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It is, perhaps, strange to some that we speak of the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy as "Parting words," yet the whole Book of Deuteronomy centers in the final message which Moses gave to the Children of Israel. You remember in Deuteronomy 3:27 God had told Moses of his being permitted to ascend to the top of Pisgah and behold the promised land. The actual ascent is described in chapter 34, Deuteronomy 34:1 .
Moses was 120 years of age. He had had many testings by the way, and yet in the last moments there is nothing spoken by way of complaint. He does, however, speak much of the way God had led the people.
Inasmuch as we are thinking of Moses in his mature, old age, we think it would be well for the student to sum up the life of this wonderful man in a few concise and comprehensive statements.
1. Moses, the man of faith. When God sought to enroll the names of His heroes, He made special mention of Moses. The record to which we refer is found in Hebrews 11:1-40 . Of Moses it is written there: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them."
This quotation gives us ample room to consider Moses as a man of faith. It was by faith that he lived, and it was in faith that he died. He never wavered in his trust and confidence in God.
He knew what God had promised He would fulfill. He had faith, however, not only concerning the things which were immediately his, or those things which concerned his people.
His faith had a far-flung vision. It reached on to the very hour of Christ's glorious Return. It was there that Moses knew that God would be the hope of His people. It was then that he realized that God would fulfill every promise He had made. God make us men and women of faith, for apart from faith, it is impossible to please Him.
2. Moses, a man of decision. In Hebrews 11:1-40 we also read that when Moses came to years he "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." He rather chose to "suffer affliction with the people of God."
He was a man who met the issues of life with conviction and courage. Knowing that his path was ordered of God, he did not hesitate. He stepped out not knowing what lay before him, but knowing that God would undertake in his behalf.
May our young people be more than mollycoddles; may they not have a wishbone, in place of a backbone. We need men who have the power to say, "No." We need women of the same class. He who hesitates between the right and the wrong, between the call of God and the call of the world, will find himself a failure. He who is unstable as water will never succeed.
3. Moses was a man of implicit obedience. In Exodus 39:1-43 we read seven times this statement: "As the Lord commanded Moses," so did he. No matter what it was God asked of him, he did as the Lord desired. Would to God that we had more believers who would obey the voice of their God.
I. GOD'S STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS (Deuteronomy 4:1-2 )
"Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the Commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."
1. Nothing must be added to God's Statutes and Commandments. This we read in our key text. In after years the Children of Israel were very prone to do this very thing. They were continually making additions to what the Lord had said. We read something of this in Matthew 23:1-39 .
In our day we are just as much in danger of this sin, as were they. Let us not make void the Word of God by our traditions. When God says a thing, let us stand by it; never deviate from it. Beware lest we add to His statements.
The church of today is divided, into many varied sects, more, perhaps, than for any other reason, because saints have been followers of men and of the doctrines of men instead of the plain, positive Word of God.
2. Nothing must be subtracted. We have no right to lessen the full scope of the Word of God, any more than we have a right to add to it. Against this addition and subtraction to and from the Bible, and particularly to and from the words of Prophetic Scripture, there is a tremendous warning at the close of the New Testament. We read, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book: and if any man shall take away from the Words of the Book of this Prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life."
God means everything that He says, and we must not penknife anything which He has written. This was done by one of the Old Testament kings to his sorrow. We want no "shorter Bible." We want a whole Bible; not the Bible plus, nor the Bible less. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," and no words of any man may by any means be added unto God's holy revelation.
II. THE CALL TO OBEDIENCE VINDICATED (Deuteronomy 4:3-4 )
1. The bane of disobedience. In Deuteronomy 4:3 we read, "Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baal-peor: for all the men that followed Baal-peor, the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you." These men turned from God and followed after man. Disobedience always brings disaster.
2. The blessing of obedience. Deuteronomy 4:4 reads: "But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day." The bones of the disobedient were strewn through the wilderness, but the obedient, who did cleave unto the Lord, did live. Not only did they live, but they went in to possess the land. God gives His best in life and in possessions to those who faithfully follow Him and wholly obey Him.
That day Caleb and Joshua rejoiced because they had followed the Lord fully. When Peter said to Christ, "We have left all, and have followed Thee" the Lord spoke to them about thrones and about a hundredfold reward.
To whom does God give the Holy Spirit? It is even to those who obey Him. Who is it who knows the Lord and knows His will and way? It is those who follow on to know Him.
We asked a great soldier one day, the colonel of his regiment, "What is the chief asset of a soldier?" Immediately he said, "Obedience." "To obey is better than sacrifice."
III. THE STATUTES AND THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD (Deuteronomy 4:6-8 )
1. The pathway to wisdom and understanding. Here is something about God's Word, His Laws, His Statutes, and His Judgments which we need to consider. Deuteronomy 4:6 reads concerning God's commands, "Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations."
God's Laws and Statutes are altogether righteous. They are more than that. They are marvelously illuminating. Do we not remember how David said that he was wiser than all the ancients because he kept all God's Statutes? Do ye not know that the entrance of His Word gives light? It also gives understanding to the simple. David said, also, "Through Thy precepts I get understanding." Here is another statement, "Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies."
Have you ever wondered how Moses, Joshua, Daniel, and others, have stood out in such marvelous colors of wisdom and understanding? It was because God's Statutes were their meditation and their joy.
2. The pathway to greatness. In Deuteronomy 4:8 we read, "And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this Law?" Not only, therefore, are those who seek to know God's Statutes and Words made wise, but they are also made great.
When Paul sought a young man to travel with him, he chose the youth, Timothy, because from childhood he had known the Holy Scriptures which made him wise unto salvation. If we would be great before God and men, we should let the Word of God dwell richly in us in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
IV. LEST WE FORGET (Deuteronomy 4:9-10 )
1. We should diligently watch ourselves. Deuteronomy 4:9 says, "Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently." When God wrote through Paul to Timothy, he said these very words: "Take heed unto thyself." Then he added, "And unto the doctrine."
What use is a pure creed when it is environed with bad conduct? Some of us live so carelessly that no one will pay attention to what we say. In the Epistles God first of all sets forth the duty, the conduct, the life; afterward He sets forth the doctrine, the creed, the faith.
We have just been emphasizing somewhat the need of fidelity to the Statutes which the Lord commands. However, it is not the knowing of them, but the doing of them that must hold the first place. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
2. Faithful teaching to our children. We cannot pass by the last statement of Deuteronomy 4:10 : "That they may teach their children." The generation to whom Moses was speaking would soon pass, and he knew it. Therefore, he gave abundant warnings that they should tell their children of all that God had written, had done, and had said. This is emphasized a little further over in chapter 6 where we read: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
The only way that the faith is to be transmitted to succeeding generations is by its faithful proclamation in word and deed to each child of the present generation. Remember that the faith that was in Timothy was first in his grandmother and his mother.
V. THE GIVING OF THE LAW (Deuteronomy 4:11-13 )
Moses now brings before his listeners the memory of the day when God gave the Ten Commandments. He said, "And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of Heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire." It was then that God delivered unto them commands to perform. They were written upon two tables of stone, and they were ten in number.
The Book of Hebrews describes the giving of the Ten Commandments somewhat in the same way as given in our key verses. See Hebrews 12:18-21 . It was a terrible sight, indeed. The people were afraid and even Moses did fear and quake. The reason for the blackness, the darkness, and the fire was because the Law of God is holy, just, and good, revealing unto man his own sinful heart and evil ways.
The Commandments, which we may rightly call the Law of God is a sword which slays. When the Law came sin revived, and we died. That is, we were brought under condemnation. We had not known sin except by the Law.
How thankful we should be that we are not under the Law for salvation, but under Grace. If we were under Law, we would be under judgment and condemnation.
However, what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sent His own Son to do. His own Son kept the Law. He was the spotless, sinless, impeccable Christ. He suffered, the Just, for the unjust. Our sins were upon Him. His life and righteousness were given to us. This is what we call Grace.
However, Grace is never a permit or a license to lewdness and licentiousness. "For the Grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Thus, Grace not only fulfills the Law for us, but it made it possible for Christ to fulfill it in us.
VI. A DUAL RESPONSIBILITY (Deuteronomy 4:15 ; Deuteronomy 4:23 )
The 15th verse says, "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you." Deuteronomy 4:23 says once more, "Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which He made with you."
The warning in Deuteronomy 4:15 is concerning idol creations. In Deuteronomy 4:16 the word "similitude" is thus explained: "Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female. The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air."
Moses knew a personal God who could not be symbolized or made like unto any graven image.
One of the greatest sins of the nations has been idol-worship.
In Romans 1:1-32 we read, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things."
As we dictate these words we are reminded that in our land there is but little of image-making, but there is a great effort on the part of many to humanize God.
The second warning in Deuteronomy 4:23 is against forgetting the covenant which God made to them. Lord, let us not forget.
"O the love that sought us,
O the Blood that bought us,
O the Grace that brought us to the fold."
VII. A JEALOUS GOD (Deuteronomy 4:24-26 )
1. God wants His people to be wholly to Himself. The word "jealous" carries with it the thought of the Divine love of God for His people. God bought us back from sin, and He brought us into His own fellowship. For this cause He wants us to be wholly His.
God saved Israel out of Egypt in order that He might bring her unto Himself. God is never jealous in the sense that He is envious. He is jealous in the sense of a sacred, hallowed longing to possess the whole heart, the whole affections of His people.
If we share our love with the world, the flesh, and the devil, God will not be satisfied. We are not our own; we are bought with a price, therefore, we must glorify God with our bodies and spirits which are His.
2. God wants His people to live in righteousness. if we make unto ourselves graven images, we corrupt ourselves. We wander away from God. Our Lord wants us to be transformed into His own image. He wants us to become strong in righteousness. He wants us to put off "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts."
3. God is angry with us when we wander from His side. This anger is not a quick, hasty flaring-up and cooling-down kind of anger. It is the anger of condemnation and of judgment. When we provoke Him to anger by our sins, He pours out upon us His holy wrath.
"What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?" We may neglect the use of the rod upon our child. God does not forget to use it upon us. Israel was scattered among the nations because Israel sinned. Oh, what sorrow and what anguish does she reap even now, because of her iniquity. Let us beware lest we also follow after the same example of unbelief.
"When Whittier was breathing his last in his little village home up in Massachusetts the nurse pulled down the blinds. It was in the early morning, and the rising sun was in the dying man's eyes. But the last thing the great Quaker poet did was to wave his hand to have the curtain lifted. He wanted to depart in the full splendor of the morning and in the warm glory of its pure white beams. And is not this a parable of human nature everywhere? The cry of the dying is the cry of Balaam. 'Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.'
'The last words of great men have always been prized and cherished. How beautiful Cookman's note of triumph: 'I am sweeping through the gates.' The poet Schiller looks up and says, 'Many things are growing plain to me now.' Goethe cries, 'More Light!' 'The best of all is God is with us,' was the quiet remark of John Wesley. Webster exclaims, 'I still live.' Beethoven whispers, 'I shall hear in Heaven.' Jacob Behmen lisps, 'Open the door and let in some of that music.' He was hearing the Heavenly choir already. The last words of Christmas Evans were, 'Drive on!' He was finishing his earthly race and was in a hurry for the chariot to take him home to God. A dear friend said not more than ten minutes before he closed his eyes forever, 'My trunk is all packed and I am just waiting for the expressman.' Among the closing words of Sir Walter Scott are these magnificently noble ones: 'I have been perhaps the most voluminous author of my day, and it is a comfort now to me to think that I have never tried to unsettle any man's faith; and that I have written nothing which on my deathbed I would want blotted out.'"
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17