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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Deuteronomy 33

Verse 3


‘All His saints are in Thy hand.’

Deuteronomy 33:3

The text shows us how elaborately God lays out His whole being as altogether engaged for His own people,—first His heart; then His hand; then His feet; then His lips. ‘Yea, He loved the people; all His saints are in Thy hand: and they sat down at Thy feet; every one shall receive of Thy words.’

I. A saint means three things.—He is ( a) a being whom God has set apart for Himself. In this sense David said: ‘I am holy.’ In this sense the whole Church are saints. ( b) A saint is a person in whom sanctification is going on. Every one in whom the Holy Ghost is acting at this moment is a saint. Those who are perfected in holiness are saints indeed.

II. Saints are in God’s hands: (1) as property; (2) in order that He may deal with them as He sees fit; (3) in order that He may hold them up; (4) in order that He may keep them always near Him.

III. ‘And they sat down at Thy feet.’—The passage combines the two ideas of rest and teaching.

Rev. Jas. Vaughan.


(1) ‘The Divine discipline of life is designed to awaken man to the development of his own powers. The instinct of the eagle in breaking up her nest is to arouse the native energies of her young. The power of flight is in them, but unknown, because it has never been called into play; it is a slumbering faculty, and must be awakened into action. Man’s soul is formed into God’s image by the right action of his spiritual powers, and these powers are only awakened by the activity of God. (1) The great purpose of all spiritual discipline is to render men Divine. By the very constitution of the soul, the Godlike image must be formed by awakening the energies that lie slumbering within. The soul contains in itself the germinal forces of the life it may possess in the future ages. (2) The image of the text suggests the methods of Divine action: the stimulating and the exemplary. The eagle breaks up her nest, and is not the voice of life’s experiences God’s summons to man to rise and live to Him? God sends a shock of change through our circumstances.’

(2) ‘This song presents God’s dealings with Israel from first to last, as well as their sin and the Divine wrath and judgment which follow. See how it maps out their history, as Moses had already told it them in chapter 28. First, God’s goodness is set forth ( vv. 7–14); then, their idolatrous wickedness ( vv. 15–18); next, their punishment ( vv. 19–25); God’s reasons for not utterly destroying them ( vv. 26–34); and their redemption at last ( vv. 35–43).’

(3) ‘Notice (1) The Divine Love which is the foundation of all security. (2) The guardian care which is extended to all who answer love by love. (3) The docile obedience of those that are thus guarded.’

Verse 25


‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’

Deuteronomy 33:25

I. God does not say that in every day He will secure us, but for ‘thy days’ the provision shall be made. God gives us no warrant to expect that every day, or any day, shall bring with it joy, or pleasantness, or comfort; what He says is very practical; He assures us of sufficient strength for duty and trial: ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’

II. There is an evident intention in the use of the plural number: ‘days.’—From this we gather that the promise does not relate to those few, more prominent days of sorrow and of difficulty which stand out larger than the rest, but equally to the more ordinary days which bring with them nothing but the common routine of everyday duty.

III. The very fact of the increase of our days as life goes on increases our responsibility.—Every new year and every new day a man lives is more accountable because more capable, and more solemn because more critical, than the last. And as the days accumulate, so do the mercies. ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be.’ Never was the most exquisite machine so perfectly adjusted, never was any mathematical proportion so accurate, as each day’s grace is set to the margin of each day’s work.

Rev. Jas. Vaughan.


(1) ‘Language seems exhausted in the attempt to describe what God can be to those that trust Him. Now He is a dwelling-place, the home and refuge of the soul. Again, He is a sword and shield. And yet again He is a mother cradling her child. But, after all, the soul that loves, and is love, cannot find words to tell the whole story of what God is and can be. Its enemies become its footstool, and its pathway is from star to star into the heavenly places where Jesus sits.’

(2) ‘In ordinary trials, ordinary supplies of strength and support will be apportioned to prayer and honest endeavour; in extraordinary circumstances, extraordinary concessions of the sustaining Spirit will be made. Distrust of ourselves, which causes us to lean more appealingly and confidingly upon the strength of God, by no means misbecomes us. But if these fears are traceable to any misgiving as to the paternal purposes of God towards all such as turn to Him in faith and love, then they are unreasonable, and do not become a child of God. We need not ask for help against future and contingent trials; we ask for the day’s supply, and the promise extends no further than this. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” ’

(3) ‘There is a great difference between Jacob’s blessing and Moses’ blessing; some people, ever ready to see flaws in God’s Word, point to these differences as discrepancies or contradictions. There can be no contradictions where all comes from the same Divine source. These differences are not contradictions.

“Jacob sets forth the history of the actings of his sons. Moses presents the actings of Divine grace in them and toward them. Jacob views his sons in their personal history; Moses views them in their covenant relationship with Jehovah.” ’

(4) ‘The “as” and the “so” are both equal, so that there is no waste on the one hand and no scarcity on the other. God gives us no more and no less than we need, for the All-rich cannot afford to waste anything. “As—so.” For the day of sorrow, gladness; for the day of bereavement, comfort; for the day of doubt, a stronger faith; for the day of despair, a more buoyant hope; for the day of darkness, the white light of the Divine smile. These dovetailings of love are truly wonderful!’

Verse 29


‘Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!’

Deuteronomy 33:29

Two things are stated in reference to Christ’s people. There is stated:

I. Their happy condition.

There can be no doubt of this. For God Himself says—

( a) They are happy.

‘Happy art thou, O Israel.’ They are happy in the knowledge that the Lord is their God. ‘Happy are the people that are in such a case: yea, blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.’ Israel of old was thus a happy people. They were happy in that they were God’s people.

But there are greater things than these. The Lord not only affirms that ‘His people are happy,’ but that—

( b) They are the happiest of all mankind.

St. Paul says that, if the believer had hope only in this life, he would be of all men most miserable. But he has hope of a glorious eternity, and this makes him of all men the happiest. The Lord therefore says of you, who are His redeemed and converted people, ‘Who is like unto thee?’ With such prospects, even in this world, there is no one so happy as the true Christian. You may be as poor as was Lazarus; yet, like him, in all your poverty, and with all your sickness, you are far happier than some rich unconverted neighbour, in all his wealth, and in all his sumptuous fare and purple raiment. You may be shut out from the society of the gay and of the rich, as was Elijah at Cherith; yet, like him, you are strangers to the unquiet and restless desires that are working in some Ahab or some Jezebel, whose higher position in life you are sometimes tempted to covet. You may be exposed to trials and persecutions, as were Paul and Silas; but, like them, you are able to sing the songs of Zion even in your midnight dungeon, while your persecutors, in dread of some future miseries, are so unhappy that they are calling for a sword to put away their own lives.

You have seen the happiness of the Lord’s people. Now consider—

II. How it is effected.

This happiness is effected by their assurance—

( a) Of salvation.

( b) Of protection.

The Lord Jesus Himself is our shield. The Lord Jesus Himself is your sword. Oh, what can stop your progress? What can keep you out of heaven? Think of your present position and privileges. The righteousness in which you are justified is an everlasting righteousness. In Christ Jesus you are as safe as though you were now standing round about His throne on high. Being one with Christ by His life-giving Spirit, you are bound up, as it were, in the bundle of life with Him. The eternal God is your refuge and your Redeemer. His everlasting arms form your unfailing support. All His perfections are engaged in your behalf. He will hasten to your assistance whenever you are assailed. He will guard your peace and shield your character. He will choose your inheritance for you, and give you the possession of it.

I would now apply the subject. You have seen the privileges of the Lord’s people.

We see hence—

III. ‘A nation’s security.’

The weakness of a nation is sin. Its strength is its godliness. Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people. Look at Israel of old. How strong and invincible were they as long as they obeyed their Lord! But as soon as, through their sins, the Lord turned His back upon them, how easily they were made a prey to the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Egyptians, the Romans, and every other enemy! The Great Ruler of the universe deals not with sinful nations as He deals with individual transgressors. With individual transgressors He deals, for the most part, in the world to come. He thus lets many an impenitent sinner go through life without sorrow. These men He reserves for punishment in the eternal world; and as soon as their breath goeth forth their everlasting misery begins. But God deals with nations in this world. He does so because nations will not exist hereafter.

IV. ‘The believer’s duty.’

That duty is so to live as not to provoke God to draw from you the light of His countenance. If God be with you, you will in every spiritual conflict be brought off more than conquerors. But if you provoke God to leave you to your own devices, dark days and comfortless nights will be your portion. In God’s presence, even in this life, is joy. When He is absent, as many of you know by your own bitter experience, all joy is gone, and nothing remains but coldness, desolation, and gloom. If, therefore, you would be distinguished for your happiness, seek to be distinguished for your holiness.

—Canon Clayton.


(1) ‘We cannot study the New Testament without noticing how continually it appeals to Christians as being already in possession of certain assured privileges, and how it urges us, on the ground of our possession, to go on and make further privileges and gifts our own. The “saints” whom St. Paul addresses were often imperfect enough: but he bases his exhortations to them on the ground of their responsibility as being “in Christ”—members of His Body, temples of His Spirit.

Manifestly it must be the Holy Spirit who leads us into the knowledge and certainty of our happy estate in Christ. All the faithful testify that the New Covenant is written with indelible characters on their hearts. And such an agreement naturally becomes also an alliance. “This God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our Guide, even unto death.” ’

(2) ‘He who affirms that Christianity makes men miserable, is himself an utter stranger to it. It were strange indeed, if it made us wretched, for see to what a position it exalts us! It makes us sons of God. Suppose you that God will give all the happiness to His enemies, and reserve all the mourning for His own family? Shall His foes have mirth and joy, and shall His home-born children inherit sorrow and righteousness? Shall the sinner, who has no part in Christ, call himself rich in happiness, and shall we go mourning as if we were penniless beggars? No, we will rejoice in the Lord always, and glory in our inheritance, for we “have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The rod of chastisement must rest upon us in our measure, but it worketh for us the comfortable fruits of righteousness; and therefore by the aid of the divine Comforter, we, the “people saved of the Lord,” will joy in the God of our salvation.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 33". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.