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CRITICAL NOTES.—Connect this chapter with Deuteronomy 27:16 of preceding one, where Moses concludes discourse on plains of Moab. Here he dwells on sanctions of the law and sets forth in striking detail the blessings of obedience and curses of disobedience.
Deuteronomy 27:1-5.27.4. On the day of entrance into the land, stones must be erected and the law written on them. Elders, rulers, and representatives of tribes, prominent, because they would require what was due after death of Moses. Great stones fulfilled (Joshua 8:30-6.8.32). Plaister. Daubed with paint or white cement to make conspicuous. Writing not to be cut into stone and then covered with slime. All words, not the Decalogue, nor the blessings and curses following, nor the Book of Deuteronomy, but all laws revealed from God by Moses, not historical, didactic and non-legislative matter in Pentateuch, but simply its legal enactments (cf. Speak. Com.). Ebal, the place specified for stones (Deuteronomy 11:29). Now Mad-el-down.
Deuteronomy 27:4-5.27.8. More details. Altar. None used in ordinary cases except brazen one at door of tabernacle, but on this occasion they were to renew the covenant and offer sacrifices. Stones. not covered with slime, but unhewn, according to Exodus 20:25. Offer burnt offerings and peace offerings, symbolic of entire dedication and enjoyment of Divine grace.
Deuteronomy 27:8. Plainly. To read easily.
Deuteronomy 27:9-5.27.10. Heed. An appeal for attention. When the covenant was renewed and law set up in Canaan, Israel bound themselves to hearken and keep the commandments.
Deuteronomy 27:11-5.27.26. Form and manner of the solemn blessing and cursing. Tribes appointed to stand on Gerizim sprang from two wives of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. All the four tribes located on Ebal, from handmaids Zilpah and Bilhah—Reuben is added probably because he lost his primogeniture (Genesis 49:4); and Zebulum, because youngest son of Leah (Speak. Com.).
Deuteronomy 27:14 Levites. Only to speak aloud, i.e., to pronounce the different formularies of blessing and cursing. In pronouncing benedictions they turned towards the multidude on Gerizim, from whom rolled back the Amen. in turning to Ebal, in distinct and solemn tone they received back the same impressive Amen in ratification of each blessing and curse.
Deuteronomy 27:15-5.27.26. Twelve curses against transgressions of the covenant. The first eleven directed against special sins, selected by way of example; the last comprehensively sum in general terms and condemns all and every offence against God’s law.—(Speak. Com.)
Deuteronomy 27:15. Image. (cf. 4, 16; Exodus 20:4; Leviticus 26:1.) Secret place set apart as a shrine. This covers private as well as public image worship.
Deuteronomy 27:16. Light. Disregards, or lightly esteems parents (Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 19:3).
Deuteronomy 27:17 Landmark. (cf. Deuteronomy 19:14.)
Deuteronomy 27:18 Blind. Lack of consideration for suffering (Leviticus 19:14). Perverteth. taketh advantage of desolation (Exodus 22:21; Malachi 3:5; Psalms 68:5).
Deuteronomy 27:20-5.27.23. (cf. Leviticus 18:23; Leviticus 20:15.) Heinous sins springing from unlawful passions, destructive of bodily vigour and family bliss.
Deuteronomy 27:24. Secretly. To kill him (Genesis 9:5).
Deuteronomy 27:25. Reward. (cf. Exodus 23:7-2.23.8.) For this section cf. Joshua 8:30-6.8.35.
THE MEMORIAL PILLARS.—Deuteronomy 27:1; Deuteronomy 27:4; Deuteronomy 27:9-5.27.10
Instructions are given for setting up pillars or stones, on which the law must be written. This was a common mode of publishing edicts or laws in ancient times. The design of these pillars is significant. They assert:
I. The principle on which the Land was held. “On the day,” when they had crossed Jordan, they must halt, erect great stones and remember their title deeds. The entering into the land, its conquest and permanent possession depended upon certain conditions.
1. They took possession through God’s covenant. That day they had become the people of God. He was about to give them the land which he had promised.
2. They could keep possession only through obedience to that covenant. “Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 27:10). The law is set up, the covenant solemnly renewed, and the national policy fixed. All progress and prosperity depend upon God. Obedience to him will give access to the land with its beauties and products, access to possession and gladness. Hearkening unto his voice we succeed in all enterprises and positions. Never forget the terms on which you enter in. Everything is given in mercy and only kept by obedience—“That thou mayest go into the land.”
II. The Perpetuity of the Divine Law. “Write all the words of this law.” The law was unchangeable, adapted to Israel in the wilderness and in Canaan, to every nation and every age. We are apt to forget it. New conditions of life efface it from our minds. It must, therefore, be preserved and perpetuated—written not on pillars and parchments, but in the heart and life. “Written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”
III. The obligation to keep this Divine Law. It must ever be prominent and lifted up before us. The covenant must not simply be ratified but kept.
1. This is pressed with authority—” I command you.” Not the mere act of Moses and the elders, but the expression of God.
2. This is pressed with earnestness. “Take heed and hearken, O Israel” (Deuteronomy 27:9.) Moses, the leader, is earnest. The priests and Levites are earnest. Feeling the obligation ourselves, we must be urgent in pressing others. Delight in God’s law and passionate concern for others should ever characterise ministers and leaders. The very name and calling impose responsibility upon God’s Israel. The Lord hath avouched thee to be his peculiar people and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments (ch. Deuteronomy 26:18; Exodus 19:5.)
THE STONE ALTAR.—Deuteronomy 27:5-5.27.7
An altar was set up, besides monumental stones. No tool must be used in its preparation. Burnt offerings and peace offerings were to be offered as in the covenant of Sinai, and a festive entertainment was to follow. Notice the erection and design of this altar.
I. The erection of the Altar. Patriarchs erected an altar to express gratitude to God and confess dependence upon Him.
1. The circumstances. As soon as they entered into Canaan, the stones and altar must be fixed up. Many would counsel delay. They were in a strange place, surrounded by enemies, and must prepare for defence. God is our best defence. In every new situation, enterprise, and possession God must be first. Acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy steps.
2. The material. In rough material, without the touch of an iron tool (Deuteronomy 27:5). Perhaps to indicate that God requires no help from man in making atonement for sin, no art and co-operation in setting forth his claims. Decorations in worship pre-occupy the mind, and may lead to idolatry. At any rate, nature is God’s work, pure and holy. Man, by contact, may pollute it; hence the altar for expiation of sin must be free from taint and human corruption. “Thou shalt not build it of hewn stone; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it” (Exodus 20:25).
II. The design of the Altar. Burnt offerings were expiatory, signs of dedication of life and labours. Peace offerings were expressions of gratitude for benefits received, tokens of reconciliation with God. Both were offered to mark
(1) Israel’s gratitude for blessings of covenant relation;
(2) Israel’s determination to consecrate themselves wholly to God’s service (cf. Exodus 24:5). In the sacrificial meal they entered into blessings of divine grace and enjoyed rital communion with God. Thus were they divinely taught and solemnly pledged by this public ceremony to carry out their sacred obligations. Sin must be expiated by sacrifice before we can have access to God. But God has made provision. In faith and obedience “thou shalt eat, and shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God.”
THE STONES AND THE ALTAR.—Deuteronomy 27:2-5.27.7
There is an intimate relation between the two, symbolic of spiritual truth—
I. The stones represent the demands of law. Stern and exalted, requiring perfect and constant obedience. Plain and adapted to man in its revelation—testifying against all disobedience. Law must exist—can never be abolished nor give life. It brings curse and condemnation.
II. Altar represents atonement for violations of law. Law has been satisfied in its demands. God has made provision for access, pardon, and peace. Without sacrifice there is no remission of sin. Law stands erect and unyielding as the pillars of stone. The altar indicates propitiation and grace. We are set free, redeemed from the curse of the law, that we may honour God in obeying it. By the stones God speaks to us; on the altar we sacrifice and speak to Him. Thus communion is real, vital, and complete.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 27:2-5.27.3; Deuteronomy 27:8. In these verses it appears that Israel set up a monument on which they must write “the words of this law.”
1. The monument itself must be very mean; only rough unhewn stones covered over; not with polished marble or alabaster, nor brass tables, but with common plaster. The word of God needs not to be set off by the art of man, nor embellished with “enticing words of man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4; Colossians 2:4).
2. The inscription was to be very great. “All the words of this law.” Some say the ten commandments, others the five books of Moses, but probably only an abridgment of the book of Deuteronomy or the blessings and curses here set down (cf. Joshua 8:34).—Wilson.
Deuteronomy 27:6. Altar. This atonement is introduced in the very midst of the moral law, that the people of Israel might be pointed forward to that great provision through which the breaches of that law might be forgiven, and in which strength might be found for obedience (Cumming). At all events, the stony pile was so large as to contain all the conditions of the covenant, so elevated as to be visible to the whole congreations of Israel; and the religious ceremonial performed around it on the occasion was solemn and impressive—consisting, first, of the elementary worship needed for sinful men; and, secondly, of the peace offerings, or lively social feasts that were suited to the happy people whose God was the Lord. There were thus the law which condemned and the typical expiation—the two great principles of revealed religion (Jamieson). Very plainly, Deuteronomy 27:8. Not very finely to be admired by the curious, but very plainly that he who runs may read.—Mt. Henry.
BLESSING AND CURSING.—Deuteronomy 27:11-5.27.14
The curses only given, and not the blessings. For as many as were under the law, were under the curse. It was reserved for Christ to bless, to do what the law could not do.
I. The special places. Gerizim was one pulpit and Ebal another. Their isolated position made them naturally suitable for the occasion. (cf. Stanley, Sinai and Palestine.) But their moral import is significant. One may suggest bondage, another freedom. Both set forth what nature may become, a blessing or a curse, according to its use. Creation is in sympathy with man, responds to his moral condition, and is wasted or blessed by his moral conduct. “Things take the signature of thought.”
II. The appointed agencies. On the sides of the mountains the tribes were drawn up, six on one, and six on the other side. The priests pronounced, in loud tones, blessings and curses. On Gerizim were stationed descendants of Rachel and Leah. On Ebal the posterity of the two secondary wives of Jacob, Zilpah and Bilah, with those of Rueben, who had lost his primogeniture—the children of the bondwoman and the children of the free. (Galatians 4:23.) The moral of the mountains is legible enough. Men, according to training, history and position, have power to do good or evil. Their ascent on the mount of wealth, learning and success, will be a source of blessing or curse to those below them. “I will bless thee, and thou Shalt be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2.)
CURSES AND RESPONSES.—Deuteronomy 27:25-5.27.26
Previous laws had prohibited these things, but now God openly declares a curse upon offenders.
I. The curses pronounced against transgressors. Twelve in number answering to the twelve tribes of Israel. The first, against those who make graven or molten images of Jehovah, and set them up in secret, that is to say, against secret breaches of the second commandment (Exodus 20:4); the second, against contempt of, or want of reverence towards parents (Exodus 21:17); the third against removing boundaries (Deuteronomy 19:14); the fourth, against leading the blind astray (Leviticus 19:14); the fifth, against perverting the right of orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 24:17); the sixth, against incest with a mother (Deuteronomy 23:1; Leviticus 18:8); the seventh, against unnatural vices (Leviticus 18:23); the eighth and ninth, against incest with a sister or mother-in-law (Leviticus 18:9; Leviticus 18:17); the tenth, against secret murder (Exodus 20:13; Numbers 35:16); the eleventh, against judicial murder (Exodus 23:7-2.23.8); the twelfth, against the man who does not set up the words of the law to do them, who does not make it the model and standard of life and conduct. This last curse applied to every breach of law and proves that the different sins mentioned were selected by way of example and were mostly such as could be easily concealed from judicial authorities. The office of the law is shown in this last utterance, the summing up of all the rest, to have been pre-eminently to proclaim condemnation. Every conscious act of transgression subjects the sinner to the curse of God, for which none but He who has become a curse for us can possibly deliver us (Galatians 3:10-48.3.13).—Keil.
II. The curses publicly ratified by the people. It is easy to understand amen to blessings, but how could the people say it to curses? They felt and acknowledged the equity of them. The response was not a mere profession of faith in the truth of the curses, but an open declaration that they were just, true and certain. Their amen was the expression of deep conviction, the approval of law which brands sin with a curse.
1. Scripture says amen.
2. Conscience says amen.
3. The universe of God says amen. “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” “Just and true are thy ways.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 27:11-5.27.15. A Wonderful Scene.
1. The locality. Describe the valley between Ebal and Gerizim (cf. Tristam Ld. of Isa. Bonar and Stanley).
2. The Actors, Priests, tribes and people distinctly, loudly and solemnly reciting their parts.
3. The audience. Their position, sat on sides of the mountains; attention, waiting in awful silence for the utterance. “Take heed” (Deuteronomy 27:9); response, “Amen.” What a grand assembly! What a solemn purpose and how serious one consequences!
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exita and their entrances, etc.
Secret Sins.—Most of the sins were secret, but are brought to light by the Omniscient Judge, and receive their just desert.
1. Men outwardly moral may be addicted to secret sins.
2. God will discover these sins, pronounce sentence, execute judgment upon them. “For His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of darkness, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.”
Deuteronomy 27:15. Amen. A little word of big meaning.
1. An acknowledgment of the supremacy of moral law. This law is a real force, above all contingency and human control. Right and wrong are eternal verities, written in the nature of things, and can never be altered. A men, “so be it.”
2. A confession of justice in the administration of His law. God is absolutely supreme, a law to himself. Right is not independant of his will, cannot be accomplished without his providence, what he wills must be done, because right. Dr. Payson once asked if he saw any special reasons for some particular event, replied, “No! but I am as well satisfied as if I could see a thousand. God’s will is the very perfection of reason.” “Amen, so be it.”
3. A submission to the decisions of this law. These decisions may be opposed to our wishes and anticipations, but there is no injustice in the government of the world. “Amen, so be it.” “Shall even he that hateth right govern, and wilt thou condemn him that is most just?” (Job 34:17.)
IDOLATRY, OR SINS AGAINST THE SECOND COMMANDMENT.—Deuteronomy 27:15
This command against image worship in public or private, sets forth:—
I. The Spirituality of the Divine Nature. The words forbid any image o Jehovah in a material form. Other nations had images, regarded them with superstitious veneration, and were influenced by seductive practice. But God will have no likeness of him, no representation, to becloud his spiritual essence or rank him with forms of matter. Images lower the conception of Deity, tend to make him the product of human thought and ingenuity, and degrade the worshippers. “God is a spirit” entirely separate from matter. “To whom, then, will ye liken God, or what likeness will ye compare to him?” (Isaiah 40:18).
II. The Spirituality of Divine Worship. We are forbidden to worship God by graven images.
1. In material forms. This was prohibited in Rome by Numa, a Pagan prince, yet allowed by the Pope, a Christian bishop! Devotion to God must not be excited, directed and helped by pictures and crucifixes—symbols which are liable to take the place of truth symbolised and lead to sensual worship. “Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods.”
2. In fanciful forms. Worship is often will-worship (Colossians 2:23). We fancy a God, cut and carve one like ourselves in our evil imaginations. Our worship is governed by the power of imagination, not the power of faith. “We are the offspring of God,” our life is the breath of the highest life, and our moral nature makes us kin with Him. “We ought not to think that the godhead is like unto gold, Or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:29).
FILIAL DISHONOUR.—Deuteronomy 27:16
This sin is against the fifth commandment. Obedience to God first, then respect for parental authority, which represents God.
I. What these words imply. First, lack of true affection. Then irreverence, disobedience, and defiance. If there be no love, no right feeling, children will soon dishonour and reproach their parents. It is more than uncharitable, uncivil or unjust, to withhold from them what is due. “In thee have they set light by father and mother.” The instincts of nature, the demands of conscience, and the word of God, require honour to father and mother.
II. What these words require. Gratitude for existence, sustenance, and education. Love, trust, and filial fear. Submission to rebuke, instruction, and correction. Endeavouring to be comfort and support in time of need. Never to despise and mock our parents. “He that curseth father and mother, let him die the death.” The poet Cowper expressed true feeling when presented by his cousin with a portrait of his mother. “I had rather possess that picture than the richest jewel in the British crown; for I loved her with an affection that her death, fifty-two years since, has not in the least abated.”
MEN OF INJUSTICE.—Deuteronomy 27:17-5.27.19
Three forms of cruelty and injustice are here given—
I. An unjust neighbour (Deuteronomy 27:17). Removal of landmarks a secret way of injuring a neighbour and breaking the law of love—disregard to his will and property. An act springing from selfishness, pride, a spirit of oppression and covetousness. Disregarding the authority, and confusing the heritage God gave to families. An old form of dishonesty, robbing your neighbour to increase your own lands; tempting flocks and herds out of other folds into your own. “Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).
II. An unjust counsellor (Deuteronomy 27:18). It is specially cruel to impose upon the ignorant and defenceless—to misdirect the blind or cause them to stumble by treachery, deceit, and wrong advice. To help the deaf and blind has always been considered an act of benevolence. Job “was eyes to the blind” (Deuteronomy 29:15). Tenderness is enjoined by the apostle—“That no man put a stumbling block, or occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Romans 14:13). The deaf and blind may be unable to detect the offender and bring him to an earthly tribunal, but God hears when the human ear is deaf, and sees when the human eye is dark. “Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander.”
III. An unjust judge. Widows and orphans have lost protectors. No advantage should be taken of their poor and helpless condition. Justice should be done to the stranger, ignorant of our laws and customs—to the widow, too poor and weak to secure legal advice. Judgment must never be perverted by bribes to judges, by sophistry of advocates, and by evidence false and manufactured. “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation” (Psalms 68:5).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 27:15. Images.
1. Men eject God from heart and mind.
2. Make, set up, worship and keep rivals or antagonists.
3. This command, forbidding all false gods, would bring man into right attitude with God. Craftsman. A profession sinful, degrading and dangerous.
Deuteronomy 27:16. Setteth light. Notice the close relation between reverence to God and reverence to parents. Cursing a parent was punished as blasphemy against God (Leviticus 20:9). Unnatural despisers of parents in many ways; resistance to authority—contempt of reproof, denying obligation—needless exposure to sin. Every village bears testimony to this crying sin. Solon asked why he made no law against parricides, replied that he could not conceive of anyone so impious and cruel. God knows man better. The heart is capable of wickedness beyond the imagination of the heathen sage. Cursed. Absalom self-willed and rebellious against his father, made a reproach before the people (2 Samuel 18:9-10.18.17). Confessions on scaffold that the first step was contempt of parental authority and restraint. If not literal fulfilment, often retributive judgment late, but certain, in dis-appointed hope, poignant anguish and corrections from their own sins (Jeremiah 2:19).
Deuteronomy 27:17. Landmark.
1. Every man has certain rights—political, social and religious.
2. These rights should be respected—not to be removed. They are sacred and inalienable. We have plenty of liberty in our own sphere without encroaching upon the rights and in the boundary of others.
3. Violation of these rights, sinful and risky. Intense selfishness—social injustice—disregard of divine order and will bring a curse. “Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark.”
Deuteronomy 27:17-5.27.19. Principles of humanity.
1. Respect for rights of property (Deuteronomy 27:17).
2. Tender regard for the unfortunate (Deuteronomy 27:18).
3. Justice administered to the helpless (Deuteronomy 27:19).
SINS OF UNCLEANNESS.—Deuteronomy 27:20-5.27.23
Sins which spring from lust destroy the sacredness of the human body and dissolve family relationships. Learn—
I. That men have a tendency to commit great sins. Judgment is perverted, the heart alienated, and the power of evil habits drives men deeper into self-corruption. The blackest crimes have disgraced humanity—incest, adultery, robbery, fratricide, and murder. Pride has been in active conflict with personal and social liberty. Covetousness has dried up the wealth of provinces and the sources of enterprise. Sensuality has wasted the strength and manhood of the people. “Pleasure has mounted the throne and shame departed from the heart.” Paul’s terrible indictment (Romans 1:16-45.1.32) is not more severe than that of Tacitus and Seneca—“All things are full of crimes and vices.”
II. That this tendency has existed in all ages. It is not the birth of modern civilization, but old as human nature itself. In Jewish and Gentile world, in corrupt and enlightened ages man is the same the world over. The principles that prompted to these crimes are alive and at work in every unregenerate heart in the present day. Moral corruption invariably follows religious debasement. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile (shameless) affections (passions); for even their women (who lost modesty, a priceless jewel) did change the natural use into that which is against nature,” &c. (Romans 1:26-45.1.27).
III. That God seeks to preserve men from great sins. By His word. with its fearful warnings, threatenings, and promises. By His spirit. enlightening the mind, discovering dangers, renewing the disposition and destroying the tendency to evil. By His providence, in putting barriers in the way, checks to prevent crime; and by His grace. to form and strengthen habits and efforts the very opposite. Sins of the deepest stain, and the most inveterate strength may be overcome. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.”
Two kinds of murder are here mentioned, secret murder and judicial or murder under colour of law.
I. Murder is an offence to God. It may be secret and undiscovered, but the curse of God rests upon it. If bribed or hired to convict and condemn the innocent; then it makes the ordinance of God to patronise villany and shame (1 Timothy 1:9.) Man is “made in the image of God.” Not simply life, but the man himself is sacred and divinely guarded. To destroy the work is to dishonour the workman. “Thou shalt not kill.”
II. Murder is an injury to society. Men owe duties to one another as well as to God. Respect for life is one of the first duties. Murder destroys the security of life, defeats the primary object of human government, brings disgrace to the murderer and entails suffering upon the murdered and his relations. Society is outraged by the crime, and its welfare demands the punishment of the criminal. “He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.”
THE DEMANDS OF GOD’S LAW.—Deuteronomy 27:26
In general terms this verse sums up all offences against the law. In itself and in its connection it is instructive, not subordinate truth, ornamental and non-essential. Reference is made to it in the New Testament, as a vital fundamental truth, lying at the roots of the Gospel, and setting forth the permanency of moral obligation.
I. God’s Law is the standard of duty. It legislates for individuals and nations in all relations of life; it comprehends every duty, and touches every act. I. Divine in origin. Not of human invention. No mere conventional rules made by civil governors, by priestcraft, and by philosophers. Not as the edict of a master mind did Moses publish the law, but as the distinct utterance of God Himself. “The Lord talked with them from the heavens, and God spake all the words of this law.”
2. Spiritual in nature. The law is spiritual, originating from the spirit of God and appealing to the spirit of man. It relates not merely to outward acts, to parental discipline, social custom, and civil government, but to “the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It demands right feelings and right thoughts. Christ tells us that it is heart-life which determines our guilt or innocence in the sight of God (Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:28).
3. Clear in its demands. Spoken distinctly, and appealing to the senses at Sinai (Exodus 19:16). Written plainly on the pillars (Deuteronomy 27:8), and now printed for us. We cannot plead ignorance nor mistake; we cannot con plain of uncertainty and want of light to guide us in worship and the discharge of duty. The law is high as the summit, loud as the thunders, and bright as the flames of the mount on which it was given. It is holy, just, and true.
II. Obedience to God’s Law must be perfect. It requires us not only to abstain from wrong, but to do that which is right.
1. Perfect in extent. “All the words of this law.” There must be no choice, no omission, no extenuation. Actual breach of one involves neglect and contempt of all. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point (one commandment), he is guilty of all, i.e., becomes liable to condemnation under indictment which includes all particular commandments of the law (James 1:10.)
2. Perfect in duration. There must be a confirmation, a continuation in every act of life. For under the covenant of works to break down only one moment, even the last, is to be lost. “Obey my voice and do them, according to that which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 11:4).
III. Imperfect obedience to God’s law will bring a curse. Who has given or can give perfect obedience in every thought, word and deed? The blot of a single sin on a character pure as that of an angel would seal our doom. “Do and live” is the voice of law, “but the soul that sinneth shall die.” No middle sentence between these two and not a whisper of mercy. “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Every mouth is stopped before God. All are guilty and exposed. We must either continue in misery, bear the curse, or appeal from law to gospel. It is terrible to be cursed by men, but to be cursed by God, who never errs in judgment, nor ceases to warn—what must this be! But “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” “There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. A dependent class, objects of pity. “The stranger, fatherless, and widow.”
2. Advantage is often taken of this class. This law is repeated, indicating strong inclination among the Hebrews to ill use strangers, and anxious desire in the legislator to check it. The same tendency discovered in modern days.
Deuteronomy 27:20 to Deuteronomy 23:1. Abominable crimes. Common in Canaan and Egypt, to the last degree of unnatural mixture. Condition of Sodom, and passages in Pauline epistles, confirm the corruptions of the heathen world.
2. Awful consequences if not checked. (a) Men demoralised by lust and bestiality. (b) Laws of consanguinity violated by illicit intercourse and incestuous marriage. (c) Social retribution follows. Land unproductive by sloth, luxury and effeminacy of the people. The country an easy prey to the foreigner (Persia, Turkey). (d) The anger of God displayed. God curses such crimes by nature, providence, and conscience.
Many a crime deem’d innocent on earth
Is registered in heav’n, and these, no doubt, with a curse annex’d.
Man may dismiss compassion from his heart,
But God will never.
Deuteronomy 27:26. From this we see that every precept of the holy law is equally obligatory, and that he that is guilty of a breach of one is guilty, not merely of breaking an individual law, but of insurrection and rebellion against the Great Author and Inspirer of the law—the Lord God of Israel. We thus learn that the breach of one precept is regarded by God as an impeachment of His jurisdiction and authority as King and Lord. View sin then not lightly, not as a mere breach of an isolated law, but as insurrection against the Great Law giver himself. This truth also disposes of the principle of the Pharisee, that excessive and scrupulous attention to one law was an atonement for daily disobedience to another. The more we study the law, the more searching, inquisitive and comprehensive we find it. What a solemn truth, that all born into the world are born in the eclipse, by nature under the curse. “By deeds of law no flesh shall be justified.” If you feel convinced of sin, condemned in your heart, flee to Christ. For what the law could not do, that God hath done in his son, etc.—Dr. Cumming.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 27
Deuteronomy 27:2-5.27.4. Write. Stones and even rocks are seen in Egypt and the peninsula of Sinai, containing inscriptions made 3000 years ago, in paint or plaster, of which, owing to the serenity of the climate, the coating is as firm and the colouring as fresh as if it had been put yesterday.—(Jamieson.) I have seen numerous inscriptions of this kind of writing more than 2000 years old, and still as distinct as when it was first inscribed on the plaster.—Thomson Ld. and Bk.
Deuteronomy 27:9-5.27.10. Heed. God esteems our actions and works, not according to the greatness or exactness of the performance, but according to the sincerity and truth of our hearts in doing them (J. Meade). Child-like obedience moves towards every command of God, as the needle points the way the loadstone draws. If God calls to duties which are cross to flesh and blood, if we are children, we obey our Father.—Watson.
Deuteronomy 27:15. Image. Yet man—this glorious creature—can debase His spirit down to worship wood and stone, and hold the very beasts which bear his yoke and tremble at his eye for sacred things.—Landon.
Deuteronomy 27:16. Father. It is certain, whatever can be signified by fear and honour and reverence, is the duty of children—that is, so far as to think honourably of parents—to speak well of them, to conceal their faults, to excuse them to others, and to comport themselves with reverence and great regard before them. Grieve them in nothing; this is the sweet measure.—J. Taylor.
Deuteronomy 27:17. Removeth. Covetousness debaseth a man’s spirit.—Archbishop Tillotson.
“Desire of having is the sin of covetousness
Deuteronomy 27:18. Wander. Deceit is only a game played by small minds.—(Corneille). Cursed. It is a double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.—Fontaine.
Deuteronomy 27:19. Judgment. I mistrust the judgment of every man in a case in which his own wishes are concerned.—Wellington.
Deuteronomy 27:20-5.27.23. Evil passions and lusts. “If I had but character,” said Mirabeau, “if I had but been a good man, if I had not degraded my life by sensuality, and my youth by evil passions, I could have saved France.”—Farrar.
“Passion is the drunkenness of the mind.”
Deuteronomy 27:24-5.27.25. Slay.
“Murder may pass unpunish’d for a time.”
But tardy justice will o’ertake the crime.
Deuteronomy 27:26. Law. The main strength and force of a law consists in the penalty annexed to it.—(Blackstone). Hard and imperious law has not a word of encouragement for the sinner, not a grain of sympathy, not an atom of help—nothing but an awful threat of judgment and fiery vengeance on his failure. President Garfield truly said “Coercion is the basis of all law. A law is no law without coercion.”—T. Griffith.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent