

26 “I call heaven and earth to witness” -  Moses speaks in the name of the Lord

of all, and so calls to witness the whole created universe to attest his words; the

heavens and earth are witnesses for God, and when evil comes on those who

transgress his Law, they declare His righteousness (Psalm 50:4, 6), in that what

has  befallen the sinner is only WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED BEFORE

HAND AS THE PENALTY OF THE TRANSGRESSION - “against you this

day, that ye shall soon” -  hastily (מַהֵר), without delay (compare ch.7:4, 22

[“at once,” Authorized Version]; 9:3 [“quickly”], 12, 16). “utterly perish from

off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong

your days” - usually equal to have a long life (ch. 5:16; 6:2; 11:9; 17:20); here it

means“continue long to occupy.” Only as they continued faithful to Jehovah could

 they continue as a people to possess the land; severed from Him, they

lost their title to occupy Canaan, and ceased to be His special people; as a

nation they would be destroyed by being scattered among other nations.

From Leviticus 26:33, and ch. 28:64, it is evident that the author had in view all the

dispersions which would come upon the rebellious nation in future times, even

down to the dispersion under the Romans, which continues still; so that Moses

contemplated the punishment in its fullest extent - “upon it, but shall utterly be

destroyed.”

 

27 “And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be

left few in number” - literally, men of number, i.e. that may be counted; few as

compared with the heathen among whom they should be dispersed (Genesis 34:30) -  

“among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.”  The verb here (נִהֵג,

Piel of נָהַג) is frequently used in the sense of conducting gently and kindly

(Isaiah 49:10; 63:14; Psalm 48:14; 78:52); but it also means to drive, to carry off,

to convey forcibly (Exodus 10:13; 14:25; Genesis 31:26; Psalm 78:26); the

connection shows that it is in the latter sense it is to be taken here. Dispersed among

the heathen, they, who had dishonored God by making an image to represent

Him,  should be compelled to do service to mere dead idols, the work of men’s

 hands, which not only could not hear or see, as God can, but also could

not-perform even such animal functions as eating and smelling (Psalm

115:4-7; Jeremiah 10:3-9). These idols are called “gods” by Moses,

because they were so counted by those who worshipped them; elsewhere

he stigmatizes them as “abominations,” things to be loathed and abhorred

(שִׁקּוּצִים,, ch. 27:15; 29:17). As had been their sin, so should be their punishment;

as they had dishonored God, so should they be themselves dishonored; as they

had worshipped by an image Him who is spirit and without form, they should

be made to sink down to an utterly materialized worship, that of mere idols, the

work of men’s hands; as they had apostatized from the one holy and true God,

they should be degraded to become the servants of abominations, objects of loathing

and abhorrence (Jeremiah 16:13; Acts 7:42). God, however, would not utterly cast

them off: if, in their misery and degradation, they should repent and turn

again to Him and seek Him sincerely and earnestly, they should find Him; for

He is a merciful God, and mindful of the covenant which He sware unto

their fathers (Leviticus 26:39).

 

28 “And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and

stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.”

 

 

 

                                    The Curse of Idolatry (vs. 1-28)

 

Idolatry is the general bias of fallen humanity, the perversion of an innate

principle, the misgrowth of the religious instinct. Men everywhere “feel

after God, if haply they may find Him [though He be not far from every

one of us!] (Acts 17:27)  Absolute atheism cannot long

endure anywhere. If men reject a personal Deity, they invent an inferior

God, and practically worship that. The wildest atheist which the world has

seen, must admit that there is some power or force in the world superior to

himself. There is no resting-place for reason, short of a spiritual God.

 

·         IDOLATRY WAS THE PREVALENT DANGER OF THE

PATRIARCHAL AGE. During the childhood of men, they are under the

domination of the bodily senses. They demand a god whom they can see

and handle and hear. The kindred of Abraham were addicted to idolatry.

The wife of Jacob furtively abstracted the teraphim of her father, and held

them in a measure of reverence. Even Moses yearned for a visible Deity. “I

beseech thee, show me thy glory!”  (Exodus 33:18)  The absence of Moses

from the camp for forty days sufficed for the people to relapse into idolatry.

Throughout their history, every decline in religious feeling showed itself in

a fresh lapse towards idolatry.

 

·         IDOLATRY GROSSLY CORRUPTS ITS VOTARIES. The object

which is at first selected to be a symbol of the Deity, soon detains on itself

the homage of the worshipper, and becomes his Deity. Matter is at the

the direct opposite from spirit. The laws and forces working in material nature

may help us to understand the Divine Being, but matter itself NEVER!

Apart from a written revelation, we best rise to the knowledge of God

through the contemplation of our own minds and consciences. The object

of our worship molds us after itself. The worshipper of beasts BECOMES

BESTIAL.   (II Peter 2:12)  “They that make them become like unto them.”

(Psalm 115:8; 135:18) This is God’s law.

 

·         MATERIAL IMAGES DEGRADE THE GODHEAD. For God is a

Spirit, and cannot be represented by material images. For matter can

convey no impressions of omnipresence, or of eternity, or of moral

qualities, or of emotions, affections, or joys! Representation by material

images strips our God of all that is noblest in His nature, all that is

distinctive in the Godhead. It cloaks HIS PERFECTIONS and eclipses

HIS GLORY!

 

·         IDOLATRY ANNULLED THE COVENANT BETWEEN GOD

AND ISRAEL. That gracious compact required upon the part of the

Israelites the honest recognition and worship of the One Jehovah.

Unfaithfulness on this vital point invalidated the entire covenant; God had

pledged Himself specially to be their God, on condition that they were His

loyal people. All the resources of God’s kingdom were pledged to Israel in

that covenant. It was an act of mercy that God should bind Himself in any

form to His creatures, and this superabundant grace ought to have held

their homage by closest and tenderest ties. His part of the covenant, God

had conspicuously observed in the release of Hs people from the “iron

furnace” of bondage.  Was not every sign and wonder wrought in Egypt

a fresh seal upon the heavenly bond? This covenant, between a gracious

God and undeserving men, idolatry destroyed.

 

·         OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS DESIGNED AS A REGULATIVE

FORCE. There are limitations to our knowledge of God imposed by our

constitution, and further limitations imposed by our sin. These latter can be

removed at once by the redemptive power of Christ; and the first named

shall gradually be relaxed in the resurrection state. Fire does not represent

God, except so far as it consumes, and this illustration is meant to check

our presumption; ‘tis not for the satisfaction of a curious intellect, but to

restrain a wayward life. Knowledge of God, which is honestly reduced to

practice, becomes larger and clearer knowledge. “Then shall we know if

we follow on to know the Lord.” (Hosea 6:3)

 

·         INIQUITY BECOMES ITS OWN PUNISHMENT. Throughout the

Scriptures this doctrine is taught, that sin ripens and culminates in

punishment. The penalty threatened upon the idolatry of the Jews was this,

that they should be driven into a heathen land, and be compelled to serve

the senseless blocks of wood and stone.  The Jews in after time were wont to

say that never any trouble came upon them without and ounce of the gold

dust of the golden calf in it!  The punishment of avarice is this,

that the sensibilities become as hard as gold. The penalty of drunkenness is

this, that the morbid appetite grows into an uncontrollable passion! The

voice of doom says, He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”  (Revelation

22:11) 

 

·         PRESENT PUNISHMENTS ARE THE TYPE OF FUTURE

PUNISHMENTS. The penalty to be imposed on the Jews for disloyalty,

was banishment from Canaan — defeat, scattering, death. So the final

penalties revealed for reprobate men are exclusion from the heavenly

Canaan; banishment to the darkness they have preferred; utter destruction.

Each man “goes to his own place.”  (Acts 1:25)

 

·         SUFFERING FOR OTHERS, A PATHWAY TO HUMAN

HEARTS. In connection with these fatherly counsels, Moses again reminds

the people of his privation on account of their sins. The blame of his

exclusion from Canaan he attributes to them. He who aforetime had prayed

that, for the sake of Israel, his own name might be blotted out of God’s

book, now submits to this chastisement for the people’s good. But Moses

would not throw away the advantage which this fact might bring. In his

desire for the people’s good, he converts it into a persuasive argument, by

which to confirm their loyalty to God. As if, should every other appeal fail,

this appeal to their sensibility might succeed. It is as if he had said,

“Remember what I am called to endure for you! Let your requital be

unswerving obedience to my God.” Here he serves as a feeble type of

Jesus.

 

29  But if from thence

thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him

with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” As true religion consists in LOVING

THE LORD WITH ALL THE HEART AND SOUL, THE WHOLE

INNER NATURE (ch. 6:5; 10:12), so true repentance consists in a

turning from sin and all ungodliness to God, in a coming from a state of

enmity to Him, or of indifference to His claims, to honor, reverence, and

serve Him intelligently and sincerely, thinking of Him aright, adoring His

perfections, delighting in Him as the alone good, giving to Him that honor

which is His due, and doing His will from the heart (II Chronicles 15:15).

When men have apostatized from God, it is often by means of

“tribulation” that they are brought to a right state of mind towards Him,

and to a true repentance “not to be repented of;” and to effect this is the

design of all the chastisements which God sends on His own people

(Hebrews 12:5-11; Jeremiah 24:7; 29:10-13; 50:4; Ezekiel 6:11).

 

30 “When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon

thee, even in the latter days,” - in the afterward of days (בְּאַחֲריִת הַיָּמִים;

“end,” – ch.11:12) - a phase used sometimes to designate the times of the Messiah

(Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; compare Acts 2:17; I Peter 1:20; Hebrews 1:1; I John 2:18);

but here, as generally, it simply indicates futurity, the time to come (Genesis 49:1;

Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:29). This, however, may include the far distant future,

and so points to the time when Israel shall finally return to the Lord and be saved,

through the acknowledgment of Him whom they despised and rejected when He came

as the Messiah promised to the fathers. As Paul grounds the assurance of the final

redemption of Israel, as a whole, on their calling of God (Romans 11:26-29), so

Moses here sees in God’s covenant the ground of the ever-watchful care and

grace of God to Israel, and the security of their final restoration as a nation.

“if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto His voice;”

 

31  (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake

thee,” literally, will not let thee loose, will not lose hold of thee, will not cast thee

off (compare Romans 11:1) -“neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant

of thy fathers which He swear unto them.”  "Israel will return and find God,

because he loses not hold of it" (Herxheimer). "The sinner will incline to seek

God only when he apprehends Him as gracious and ready to hear" (Calvin).

 

 

              

                        Judgment Leading to Mercy (vs. 25-31)

 

After stating the fact of God’s jealousy in the matter of graven images,

Moses goes on as a prophet to declare that, if they corrupt themselves in

this way in Canaan, the result will be their destruction and dispersion. But

in dispersion, if they turn with all their hearts to God (v. 29), they shall

find Him and be restored. God is merciful as well as jealous (v. 31). The

following thoughts are suggested:

 

·         JUDGMENT IS WITH A VIEW TO AMENDMENT. Of course, the

incorrigible stage may eventually be reached. But until this spirit is

manifested, judgment is remedial. The dealings of God with Israel, as we

know from the history, were in hope of national amendment. Defeat at the

hand of their enemies, exile in Babylon, and all the severe dispensations

were to bring them to their senses and lead them to return to God.

Judgment, in fact, is first the servant of mercy.

 

·         TRIBULATION SHOULD AT ONCE LEAD US TO HEARTSEARCHING.

It is not an infallible sign of special sin, as the case of Job proves. But the probabilities are in favor of supposing that some special sin has called for special sorrow. Let self-examination, then, be the rule in the midst of all our tribulations. God is calling us in trumpet-tones to return to His embrace.

 

·         MERCY FINDS IN TROUBLE A SPLENDID SPHERE. The riches

of God’s grace and mercy can be displayed only in the permitted

extremities of human experience. Tribulation, exile, the bitterness which no

earthly intermeddling can relieve, are so many worlds into which mercy

enters to assert its power and to reign. The permission of evil has here the

only explanation which the present life allows. We shall learn more

afterwards, but meanwhile this is all we can learn here.

 

·         THE MERCIFUL ONE COUNSELS SOULS TO RETURN AT

ONCE TO COVENANT RELATIONS. A loving God is jealous of the

defections of His people — hence the judgment and the tribulation. But in

mercy He counsels return, and promises to receive them into covenant

relationship again. Here alone can we have peace and satisfaction of a

permanent character. Outside the covenant there can be no real comfort or

joy. In covenant relations with God, there is a charmed circle, and peace

passing all understanding. As Israel returned after the exile, may we return

from our backslidings to the consolations of the covenant again!

 

Still more to enforce his warning against apostasy, and urge to obedience and

faithful adherence to the service of Jehovah, in vs. 32-40, Moses appeals to

what they had already experienced of God’s grace in the choosing of them to be

His people, in His speaking to them to instruct them, and in the miracles which He

had wrought for their deliverance and guidance; grace such as had never been

showed before to any nation, or heard of since the creation of the world, and by

which those who had experienced it were laid under the deepest obligations of

gratitude and duty, to love and serve Him by whom it had been showed. With

this appeal he closes his first address.

 

32 “For” - This connects the statement that fellows with that which precedes as

its cause; it is because Jehovah is a merciful God, that the unparalleled grace

showed to Israel had been displayed - “ask now of the days that are past,” - 

i.e. inquire from the earliest time of man’s abode on the earth -  “which were

before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask

from the one side of heaven unto the other,” -  search the records of all

times and places, whether any so great a thing has ever happened or been

heard of - “whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is,

or hath been heard like it?”

 

 

National Backsliding (vs. 23-32)

 

The history of the Jews is an unanswerable argument in favor of the truth of

prophecy and the reality of Divine revelation. The singularity of that history is such

as can only be fully accounted for on the idea of a supernatural Providence

interesting itself in their fortunes; but the strangest fact is in that, their own sacred

books, this wonderful history is predicted with minute precision. The Book

of Deuteronomy furnishes a series of these predictions, the extraordinary character

of which is not removed by any date to which the book may be assigned. We may

read this passage first as a prophecy, then as a warning.

 

  • A PROPHECY. It does not, as several later passages do, put the

backsliding of the Jews hypothetically, but states the fact plainly that they

will backslide — takes it for granted (v. 25). There is a prediction:

 

Ø      Of national apostasy. The whole history of Israel, beginning with the

time of the judges (Judges 2:19), is a commentary on this statement.

 

Ø      Of national rejection (vs. 26-29). How remarkably has this

testimony been fulfilled in the rooting out of both Judah and Israel

from their own land; in their scattering throughout the nations, in

every region and country under heaven; in their preservation amidst

all vicissitudes as a distinct people; in the conformity to alien worships,

customs, and beliefs, to which they have so often been compelled;

in the miseries and indignities which they have endured! Surely we

are entitled to ask from the unbeliever that he should give us, when

rejecting revelation, some satisfactory explanation of these coincidences.

 

Ø      Of national repentance (vs. 29-32; compare ch.30.). Though yet

unfulfilled, there can be little doubt in the minds of any who study past

fulfillments, that this prophecy of the repentance of Israel will in

God’s good time receive its accomplishment also (Zechariah 12:10;

Romans 11:26; Isaiah 66:8-9).

 

  • A WARNING. We learn the truths:

 

Ø      That backsliding is possible from a state of high attainment.

Ø      That backsliding is commonly of gradual development (v. 25).

Ø      That backsliding may assume very aggravated forms.

Ø      That backsliding exposes to severe punishment from God. But,

finally, and for our encouragement:

Ø      That backsliding, if repented of, will be graciously forgiven.

 

 

33 “Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the

fire, as thou hast heard, and live?” (Compare  v. 12; v, 22-26; Genesis 16:13.)

 

34 Or hath God assayed” - hath He ever made the attempt to come on the earth

and take a nation from the midst of a nation, as he took the Hebrew people from

among the Egyptians? -  “to go and take Him a nation from the midst of

another nation, by temptations,” - (מַסּות, plural of מַסָּה, a testing, a trial) —

 i.e. by the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and his people, whereby they were tested

and tried - “by signs, and by wonders,” – “The wonder (מופֵת) differs from

the sign (אות) in this, that the former denotes the properly marvelous, the

extraordinary, the uncommon, consequently the subjective apprehension of the

miraculous event; the latter the significant element in the miracle, the reference to

the higher, Divine design, the purpose of God in it, consequently to the objective

side of the miracle (compare ch.13:2) - “and by war,” – (Exodus 14:14; 15:3-10);  -

“and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm,” - (Exodus 6:6; 14:8;

ch.5:15); - “and by great terrors,” -  (Exodus 12:30-36), the effect on the

Egyptians of the Divine inflictions (compare Psalm 105:27-38; 106:21-22) -

 “according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before

your eyes?”

 

35 “Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD

He is God; there is none else beside Him.”  All this Israel was made to see,

 in order that they might know that JEHOVAH IS ALONE GOD and

BESIDE HIM IS NO OTHER GOD!  (הָךאלֺלהִים, the God), the one

 living and true God.

 

 36 “Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice,” – (Compare Exodus

20:18-22.) To indicate still further the preeminence of Israel, Moses emphasizes

the supernatural character of the revelation God had given to them, and

the awful manner of its delivery; God spake to them with audible voice,

out of heaven, amidst fire, and they heard His words out of the fire. “that He might

instruct thee:” -  To instruct thee. The verb here used (יָסַד) means primarily to

bind and thence to correct, to chasten, which meaning some interpreters would give

here. But the word means also to correct by instruction, to instruct or persuade

(compare Isaiah 8:11; 28:26; Psalm 16:7); and the connection, both with what

precedes and with what follows, requires the meaning here - “and upon earth

He shewed thee His great fire; and thou heardest His words out of the midst

of the fire.”

 

37 “And because He loved thy fathers,” -  (compare Genesis 15:5-7; Exodus

13:15-17). Inasmuch as God had loved their fathers, the patriarchs, and had

chosen them their descendants to be His people, and had delivered them out of

Egypt, that He might establish them in the Promised Land, having driven out thence

 nations mightier than they, therefore were they to consider in their heart and

acknowledge that JEHOVAH ALONE IS GOD  and that in the wide universe

THERE IS NO OTHER!  The apodosis in this sentence begins at v. 39, and not,

as in the Authorized Version, at “He chose,” in v. 37, nor at “brought thee,” as

some suggest - “therefore He chose their seed after them, and brought thee” –

for all this thou shalt keep His statutes -  “out in His sight” - literally, in His face,

i.e. in His presence, BY HIMSELF present with them; with special reference to

Exodus 33:14, where the same word is used as here. Onkelos has here “by His Word,”

and the rabbins explain it of “the angel of His presence,” as it is said, Isaiah 63:9 -

 “with His mighty power out of Egypt;”

 

 

 

 

                                    Beloved for the Fathers’ Sake (v. 37)

 

We learn, taking this verse with the context:

 

·         THAT THE PIETY OF ANCESTORS IS REMEMBERED BY GOD

IN HIS DEALINGS WITH THE DESCENDANTS. He remembers:

 

Ø      Their piety.

Ø      The love He bore them.

Ø      His promises.

Ø      Their prayers.

 

·         THAT THE PIETY OF ANCESTORS IS A FREQUENT GROUND

OF LONG-SUFFERING AND FORBEARANCE. It was so with:

 

Ø      Israel (ch. 9:5);

Ø      Solomon (I Kings 11:12), etc.

 

·         YET THAT THE PIETY OF ANCESTORS WILL NOT OF ITSELF

SECURE SALVATION. The Jews were not to be exempted from

chastisement for personal transgressions. If “they abide still in unbelief”

(Romans 11:23), they cannot be saved. There cannot be salvation

without personal faith and obedience.

 

 

38 “To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than

thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance,

as it is this day.” -As this day has shown, or as it has come to pass this day,

in the overthrow, namely, of Sihon and Og.

 

39 “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart,” - literally,

bring back into thy heart. Because we cannot lay hold of spiritual things in

thought instantly in a moment, God commands to make them to revert, i.e.

again and again to recall them to the mind - “that the LORD He is God

in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.”

 

40 “Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments,

which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and

with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days

upon the earth,” -  rather upon the land (הָאֲדָמָה) - “which the LORD

thy God giveth thee, for ever.”  The comma after “thee” in the

Authorized Version should be deleted. The sum of this whole exhortation is:

 

  • to acknowledge and lay to heart that God is the alone God of the

universe, in heaven and on earth; hence

  • to be obedient to His laws; and so
  • to have, as a recompense, a happy continuance in the beloved land

 

The conclusion of the exhortation reverts to its beginning (compare this

verse with  v.1).

 

 

 

                        The Mercy of God (vs. 29-40)

 

The knowledge of his own deceitful heart, and his observation of others’

waywardness, convinced Moses that, in spite of all warning and appeal, the

people might yet wander into evil ways. But Moses had also such a

comprehensive vision of God’s mercy, that he foresaw that there would be

room for repentance even in the land of exile, and that Divine mercy would

be available in every extremity of distress. Since God had designed to show

mercy unto Israel, Moses felt assured that He would not allow His gracious

designs to be frustrated.

 

·         AFFLICTION OFTEN REVEALS TO OUR MINDS OUR NEED OF

MERCY. Amid the joyous excitements induced by earthly prosperity, men

forget the deeper needs of the soul. They spend life as if they had no soul,

as if this earth were their all. But the deep gashes, which suffering makes,

become mouths through which the imprisoned soul makes herself heard.

When events defeat our selfish plans, or when health is interrupted, we are

made to feel that there is a higher Power than ourselves, who reigns upon

the throne, and often, in sheer despair of other help, we appeal to Him for

mercy; like Manasseh, who had long hardened his heart against God, yet,

when he was in sore affliction, sought Jehovah’s face. When brought to the

lowest ebb, the prodigal son bent his steps homeward. Affliction often

serves as the shepherd’s crook.

 

·         EARNEST APPEAL FOR GOD’S MERCY IS NEVER

UNSUCCESSFUL ON EARTH. From the furthest limit of apostasy the

cry for help is heard. ‘There is no spot on earth front which lines of

connection with heaven will not be found. Our God is not wont to hide

Himself in secret places, where the eye of faith cannot find Him. If only the

bow be well bent by the arm of spiritual earnestness, and the arrow be

feathered with faith, and aimed by heavenly wisdom, it must penetrate the

skies. Without gracious influences from above, men will not pray; but

whensoever they do pray, THEY SHALL BE HEARD!  The prayer of the rich man in his torments was unheard, because it was a godless and a selfish prayer,

and because we have no ground for expecting mercy when life has closed;

in his case there was no appeal for mercy.  (Luke 16)

 

·         GOD’S MERCY IS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE REVELATION OF

HIMSELF FOR SINNERS. So far as we know, this revelation of His

merciful character was reserved for guilty men. In the construction of this

material universe, we see chiefly a putting-forth of amazing power. In the

creation of sentient beings, capable of deriving pleasure from the processes

of natural law, we see in active exercise the qualities of wisdom and

benevolence. In the Divine treatment of apostate angels, we discover

brilliant coruscations from the flames of justice. In the provision of pardon

and hope for human transgressors, we see in God’s nature the fascinating

quality of MERCY! This mercy manifests itself in a thousand ways, and is a

prolific parent of blessing.

 

Ø      It restrains from flagrant sin.

Ø      It envelops the sinner in a network of heavenly influence.

Ø      It holds back the hand of justice from summary destruction of the culprit.

 

Though men forsake God, He does not forthwith forsake them. Retaliation finds no place in the Eternal Mind. It is negative and positive good.

 

·         THIS MERCY IS SECURED TO MEN BY COVENANT. A

covenant is a compact or treaty made between two persons, and which is

intended for the advantage of all parties interested. But it is a pure act of

condescension, when God undertakes to bind Himself in solemn

engagements with His feeble and fallen creatures. This gracious procedure

is taken in order to encourage our trust, and to pierce unbelief through and

through with a two-edged sword. Now that God has made a covenant with

men, and repeated it age after age, His truth and faithfulness and integrity

are pledged for our salvation. He made a covenant with Christ, by which He

secured to Him an ample recompense of redeemed men, and our Lord

pleads in prayer for the fulfillment of His Father’s covenant. So gracious is

the covenant that God makes with us — the new covenant — that He

writes it on the tablet of our minds, yea, deeply engraves it upon the soft

affections of our hearts.

 

·         THIS MERCY IS MADE CONSPICUOUS BY THE MIGHTY

DEEDS OF GOD. Moses reminds the Hebrews of the splendid tokens of

God’s goodness they had seen; for every one of these was a pledge of

unchanging love. God’s signal emancipation of the people from the iron

bondage of Egypt; His care over them throughout the desert pilgrimage; His

unprecedented revelation of Himself on Horeb, in fire and cloud and voice;

— all these things were tantamount to fresh covenants — earnests of yet

larger blessing. In deeds, more eloquent than words, He assured them that

all His resources were available for them. And we, in New Testament times,

can make this argument stronger still. Calvary serves as a platform, on

which we may erect a magnificent structure of expectation. If God had

meant to desert us, would He have shown to us such kindnesses as these?

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how

shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!”  (Romans 8:32)

 

·         GOD DISTRIBUTES HIS MERCY IN VARIOUS MEASURES, He

did for the Hebrews what He did not do for other nations of that period. In

the way of providence, and in the way of revelation, He deals differently

with separate nations, and with individuals. We cannot understand all the

rules and methods by which He is pleased to work, but we can leave it to

Himself to justify His ways. Because mercy snatched the crucified thief from

the jaws of perdition at the last moment of life, it is criminal presumption

for any other man to expect mercy in his last hour.

 

·         MERCY FLOWS TO MEN THROUGH A VICARIOUS

CHANNEL. God assured that generation of the Jews, that they were

blessed for their fathers’ sake. Not on the ground of personal merit, nor on

the ground of personal claim, did God show them His distinguishing favor,

but because He had loved Abraham their father, and for his sake loved his

seed. Learn here how greatly God loves a good man! Abraham was not

destitute of fault; yet so conspicuous was his practical faith, that God could

not do enough for him during an earthly lifetime. The benediction of God

overflowed (like the oil on Aaron’s head – Psalm 133), and descended to the skirts of his posterity. So, and much more, the love which God bears His only

Son flows to us for His Son’s sake. The same rich quality of love God

cherishes for His Son, He cherishes for us. The gift of salvation can flow to

us in no other way than through this channel of vicarious merit. “God, in Christ,

reconciles the world unto Himself.”  (II Corinthians 5:18)

 

·         GOD’S MERCY IS A POTENT INDUCEMENT FOR LOYAL

OBEDIENCE. When all other methods have failed to elicit a man’s loyalty,

the unexpected display of mercy has often succeeded. Justice, and honor,

and all sense of obligation in man have been appealed to over and over

again, and always in vain. No appeal moves his callous nature, except the

plaintive voice of love. We may tell him of the measureless power of

Jehovah, of His inflexible justice, of His inviolable truth, of His fixed

determination to root out sin from His kingdom; he hears it all unmoved.

But tell him of Jehovah’s overflowing mercy, of His tender love for the

chief of sinners, of the costly provision of salvation; and by the gracious

application of this by the Divine Spirit, man’s nature relents, becomes

docile, and enshrines the Law of God in its inmost center. “Man!” says the

silvery voice of mercy, “thy sins are forgiven thee.”  (Matthew 9:5) And the swift response is, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”  (Acts 9:6)

 

 

 

APPOINTMENT OF THREE CITIES OF REFUGE BEYOND JORDAN

(vs. 41-43)

 

A short historical notice is here inserted, probably because it was during the interval

between the first and second addresses of Moses that he carried into effect the

Divine command to appoint cities of refuge for the manslayer (Numbers 35:9-34;

Exodus 21:13).  This notice, therefore, is here in its proper place in the order of the

narrative. That Moses should, just at this stage, have made this appointment was

fitting and proper, seeing he had been urging on the people obedience to the Divine

statutes and commandments, and had represented their conquest of the territory

of Sihon and Og as an earnest of their ultimate possession of the whole

 land of the Amorites. By appointing these cities, Moses gave an example of

obedience to God’s injunction, and, at the same time, not only asserted on the

part of Israel a right of proprietorship in this trans-Jordanic territory, but assumed

as certain that, on the ether side of Jordan also, the same right of proprietorship

should be possessed and exercised by Israel in the fulfilling of the whole law

concerning cities of refuge (ch.19:1-21).

 

The Deliverance of the Lord’s People Unparalleled (vs. 32-40)

 

Moses would have the Israelites to regard God’s deliverance of them from

Egypt as a matter for the most grateful admiration. There had been nothing

like it since the beginning of the world. There was direct and immediate

communion with God; there was deliverance of the people from Egypt by

unexampled judgments; and all was to show His character as a sovereign

and loving God. The effect of such a discipline should be filial obedience.

It suggests the following lessons:

 

·         THE LORD’S PEOPLE SHOULD GRATEFULLY STUDY THEIR

DELIVERANCE. The marvelous Exodus from Egypt and communion at

Sinai were deserving of the most faithful study. No people had ever been

so favored before. But our personal deliverance from the bondage of sin,

our march through the wilderness of life, our fellowship with God from the

mountain-top of ordinances, the entire experience of a spiritual soul,

combine to eclipse even the discipline of Israel. Each one is prepared, who

understands his state, to say, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I

will declare what He hath done for my soul” (Psalm 66:16).

 

·         UNPARALLELED EXPERIENCE FROM GOD ARGUES AN

UNPARALLELED GOD. For it is a revelation of His powers and character

He makes in these matters, and we are expected to reason from our

experience up to Himself. “Unto thee it was showed,” said Moses, “that

thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside Him.”

(v. 35)  He moves in an unparalleled fashion, that we may recognize in Him

the unparalleled One.  The use of personal experience is, therefore, to reach the Divine side of it, and see what reflection of Deity it presents.

 

·         IT WAS GOD’S LOVE WHICH HE ILLUSTRATED IN

BRINGING ISRAEL FROM EGYPT TO CANAAN. The casting out of

the Canaanites, the extermination of the idolaters, was judgment justly

exercised upon them; but it was love towards Israel. Hence one of the

psalmists makes these conquests a proof that “His mercy endureth forever”

(Psalm 136). And God’s dealings with His people always are to illustrate

His love, They find how all things work together for good unto them

(Romans 8:28).

 

·         IT IS FILIAL OBEDIENCE HIS PEOPLE SHOULD RENDER. The

similarity between v. 40 and the fifth commandment of the Decalogue is

certainly remarkable. The idea of God’s fatherhood is as certainly in the

mind of Moses and of the filial obedience of Israel. Long life is attached to

their filial obedience to God, as it is attached in that commandment to the

filial obedience we render to man. And indeed this “fatherhood of God,”

with its correlative sonship of man,” constitutes the crowning relation into

which God and man come. How glorious it is! Earth becomes the school

of God’s children; the promise of the life that now is cheers them on, and

heaven contracts the kindly light of home. We should never rest contented

till our study of God’s dealings leads us into assurances and hopes like

these. The Israelites were to be obedient, and in consequence successful

children; and the same blessed conditions become ours by faith!

 

41 “Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the

sunrising;” - beyond Jordan, more expressly defined as toward the sun rising,

viz. on the east of that river.

 

 

 

 

The Wonderfulness of Israel’s History (vs. 32-41)

 

  • THE WONDERFULLNESS OF REVELATION AT ALL. (v. 33.) It

may be argued with great propriety that man needs a revelation; that if

there is a God, it is probable He will give one; that the absence of all special

revelation would be a greater wonder than the fact of a revelation being

given. Yet, when the mind dwells on it, the sense of wonder grows at the

thought of the Eternal thus stooping to hold converse with finite, sinful,

dying men on earth. Whatever enhances our conceptions of God’s

greatness, intensifies in the same measure our wonder at the

condescension, grace, and love implied in special revelation (Psalm 8).

 

  • THE WONDERFULLNESS OF GOD’S REVELATION OF

HIMSELF IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY. (vs. 34-39.) God revealed Himself

to Israel; but, inasmuch as the calling, deliverance, and whole history of the

nation was full of the supernatural, He was revealed also in Israel — in its

history.

 

Ø      It claims to stand out as something absolutely unique in time. This is no

case of the vulgar supernatural, begotten of a childish, miracle-loving age.

Moses is as conscious of the marvel, of the exceptional character of the

occurrences he narrates, as any of his critics; probably more so. He rises to

the grandeur of the subject he speaks of, and puts it on the express ground

that nothing like it was ever known, or rumored, in history.

 

Ø      An adequate reason existed for these wonders. The interposition of

God, as narrated in these verses, the whole revelation, with its terrors, its

signs and wonders, its fire, its lawgiving, — is abundantly worthy of the

Being who is said to have revealed Himself, and of the ends for which that

discovery of Himself was made. On the other hand, it rises high above what

man would naturally have imagined God to do, had he set himself to invent

a story of the kind.

 

Ø      The wonders are well attested. Moses appealed to a generation, the

older part of which had witnessed them. Critics dispute the Mosaic

authorship of the address; but apart from this, it is to be said that the whole

after-history of the nation rests on their reality. There is, however, an

inherent sublimity, fitness, vividness, sense of reality in the narratives, and

in this appeal to eye-witnesses, which speaks of itself for the truthfulness of

the history. When narratives of the same kind, presenting the same

marvelous characteristics, can be produced from other literatures, and laid

alongside of these, we will be able to believe in their legendary or invented

character.

 

Ø      These wonders established a unique claim on Israel for obedience and

fidelity (vs. 39, 40).

 

  • THE WONDERFULNESS OF GOD’S REVELATION OF

HIMSELF IN ISRAEL IS SURPASSED BY HIS REVELATION OF

HIMSELF IN CHRIST. These wonders in Israel were but the earlier acts

in a great drama, of which the later belong to the dispensation of the

gospel. While Moses appeals to the limited character of the former

revelation as enhancing its wonder (v. 34), it is the greater marvel of the

revelation in Christ, that it is UNIVERSAL IN ITS SCOPE, and brings in

A REDEMPTION THAT ALL CAN SHARE!  We think here of:

 

Ø      the incarnation,

Ø      the miracles of Christ,

Ø      the resurrection,

Ø      the outpouring of the Spirit,

Ø      the miraculous spread of the gospel,

Ø      subsequent reformations and revivals, and conversions,

Ø      the supernatural power exhibited in the renewal and

sanctification of souls,

Ø      the successes of missions, etc. (compare Hebrews 2:1-5).

 

The appeals of Moses, and his exhortations to wonder and obey, come

down to ourselves, accordingly, with enormously enhanced force.

 

42 “That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbor

unawares,” -  literally, in lack or want of knowing (בְּבְלִי־דַעָת),

i.e. unconsciously, unintentionally; in Numbers 35:31, 15, another word

(בִּשְׁגָגָה, by mistake) is used, rendered in the Authorized Version by

“unwittingly;” in Joshua 20:3, both words are used - “and hated him not in

times past;” - literally, yesterday, three days since, i.e. formerly, heretofore

(compare Genesis 31:2; Exodus 5:8) - “and that fleeing unto one of these

cities he might live:”

 

43 “Namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, of the

Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, of the Gadites; and Golan in

Bashan, of the Manassites.”  Names of the cities set apart. Bezer;

Septuagint -  βοσόρ BosorBezer -  one of the cities of the plain or

table-land of the Amorites, on the east of Jordan (ch.3:10; Joshua 20:8),

afterwards a Levitical city in the tribe of Reuben (Ibid. 21:36). It is probably

the Bosor of I Maccabees 5:36; it has not been identified with any existing

locality, but the ruined heaps of Burazin to the east of Hesban, or those

of Berza in the same district, may mark its site. Ramoth in Gilead; probably

the same as Ramoth-mizpeh (Ibid.13:26); it lay to the northwest of Philadelphia

(Rabba or Rabbath-Ammon, hod. Amman), on the Jabbok (‘Onom.,’ s.v.”

Rammoth” and “Remmoth”); a Levitical city in the tribe of Gad (Ibid.

21:38), hod. Es Salt, six hours from Amman. Golan in Bashan. Eusebius

identifies this with Gaulon, a very large village in Batanaea, from which the

surrounding region had its name, viz. Gaulonitis, hod. Jolan (‘Onom.,’ s.v.

Gau-lon “); it was a Levitical city in the tribe of Manasseh (Ibid. 21:27;

I Chronicles 6:71); it has not been identified.

 

 

 

The Cities of Refuge Beyond the Jordan (vs. 41-43)

 

After the discourse contained in the preceding portion of this book, Moses

seems to have taken a breathing time, during which he designated Bezer in

the wilderness, Ramoth in Gilead, and Golan in Bashan, as cities of refuge.

To these the manslayers were directed to flee, when they had been guilty,

not of murder, but of manslaughter. In this way a distinction was

introduced in the Mosaic code between manslaughter and murder, which

did not obtain in the code of revenge among the other nations. And here let

us observe:

 

  • RETALIATION CONSTITUTED THE RUDE JUSTICE OF THIS

EARLY AGE. Vengeance seems dreadful to many because we live under

an organized system of public justice. But if we were removed to some

uncivilized country, where each one is forced to fight for his own hand, we

should regard it less painfully. We should recognize it, in fact, as a

necessary assertion of justice. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the

Lord” (Romans 12:19), seems dreadful only to those who have not appreciated the need of a perfect public justice. The Divine vengeance will be public and perfect, from which there will and can be no appeal.

 

  • RETALIATION, SUCH AS THE MOSAIC CODE PRESCRIBED,

DEMANDED COURAGE AND SELF-DENIAL. The kinsman was

directed to pursue the manslayer, and to seek the payment of life for life. It

was not one of those feats which would be lightly undertaken. In fact, it

was one of those dangerous duties, which a person would shirk if he could.

The command reinforced the courage and sustained the self-denial of the

people (cf. Mozley’s ‘Ruling Ideas in Early Ages,’ pp. 180-221).

And in the Divine vengeance — with reverence would we say it — there is

needed courage and self-denial. The infliction of it is forced upon him.

 

  • THE CITIES OF REFUGE AFFORDED PROTECTION TO THE

MANSLAYER WHO DID NOT DELIBERATELY TAKE AWAY LIFE.

Here the manslayer lived in lonely exile till the death of the high priest. This

milder sentence, however, was preferable to a violent death. The

opportunity was afforded of examining himself and of being penitent for his

sins. The sojourn in the city of refuge corresponds to the spiritual

experience of those who have betaken themselves to Jesus under a sense of

their sin and blood guiltiness, to find under His wings freedom from

condemnation (Romans 8:1), and the necessity of great watchfulness

and circumspection. If the manslayer had left the city of refuge, he would

still have been liable to the avenger.

 

  • BUT WHEN THE HIGH PRIEST DIED THE MANSLAYER

REGAINED LIBERTY AS WELL AS LIFE. “Life in Christ” is indicated

by the sojourn in the city of refuge. But liberty through the death of Christ

is indicated by the release at the death of the high priest. It takes many

relations to bring out THE TRUTH AS IT IS IN JESUS! He is our God, or Avenger, as we have seen where He says, "Vengeance is mine.” He is our

City of Refuge; He is our High Priest, whose death secures the return of the exile.  May Jesus be all in all to us!

 

 

 

 

                                    The Cities of Refuge (vs. 41-43)

 

Regard for human life is more important than regard for private property.

With legislative prescience, Moses secured three cities on the east of

Jordan as sanctuaries for fugitives, before the land was allocated to their

several families. Still further security for the unwary manslayer was

obtained by the decree that these cities should be occupied by families of

the Levites.

 

·         GOD’S HIGH REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE. This Divine

thoughtfulness for men is impressive. Not a life was to be wantonly

wasted. (There is no individual alive which can explain the justification

for abortion.  Today, January 16, 2020, I taped the Sanctity of Life

lesson for radio and television to be played on Sunday, January 19, 2020 –

the 47th anniversary of the wicked and terrible court decesion of Roe v.

Wade – CY – 2020)  Human life, it is plain, was counted inferior in value to the interests of public justice; but it was to be sacredly protected against private

revenge. This humane provision was all the more required at that time

when Israel had been commanded to slay such vast numbers of Canaanites.

Inevitably, human sensibility would be blunted, and a grave peril arose that

human life would be cheaply rated. The entire land, purchased at such great

cost, was a temple — a sacred enclosure — which God had chosen for His

abode, and the shedding of innocent blood would degrade and desecrate

the hallowed soil. Human life, sustained by God with exquisite pains —

capable of eminent usefulness — is appraised by God as OF GREAT

VALUE!

 

·         THE JUDICIOUS ADJUSTMENT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND

PITY. Both these are sentiments implanted in the breast by a Divine hand;

both serve the interests of humanity; and both have a fitting sphere in

which to move. For the nation’s good, the conscience of every man should

be kept in healthful activity. It needs illumination, discipline, vigor. The

moral sense is as liable to injury, disease, and decay, as any other faculty of

mind. It may be deficient in wisdom; it may be overburdened with

sensitiveness; it may magnify molehills into mountains; it may act with

precipitate haste. Side by side with unrelenting hostility for sin, should

dwell honest pity for the sinner. This provision of “sanctuaries” in Israel

was in no wise an interference with the proper procedure of justice. By the

decision of competent magistrates the fugitive might yet be handed over to

the executioner. It gave full opportunity for investigation. It safeguarded a

suspected man, if he were innocent of the greater crime. It taught men to

draw a deep line between unintentional injury and premeditated murder. It

shielded from needless death many a useful life.  (Is abortion unintentional

injury or premeditated murder?  CY – 2020)

 

·         PROMPT AND SEVERE EXERTION WAS THE CONDITION OF

ESCAPE. When a man was killed, his next of kin was expected to avenge

his blood. This rough ministry of justice was needful in those early days. It

strengthened family ties. It fostered a spirit of brotherhood. It was a shield

for the weak and defenseless. If one man had slain another, the

presumption was that it had been maliciously done, and prompt vengeance

was preparing for him. He had placed himself (inadvertently, it may be) in a

serious plight. He was exposed to a sudden reprisal. Before an hour his

own life might be forfeited. If his conscience told him that he was innocent,

there was a possibility of escape. But he must promptly flee. He must bid a

hasty adieu, or none at all, to wife and children, and run at highest speed

for the refuge city, for vengeance is swift-footed as an antelope. Every

muscle must be strained to the utmost; his eye must be on every bush and

rock, lest the foe should be lurking in ambush; his last resource of strength

must be expended upon his flight; he must go direct as an arrow for the

provided sanctuary. So for every guilty son of Adam there is a refuge

provided on the hill called “CALVARY!  Because Death rides apace upon

our heels, we are charged to flee — to flee for very life — to this

capacious Refuge. So run, that ye may be safe!

 

 

THE SECOND ADDRESS OF MOSES

 

The second address of Moses starts in v. 44 and continues through ch. 26:19.

This address is introduced by a general notice of what is to form the subject of it, viz.

the Law, with a more especial description of that in its different parts, as consisting

of ordinances, statutes, and rights; together with a reference to the place and time

when this address was delivered.

 

44 “And this is the law” -  the Torah - “which Moses set before the children

of Israel:”  He means what follows, so this belongs to the next chapter, where the

repetition of the laws begins.  Compare v. 1; ch. 6:1; Leviticus 6:9; 7:1).

 

45 “These are the testimonies,” -  ordinances attested and confirmed by God; the

word used here (עֵדות, plural of עֵדַה) occurs only in Deuteronomy (here and

ch.6:17, 20) and in the Psalms - “and the statutes, and the judgments,” -

(compare v.1). “which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came

forth out of Egypt.” - “i.e. not immediately after their exit, But, as v. 46 shows, when

they were already beyond Jordan; literally, in their coming out: i.e. during the process

of their passing from Egypt to Canaan; more exactly defined by what follows.

 

46 “On this side Jordan, in the valley” - (ch. 3:29) – “over against Bethpeor,

in the land of Sihon” – on ground already captured and possessed by Israel

(compare ch. 2:32-36; 3:1-17; v. 48; compare chy. 3, 9-12, 17) - “king of the

Amorites, who  dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt:”

 

47 “And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan,

two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the

sunrising;  48 From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon,

even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,  49 And all the plain on this side

Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.”

 

 

   The Circumstances Under Which the Law was Reiterated (vs. 44-49)

 

These verses are manifestly introductory to the discourse of the succeeding chapters.

Moses is about to declare the “testimonies” (tdo[eh;), what comes forth from

God  to indicate His will; and the “statutes” (μyQijuh"), the defined duties of

moral obligation; and the “judgments” (μyfiP;v]Mih;), or mutual rights of men.

The conditions of his speech are here detailed.

 

  • THE ISRAELITES HAD RECEIVED AN EARNEST OF THE

PROMISED INHERITANCE. They had got, as we have seen, the

land of the Amorites. The kingdoms of Og and of Sihon were already in

the hands of the two and a half tribes. Moses had a vantage-ground,

therefore, from which to plead the claims of God. And so, when we get

an earnest of the promised inheritance in the gift of the Spirit, we

are more likely to yield ourselves to the Divine demands (Ephesians 1:14).

We have an inheritance on this side the Jordan of death, more important

than the pastures of Bashan, and God, having given us this, may well make

demands upon us.

 

  • THE EXPERIENCE THROUGH WHICH THEY HAD PASSED

WAS ALSO MOST IMPORTANT. For the temporal inheritance in Moab

and Bashan was a minor part of their gifts from God. Their fellowship at

Sinai, their wanderings through the wilderness, the checkered experience

of judgment and of mercy, all combined to make the Israelites in Moab a

favored people. No other nation had had such an experience and history.

 

  • THE REITERATION OF THE LAW WAS IN THE MIDST OF

HAPPIER CONDITIONS. At Sinai their fathers and themselves had

witnessed awe-inspiring wonders. The mount was the center of quaking

and fear. Even Moses had to yield to the panorama of terror, and to say,

“I exceedingly fear and quake” (Hebrews 12:21).  But now in Moab

all around them is bright and hopeful. Mercy encompassed them, and so

they were more likely to enter into the spirit of the Law, which Moses

makes out to be love (ch.6:1-5).

 

  • WE LEARN FROM THIS THAT GOD FIRST GIVES BLESSINGS

AND THEN ASKS OBEDIENCE. It is here that we see plainly the

essence of the gospel. The glad tidings consist of the offer of a full and free

salvation to the sinner, on the ground that he is a sinner and cannot save

himself. The salvation is saddled with no condition. This is the trouble — it

is too good news to be true, in the sinner’s sight. He can hardly credit

such free gift — he would rather pay something for it. But God is firm, and

will make no half bargains. But when the sinner has been redeemed from

Egypt and brought to God, he is expected in gratitude to obey God’s Law.

It is His rule of life, and he renders obedience to it willingly. People “put the

cart before the horse,” and fancy God will take something in part payment,

and could not think of refusing them! Nothing is so important just now as

CLEAR VIEWS ABOUT THE PLAN OF SALVATION!

 

 

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."

 

This material can be found at:

http://www.adultbibleclass.com

 

If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.