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:
choice, and love.
uninterrupted deference, and uncompromising service.
1 “Now therefore” - rather And now. With this Moses passes from referring to
what God had done for
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
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
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).
· 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;
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
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:
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!
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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:
as the Lord their God (see also vs.32-34).
about (Exodus 9:16; 15:14; Numbers 14:13-21; ch. 28:10).
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).
Wise course (v. 6).
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
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]
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
their giant strength;
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 light — A 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.
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.
an accidental, surface life, but an intelligent and designed direction of the
inner and outer life according to God’s ways and Word.
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.
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
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
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!
greatness is obviously waning else why should a popular political slogan
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.
Ø Pagan nations with Christian.
with believing (
Ø Roman Catholic nations with Protestant (see Laveleye on ‘Protestantism
and Catholicism in their bearing
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,
· 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.
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
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
God surrounded Himself with these signs of His greatness, power, wrath,
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
13 “And He declared unto you His covenant,” - God’s gracious engagement
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 happiness, and
· DIVINE LAW ASSERTS ITS AUTHORITY OVER THE WHOLE MAN.
Ø Authority over the intellect, for it demands:
o comparison, and
Ø Authority over the affections, for it demands:
o choice, and
Ø Authority over the moral faculty; for it demands:
o response, and
Ø Authority over the active powers, for it requires:
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
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
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
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
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
that my people had hearkened unto me, and
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).
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)
· OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF GOD’S 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
Ø Difficult to grasp.
Ø Elevating in its influence.
Ø The apprehension of which is necessary for spiritual worship
· 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 wrath, and
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
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
religion; but in
was as a spirit He was to be worshipped, and not under any outward
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
earth:” – A warning against the
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
as the symbols of deities. The Israelites were thus, both from past
associations and from what they might encounter in
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.
of the earth; “all nations” includes them as well as the heathen.
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
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
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
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).
This paragraph sets forth in earnest appeal the peculiar and distinctive
relation to God in which
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:
fulfilled in the present relation of Christian people to Him.
LET US STUDY THE PECULIAR RELATION OF
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
Scriptures, as will be seen if we note the varied names by which they are
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
inheritance.” Not, indeed, in
form of government. The kings of
Thibet, pretended to rule as the representatives of the gods. Minos among
the Cretans, Lycurgus
the Lacedaemonian, Numa of
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
“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
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
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.
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
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
it secures is superior to any other life. Thus must we be, like
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
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;
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).
The Iron Furnace (v. 20)
God had passed His people through a hot furnace in the terrible sufferings
they endured in
delivering them, and giving them an inheritance in
· 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
· 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
Ø Purify character.
Ø Make the nature pliable to God’s will, and subdue it to
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
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
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
the same when He announced to Moses the decree that he should not
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
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,”
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
zaelotaes – a 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
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!
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
o Power (ch. 9:3; 7:8). Power exerting itself on behalf of those who
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.:
pavilion of purity in which
§ 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
· 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.”
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
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
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
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
· IDOLATRY ANNULLED THE COVENANT BETWEEN GOD
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
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
bondage. Was not every sign and wonder
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
· PRESENT PUNISHMENTS ARE THE TYPE OF FUTURE
PUNISHMENTS. The penalty to be imposed on the Jews for disloyalty,
was banishment from
penalties revealed for reprobate men are exclusion from the heavenly
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
that, for the sake of
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
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
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
Moses here sees in God’s covenant the ground of the ever-watchful care and
grace of God to
“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.” "
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
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
know from the history, were in hope of national amendment. Defeat at the
hand of their enemies, exile in
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
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
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
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.
backsliding of the Jews hypothetically, but states the fact plainly that they
will backslide — takes it for granted (v. 25). There is a prediction:
Of national apostasy. The
whole history of
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
rooting out of both
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
God’s good time receive its accomplishment also (Zechariah 12:10;
Romans 11:26; Isaiah 66:8-9).
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
35 “Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD
He is God; there
is none else beside Him.” All this
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
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
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
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 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:
universe, in heaven and on earth; hence
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
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
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
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)
THREE CITIES OF REFUGE BEYOND
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
as certain that, on the ether side of
should be possessed and exercised by
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
like it since the beginning of the world. There was direct and immediate
communion with God; there was deliverance of the people
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
marvelous Exodus from
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
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
the Canaanites, the extermination of the idolaters, was judgment justly
exercised upon them; but it was
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
· 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
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
viz. on the east of that river.
The Wonderfulness of
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).
HIMSELF IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY. (vs. 34-39.) God revealed Himself
nation was full of the supernatural, He was revealed also in Israel — in its
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
Ø These wonders established a unique claim on Israel for obedience and
fidelity (vs. 39, 40).
HIMSELF IN ISRAEL IS SURPASSED BY HIS REVELATION OF
HIMSELF IN CHRIST.
These wonders in
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
Septuagint - βοσόρ – Bosor – Bezer - one of the cities of the plain or
table-land of the Amorites, on the east of
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
the same as Ramoth-mizpeh (Ibid.13:26); it lay to the northwest of
(Rabba or Rabbath-Ammon,
Rammoth” and “Remmoth”); a Levitical city in the tribe of Gad (Ibid.
21:38), hod. Es Salt,
six hours from
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
several families. Still further security for the unwary manslayer was
obtained by the decree that these cities should be occupied by families of
· 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
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
· 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”
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 “
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
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
forth out of
they were already beyond
of their passing from
46 “On this side Jordan, in the valley” - (ch. 3:29) – “over against Bethpeor,
(compare ch. 2:32-36; 3:1-17; v. 48; compare chy. 3, 9-12, 17) - “king of the
who dwelt at Heshbon,
and the children of
47 “And they possessed his land, and the
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,
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.
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
demands upon us.
WAS ALSO MOST IMPORTANT. For the temporal inheritance in
Sinai, their wanderings through the wilderness, the checkered experience
of judgment and of mercy, all
combined to make the Israelites in
favored people. No other nation had had such an experience and history.
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,
fear and quake” (Hebrews 12:21). But now in
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).
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
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!
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