Nehemiah 9

 

 

SOLEMN FAST KEPT, WITH CONFESSION OF SINS; AND VOLUNTARY

COVENANT WITH GOD ENTERED INTO BY THE PEOPLE, AND SEALED

            TO BY THE PRINCES, PRIESTS, AND LEVITES  (vs. 1-38)

 

When the law was first read to them on the opening day

of the seventh month, the people had shown strong feelings of

compunction, an earnest desire to return to God by the thorny way of

repentance. In checking this feeling on that particular day, Ezra and

Nehemiah had conformed to prevalent ideas on the subject of festival

observance, but had not intended to thwart the popular desire for some

distinct penitential action, some marked public proceedings, which should

at once furnish a vent to pent-up feeling, and serve as a starting-point from

which individuals, or even the nation, might enter upon a new career. It is a

very curious circumstance, and one not easy of explanation, that they did

not fix on the 10th of the month the “great day of atonement”— as the

most appropriate day of national humiliation and of general self-abasement.

The proximity of that occasion would naturally and almost necessarily

suggest it to them, and nothing could well exceed its intrinsic fitness. On

that day, and that day only in the whole of the year, every soul was to

afflict itself, and whatsoever soul did not do so was to be cut off and

destroyed from among the people (Leviticus 23:27-29). It can scarcely

be that the observance of the day had ceased. Perhaps the time for

preparation which the selection of this “feast of sorrow” would have

allowed seemed too short. Perhaps it was thought undesirable to select for

an extraordinary national act of self-humiliation a day which already

possessed its own routine, and possibly its own ritual, of repentance. In any

case, the fact was that the civil and ecclesiastical authorities came to the

determination not to make any special use of the regular annual fast day,

but to leave the observance of that occasion to the people’s natural bent,

and appoint a different day — one which had no traditional customs

attached to it — for the solemn act of penitence on which the heart of the

nation was set. As the feast of tabernacles lasted from the 15th of Tisri to

the 22nd, it was necessary either to select a day before that holy week or

after it. A day between the 10th and the 15th would have followed too

close upon the day of atonement; a day, therefore, was appointed after the

festival was over. Not, however, the very next day — the transition from

joy to sorrow would in that case have been too abrupt — but the next day

but one — the 24th (v. 1). Then, the multitude that had come

up for the feast being still present, a great fast was kept — sackcloth was

worn, dust was sprinkled on the head; for half the day the vast assembly

remained in the great court of the temple, listening to the words of the law

for three hours, and for three hours confessing their sins (v. 3); after this

the Levites took the word, and, in the name of the whole people, blessed

God, acknowledged His gracious providence and special goodness towards

Israel throughout the entire course of their history (vs. 5-25), confessed

their sins and the sins of their fathers (vs. 26-35), admitted the justice of

their present low estate (vs. 36-37), and finally brought forward a

written bond or covenant, whereto they invited those present to set their

seals (v. 38), pledging them to “walk in God’s law, and observe and do

all His commandments,” and to make a perpetual provision for the priests

and for the temple service (ch.10:29-39). The words of the

formula were, no doubt, carefully prepared beforehand, and show traces of

the influence of Ezra, to whose prayer (Ezra 9:6-15) they bear a great

resemblance. We may perhaps assume that they were his composition, and

that, though he is not mentioned, he was present, directing all the

proceedings, instructing and animating the Levites, and exercising an

influence for good over all grades of the people. (The present chapter is

closely united with that which follows, and must be studied in connection

with it.)

 

 

1 “Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of

Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth

upon them.” With sackclothes, and earth upon them. On the use of

sackcloth in mourning see Genesis 37:34; II Samuel 3:31; 21:10;

I Kings 21:27, etc. Putting earth or dust on the head was less common;

but mention of it is made in I Samuel 4:12; II Samuel 1:2; and Job 2:12.

 

2 “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and

stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.”

The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers.

Compare ch.10:28, by which it appears that the “strangers” are

the people of the lands,” or neighboring heathen, of whom there were at

all times considerable numbers in Jerusalem (compare ch.13:16).

It was not fitting that these aliens should take part in a ceremony of which

the main object was that the special people of God should renew their

covenant with Him. Stood and confessed. Attitude is perhaps scarcely

intended here, since the Jews confessed their sins kneeling (Ezra 9:5),

or prostrate (ibid. ch.10:1). Hence we hear in the next verse that they

stood up,” or “rose up” (consurrexerunt, Vulgate).

 

3 “And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of

the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth

part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.”

In their place. See above, ch.8:7. The people and the ministers had their appointed

placesin every gathering of a religious character. The former now “stood up” in

their proper place, and read, i.e. “engaged in the reading of the law, not, however,

as actual readers, but as listeners. The readers would be the Levites (ibid. v.7-8).

One fourth part of the day. The day and the night were alike divided by the

Jews into four parts, each of three hours duration. The nocturnal divisions

are frequently alluded to in the New Testament (Mark 13:35; John 18:28, etc.).

Worshipped. Literally, “bowed themselves down,” or “prostrated themselves.”

 

 

                        A Special Fast Day — How Spent (vs. 1-3)

 

This chapter and the next contain an account of the proceedings of a day

set apart for special fasting and humiliation These three verses give a

general description of the proceedings.

 

  • THE DATE. The 24th day of the month Tisri; only one clear day having

            passed since the rejoicings of the feast of tabernacles. So joy and sorrow

            succeed each other in life; in the religious life also. No inconsistency in the

            indulgence of each in turn. The people had shown a preparedness for

            special humiliation at the beginning of the month, at the feast of trumpets,

            when, the law being read to them, they wept. But they were bid to restrain

            their grief at that time because they were keeping a festival. Since then, on

            the tenth of the month, the day of atonement, the only fast day prescribed

            by the law, had doubtless been observed. But services of a more special

            kind were felt to be desirable, in which, by the united expressions of

            repentance and renewed covenant with God, the foundation should be laid

            for a life more in harmony with the law.

 

  • THE SEPARATION FROM ALIENS EFFECTED.   The meeting and its

      exercises were to be strictly for “the seed of Israel.” Others could not really

      have fellowship with them in their recital of God’s dealings with their fathers

            and their nation, nor share their sorrow or new resolutions. The Jews

            therefore “separated themselves from all strangers” for the time, and held a

            meeting of Jews only. Such seems to be the meaning of the words. Observe

            that community of faith and feeling is essential to united worship, and the

            deeper and fuller it is, so much the more real and profitable will the united

            worship be. The mixed congregation has its advantages, but earnest

            Christians will desire a closer fellowship than it affords, and which can be

            found only in meetings of those like-minded, apart for a time from the

            formal and halfhearted.

 

  • THE EXTERNAL SIGNS OF HUMILIATION ADOPTED. Fasting,

      abstinence from food, more or less rigid. A practice sanctioned by our Lord,

      and employed not only as an expression of humiliation, but as an aid to

      intense devotion (see Matthew 4:2; 17:21; Acts 13:2-3). Whether its very

            general disuse amongst Western Protestant Christians is to be attributed to

            a decreased devoutness, or an increased spirituality to which such methods

            and instruments of piety are alien, or to the experience that in Western

            climates fasting does not aid devotion, is worthy of consideration. What is

            certain is, that it is of no worth as a religious observance except as it

            promotes or expresses spiritual religion. In addition to fasting, these Jews

            wore sackclothes, and put earth on their heads — usages not uncommon

            with them in similar circumstances. Such signs of humiliation as these are,

            however, distinctly forbidden by our Lord, at least .in the case of private

            devotion (Matthew 6:16), as savoring of ostentation; and, doubtless,

            the more the spirit of the gospel prevails, such external signs become

            distasteful. And at any period they were valuable only as expressing and

            promoting real feelings of penitence. We can easily imagine how, where

            they were recognized signs of mourning, a whole assembly appearing in

            them would excite each other to deeper grief, as in fact among ourselves is

            done when hundreds or thousands meet, on some occasion of general

            sorrow, all clothed in black.

 

  • THE RELIGIOUS EXERCISES OF THE DAY.

 

Ø      The worship of God. Including:

 

o       Praise. Declarations of the Divine glory, and recitals of

   His wondrous works, in creation and in their national history.

 

o       Confession of sins. Their own sins and those of their fathers.

      The substance of the confession made is given in vs. 7-35.

      Confession of one’s own sins is not only appropriate, but is a

      condition of forgiveness (Proverbs 28:13; I John 1:9). But why

      confess the sins of their fathers? It is to be remembered that this

      was a national gathering for national humiliation, introductory to

      a better national life. In such an assembly a review of the nation’s

      sins would be very appropriate and profitable. It recalled the great

      cause of past national suffering, and of present degradation and

      subjection. It brought into light what must be avoided if better

      times were to arise. It produced:

 

§         the personal conviction of participation in the sins of those

      gone before, and

§         the necessity of abandoning them.

 

                                    It enhanced the feeling of the great forbearance and

                                    mercy of God towards their nation, which at once deepened

                                    repentance and encouraged hope.

 

o       Prayer (v. 32).

 

Ø      Reading of the Law.  This held a prominent place in the celebration

      of the feasts both of trumpets and of tabernacles (see previous chapter),

      and had been the chief means of awakening that general

                        sorrow for sin which had prepared the people for this special fast day.

                        It would seem that they had been heretofore unfamiliar with “the book

                        of the law,” and that what they had recently heard had excited a hunger

                        not easily satiated. On this occasion half the time was spent in reading and

                        hearing portions of the book. Its precepts and histories would increase

                        their penitence; the declarations which, amidst its legal enactments, it

                        contained of the pardoning mercy of God, and the instances of its exercise

                        which it recorded, would assure them that their repentance would not be

                        in vain; and the whole would guide and stimulate their praises and

                        confessions, supplications and good resolutions.

 

  • THE TIME OCCUPIED (v. 3). It was a “protracted meeting.” For six

            hours the congregation kept together. Half the time was employed in the

            reading of the law, doubtless with explanations similar to those recorded in

                        Nehemiah 8:7-8, and half in worship. Perhaps the two alternated with

            each other throughout the service. In times of general religious feeling very

            long services may be held without weariness; ordinarily they are

            undesirable; but the demand for very short ones is usually a sign of the

            decay of spiritual life. In conclusion:

 

Ø      The foundation of a new or improved religious life must be LAID

                        IN GENUINE REPENTANCE!

 

Ø      Knowledge of God’s word is essential to AN INTELLIGENT,

      ACCEPTABLE, AND LASTING PIETY!  The reading and

      exposition of Holy Scripture should therefore BE PROMINENT

      IN PUBLIC WORSHIP!

 

Ø      The reality and worth of our religious knowledge is to be estimated by

                        its influence on our heart and life. Does it work in us repentance and a

                        more godly and righteous life?

 

4 “Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani,

Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and

cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God.”

Upon the stairs, of the Levites. Rather, “upon the platform of

the Levites,” the same probably as the “pulpit of ch.8:4. Bani.

Rather, “Binnui” (see ch.10:9; 12:8),the representative of the

sons of Henadad. Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel are the three principal

families of the Levites (compare ch. 3:24; 8:7, etc.; Ezra 2:40; 3:9;).

Sherebiah was the head of a family which returned with Ezra

(Ezra 8:18). Chenani is probably the Hanan” of ch.8:7, and 10:10.

 

5 “Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah,

Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and

bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy

glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

Stand up. The people had prostrated themselves (see the

comment on v. 3) for confession and prayer; they are now bidden to

stand up” for praise. Compare the practice of the Christian Church.

Blessed be. Literally, “let them bless.” The Levites turn their address, after

its opening clause, from the people to Jehovah Himself, who henceforth

becomes the subject of it. Thy glorious name. The high honor due to the

name” of God is taught by the sacred writers with one uniform voice from

Moses (Exodus 20:7) to the last ‘surviving apostle (Revelation 15:4).

The “glorious name” of God is an expression which occurs four

times in our version of the Old Testament; but the exact phrase here

used is found only in Psalm 72:19.

 

6 “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the

heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that

are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest

them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.”

Thou art Lord alone. Compare Psalm 86:10 and Isaiah 37:16.

In the latter passage the phrase used is almost identical. The heaven

of heavens. Compare Deuteronomy 10:14; I Kings 8:27; Psalm

148:4. The expression has been explained as :

 

            1. The very highest heaven;

            2. The heavens in all their infinity,

 

The latter sense best suits the various passages where the phrase occurs.

With all their host. The “host of heaven” has been taken to mean —

 

            1. The angels;

            2. The stars.

 

By the immediate context the stars would seem to be here intended; but the

last clause of the verse is more properly applicable to the angels. Still, it

must be remembered that, according to Psalm 148:3, even the stars “praise”

God. Thou preservest them all. The preservation of all created things by Him

who called them into being is scarcely taught in the Old Testament elsewhere

than in this passage. The Psalmist says in one place, “Thou preservest man and

beast (Psalm 36:6); but this acknowledgment falls very far short of the

universality of the present passage. Man naturally, but foolishly, fancies that

things once created are able to preserve themselves. Exact thought sees, that

if all things have been produced from nothing, it requires precisely the same

power to sustain as originally to produce them. Hence “preservation” has

been called “a continual creation.”

 

 

                                                United Praise (vs. 4-6)

 

Commencement of the worship and confessions with general praise.

 

  • THE LEADERS OF THE WORSHIP. An honorable and responsible

            office.

 

  • THEIR EXHORTATION TO THE PEOPLE.

 

Ø      As to the attitude in which they were to offer praise. “Stand up”

      the fitting posture for this part of Divine worship.

 

Ø      As to the praise they were to offer.

 

o       To whom. “Jehovah your God.” The true and living God,

      eternal and immutable; the God of Israel — He who revealed

      Himself specially to them, took them into peculiar relation to

      Himself, made them the objects of special care and discipline,

      gave them special promises. Christians have still greater reasons

      for calling Jehovah their God, and giving Him praise.

 

o       How long. “For ever and ever.” Indicates that God will for

      ever exist, and be worthy of praise, and actually praised; and

      that we should aspire and may hope to be eternally His

      worshippers.

 

  • THE UNITED PRAISE.

 

Ø      Introductory.

 

o       Praise of God’s name. Of God as revealed and declared by

      His works and word.

 

o       Declaration of the inadequacy of all praise of God. “Which

      is exalted,” etc. Not only can no words sufficiently express HIS

      MAJESTY AND INFINITE EXCELLENCY but no thoughts,

      no emotions (which often transcend thought as well as language;

      see Romans 8:26) are worthy of them. And not only is our praise

      inadequate, but all blessing and praise.” This is not a

                                    reason for withholding’ our worship, for then no praise would

                                    be offered in heaven or earth, but for striving after nobler thoughts

                                    and feeling’s and language, and offering all with deepest humility.

                                    God condescends to accept the poorest worship, if sincere, and

                                    the best we can present.

 

Ø      Praise of God as “Jehovah alone.”

 

Ø      Ascription to Him of the creation of all things (v. 6). A great truth not

                        only unknown to most of the heathen, but given up by many cultivated

                        men in Christian lands. In the praise of God the display of His power,

                        wisdom, and goodness in the work of creation should hold a prominent

                        place. (Then the glory associated with salvation and re-creation! – CY –

2015)    He who made all should receive homage from all his intelligent

creatures.

 

  • THE RECOGNITION OF OTHER WORSHIPPERS. “The host of

            heaven worshippeth thee.” It is inspiring, when uniting in Divine worship,

            to remember our fellow-worshippers, and thus cultivate fellowship with

            them (compare the beginning of the Te Deum – an early traditional

            Christian hymn of joy and praise). The Jews had not this satisfaction in

            respect to any other people. They alone worshipped the true God, and

            they had not learned to think and feel as to heathen worship that

            it was about equivalent to their own. All the more gladly did they

            recognize that their God, unknown and unworshipped by the rest of the

            world, was adored and praised and served by hosts of exalted intelligences

            in other worlds.  (And Jesus Christ is bringing us together – See Ephesians

            1:10 – CY – 2015)  To us, also, this is an inspiriting truth, adapted to stimulate

            and elevate our worship. The greatest beings God has made bow down with

            lowliness before Him, and with all the ardor of their seraphic nature

            celebrate His praise. We need not be ashamed to be like them, but should

            seek to make our worship resemble theirs as nearly as possible, and be

            thankful that, through the mediation of our Redeemer, in whom heaven and

            earth are united, it is as acceptable to God. They praise the Saviour as well

            as the Creator; we praise Him with a feeling they cannot share; FOR HE

            REDEEMED US BY HIS BLOOD,  not them.

 

Vs. 7-31 -  Compare with this long historical resume the still longer

ones in Psalm 78:5-72 and Acts 7:2-47. God’s dealings with His

people furnished a moral lesson of extraordinary force, and moral teachers,

naturally, made frequent reference to them. But it is not often that we have

so complete and elaborate a recapitulation as the present, which, beginning

with the call of Abraham, brings the history down to the time of the Persian

servitude. God’s goodness and His people’s ingratitude form the burden of

the whole.

 

 

7 “Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and

broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the

name of Abraham;”  8 “And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and

madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites,

the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites,

to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art

righteous:  9 And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and

heardest their cry by the Red sea;”  Canaanites, etc. The nations driven out

were actually seven (Deuteronomy 7:1), but it is a common figure of speech to

put the part for the whole. In the present enumeration the Hivites are omitted.

Hast performed thy words. Though for a time remnants of the accursed

nations were left in the land, “to prove Israel (Judges 3:1), yet

ultimately all were either driven out or reduced to the condition of slaves

(see the comment on Ezra 2:55).

 

 

                                    God’s Favor to Abraham (vs. 7-8)

 

The multitude, led by the Levites, now begin the recital of God’s gracious

dealings with their race; and, first, with their great ancestor, Abraham. By

the words, “Thou art Jehovah God,” they allege that it was the only living

and true God, the Creator of all things, who distinguished Abraham, and

through him their nation, by His favor. They then recount:

 

  • HIS CHOICE OF ABRAHAM.   Of His own gracious will separating him

      from others, to preserve the knowledge and worship of Himself, and to be the

            Father of the people whom He appointed to be peculiarly His own.

 

  • HIS LEADING HIM from Chaldaea to Canaan.

 

  • HIS CHANGE OF HIS NAME FROM ABRAM TO ABRAHAM. 

      Thus promising him a numerous posterity.

 

  • HIS RECOGNITION OF ABRAHAM’S FAITHFULNESS.   A reference to

      Genesis 15:6, where “believed” is part of the same verb as the word “faithful”

      here (compare Galatians 3:9 — faithful Abraham ). Abraham was faithful in

            heart, and that before God. He trusted God, and continued to trust Him

            through all trials of his faith. He was faithful in maintaining the worship of

            God in the midst of idolaters, and in teaching his household to “keep the

            way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Genesis 18:19). And

            God marked and rewarded his fidelity.

 

  • HIS COVENANT WITH HIM.  Genesis 15:18-21 seems especially

            referred to. The larger promises, that Abraham and his posterity should be

            a blessing to all men, do not here come into view.

 

  • HIS PERFORMANCE OF THE COVENANT.  In which God’s

      righteousness is recognized (v. 6).

 

REFLECTIONS:

 

  • All blessings enjoyed by men have their origin in the free grace and choice

      of God.

  • Yet God in His treatment of men has regard to their faithfulness to Him.
  • The righteousness, as well as the goodness, of God assures us that

            HE WILL FULFILL ALL HIS PROMISES!

  • We as well as the Jews have reason to praise God for the grace shown

            to Abraham. For He is our spiritual ancestor, “the father of all them that

            believe (Romans 4:11).

 

 

                                    Faithfulness of Heart (v. 8)

 

“And foundest his heart faithful before thee.” We have here:

 

  • A PRINCIPAL CHARACTERISTIC OF A GODLY MAN.

 

Ø      Its seat. The heart. No merely outward practices constitute faithfulness

                        before God.

Ø      Its reality. It is faithfulness “before God,” such as He who searches the

                        heart can see to exist; not merely what men might from outward

                        appearances erroneously think to exist.

Ø      Its principle. Faith in God.

Ø      Its manifestations.

o       Confession. Open acknowledgment of God, and testimony

      for Him.

o       Worship.

o       Obedience.

o       Fidelity in use of talents for God.

o       Constancy and perseverance in all.

o       Notwithstanding temptations,

§         difficulties,

§         opposition,

§         persecution,

§         defections of others.

 

  • THE DIVINE RECOGNITION OF IT.

 

Ø      God knows and marks it. Foundest,” etc. “The Father seeketh such,”

      (John 4:23) and rejoices to find them. If unobserved by men, not by Him.

Ø      He accepts it. Though it be accompanied with imperfections, as in the

                        case of Abraham.

Ø      He honors and rewards it. With gracious assurances, and the fulfillment

                        of them. To the faithful He will show Himself faithful. (Psalm 18:25)

                        They shall at length be addressed, “Well done, good and faithful servant,

                        enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:21,23)    In conclusion,

                        God sees all hearts; what does He find in ours?

 

10 “And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his

servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that

they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it

is this day.” They dealt proudly. The “proud dealing” of the Egyptians is

spoken of in Exodus 18:11. That God “got himself a name” by the

signs and wonders shown in Egypt is often declared (see ibid. ch.9:16;

14:17; 15:14-16, etc.).  (I highly recommend

www.arkdiscovery.com/red_sea_crossing.htm  - CY – 2015)

 

 

 

                                    The Divine Self-Made Name (v. 10)

 

“So didst thou get [make] thee a name, as it is this day.” “What is thy

name?” is a question asked of God by thoughtful men in all ages. How

shall we conceive and speak of God? The answer is found in the various

manifestations He has made of Himself. He is the maker and publisher of His

own name.

 

  • THE WAYS BY WHICH GOD HAS MADE FOR HIMSELF A

            NAME.

 

Ø      By His works. Of nature, providence, miracle, grace.

Ø      By His word. Directly instructing men how to think and speak of

      Him, and enabling them to interpret His works.

Ø      Preeminently by the manifestation of Himself in His Son. The

                        character, teaching, and works of Christ present A PERFECT

                        REVELATION OF THE INVISIBLE GOD!  “I have declared

                        thy name, and will declare it” (John 17:26).

 

  • THE NAME HE HAS THUS MADE FOR HIMSELF. The Almighty,

            All-wise, All-good, the Holy, Just, Faithful, Merciful, Terrible, Father and

            Saviour of all, especially of believers, LOVE, etc.

 

  • ITS ENDURANCE. “As it is this day.” He remains the same; His

            name is so written that it can never be blotted out, so proclaimed that it

            shall resound through the world, through the universe, FOR EVER!

 

  • WHY HE HAS MADE HIMSELF SUCH A NAME. For His own

            glory, and for the benefit of His creatures; that they may fear, trust, love,

            worship, and obey Him, and thus be saved and blessed. Finally, we shall at

            length in our own personal experience know and illustrate the name of

            God. Which part of His name? This depends on how we are affected by

            and towards it now.

 

11 “And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went

through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors

thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.

12 Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in

the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein

they should go.”  As a stone. This phrase is taken from the “song of Moses”

(ibid. ch.15:5). The composer of the address has also in his mind ibid. v.10.

The epithet given to the “waters” is not, however, the same, as might appear

from the Authorized Version.

 

 

                                    Redemption from Egypt (vs. 9-11)

 

The people proceed to celebrate the power and goodness of God as

displayed in the deliverance of their ancestors from Egyptian bondage.

 

  • THE CONDITION FROM WHICH THEY WERE DELIVERED. It

            was one of:

 

Ø      Cruel oppression. “They dealt proudly,” insolently and cruelly,

      against them.”

Ø      Misery. “The affliction of our fathers.”

 

  • THE SUCCESSIVE STEPS OF THEIR DELIVERANCE.

 

Ø      The Divine notice of their condition. “Didst see,” etc., “thou knewest,”

                        etc. God seemed to have forgotten them, but He had not. His eye was on

                        them; their condition interested Him; and at length, in the fullness of time,

                        He interposed to rescue them.

Ø      The plagues inflicted on the ruler and people of Egypt.

Ø      The wonders wrought at the Red Sea. In utmost apparent peril, the

                        people and Moses cried unto God; He heard “their cry” (v. 9),

                        divided the waters, led the Israelites safely through, and overwhelmed

                        their “pursuers.”  (See “The Red Sea Crossing” at

                        www.arkdiscovery.com. - CY – 2015)

 

  • ONE GREAT RESULT OF THEIR DELIVERANCE. “So didst thou

            get thee a name,” etc. (compare Exodus 9:16). Jehovah secured for

            Himself a name for power, terribleness, special favor to Israel; a name

            widespread, lasting (“as it is this day,” and still in our day); a name to be

            revered, trusted, loved, rejoiced in, praised, published. The Jews never

            wearied of proclaiming in their Psalms the name of Him who redeemed

            them from Egypt so marvelously; and, in recalling this great redemption to

            mind, renewed from time to time their confidence that God who had done

            so much for them would not forsake them. Notice:

 

Ø      The importance of these events for the Israelites. Not only for their

                        immediate effects; but they gave the nation birth, separated them from

                        the spiritual perils of Egypt, its idolatry, etc. Their passage through the

                        Red Sea was their national baptism unto Moses, and unto God by Him

                        (I Corinthians 10:2), consecrating them to be the people of God, to learn

                        and practice His laws, maintain His worship, preserve the knowledge

                        of Him for the benefit ultimately of the world.

 

Ø      Their significance for us.

 

o       Direct. As a display of the power and goodness of our God, His

                                    mindfulness of His people in their sorrows, and sure deliverance

                                    of them, though they may long have to “wait for Him.” As a

                                    pledge of the final triumph of His Church over all its enemies.

                                    And as one of the most marvelous of that series of interpositions

                                    which had for their object the enlightenment and salvation of the

                                    Gentiles as well as the Jews.

 

o       Typical. Of the great redemption wrought for us in Christ by His

      death and the power of the Holy Ghost. The creation and

      consecration of a new and larger Israel of God.” This redemption

      is, like that of the Israelites, a deliverance from slavery into

      freedom, from degradation into honor, from misery into happiness,

      with the prospect of a settled and blessed rest; but vastly superior

      in respect to the marvels by which it was, and is, wrought, the

      evils from which it saves, and the blessings to which it introduces.

                                    Estimating these aright, we shall be prepared and impelled to

                                    sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song

                                    of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works,

                                    Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King

                                    of saints.” (Revelation 15:3).

 

13 “Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them

from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good

statutes and commandments:” Right judgments, true laws, good statutes, etc.,

are expressions which imply an immutable morality, a standard of right and

wrong antecedent to command or precept, which standard is doubtless the

eternal goodness of God Himself. The repetition of the epithets here shows

the composer of the form to be penetrated with the spirit of admiration for

God’s commandments which breathes so remarkably through the whole of

Psalm 119.

 

14 “And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst

them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:”

Madest known unto them thy holy sabbath. The anterior existence of the sabbath

to the law is here implied, which accords with Genesis 2:2-3, and Exodus 20:11.

Precepts, statutes, and laws. Rather a periphrasis for “the law” generally, than a

logical division of the Law into distinct parts.

 

15 “And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and

broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and

promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which

thou hadst sworn to give them.” Bread from heaven. The manna had been

already called the “bread of heaven” (Psalm 105:40) and the “corn of heaven”

(ibid. ch.78:24) by the national psalmists. The composer of this prayer now for the

first time calls it “bread from heaven”— a phrase consecrated to Christians

by its employment in John 6:32, 51, 58).

 

16 “But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks,

and hearkened not to thy commandments,”  They and our fathers. Rather,

they, our fathers.” The vau is used exegetically. Dealt proudly. i.e. “acted

insolently.” Compare Deuteronomy 1:43, where the same verb is translated were

presumptuous’’ (margin). Hardened their necks. So in II Kings 17:14.

 

17 “And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that

thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their

rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou

art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger,

and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.”

In their rebellion. Several manuscripts  have bMitzraim for

bMiryam, which would give the sense “appointed a captain to return to

their bondage in Egypt.” So the Septuagint. Appointed a captain. The

reference is to Numbers 14:4, where we are told that the Israelites “said one to

another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.” The Levites

speak as if the appointment had been made, perhaps regarding the intention

as morally equivalent to the act. A God ready to pardon. Literally, “a

God of pardons.” The word used is a rare one, occurring only in Daniel

9:9 and Psalm 130:4, besides the present passage. Gracious and

merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. This is quoted from

Joel 2:13, which is perhaps a conscious reproduction of Jonah 4:2.

 

18 “Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy

God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great

provocations;  19  Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in

the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day,

to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew

them light, and the way wherein they should go.” Great provocations.

Or “great blasphemies,” as the same word is rendered in Ezekiel 35:12.

 

20 “Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest

not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.

21  Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that

they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet

swelled not.”  Thou gavest them also thy good Spirit to instruct them.

The “good Spirit” of God is mentioned in Psalm 143:10; and the fact of

God’s “instructing and teaching” men in ibid. ch. 32:8. But instruction by

God’s Spirit is nowhere else distinctly mentioned in the Old Testament.

 

 

                                    Israel in the Desert (vs. 12-21)

 

The people now recount the mercies of God to their fathers in the desert,

and confess the sins of which they were guilty there. After deliverance from

Egypt, the desert had to be passed before Canaan could be reached; and

there the people were instructed and organized, tried and proved,

disciplined and chastised, and thus prepared for orderly settlement as a

nation in the promised land.

 

  • THE DIVINE FAVORS BY WHICH THEY WERE

            DISTINGUISHED.

 

Ø      Miraculous guidance (vs. 12, 19).

Ø      Miraculous provisions (vs. 15, 20-21).

Ø      Miraculous legislation (vs. 13-14).

o       How the laws were given. Partly by the voice of God from

      Sinai (v.13), chiefly by the mediation of Moses (v. 14).

o       Of what, they consisted. In general they are described as

      right judgments and true laws,” etc. (vs. 13-14). In

      particular, the institution of the Sabbath is mentioned (v. 14) –

      one of the greatest and best gifts of God to them.

Ø      The gift of God’s “good Spirit” (v. 20). Reference may be made to the

                        Spirit of God as given to Moses, and to the seventy elders (Numbers

                        11:17, 25), or even Bezaleel and Aholiab (Exodus 35:31-35). But

                        looking at such passages as Psalm 51:11; 143:10, it is quite as possible

                        that the enlightening influence of the Spirit on the minds and hearts

                        of the people in general may be referred to.

Ø      The command to enter Canaan. V. 15, where promisedst them”

      (literally  saidst to them”) should probably be “commandedst them.”

      The command, however, virtually included a renewed promise. God

      had “sworn to give them” it; now they are bid to go in and take

      possession of it; implying that God would give them possession if

      they obeyed His call.

 

  • THE GROSS INIQUITIES BY WHICH THEY DISTINGUISHED

            THEMSELVES. Notwithstanding the wonderful manifestations of God

            amongst them, and His great kindness.

 

Ø      Proud and stubborn disobedience (vs. 16-17).

Ø      Purpose to return to Egypt (v. 17; see Numbers 14:1-4). Just on

                        the borders of the promised land they refused to advance into it,

                        terrified by the report of most of the spies, and not exercising faith

                        in his power who had wrought for them so mightily. Yea, they

                        proposed to return to the land of bondage, and “appointed a captain”

                         to lead them thither.  (they limited the Holy One of Israel” – Psalm

                        78:41)

Ø      Idolatry (v. 18). A violation of the fundamental principle of their law.

 

  • THE DIVINE FORBEARANCE, MERCY, AND CONSTANCY

            (vs. 17, 19-20). They “wrought great provocations,” and numbers of

            them were heavily punished; yea, all who came out of Egypt, except two,

            were forbidden to enter Canaan, and died in the wilderness; yet even these

            continued during their lives to enjoy Divine guidance and sustenance, so

            that “they lacked nothing.” God showed Himself “ready to pardon,” etc.

            (v. 17), and displayed His “manifold mercies,” and did not forsake them.

            To the children He fulfilled the promises, the benefit of which the fathers

            had forfeited.

 

  • THE LONG DURATION OF HIS MIRACULOUS SUSTENANCE

            OF THEM (v. 21). Lessons:

 

Ø      The goodness of God and the depravity of man. The history of Israel

      is full of both. So is all history. “The earth is full of the goodness of the

                        Lord,” (Psalm 33:5) and also full of human wickedness. Each is rendered

                        more conspicuous by the other; and the contrast makes one appear more

                        glorious, the other more hideous.

Ø      As, after deliverance from Egypt, the desert had to be traversed before

                        Canaan could be enjoyed, so is it in the Christian life. This world is a

                        desert in comparison with heaven, and the journey through it is difficult

                        and perilous. But it lies between conversion and heaven, and MUST

                        BE CROSSED!

Ø      Through this desert, however, God conducts His people. He guides,

                        provides, protects, instructs, governs, and thus trains and prepares

                        them for the promised inheritance. This is our comfort amid all the

                        discomforts and dangers of the journey.

Ø      In ordinary mercies the agency of God is as real as in the miraculous.

                        Our food, drink, clothing, etc. are as truly His gifts as the manna, etc.

                        which He bestowed on Israel. His power, wisdom, and goodness are

                        as really displayed in them, and both more extensively and more

                        marvelously.

Ø      Amongst God’s best gifts are His revelations of Himself and His laws;

      His crowning gift is His Spirit. Under the Christian dispensation all these

      are far superior to the similar blessings vouchsafed to Israel. Our

      responsibilities are, therefore, greater; our moral and spiritual state

      should be far higher, our thankfulness more ardent.

Ø      We have a promise of a better inheritance than Canaan, with a

      command to journey steadily towards it; let us beware lest we come

                        short of it through unbelief and disobedience.  (Hebrews 4:1; 12:15)

 

 

                                    The Holy Spirit as a Teacher (v. 20)

 

“Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them.” This assertion is more

emphatically true of Christians than of Israel. We live under “the

dispensation of the Spirit,” when the “promise of the Spirit” is more

abundantly fulfilled. We have here:

 

  • A WONDERFUL DISPLAY OF DIVINE MERCY. It is in the midst of

            the narration of Israel’s pride and stubbornness that this statement is made.

            So it is to a rebellious world that God’s Spirit comes to instruct, restore,

            and save.

 

  • AN INVALUABLE GIFT.

 

Ø      His nature. Special Divine influence and operation — the Holy Spirit

                        acting on and in the minds and hearts of men.

o       In and through inspired men and their utterances by speech or

      writing. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the

      Holy Ghost.”  (II Peter 1:21)  By such inspiration what might

      have been otherwise learned is taught more clearly and

      authoritatively, and the truths which especially relate to

                                    salvation, which could not have been otherwise known,

                                    are revealed.

o       In the hearts of men generally. Those especially to whom

      the gospel comes enjoy this great blessing, for their

      enlightenment, conviction, conversion, regeneration, and

      sanctification.

o       Through the Church. That is, through the speech and life of

      Christians, and in connection with Christian fellowship, worship,

      and ordinances. Not, however, as a magical influence to be

      dispensed at the will of men.

 

Ø      His goodness. “Thy good Spirit.” Intended not to describe the

     personal goodness of the Holy Spirit, but the value of His influence

     to men. Amongst the gifts of God to Israel named in the context, this

     was incalculably the best. The gifts of God which we call providential

     are invaluable; those of His grace are of far higher value, and of these

     this is the greatest. Without the Spirit no other Divine gift would avail

     for our highest and everlasting well-being. This renders all other

     blessings truly blessed.  The good Spirit makes all things good to us,

     even those which we call evil, yea, those which in themselves are evil.

 

  • A GRAND OPPORTUNITY. “To instruct them.” Each one of us

            may have the inestimable advantage of a Divine Teacher who not only

            speaks to the ear, or the eye, but enters the heart, and whose instructions

            are the most essential to our welfare. He makes “wise unto salvation.” The

            only conditions are faith in Him and His teaching, willingness to learn and

            practice His lessons, and prayer for His influences.

 

  • A HEAVY RESPONSIBILITY. In proportion to the value of God’s

            gifts are the responsibilities they impose. No responsibility can, therefore,

            be so heavy as that which arises from the gift of the Holy Ghost; the

            presence amongst us, the influence upon us, of a Divine Person proffering

            and pressing His aid to lead us to God, goodness, and heaven. Happy those

            who receive Him into. their hearts as a permanent guest and guide — the

            life of their life, the soul of their soul. But let us take heed lest we “grieve

            the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), or “do despite unto the Spirit of

            grace,” and He depart from us utterly and for ever, leaving us to the “sorer

            punishment(Hebrews 10:29) which falls on those to whom God comes

            most nearly and graciously, and is rejected by them.

 

22 “Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide

them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the

land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.”

Thou didst divide them into corners. i.e. “didst plant them

in every corner of the Holy Land,” — “gave them to possess the whole of

it,” — ultimately, that is, not at first (see the comment on v. 8). The land

of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon. The Levites must have

known that Sihon was king of Heshbon, and (if the text is sound) must

have expressed themselves as they did, by way of rhetorical amplification;

perhaps, however, the van after “Sihon” is the mistake of a copyist.

 

23 “Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and

broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst

promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.”

As the stars of heaven. There is a reference here to the

promise made to Abraham (Genesis 15:5; 22:17). On the great

multiplication which took place in Egypt see Exodus 1:7, 12.

 

24 “So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst

before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest

them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land,

that they might do with them as they would.”  The Canaanites.

Sometimes, as in v. 8, the Canaanites are spoken of as one of the nations

cast out; sometimes the word is used in a larger sense, and includes the

other six nations. Here we have the wide sense.

 

25 “And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses

full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit

trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became

fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.”

They took strong cities. As Jericho, Ai, Libnah, Lachish,

Hazer, Hebron, etc. A fat land. Compare Numbers 14:7-8;

Deuteronomy 8:7-20; II Kings 18:32. Houses full of all goods. See

Deuteronomy 6:11. Fruit trees in abundance. The fruit trees of

Palestine are, besides the vine and the olive, the fig tree, the carob or locust

tree (ceratonia siliqua), the quince, the apple, the almond, the walnut, the

peach, the apricot, the mulberry, the sycamore fig, the prickly pear, the

pomegranate, and the orange. Date-palms also were anciently abundant in

the valley of the Jordan. They… became fat, Compare Deuteronomy 32:15

and Jeremiah 5:28, the only other places where the expression here used occurs.

The comparison will show that dispraise is intended — “they grew wanton and

self-indulgent.” Delighted themselves. (ἐτρύφησαν etruphaesanluxuriated

 Septuagint.).

 

 

                        Canaan Conquered and Possessed (vs. 22-25)

 

Continuing the recital of the goodness of God to their nation, the people

narrate how their fathers obtained possession of the promised land. All is

ascribed to God.

 

  • HE PRESERVED THE NATION to enter the land (v. 23). Although

            those who left Egypt died, two excepted, in the desert, their children were

            multiplied “as the stars of heaven.”

 

  • HE CONQUERED THE COUNTRY, AND GAVE THEM

            POSSESSION OF IT. First, kingdoms east of the Jordan (v. 22), then

            the rest of the land (v. 24). Although the inhabitants were numerous and

            valiant, He subdued them; through His might they took even “strong cities”

            (v. 25).

 

  • THE LAND HE GAVE THEM WAS OF GREAT VALUE, AND

            AFFORDED THEM MUCH ENJOYMENT (v. 25).

 

  • HE THUS FULFILLED HIS PROMISES (v. 23).

 

Reflections:

 

1. The perpetuation of the nation of Israel reminds us of the perpetuity of

the Church of Christ. Notwithstanding the death of successive generations

of Christians, the ravages of error, worldliness, etc., its continuance is

guaranteed by the promise, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against

it.”  (Matthew 16:18)

 

2. The fulfillment of the promise of Canaan, after so long a period, should

assure us of the fulfillment of all the promises of God. “He is faithful that

promised(Hebrews 10:23), and He is almighty to overcome all obstacles

and opposition.

 

3. The possession of a good land should excite our gratitude and praise.

Our land is superior to Canaan in many respects, supplied with all kinds of

advantages which the labors of others have created for us; and, like later

generations of Israelites, we inherit it without conquest, and with far less

peril of invasion than they experienced. God is the Giver of all, and should

ever be praised for all; and we should be concerned lest by godlessness and

unrighteousness WE FORFEIT OUR INHERITANCE!

 

4. Christians are heirs of “a better country.” Heaven is like Canaan, as the

gift of God, according to His promises; as a “rest” after much wandering

and unrest, and as abounding in whatever can minister to enjoyment, and

cause its inhabitants to “delight themselves in God’s great goodness.” But

it is vastly superior, as a country never polluted by idolatry and

wickedness; whose inhabitants are all holy; which no foe can invade, no

sin, suffering, or death can enter; whose enjoyments are all pure, spiritual,

and without peril; and from which is NO EXPULSION!   It is “an inheritance

incorruptible, and undefiled, and which fadeth not away, RESERVED IN

HEAVEN FOR YOU!”an eternal possession.  (I Peter 1:4)

 

26 “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and

cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which

testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great

provocations.”  They… slew thy prophets. Compare Matthew 23:37;

Luke 11:47. Jewish tradition states that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel

were murdered. Many prophets were slain by Jezebel, with Ahab’s sanction

(I Kings 18:4). Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, was put to death by

Joash (II Chronicles 24:22).

 

27 “Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies,

who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried

unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy

manifold mercies thou gavest them saviors, who saved them out of

the hand of their enemies.” Thou gavest them saviours. e.g. Othniel and

Ehud (who are called “saviours,” Judges 3:9, 15), Shamgar, Gideon, Jephthah,

Samson, Saul, David, etc. The writer seems to have the history of “Judges”

especially in his mind (see the next verse).

 

 

                        The Divine Description of a Sinful Life (vs. 19-27)

 

  • THAT THE SINFUL LIFE IS FAVORED WITH THE DIVINE

            FORBEARANCE. The sins of the people were:

 

Ø      pride (v. 16),

Ø      disobedience (v. 17),

Ø      idolatry (v. 18),

Ø      murder (v. 26),

Ø      provocation, and

Ø      obduracy.

 

            “Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the

            wilderness.”  (v. 19)  This forbearance is:

 

Ø      merciful.,

Ø      considerate, (in the wilderness it was so much needed)

Ø      unrecognised. Thus is the obduracy of sin.

 

  • THAT THE SINFUL LIFE IS FAVORED WITH ALL THE

            BENEFICENT MINISTRIES OF HEAVEN. “The pillar of the cloud

            departed not from them” (v. 19).  The sinful life has:

 

Ø      light,

Ø      guidance, and

Ø      spiritual instruction (v. 20). Thus the ingratitude of sin!

 

  • THAT THE SINFUL LIFE IS SUSTAINED BY THE KIND

            PROVIDENCE OF GOD (v. 21).

 

Ø      Suitable.

Ø      Continuous.

Ø      Sufficient.

Ø      Various. Thus the willful blindness and ingratitude of sin!

 

  • THAT THE SINFUL LIFE OFTEN EXPERIENCES GREAT

            TEMPORAL PROSPERITY AT THE HAND OF GOD (v. 22).

 

Ø      Possession.

Ø      Multiplication.

Ø      Conquest.

Ø      Plenty. Yet the goodness of God does not lead to repentance.

 

  • THAT THE SINFUL LIFE IS ALSO DISCIPLINED BY

            AFFLICTIVE PROVIDENCES (v. 27).  In all this see THE

            DIVINE EFFORT TO AWAKEN THE SINNER!

 

28 “But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore

leftest thou them in the land of their enemies, so that they had the

dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee,

thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver

them according to thy mercies;” After they had rest. See Judges 3:11, 30;

5:31; 8:28.

 

29 “And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again

unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy

commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man

do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened

their neck, and would not hear.”  Withdrew the shoulder. Compare Hosea 4:16

(Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer”) and Zechariah 7:11. The metaphor

is taken from the action of a beast of burden which, when required to

draw, shrinks from the yoke and starts back.

 

 

                                    The Divine Testimony against Sin (v.29)

 

And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy

law.” The Divine testimony against sin and sinners is repeatedly mentioned

in this confession (see vs. 26, 30). We may take a general view of it.

 

  • THE WITNESS OF GOD AGAINST SIN AND SINNERS.

 

Ø      In His holy laws. Declaring His will, denouncing disobedience, and

                        warning against its consequences.

Ø      In His revelations of eternity, judgment, hell, heaven. “There shall

      in no wise enter into it anything that defileth.”  (Revelation 21:27)

Ø      In the nature of man. The testimony of conscience; the evil effects

      of sin on the body (diseases, death) and the soul, disordering,

      debasing, blunting the conscience, hardening the heart, etc.

Ø      In the effects of sin on the circumstances of the sinner.

Ø      In the effects of sin on society. Destruction of mutual esteem and

                        confidence. Disorders, divisions, miseries.

      In the methods of salvation from sin. The sufferings borne by OUR

      LORD, in atoning for sin. The pains of conviction, penitence, etc.

      produced by the WORD and SPIRIT OF GOD!

Ø      By the Church. Its constitution as a society avowedly renouncing sin,

                        and called to battle against it everywhere. Its ministry, ordinances,

                        examples of holiness, discipline on offenders.

 

  • ITS DESIGN.

 

Ø      To deter from sin.

Ø      To produce repentance.  “That thou mightest bring them again

      unto thy law.”

 

  • THE REVELATION OF GOD WHICH IS THUS MADE.

            Manifestations of:

 

Ø      His hatred to sin. Which His permission of its prevalence might seem to

                        put in question.

Ø      His benevolence. His testimonies against sin are so many entreaties that

                        men would not injure themselves, so many safeguards against their

                        doing so, so many strong reasons for turning from sin to holiness,

                        and thus from misery to blessedness.

Ø      His justice in condemning the impenitent. Disregard of THE DIVINE

      TESTIMONY against sin will work FINAL RUIN,  BUT THE LOST

      SINNER WILL HAVE  ONLY HIMSELF TO BLAME!  “Today,” then,

      if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart.” (Hebrews 3:15) 

            Let it not be said of you, “Yet would they not give ear” (v. 30).

 

 

A Prayerful Review of Divine Goodness as Manifested

     in the Facts of Human Life (vs. 1-29)

 

·         A PRAYERFUL REVIEW OF THE DIVINE NAME.   “And blessed be thy

glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (ver. 5).

 

Ø      It views God as the Creator of all things (v. 6).

Ø      It views God as electing His people (v. 7).

Ø      It views God as covenanting with the faithful (v. 8).

Ø      It views God as delivering His people in the time of sore affliction

(vs. 9-10).

 

·         A PRAYERFUL REVIEW OF THE DIVINE ACTION. “And thou didst

divide the sea before them” (v. 11).

 

Ø      The act of deliverance (v. 11).

Ø      The act of guidance. “Moreover thou leddest them in the day by

a cloudy pillar” (v. 12).

Ø      The act of instruction (vs. 13-14).

Ø      The act of provision. “And gavest them bread from heaven for

their hunger” (ver. 15).

Ø      The act of forbearance (v. 17).

Ø      The act of conquest (v. 24).

Ø      The act of retribution (v. 27).

 

30 “Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against

them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear:

therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.

31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly

consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and

merciful God.” Many years didst thou forbear them. The ten tribes for 260

years from the revolt of Jeroboam, the remaining two tribes for 135 years

longer. Testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets. Compare

II Kings 17:13, where the phrase used is nearly the same, and see also

II Chronicles 36:15-16. There was a continual succession of prophets

from the time of Solomon to, and through, the captivity. Besides those

whose writings have come down to us, we find mention of:

 

·         Ahijah the Shilonite,

·         Iddo the seer,

·         Shemaiah the prophet,

·         Hanani,

·         Jehu the son of Hanani,

·         Elijah,

·         Elisha,

·         Micaiah the son of Imlah,

·         Zechariah the son of Jehoiada,

·         Huldah, and (perhaps) Hosai.

 

The guilt of the Jewish people was enormously increased by the fact that

they would not give ear to the exhortations constantly addressed to them

by the messengers of God. Therefore they were delivered into the hands

of the heathen, or people of the lands.

 

 

                        Israel’s Wickedness and God’s Goodness. (vs. 26-31)

 

A summary of the national history from the entrance into Canaan to the

captivity. A dismal story; but, as was natural and suitable in a confession of

sin, the more pleasing facts are omitted.

 

  • THE GREAT AND  INVETERATE WICKEDNESS OF THE PEOPLE.

      This is described by various terms and phrases, and its heinousness exhibited in

            many particulars.

 

Ø      Flagrant disobedience to the Divine laws. Although so good and so

                        adapted to PROMOTE THEIR WELFARE, “which if a man do, he

                        shall live in them” (v. 29).

Ø      Proud and stubborn disregard of THE DIVINE REMONSTRANCES

     `AND WARNINGS!

Ø      Persecution even unto death of God’s inspired messengers (v. 26).

Ø      Repeated relapses after partial reformation. Notwithstanding:

o       The severity of the chastisements which produced it.

o       The fervor of their prayers for deliverance, and promises of

                                    amendment.

o       The signal and numerous deliverances effected for them in

      answer to their prayers.

Ø      The persistence of their disobedience.

 

  • THE MARVELLOUS AND LONG-CONTINUED GOODNESS OF

            GOD.

 

Ø      In sending them successive messengers to warn them and lead them to

                        repentance. Even when they slew some, He sent others.

Ø      In inflicting punishment upon them for the same end.

Ø      In repeatedly answering their prayers for deliverance.

Ø      In bearing with them so long, although “they wrought great

                        provocations.”

Ø      In preserving a remnant when at length He scattered the nation

      (v. 31).  Showing Himself throughout “a gracious and merciful God.”

 

Reflections:

 

1. Sin and suffering are indissolubly linked together.

2. Suffering is inflicted that sin may be subdued.

3. Amendment produced by suffering is often only temporary.

4. Persistence in sin insures ultimate ruin.

5. The goodness of God is shown in the testimony He maintains against sin,

and the chastisements He inflicts on the sinner.

6. God is faithful to His promises, although men prove unfaithful (v. 31).

7. The history of Israel is a mirror in which all may see their own likeness.

Nations and individuals; some more, some less. Even sincere Christians in a

measure. Many can say with good George Herbert ¯

 

                  “Lord, with what care hast thou begirtt us round!

                        Parents first season us; then schoolmasters

                        Deliver us to laws; they send us bound

                 To rules of reason, holy messengers,

                 Pulpits and Sundays, sorrow dogging sin,

                        Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,

                        Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,

                Bibles laid open, millions of surprises,

                Blessings beforehand, ties of gratefulness,

                        The sound of glory ringing in our ears;

                        Without, our shame; within, our consciences;

                Angels and grace, eternal hopes and fears:

                        Yet all these fences and their whole array

                        One cunning bosom-sin blows quite away.”

 

 

                        Adoration and Thanksgiving (vs. 6-15, 19-25, 27-31)

 

At this great and solemn gathering, which followed the feast of tabernacles, Ezra

and eight Levites led the whole assembly in a reverent address and appeal to God.

It is thought by some that the record of it in this chapter (vs. 6-38) is the exact copy

of it as then written down for the use of the Levites; or it may be the leading topics

of it as afterwards recollected and recorded. We have seen that confession of sin

is the groundwork and substance of it. But it includes adoration and

thanksgiving, for the grateful recital of the excellences of God’s character

and the graciousness of His dealings would be the very thing to deepen and

to quicken penitence for their sin. A realization of God’s holiness and a

remembrance of His kindness are inseparably connected with the sense of

our own guilt. This recital of the goodness of God, both general and

particular, contains reference to:

 

1. The essential greatness of God: as the one Lord; Creator and Preserver

of men; Maker of heaven, “with all their host;”… whom “the host of

heaven worshippeth (v. 6).

 

2. His distinguishing goodness to Israel: choosing Abraham (v. 7),

working great wonders on behalf of the race (vs. 10-11), giving them a

day of rest and a human leader (v. 14), establishing and enriching them in

the land of promise (vs. 22-25).

 

3. His miraculous and His abiding care for their wants: giving them “bread

from heaven for their hunger,” and bringing forth water for them out of the

rock for their thirst (v. 15); forty years sustaining them in the wilderness (v. 21).

 

4. His faithfulness: “performing His words, for He is righteous” (v. 8).

 

5. His pitifulness, and mercy, and patience: seeing their affliction and

hearing their cry (v. 9); “ready to pardon, slow to anger, and of great

kindness (v. 17); “many times delivering them” in answer to their cry

(v. 28); “not utterly consuming nor forsaking them” (v. 31).

 

6. His guidance and teaching: giving the cloudy pillar and the pillar of fire

(v. 12); speaking to them from heaven and giving them judgments and

true laws, etc. (v. 13), and His “good Spirit to instruct them” (v. 20).

 

7. His chastening love (vs. 28-30). Let us consider:

 

  • THE ABUNDANT GROUND FOR GRATITUDE ON THE PART OF

            EVERY ONE OF US. We worship and bless God as:

 

Ø      our Creator: “it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves”

      (Psalm 100:3);  it is He who breathed into us “the breath of life,”

      and made us “living souls” (Genesis 2:7); as

Ø      our Divine Preserver and Sustainer, whose visitation has preserved

      our spirit; as

Ø      One who has shown many peculiar and especial favors to us which

      he has not bestowed on others; as

Ø      One who has been opening His band and satisfying our daily want

                        daily loading us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19); as

Ø      One who has been faithful in all his dealings with us; who

Ø      has borne much and long with our waywardness, our fruitlessness,

      our imperfection; as

Ø      One who has been guiding us continually, “ordering our steps,”

      (Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 16:9) leading us by a way we knew not, by

      a right and a wise way;

Ø      teaching us His holy will, acting on us by His “good Spirit,” and

Ø      blessing us by that which we may have least appreciated, but which

      has been the truest instance of His love:

o       by chastening us,

o       correcting us,

o       “leading us into the wilderness, humbling us,”

o       weakening us,

o       impoverishing us,

o       taking from us the “light of our eyes,”

o       “breaking our schemes of earthly joy,”

                        that we might return unto Him, to find our rest in His love, our

                        portion in His service.

 

  • GOOD REASONS WHY WE, AS ERRING BUT ENDEAVOURING

            SOULS, SHOULD RECALL AND RECOUNT IT. There are four very

            strong reasons why, in the presence of God and of one another, we should

            recall His past loving-kindness and His everlasting goodness.

 

Ø      It is in accordance with His will, and will give pleasure to Him when we

                        do so reverently and gratefully.

Ø      It will deepen our sense of sin; for we shall feel that it is against all this

                        goodness and mercy we have rebelled.

Ø      It will give spirituality and intensity to the voice of our praise. Such

                        recollections will constrain us to “make melody in our heart”

                        (Ephesians 5:19) when we make music with our voice.

Ø      It will give depth to our abiding gratitude — that sense of

      unbounded indebtedness which we carry with us from the

      sanctuary, and hold in our hearts everywhere.

 

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible

God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem

little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our

princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our

fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria

unto this day.”  33 Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us;

for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:”

Our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible. Compare ch.1:5,

with the comment. Who keepest covenant and mercy.  This phrase

has apparently been derived from the Psalmist’s words — “My mercy

will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him”

(Psalm 89:28).  All the trouble. Literally, “the weariness;” but the word is clearly

used here for “suffering’’ generally. Since the time of the kings of Assyria.

The kings of Assyria, in the strictest sense of the word, had been God’s

original instrument for punishing His rebellious people. A king not

mentioned in Holy Scripture tells us that he defeated Ahab, and forced

Jehu to pay him tribute. Another (Pul) took tribute from Menahem (II

Kings 15:19-20). A third (Tiglath-Pileser) carried two tribes and a half

into captivity (ibid. v. 29; I Chronicles 5:26). A fourth (Shalmaneser)

laid siege to Samaria (II Kings 17:5), and a fifth (Sargon) took it. A

sixth (Sennacherib) took all the fenced cities of Judah from Hezekiah, and

forced him to buy the safety of Jerusalem (II Kings 18:13-16). A

seventh (Esar-haddon) had Manasseh brought as a prisoner to Babylon

(II Chronicles 33:11). Hence Isaiah calls the Assyrian monarch “the rod

of God’s anger” (Isaiah 10:5).

 

 

                        The Justice of God in Punishing Sinners (v. 33)

 

“Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done

right, but we have done wickedly.” The words express a just and salutary

conviction, and make an acknowledgment suitable to accompany an appeal

to the Divine compassion.

 

  • THE CONVICTION EXPRESSED. Of very great importance that we

            should not only verbally utter it, but sincerely feel it. How may we arrive at

            this conviction?

 

Ø      By faith in God’s essential rectitude. That He cannot be unrighteous in

                        any of His proceedings (see Deuteronomy 32:4).

Ø      By considering the rectitude and goodness of the laws against which we

                        have sinned.

Ø      By remembering all that God has done to guard us against sin (see on

                        v. 29). If we sin notwithstanding, we are justly punished.

Ø      By calling to mind our sins. Their:

o       essential evil,

o       number and magnitude, and

o       the circumstances which aggravate their guiltiness

                        (God’s varied kindness, our opportunities, advantages, knowledge,

                        convictions, good resolutions, etc.). Such a review will lead us to

                        exclaim with Ezra,  “Thou our God hast punished us less than our

                        iniquities deserve” (Ezra 9:13).

Ø      By comparing what we endure with the Divine threatenings. The

                        Israelites had been warned of the consequences of their rebellion

                        against God. He was only fulfilling His word. So it is with us.

                        What we suffer is no more, is indeed less, than WE WERE

                        WARNED to expect.

 

  • THE BENEFITS OF SUCH A CONVICTION.

 

Ø      It will prevent our murmuring at our sufferings. “Wherefore doth a

                        living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?”

                        (Lamentations 3:39).

Ø      It will greatly aid in producing repentance. Suffering is likely to do its

                        proper work in humbling us and making sin odious when we recognize

                        the justice of God in inflicting it.

Ø      It will lead to an appeal to the mercy of God for deliverance. Such an

                        appeal, MADE THROUGH CHRIST,, will be regarded, while an

                        appeal to justice would be as futile as groundless. Finally, observe that

                        THE GOODNESS OF GOD IS AS CONSPICIOUS AS HIS

                        JUSTICE  in the sufferings He inflicts in this life. They

                        have in view “our profit, that we may be partakers of his Holiness,”

                        (Hebrews 12:10) and so of true and everlasting blessedness. But if

                        through our perversity they fail of this result, they are followed by

                        the penalties of “judgment without mercy.”  (James 2:13)

 

34 “Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers,

kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy

testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.”

Thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against

them. i.e. the testimony borne by the prophets (see v. 30).

 

35 “For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great

goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which

thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked

works.”  They have not served thee in their kingdom. There is no

need of altering the reading here. “In their kingdom” means, “while they

had a kingdom of their own, and were not subjects, as now, to a foreign

power.” Thy great goodness. See above, v. 25. The large and fat land.

Compare Exodus 3:8. Although the limits of Palestine are narrow, yet

the land which God flare to His people, extending as it did from the

Euphrates to the river of Egypt (Genesis 15:18), might well be termed

a “large” or “broad” land.

 

 

                        Confession (vs. 1-5, 16-18, 26,28-30, 33-35)

 

The feast of tabernacles, held in such wise as Israel had not known since

the days of Joshua (ch. 8:17), concluded, “according unto the manner” of

that festival, with a solemn assembly” on the eighth day (ibid. v.18) — “the

last day, that great day of the feast” (John 7:37). After one day’s

interval, when nothing unusual was done, “on the twenty-fourth day of the

month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting” (v. l), and a

very great day was held of confession, adoration, and prayer. This was

entirely an optional act on their part; it was not done to conform to any

injunction’ it was felt to be a suitable and desirable thing. Under the law

there was some — under the gospel is more — room for spontaneous

service. Not only the ordinances and services that are prescribed, but such

and so many as the cultivation of our spiritual life requires, are what the

wise and the good will practice. These should not be:

 

(1) So many as to keep us from taking a fair share in the duties of daily life

and of citizenship, or as to lead insensibly to formality and ceremonialism;

nor should they be

 

(2) so few as to starve the soul or withhold from it the full nourishment it

needs. Ezra and Nehemiah may have felt that the intense and prolonged

exaltation of heart in which they had been luxuriating was not without its

dangers, and would be wisely followed by a calmer service. In the

cultivation of our religious character, one kind of service should alternate

with another — the contemplative with the social, the spiritual with the

practical, and the joyous and congratulatory with the penitential.

Confession of sin was the key-note of this entire service. It found utterance

in two ways.

 

·         OUTWARD SIGNS OF HUMILIATION (v. 1). “The children of

Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackcloth and earth upon

them (v. 1). They took those measures to indicate humility which in

their age and land were natural to them:

Ø      fasting,

Ø      wearing sackcloth,

Ø      putting earth or “sprinkling dust” (Job 2:12) on their head.

 

Whenever outward manifestations of this kind — “bowing down the head

as a bulrush, or spreading sackcloth and ashes” (Isaiah 58:5), or fasting

— become purely formal or simply ostentatious (Matthew 6:16), they

become unacceptable or even positively repugnant to Him who demands

sincerity and spirituality (Psalm 51:2; John 4:24). But the bent

head, the downcast eye, the uncontrollable tear, the unconscious sigh —

these are often the inarticulate but eloquent utterances of contrition which

the eye of the all-seeing, the ear of the all-hearing Father fails not to see

and hear.

 

·         WORDS OF PENITENCE. One “fourth part they confessed, and

worshipped the Lord their God” (v. 3). “With a loud voice” (v. 4) the

eight Levites led their devotions, calling on them to “stand up and bless the

Lord their God for ever and ever” (v. 5), and then the people followed

them in their confession; thus:

 

Ø      “Our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened

      not to thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful

      of thy wonders that thou didst among them” (vs.16-17);

Ø      they “wrought great provocations” (v. 18);

Ø      “they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law

      behind their backs” (v. 26);

Ø      “they did evil again before thee” (v. 28);

Ø      “they dealt proudly, and sinned against thy judgments,… they withdrew

      the shoulder” (v. 29).

Ø      “We have done wickedly: neither have our kings, our princes, our priests,

      or our fathers kept thy law;… they have not served thee.., in thy great

      goodness.”

Here is ample and unreserved confession of their own and their fathers’ guilt:

 

Ø      Manifold shortcoming:

o       not hearkening to commandments,

o       being unmindful of wonders,

o       not serving God in His great goodness.

Ø      Positive and aggravated transgression:

o       dealing proudly,

o       working great provocations,

o       rebelling against God,

o       casting law behind them, etc.

Ø      Backsliding:  “withdrawing the shoulder” that had been given to the

yoke. We are summoned to “take with us words and turn to the Lord”

(Hosea 14:2). “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation”

(Romans 10:10).

 

Our confession should be:

 

Ø      ample and unconstrained, including

o       shortcoming,

o       transgression, and, if called for,

o       backsliding; it must be

Ø      sincere — not a mere repetition of becoming words which other

      penitents have employed, but the utterance of what our own heart

      feels.  (My favorite verse on prayer:  “Pour out your heart before Him”

      Psalm 62:8)

 

36 “Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest

unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof,

behold, we are servants in it:”  We are servants this day. i.e. we have now

no kingdom, we are slaves — the Persian is our master. As we would not be

God’s servants, we are handed over to Him (compare II Chronicles 12:8, where

the service of God” and “the service of the kingdoms of the countries” are

contrasted).

 

37 “And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set

over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our

bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great

distress.”  It yieldeth much increase unto the kings. “The Persian

monarchs derive a large revenue from our territory.” The amount paid by

Judaea is not known; but Syria, in which Judaea was included, paid

annually in money 350 talents of silver (Herod. 3:91), or about £90,000.

There was also a further contribution in kind. They have dominion over

our bodies. They can impress us either as soldiers or sailors, and make us

fight their battles for them. Jews probably took part in the expedition of

Xerxes against Greece. And over our cattle. They can impress our cattle

for their baggage-train.

 

38 “And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and

our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.” Because of all this. Because

of our past sins and their punishment — to prevent a recurrence of similar

conduct and similar afflictions. We… seal unto it. In the East it is always the

seal that authenticates a document. Babylonian documents were often stamped

with half a dozen seals or more. These were impressed upon the moist clay, and

then the clay was baked. Sometimes each party to the contract stamped his

seal upon a separate piece of sealing clay, which he then attached to the

document by means of a string (Layard, ‘Nineveh and Babylon,’ p. 154).

Any number of seals could be attached in this way.

 

 

            A Sorrowful Appeal to the Divine Compassion (vs. 32-38)

 

The conclusion of the public united confession. It contains:

 

  • AN APPROPRIATE INVOCATION. Similar to that of Nehemiah

            (ch.1:5), and which would be felt as suitable after the preceding

            recital of the Divine proceedings.

 

  • AN APPEAL TO THE DIVINE PITY. In view of:

 

Ø      The greatness of their past troubles (v. 32). “Let not all the trouble

                        seem little.” “Do not regard it as too little to require notice and relief.

                        Rather see how great it is, and bring it in mercy to an end.” Perhaps,

                        however, the meaning is, “Let it be deemed sufficient to answer the

                        design of punishment, and therefore be now terminated” (compare

                        Isaiah 40:2).

Ø      Their present depressed condition (vs. 36-37). A condition of

                        subjection to the Gentiles, of spoliation, and of “great distress.”

 

  • AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVINE JUSTICE IN THEIR

            TREATMENT (vs. 33-35).

 

  • A DECLARATION OF THEIR MAKING A SOLEMN AND

            FAITHFUL UNITED COVENANT. A fitting conclusion of the day’s

            proceedings. In conclusion:

 

Ø      The justice of God in inflicting chastisement should be heartily

                        acknowledged by those who implore its cessation or mitigation.

Ø      Review of our past lives is adapted to and should excite humiliation,

                        penitence, and resolutions of amendment. Therefore:

 

                                    “Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,

                                    And ask them what report they bore to heaven,

                                    And how they might have borne more welcome news.”

 

 

 

The Solemn Fast of Assembled Israel (vs. 1-38)

 

Notice three features in the people’s religious life.

 

1. Their confession of sin.

2. Their external reformation.

3. Their solemn adoption of the written word of God as the law of

their life. Take these as representative, universal.

 

·         HUMILIATION AND CONFESSION.

 

Ø      Public and united as well as private and solitary. Great impressiveness

in numbers. The heart needs the stimulus of contact with great waves of

feeling. There is much in the expression of religious emotion to feed and

sustain it.

Ø      The sense of sin should not be merely the acknowledgment of individual

transgressions, but of moral helplessness. “They confessed their sins and

the iniquities of their fathers.” They recounted the history of Divine grace

and the backslidings of His people. It kept alive in their hearts the sense of

their utter dependence on THE FREE, UNMERITED MERCY OF

JEHOVAH!

Ø      The penitential spirit will clothe itself in an appropriate dress. The

people fasted and put on sackcloth and earth, as signs of mourning and

self-humiliation. We are not enjoined to adopt their religious customs, but

there is a natural expression of penitence which is not formality or self-

righteousness.  Self-denial, simplicity of life and manners, practical

remembrance of the nothingness of earthly things. “Moderation known

unto all men.”  (Philippians 4:5)

 

·         THE REFORMATION OF THE OUTWARD LIFE. There are

external conditions under which alone the true service of God can be

fulfilled. Such are:

 

Ø      Complete separation from alliance with ungodly strangers. The

uncompromising purity of our conversation is our only safeguard. The

truly consecrated heart will renounce all for God. Often a sacrifice will be

involved, but to give up the old life is to save the new.

Ø      Attention to the public observance of religious ordinances. The most

humble and sanctified natures appreciate such opportunities the most.

Neglect of the house of God is a sure sign of decay of the spiritual life.

Nothing can be substituted for it. Solitary religion may be sincere, but it

cannot be entirely healthy, and is generally apt to grow morbid. The

consecrated gifts of God’s people are placed at our disposal by the

mingling together of hearts and voices, and the use of a prepared

expression of religious feeling.  (“Forsake not the assembling of

ourselves together, as the manner of some is; and so much the

more as ye see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25)

Ø      The service of God in the daily life. “In the land which thou gavest unto

our fathers;” “behold, we are servants in it.” Religion must be made a

reality, not only in the public assembly, but in the household, in the

 place of business, in the relations we sustain to fellow-men, in national

life, in all the land.

 

·         THE SOLEMN COVENANT SEALED BY GOD’S PEOPLE,

ADOPTION OF HIS WORD AS THE ONE ONLY LAW TO BE

OBSERVED. “We make a sure covenant, and write it.”

 

Ø      The covenant rests upon a covenant. We stand upon the ground which

God Himself has prepared for us — the history of His faithfulness and

love in the past. We dare not undertake to live by the law of God except

we HAVE THE ASSURANCE OF HIS GRACE!   The Old Testament

is the precious support of our faith as we pledge ourselves to Christ in

the new covenant of the gospel. We are able to surround ourselves with

the cloud of witnesses.

Ø      The fellowship of faith our help. Those who have set their seals to the

same writing hold up each other’s strength in the fulfilment of the vow.

Princes, Levites, priests, with the people. God is no respecter of persons;

but when all ranks and offices are united in His service, the confidence of all

is maintained, and the spirit of brotherhood feeds the spirit of self-sacrifice.

Ø      Public consecration and profession of obedience should be the result of

a deep, inward work of Gods Spirit, in the renewal of the heart and life.

All rash vows are wrong; how much more those made in the name of

religion! Because we repent and return to the Lord, we may safely make a

covenant of faithfulness; but a mere sealing of the outward man, without a

spiritual renovation, is a mockery and a snare.

Ø      Enlightenment should accompany all public religious acts. The people

heard the word and understood it before they solemnly pledged themselves

to keep the law. There can be no healthy revival of religion which is not

founded on enlightenment. The great assemblies are easily moved to

common action; but the preparation for it should be THE CLEAR, FULL,

SIMPLE, ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE GOSPEL!  We can never take

too much account of the fact:

o     that the human heart deceives itself,

o     that ignorance blinds,

o     that selfishness and slothfulness hide the wonders of the past and

the dangers of the future.

THE WHOLE WORD OF GOD should be the foundation on which

religious life is built up.

 

 

                                    Appeal  (vs. 2, 31-33, 36-38)

 

It has been remarked that there is no prayer in this lengthy address to God.

And the absence of direct supplication is certainly very noticeable. But it

must be remembered that we may make our appeal to God in more ways

than by directly asking Him for the blessings we desire at His hand. The

comparative and almost complete absence of formal petition from this

address suggests to us that we may go far towards winning our cause by:

 

  • PRESENTING THE SOUL BEFORE GOD IN A RECEPTIVE

            SPIRITUAL STATE. It is only in some spiritual conditions that we can

            expect to be recipients of His bounty. Not to be in the right state is to lock

            the door at which we stand. By such an address as this the Jews either

            showed themselves to be in, or brought themselves into, an acceptable

            recipient condition. There were:

 

Ø      The solemn recognition of God’s excellency; of His greatness

      “Our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God” (v. 32);

      of His goodness “thy great mercies’ sake;”… “thou art a

      gracious and merciful God” (v. 31); of His faithfulness —

      who keepest covenant and mercy” (v. 32); of His justice —

      thou art just in all that is brought upon us” (v. 33).

Ø      Sense of their own ill-desert. “Thou hast done right, but we have

      done wickedly.”

Ø      Readiness to separate from sin. “The seed of Israel separated

      themselves from all strangers” (v. 2). “If we regard iniquity in

      our hearts, the Lord will not hear us” (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15).

Ø      Preparedness to pledge themselves to His service. The Jews were

                        prepared to “make a sure covenant, and write it and seal it” (v. 38).

                        Thus, on this occasion, the children of Israel presented themselves

                        before God, and not only showed, as they began to speak reverently

                        and humbly to Him, but gained more as they proceeded, a fitting

                        spiritual condition for receiving His Divine communications. It is

                        not by “loud speaking,” nor by “much speaking” (Matthew 6:7),

                        but rather by asking in a right temper and mode, that we make a

                        forcible and prevailing appeal to the Divine Helper; presenting

                        ourselves before Him as suppliants in the spirit of:

o       profound reverence,

o       deep humility, and

o       genuine consecration.

 

  • REQUEST IN WORDS (vs. 32, 36-37). “Now therefore, our

            God,… let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon

            us, on our kings, and on our princes, and on our priests, and on our

            prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the

            kings of Assyria unto this day” (v. 32). “Behold,” continues this appeal,

            we are servants, and the land thou gavest unto our fathers,… we are

            servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast

            set over us:… they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at

            their pleasure, and we are in great distress” (vs. 36-37). This is:

 

Ø      a direct appeal to the pitifulness of Jehovah that He would have

                        compassion on them who were slaves in their own land — their

                        persons and their property being at the mercy of a foreign prince;

                        it was also:

Ø      an indirect appeal to his faithfulness and justice. For had not God

                        chastened them very long and very sore? — He who had promised to

                        forgive them their iniquities when they returned unto Him; He who

                        would not make His punishment to be out of proportion to their offence.

                        They desired to “see the beauty of the Lord” (His righteousness, His

                        equity), that they might be “made glad according to the days wherein

                        He had afflicted them, and the years wherein they had seen evil”

                        (Psalm 90:15, 17). In making our appeal to God there are two things

                        which will ever be the substance and burden of our plea:

o       the soreness of our necessity:

§         our weakness,

§         our want,

§         our trouble,

§         our humiliation,

§         our darkness and ignorance,

§         our repeated failure, and

§         our distance from the goal and the prize;

o       the greatness of His goodness:

§         His pitifulness,

§         His patience,

§         His considerateness,

§         His promised mercy, and

§         His faithfulness.

                        We may come hopefully to His throne because He is “A

                        GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL GOD,  pleading His “great mercies’

                        sake (v. 31). But more than that, we may come “boldly” to the throne

                        of His grace (Hebrews 4:16), because He is One that “keeps

                        covenant (v. 32) as well as “mercy,” because He has pledged His word

                        to us in Christ Jesus, and He will be “faithful and just to forgive us our

                        sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

 

 

 

 

 

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