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The song composed by Moses and recited to the people as a witness against them. “It embraces the whole future history of Israel, and bears all the marks of prophetic testimony in the perfectly ideal picture which it draws on the one hand, or the benefits and blessings conferred by the Lord upon His people; on the other hand of the ingratitude with which Israel repaid God for them all” (cf. Delitz). The poem divided into six parts.
Deuteronomy 32:1-5.32.3. Introductory, importance of doctrine delivered. Heaven and earth invoked not as matter of rhetoric, not to witness for God as cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28, but indicative of the whole universe, which would be affected and sanctified by the righteousness of God manifest in heaven and earth. Doctrine Let my doctrine, a prayer. Bain with soft penetrating influence (Isaiah 55:10-23.55.11). Greatness equivalent to glory in Psalms 29:1; Psalms 96:7-19.96.8.
Deuteronomy 32:4-5.32.6. The righteousness of God placed in contrast with the corruption, perversity and folly of Israel. Rock—first time God so called in scripture and used six times in this song. A name often found in phrases (for Heb. Tsur) like “strength” (Psalms 73:26; Psalms 141:1), or “Mighty One” (Isaiah 30:29). Perfect blameless, without fault. On contrary Israel acted corruptly (Deuteronomy 32:5). They have. The verb is singular. Render. “It (i.e. “the perverse and crooked generation,” understood from the context) hath corrupted itself before Him “(cf. Isaiah 1:4); they are not his children, but their blemish,” i.e., the generation of evil doers cannot be styled God’s children, but rather the shame and disgrace of God’s children” (Speak. com.) Crooked (cf. Matthew 17:7; Luke 9:41.) Foolish (Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy cf.4, 6; Psalms 90:12). Bought, acquired thee for His own. Made a nation.
Deuteronomy 32:7-5.32.14. Innumerable benefits conferred. Blessings given from the very first days of old (Deuteronomy 32:7). Divided (Deuteronomy 32:8) by His providence. Set bounds, reserved for His people a fit inheritance “according to the number,” proportionate to the wants of the population. Portion (Deuteronomy 32:9), lot or piece of land; here a figure applied to the nation (cf. Exodus 15:16; Exodus 19:5). (Deuteronomy 32:10; Deuteronomy 32:14) Helpless and hopeless condition of Israel, and love and care which God displayed. Waste, lit., in the land of the desert and the waste (“formless waste” as Genesis 1:2) howling wilderness, amid ferocious beasts. Apple guarded as the tenderest part (cf. Psalms 17:8; Proverbs 7:2). Eagle noted for its care and affection (Exodus 19:4; Isaiah 63:9).
Deuteronomy 32:12. So the Lord alone delivered Israel and trained them.
Deuteronomy 32:13. Ride high positions in which they gained dominion (cf. Deuteronomy 33:29). Honey, richest provisions from fruitful fields and unlikely places.
Deuteronomy 32:15-5.32.18. Base ingratitude for benefits. Jeshurun only found here and in Deuteronomy 33:5, and Isaiah 44:2. A description of a nation right and just, “not the character which belonged to Israel in fact, but that to which Israel was called.” An epithet intended to convey keen reproof. Fat. The figure of an ox, fat and intractable in consequence (Isaiah 10:27 : Hosea 4:16). Forsook, rejected. Esteemed, lit. to treat as a fool, to despise (Micah 7:6). Rock in Palestine, a refuge from enemies. Jealousy (Deuteronomy 32:16), language from matrimonial relationship (Exodus 34:14; Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 2:25). Devils (Deuteronomy 32:17), false gods, malignant and destructive (Leviticus 17:7). Not to God, Marg. Not God, i.e., which were not God. Gods who had not benefitted them. Newly up, from near, from Moab, Amon and Canaan in a local sense; or in contrast to Jehovah, who had manifested Himself of old (Deuteronomy 32:7).
Deuteronomy 32:19-5.32.22. God’s rejection of Israel. Abhorred, despised, cast them off. Provoked by sins. Daughters, women had full share (Isaiah 3:16; Jeremiah 7:18). See, I will show what their end will be at last.—(Ainsworth). No faith, no dependence upon them Deuteronomy 32:21, The terms, “not God” and “vanities” (nothings) were preferred, and God moved to anger. God would therefore excite them to jealousy, and ill-will by a “no-people” and “foolish nation,” i.e., transfer blessings upon them instead of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:22) When kindled divine anger would burn to lowest hell, the deepest destruction of sheol, the lower world, consume earth’s produce and set on fire foundations of mountains.
Deuteronomy 32:23-5.32.28. Evils threatened many and severe, like arrows which warriors shoot at foes (Psalms 38:3; Psalms 91:5; Job 6:4, Burning heat, i.e., fever of pestilence, famine, plague, wild beasts, poisonous serpents and war, would bring them to verge of destruction. (Deuteronomy 32:26) Scatter them away and blot out their remembrance. (Deuteronomy 32:27) Were it not that I feared, i.e., that I should be provoked to wrath when the enemy ascribed the overthrow of Israel to his own prowess and not to my judgments.—(Speak. Com.) Hand over hand was high, i.e., lifted up, shown itself mighty. For the reason they deserved not to be spared.
Deuteronomy 32:29-5.32.33. The reasons which lead to severity. They were foolish. Latter end, to which they were obstinately rushing, i.e., destruction if not adverted. (Deuteronomy 32:30) Chase. If wise, conquest would be easy and the promise (Leviticus 26:8) fulfilled. But abandoned for their apostacy “sold” and “delivered up.” (Deuteronomy 32:31) Their rock gods in whom heathens trust, were felt to be unequal to Israel’s God or Rock. Judges. “Having experienced so often the formidable might of God, they knew for a certainty that the God of Israel was very different from their own idols.”—(Calvin). Their vine worse than the vine of Sodom, universally corrupt, like Sodom and Gomorrah in wickedness. Bitter (cf. 2 Kings 4:39-12.4.41; Isaiah 5:2-23.5.4; Jeremiah 2:21). Figures which express that “nothing could be imagined worse, or more to be abhorred than that nation.”—(Calvin).
Deuteronomy 32:34-5.32.43. God’s purpose to have mercy upon Israel when chastened and humbled. This wickedness before mentioned and judgments upon it. Store remembered and sealed up in a bag as a treasure carefully kept (Job 14:17; Hosea 13:12). Vengeance, active vindi ation of authority. Slide, they will totter and fall, firm as they think themselves to be (Psalms 38:17; Psalms 94:18). (Deuteronomy 32:36) Judge (cf. Psalms 135:14; 1 Peter 4:17). Repent himself, have compassion, help them. None, proverbial for all men (cf. 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 4:8; 2 Kings 14:6), bond and free; none to help. (Deuteronomy 32:37) Idols utterly worthless, to which Israel had brought sacrifices and drink offerings. Rise up (Jeremiah 2:28). (Deuteronomy 32:39) “See now that I, I am.” Experience enough to convince them that idols were impotent and that Jehovah alone should be feared. Kill (1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7). God smites and heals (Job 5:17; Hosea 6:1; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 57:17). (Deuteronomy 32:40-5.32.42) These verses are closely connected. The full stop in the A. V. at the end of Deuteronomy 32:40 should be removed, and the passage should run thus: For I lift up my hand to heaven and say, as I live for ever, if I whet, etc. In Deuteronomy 32:40, in which God is describing as swearing by Himself (cf. Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 22:5; Hebrews 6:17). The lifting up of the hand was a gesture used in making oath (cf. Genesis 14:22; Revelation 10:5-66.10.6). (Speak. Com.) (Deuteronomy 32:43) Rejoice in God’s retribution upon enemies in his wiping out the guilt which rested upon people and land and thus exterminating idolatry.
Deuteronomy 32:44-5.32.52. A supplement added by the author, who inserted the song to the law. Hoshea (Numbers 13:16). Set, give serious attention. Life (Deuteronomy 32:47), basis of all enjoyments and length of life. (Deuteronomy 32:48) Self-same day on which Moses rehearsed this song, and on which announcement of death renewed (Numbers 27:12-4.27.14). “In form this repetition differs from previous announcement, partly in the fact that the situation of Mount Nebo is more fully described (in the land of Moab, etc., as in Deuteronomy 1:5; Deuteronomy 28:68), and partly in the continued use of the imperative and a few other trifling points. These differences may all be explained from the fact that the account here was not written by Moses himself.”—(Delitz).
THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVINE INSTRUCTION.—Deuteronomy 32:1-5.32.6
The metaphors of this inimitable song of singular beauty, very suggestive and powerful. In many ways is the importance of Divine instruction set forth.
I. By its lofty theme. Israel’s God is made known in wonderful attributes. “I will publish the name of the Lord.
1. Perfect in character. No injustice and iniquity found in him. A rock of omnipotence and immutability. Perfect in holiness, word and work. A God of truth—we charge God foolishly, but He never errs, forgets nor retracts. “He cannot lie.” “Our rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
2. Glorious in majesty. “Greatness,” royal splendour and power must be ascribed to him. We cannot add to His greatness. His perfections are infinite. We may acknowledge it and give Him glory due to His name. It is not the bright light of eternity, but the glory seen in the perfection of His works, the faithfulness of His word and the wisdom of His administration.
3. Righteous in government. “All His ways are judgment,” mysterious and incomprehensible, but “the ways of the Lord are right.” (Hosea 14:9).
4. Immutable in purpose. We are inconstant and foolish, He unchangeable in plan, counsel and ways. “With whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.”
II. By its adaptation to our moral condition. We need such a God to redeem and comfort, in whom we may trust and live.
1. As “the thirsty earth” (Psalms 72:6). We need the rain, divine influence to soften our hearts and lives. We are barren and unfruitful in the works and ways of God. Ignorant of His truth and will, until “the doctrine drops as rain.”
2. As “the grass,” we require fertilising showers to refresh, quicken and cause the seeds of knowledge to grow. This doctrine of God is like the dew, gentle and insinuating, powerful and productive. The word “shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, etc.” (Isaiah 55:10-23.55.11).
III. By its interested witnesses. Heaven and earth appealed to as august spectators. Such appeals often in matters of high importance (Psalms 50:3-19.50.4; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 22:29). This not a splendid instance of poetical apostrophe, but indicative of an interested universe. A summons to all intelligent beings to listen to the grand truths unfolded by this inspired ode. The doctrine concerns all mankind and should be known by all mankind. If neglected heaven and earth will witness to their stupidity and disobedience. “Heaven shall reveal his iniquity and the earth shall rise up against him” (Job 20:27).
IV. By its benevolent design. A charge is made against Israel, whose character was the reverse of that of Jehovah, whose condition was helpless and deplorable. God deals in rectitude and love, and the writer is an example in tender expostulation and heavenly aim, to the poet and the minister.
1. To impart wisdom. “O! foolish people and unwise.” Doubly foolish in forsaking God, who bought, made and established them. “Fools indeed, to disoblige one on whom you have such necessary dependence. To forsake your own mercies for lying vanities.” “Who hath bewitched (fascinated, demented) you?” Galatians 3:1.
2. To rectify judgment. “A perverse and crooked generation” Perverted, froward, and untractable in thought and purpose; crooked, irregular and disorderly in life. God seeks to enlighten and correct them. That ye may be blameless and harmless (sincere) in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine, as lights (luminaries or beacons) in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
3. To restore the divine image. Likeness to God is the characteristic of His children. Sin defiles and degrades as spots in the face or dirt on the garment. It corrupts and destroys like putrefaction in the body. Grace delivers from sin, restores the divine image and makes us “sons of God.”
4. To kindle fervent gratitude. Israel’s base return for redemption and advancement, innumerable privileges and unprecedented honours. “Do ye thus requite the Lord?” We condemn the Jews, yet imitate their conduct. God has delivered and exalted us, yet we do not feel that gratitude is required, reasonable and just. God daily loads with benefits that we may render in return (Psalms 116:12). Appeals to our sense of right for a natural and willing return for mercies so constant and so great.
THE REVELATION OF GOD.—Deuteronomy 32:4-5.32.6
The doctrine of this song is a revelation concerning God. A declaration of his name—a name expressing his qualities and distinguishing him from all other gods. This name must be published, for if the name drop out of use, the being Who owns it may be forgotten.
1. In the splendour of his perfections. Jehovah the Great I am—independent and self-existent. The infinite, eternal and immutable God. Perfectly just and infinitely holy. Each attribute is capable of distinct contemplation. All blended together constitute divine excellence, like colours of light in the rainbow.
2. In the rectitude of his moral government. “His ways are judgment,” that is accord with rectitude. He is essentially and absolutely just. Reason asserts that he can have no motive for injustice. Deeply fixed in the centre of conscience is this truth. The Bible continually sets forth that “there is no unrighteousness in him.” “Just and right is he,” in person and procedure. “A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”
3. In the assertion of his rights. “Is not he thy father that hath bought thee?”
1. Rights as Creator.—“Hath he not made thee?”
2. Rights as a Covenant God. “Thy father.”—We owe to him homage, love and obedience. “Thou O Lord, art our Father and Redeemer, thy name is for everlasting” (Isaiah 63:16). Let us think of God as here revealed, the absolute and the relative God, until our hearts are stirred to gratitude, reverence and devotion. “Behold God is great and we know Him not.”
Return, my senses, range no more abroad,
He only finds his bliss who seeks for God.
The Dew of the Word.—Deuteronomy 32:2
“Distil as the dew.” Who hears the dew fall? What microphone could reveal that music to our “gross unpurged ears?” The dew distils in silence. So does the speech of God. In stillness God’s love is condensed into dewlike communications; not read, nor heard, but known by direct power of the spirit upon the soul. Not much in noise, turmoil, and bustle. Dew falls in wider silence, in quiet places of sorrow and sickness; more in the desert than in hot harvest fields or neat gardens, from which we have been called. The dew distils in darkness. Not in the darkness of external trial merely, but in times when we cannot see anything; when we do not seem to be walking in darkness, but, like Micah, “sit in darkness,” too feeble even to grope; times of reaction and weariness after special work, after great or exciting success, even after unusually vivid spiritual blessing. You look out some dark night: there is no storm, no rain, not the least token to your senses of what is going on. In the morning you see every blade and leaf tipped with a dew drop, everything revived and freshened, prepared for the heat of the day. So His words fall on your souls in darkness, not with sensible power; nothing flashes out from the page, nothing shines to shed pleasant light on your path. You do not hear sound of abundance of rain, but the words are distilling as the dew and preparing you for day. The dew falls not in one mass of water, but innumerable little drops. What one drop does not reach another does. It is not one overwhelmingly powerful word which does this holy night work in the soul, but the unrealized influences of many, dropping softly on the plants of the Lord; one resting here, another there; one touching an unrecognised need, another reaching an unconciously failing grace. “Each drop uncounted hath its own mission, and is duly sent to its own leaf or blade.” Sometimes God’s dew goes on falling many hours of night. Watches seem long and starlight does not reveal it. But none is lost; some is already doing hidden work as it falls around the very roots of our being, some ready to be revealed in sparkling brightness when the night is over; lessons learnt among the shadows to be lived out in the sunshine. The object of the dew is to maintain life in dry places and seasons. In rainless regions this better understood. Any dry week in summer we see enough to understand the beauty of the figure. This speech is spirit and life to souls, however feebly, yet really alive to God. Dew does nothing for stones, nor a dead leaf. It falls on little fading plants, whose leaves absorb life, renewing moisture, and closed blossoms open out again with fresher fragrance than before. Dryness is more to be dreaded than darkness. Be trustfully content to let the dew fall in the dark. Believe the Word, when you read the dim page or lie still through long hours of the night, with no power to meditate on halt-recollected verses that cross the mind and leave no influence.—F. R. Havergal.
Softly the dew in the evening descends,
Cooling the sun-heated ground and the gale;
Flow’rets all fainting it soothingly tends,
Ere the consumings of mid-day prevail.
Sweet, gentle dewdrops, how mystic you fall,
Wisdom and mercy float down in you all.
—Rev. W. H. Havergal, Last Hymn, 1870.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 32:2. My doctrine.
1. Its nature.—Rain, dew, small rain, and showers.
2. Its operations. Drop, distil. Rain, emblem of Holy Spirit.
1. A timely blessing. When inheritance is weary. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass.”
2. Bestowed in special seasons. “Early and latter rain” In youth and manhood in conversion and maturity.
3. Beneficial in results. Softens earth and prepares it for seed. “Thou makest it soft with showers.” “Thou, O God, didst send (shake out) a plentiful (gracious) rain, whereby thou didst confirm (refreshedst) it, when it was weary, Psalms 68:9.
Dew, an emblem.
1. In origin. “As a dew from the Lord that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men.”
2. In method of operations, (a) silently and imperceptibly. Not with observation, not in “the thunder of his power”; (b) Efficiently and beautifully. Vigour and freshness to the Church, “the dew unto Israel.” Not in sweeping, destructive showers, but in gentle, penetrating influence; (c) resulting in good or evil. The savour of life or of death—cursing or blessing, Hebrews 6:7. “My speech, etc. My familiar, friendly, and affectionate speeches, shall descend gently and softly on the ear and. heart, as the dew moistening and refreshing all around. In hot regions dew is often a substitute for rain; without it no fertility, where rain seldom falls. In such places only can the metaphor here used be felt in its perfection.”—A. Clarke. No doubt these various expressions point out that great variety in the Word or Revelation of God, whereby it is suited to every place, occasion, person and state; “being profitable for doctrine, reproof, and edification in righteousness.”—Ibid.
Deuteronomy 32:4. God a rock.
1. An immovable foundation for hope. Foundations of rocks, hidden, unsearchable to mortal eye, depths past finding out.
2. An abiding security. Protection and safety from burning, heat of the sun and hostile invasion of enemies. “A hiding place from the wind, covert from the tempest,” &c. (Isaiah 32:2.) “An image of God’s omnipotent power, immutable purpose, faithfulness in mercy, truth and love,” Psalms 119:89-19.119.90. “A firm and everlasting refuge, a ‘Rock of Ages, Isaiah 26:4. One age passeth away, and another, and a third, etc., but the rock remains. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower” (Proverbs 18:10); “munition of rocks” (Isaiah 33:16); “rocks so deep, no pioneer can undermine them; so thick, no cannon can pierce them; so high, no ladder can scale them” (Trapp).
Deuteronomy 32:5. Spots of God’s children. Impatience, anger, idolatry, sectarian bitterness and prejudices, etc. Sin generally.
1. Spots of deepest dye. Not on surface, but ingrained like leopard’s spots and Ethiopian’s skin.
2. Spots which corrupt—all flesh corrupt—universal prevalence of disease, “the whole head sick and the heart faint,” voluntary debasement and death.
3. Spots which cannot be washed away by man. Not even “with nitre” and “much sope,” Jeremiah 2:22. Only the blood of Christ can take away the stain and make whiter than snow.”
Deuteronomy 32:6. Requite. Ingratitude for mercies innumerable, distinguished, affectionate, and long continued. “Good turns aggravate unkindness, and our guilt is increased by our obligations. It is ingratitude that makes a godly man’s sin so heinous, which otherwise would be far less than other men’s, since his temptations are stronger and his resistance greater” Trapp. Thy father? Consider. I. That God sustains a fatherly relation towards us. See him our Father in:
1. The work of Creation.
2. The redemptive plan.
3. The workings of Providence. II. That as such we owe him peculiar duties:
1. As our Father we ought to be like him.
2. We ought to obey him.
3. We ought to love him. III. That this relationship involves certain duties with regard to our fellow men. They are of the same family as we are. Then there should be:
1. Family union;
2. Family correspondence;
3. Family love. (Bib. Museum.)
RECOLLECTION OF PAST MERCIES.—Deuteronomy 32:7-5.32.14
“Remember days of old,” from the beginning until now what God has done—Proper review, true enquiry into past history will lead to gratitude and trust.
I. Special inheritance allotted to Israel by Divine Wisdom. God the Great Proprietor made and peopled the earth.
1. To each nation He assigned its portion. “Divided to the nations their inheritance.”—From the sons of Noah separate nations were formed (Genesis 10:32). In growth and settlement they were not left to chance, permitted to scramble, nor to prey one upon another. Powerful states should never invade weak ones. Forced acquisitions are unjust, insecure; become sources of restlessness, corruption and revolt. “He hath determined the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
2. To Israel He had special reference, in this arrangement. Placed in the midst of the earth, Canaan was admirably suited for their residence. From this common centre, the report of God’s wonders and the glad tidings of salvation were easily spread to every part of the globe.
3. In this arrangement the interests of the people themselves were secured. The land gradually gained—its tribes depossessed “according to the number of the children of Israel.” They were preserved—became the most favoured, the most important nation upon earth. By position, training and divine wisdom made depositaries of revealed religion and prepared the world for the Messiah.
II. Special Honour conferred upon Israel by Divine choice. They were the Lord’s portion, and the lot of his inheritance. “The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for a peculiar treasure” (Psalms 135:4). Separated from heathens, elevated by privileges they were chosen “a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6). Others were aliens, they were children sons of God. Honours bestowed, special relationship indicate obligation to God. We are not to engross divine favours, but intended to be mediums, diffusers of it; not only to be blessed ourselves, but to be blessings to others. “I will bless thee and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.”
III. Special training of Israel by Divine Grace. The beautiful figure sets forth Jehovah’s care and method of training his people.
1. He sought them in solitude. What sovereign grace! Few and lonely God desired and chose them. “At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
2. He instructed them in ignorance. Cut off from surrounding nations, God alone taught them: in laws and ordinances, rulers and prophets, events painful and pleasing. “He gave also his good spirit to instruct them” (Nehemiah 9:20).
3. He guarded them in journeys. Led them about, not in the most direct, but in zigzag way, backwards and forwards. None are carried to heaven, directed in the way without hindrance, deflection and trouble.” I will bring the blind by a way they know not; I will lead them in paths they have not known.”
4. He preserved them in danger. “He kept him.” He healed the serpent’s bite; defended in assault; frustrated divination and enchantment; “reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”
5. Trained them in love. God’s diligence and tender compassion set forth. As the least touch of the eye would be painful, so God feels when the humblest is illused, afflicted or assailed. “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
IV. Special exaltation of Israel by Divine Providence. “He made him ride, etc.” In Egypt they were oppressed and enslaved; in Canaan exalted and honoured.
1. In victory over our enemies. “With a high hand” were redeemed (Exodus 14:8); and by the might of God did they conquer numerous foes. “I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father.”
2. In superabundant provision. The fields gave their increase and the rock its honey; oil from olives on rocky clefts, butter of kine and milk of sheep; lambs well-fed and cattle of finest breed; bread of the finest wheat and drink of purest grape” that he might eat.” Most abundant, most fruitful are the rewards of obedience. The service of God is a land of beauty and productiveness. “He maketh peace in thy borders and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat” (Psalms 17:4-19.17.14; Psalms 81:16).
THE ROYAL SIMILITUDE.—Deuteronomy 32:11
The king of birds combines more admirable qualities than any other fowl, and forms a royal similitude. It has strength to mount above all, swiftness to outstrip all, an eye that penetrates the very fountain of light, affection that draws forth its blood for its young, and a sagacity almost human in instructing and disciplining them, which is specially noted in our text.
Notice four things without doing violence to the similitude.
1. God uses Divine admonitions. “As the eagle stirreth up her nest.” When time for young to leave nest, she moves it with gentleness and affection; she sees them sleeping, and unwilling to leave their first home, makes a noise, strikes her wings against surrounding branches, and then, having awakened them, disturbs them still further, and finally “stirreth up,” turns the nest inside out, and compels them to take to crags of rocks, or boughs of trees. Thus did God to Israel, by moving the heart of Pharaoh against them when at ease by the fleshpots of Egypt. God now stirs up his people, who are unwilling to think of better things, and refuse to hear the call, “Rise and come away.” Sickness and death invade the dwelling, a darling child blighted in bud, or husband or wife dies in vigour of life, yet in vain. The sails of commerce rent; business blighted, schemes frustrated, and property wasted, to destroy the nest. God admonishes by knocking the world from under them, and places them in altitude to look for a better. “Arise, this is not your rest.”
2. God uses Divine allurements. The eagle “fluttereth over her young,” “hovers over them, and excites them to imitate her, and take their flight.”—Cruden. Thus the Lord moved Israel to leave Egypt, and thus speaks of their restoration from Babylon, and their conversion to Christ. “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness” (Hosea 2:14-28.2.15). He declares unwillingness that any should perish, reveals anxiety, and more than parental love for our salvation. Like the eagle rising to the sun, the Lord Jesus teaches us to rise to a better, brighter world. Enough in the Gospel to woo from sin and the world. Can you find a better portion than God and heaven?
Rise, my soul, and stretch thy wings,
Thy better portion trace,
Rise from transitory things
Towards heaven, thy destined place.
3. God assures of Divine assistance. “When the eagle sees its young weary or fearful, it takes them upon its back and carries them.”—Cruden. God “bare Israel on eagle’s wings, and brought them unto himself” (Exodus 19:4). So strength is made perfect in weakness; God upholds and makes grace sufficient. But as the eagle “rejects as unnatural” its young that do not fix their eyes upon the bright orb of day, and rise, so God may swear “they shall not enter into my rest.”
4. God promises Divine protection. The eagle bears its young on its wings for protection as well as aid. The archer must first penetrate the body of the old bird before he can touch the young. Naturally it is more out of danger than other birds when in its proper element; security is doubled when on its mother’s wings. Difficult to kill an eagle. If down on earth, with its head on turf, and longer at fountains, then a noble mark and easy prey. Just as the heaven-born soul, if in his proper place, and after his proper object, is out of reach of the wicked—above the world, with its pomps and vanities, which fade away in the distance—fiery darts of Satan must penetrate Jehovah’s wings before they touch him. “The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.” We see, then, why God disturbs with the ills of life that we may obey his call. He sends winds and rain, takes away the warm down of earthly comforts, and pulls down our tabernacles, that we may leave to dwell in mansions above.—Rev. William Jackson.
GOD’S WORK OF GRACE IN THE REDEMPTION OF MAN.—Deuteronomy 32:10-5.32.12
I. The Condition of the Sinner. Set forth in expressive terms.
1. In a distant state. If found he must be lost. Lost to God, of no service to him; to self, missing the great end of life; to others, of no benefit, but injurious.
2. In a barren state—“a desert place.” The world, the unregenerate soul, a moral waste, sterile without God.
3. In a dangerous state. “Howling widerness,” great, terrible, and filled with “fiery serpents” (Deuteronomy 8:15; Jeremiah 2:6). Howling with the roar of beasts and the blasts of tempest.
4. In a hopeless state. Away from the camp and company of God. Without a star in heaven or a footprint on earth. Fit emblem of the wretched, unregenerate condition of the sinner.
II. The Method of Deliverance. Strikingly illustrative of God’s method of redeeming men.
1. God seeks. “He found him.” He seeks discovers men in departure and sin. “Adam, where art thou?” His people are “sought out.” (Isaiah 62:12). “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”
2. God guides “He led him”. When he seeks he is sure to find, bring to himself, guide through life and duty to heaven. “I did know (care for thee and love) thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought” (Hosea 13:5.)
III. The Place of Destination. “A land flowing with milk and honey,” “the city of habitation.” No home, no rest nor shelter in the wilderness. A country prepared and in reserve. God brings the believer into a large and wealthy place of highest hopes and joys—a place where unpropitious circumstances yield unexpected blessings. But heaven the fulfilment, the perfection of all.
From Deuteronomy 32:11-5.32.12 learn—
I. Needful disturbance. “As an eagle stirreth up her nest.”
1. As to our outward condition in the world.
2. As to our selfrighteous confidence.
3. As to our departure from life.
II. Divine example. “Fluttereth over her young” to exite and teach them by example. The eye does more than the ear. God must be seen by example of parents, teachers and ministers. God in Christ, humanised example. Render religion attractive that men may see it.
And as the bird each fond endearment tries
To tempt her new-fledged offspring to the skies
Employ each art, reprove each dull delay,
Allure to brighter worlds, and lead the way,
III. All sufficient assistance. “Spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” This to aid and secure them. Not always aware of her design, away she sails with them and shakes them off her wings. She follows after, hovers near them, and when their pinions flag and they cannot fly, she darts and places herself under them, prevents their fall, succours their weakness and refreshes them for another flight Our dependence is entire, but “our sufficiency is of God.”
IV. God’s sole agency. “So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” God conforms himself to our modes of apprehension and expression. This necessary, but not degrading. He speaks unto us as unto children, with whom imitation is everything; and levies a tax upon the world of nature to furnish images of himself. He assumes relation of parents, the affection of a father, the tenderness of a mother. He borrows images from animals, and especially the feathered tribes. “As a hen gathereth her chickens.” Observe a divine agency—the Lord led him. See also exclusive application of this work. “The Lord alone did lead him.” A resemblance of the manner in which it was done. “So the Lord, etc.” How? “As an eagle stirreth up, etc.” Three things here ascribed to the mother eagle, not in providing for her young, but in educating them—in teaching them to fly she stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth her wings, taketh them and beareth them on her wings This applicable to God in dealing with us, and preparing as to seek things above.—(Condensed from Jay.)
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 32:8-5.32.9. The most high divided nations.
1. God originally divided nations their inheritance.
2. Divine purpose is revealed in this division.
3. Israel was discovered and distinguished from all other nations. A nation, the depository of God’s will, from which the Church and the Christ were to spring. Recognise a brother in every human being, for “God has made of one blood all nations upon the face of the earth.” In the worst of times God has preserved a few for himself.
Deuteronomy 32:9. The Lord’s portion. His purchase.
2. His conquest
3. His glory.
4. His heirs. The value God sets upon His people. As bought by blood, re-generated by grace, and designed for heaven. “What an astonishing saying. As holy souls take God for their portion, so God takes them for His portion. They are infinitely happy in and satisfied with God; He represents Himself as happy in them. This is what is implied on being a saint. He who seeks an earthly portion has little commerce with the Most High.”—A. Clarke.
Deuteronomy 32:10. I. The primary application of the text as a summary of all that had been suffered by the Israelites, and all that had been done by God on their behalf. II. The peculiar manner in which it adapts itself to our own times and to our own cases.
1. We have the picture of the believer in his natural state, in a desert land.
2. In his regenerate state, found of God, and instructed.
3. In his guarded state. “Kept.”—Hy. Melvill.
Deuteronomy 32:11. The method of Divine training. I. Its object. To secure development of our own powers, by action wise, divinely prompted, self-reliant, and adapted to constitution and circumstances. II. The means. Gentle, affectionate, stimulating, and exemplary. “The purpose of life is development; the process of development is discipline; the result of discipline is a full and many-sided manhood.”
For human weal, Heaven husbands all events.
ISRAEL’S INGRATITUDE, APOSTACY AND PUNISHMENT.—Deuteronomy 32:15-5.32.25
Israel requited God for benefits, by forsaking him, and serving worthless idols. God is offended by their conduct and resolves to punish.
I. Base Ingratitude to God. “Do ye thus requite the Lord?” The heathens deemed ingratitude a sin so great as to include every other. Lycurgus asked why his laws did not notice it, replied, “I have left it to the gods to punish.”
1. Ingratitude displayed in self-indulgence. “Thon art waxen fat, thou art grown thick.”
2. Ingratitude begetting pride. “According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled and their hearts were exalted, therefore have they forgotten me” (Hosea 13:6).
3. Ingratitude ending in rebellion. “Waxed fat and kicked.” Like pampered and well-fed cattle they grew insolent, became wanton and ungovernable. “They were disobedient and rebelled against Thee and cast Thy law behind their backs” (Nehemiah 9:25).
II. Shameful Apostacy from God. “Then he forsook God who made him.” Departure from God a tendency in fallen nature. But the sin is aggravated by light, privileges and advantages of instruction.
1. Forsaking God who made them. No regard to our Creator, no thought for the end of our being. How deplorable to ignore our maker—source of intelligence and joy—“in whom we live and move and have our being.”
2. Sacrificing to gods which cannot help them. Gods which were strange, new and vanities—Gods whom their fathers feared not and to whom they owed no obligation whatever—Gods termed “abominations” and “devils,” repulsive in their nature and destructive in their influence.
3. Exciting to jealousy God who loved them. “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods.” “This jealousy,” says Calvin, “rests upon sacred and spiritual marriage tie, by which God had bound the people to Himself.”
III. Terrible punishment from God. God will severely visit his people for their apostacy. “The Lord saw it,” abhorred and resolved to reject Israel. This punishment is set forth in the form of righteous judgment—Retribution not always adequate, nor invariable, but real and manifest—an instinct of justice in the divine nature, a law of providence and of conscience. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
1. They had offended God and other nations should offend them. “A foolish nation” would provoke them to anger (Deuteronomy 32:21). A people whom they deemed foolish, or who really were foolish though they thought themselves wise, would eventually be received against their wish.
2. They had provoked God, and God would provoke them to jealousy. Gentile nations, whom they despised, not only conquered them and became their masters, but entered a covenant from which they were excluded (cf. Matthew 21:43; Romans 10:19).
3. They had rejected God, and God would reject them. “I will hide my face from them” (Deuteronomy 32:20). God would withdraw his favour and transfer it to a despised nation. As they had turned their back upon him he would turn his back upon them (cf. Jeremiah 18:17; Jeremiah 2:27). They thought lightly of God, forsook him and then made substitutes for him. A picture of sin’s progress, the sinner’s folly and the way to righteous judgment.
DIVINE ANGER.—Deuteronomy 32:19-5.32.27
These may be figurative expressions, but cannot be explained away, to make the Supreme Being incapable of feeling against sin and the sinner, destitute of pleasure or displeasure, without concern for His glory, or the welfare of the universe.
I. The anger of God is caused by the sins of men. “They have provoked me to anger.” It exists in Divine perfections, and is manifest in Divine government. God’s eye is a flame of fire, and its lofty jealousy rests upon every form of sin, negative and positive. “For the wrath of God is revealed (displayed in judicial vengeance) against all ungodliness (impiety, non-recognition of God) and unrighteousness (deviations from truth and moral rectitude) of men” (Romans 1:18).
II. Execution of anger is reserved to God Himself. “I will provoke,” “I will move,” agent’s secondary causes. God is the avenger. We are not to usurp His place, and recompense evil for evil. He knows how to punish without passion, and without injustice. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
III. Anger, when roused in God, is terrible in its effects. Most severe judgments are threatened (Deuteronomy 32:22-5.32.25).
1. Judgments extensive in operation. Sweeping the earth, penetrating the lowest hell, and like a fire of universal conflagration.
2. Judgments irresistible in might. “Set on fire the foundations of mountains.” Strong fortresses subverted, holy cities destroyed, and the Jewish Constitution overturned. “Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? Even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath,” i.e., equal to all that a man can fear from it (Psalms 90:11).
3. Judgments destructive in results. Swept together, heaped up, and falling upon young men and maidens, children and old men—swift as arrows, and hot as fire; in the field and in the home destruction came. It falls upon men like wild beasts upon victims—to crush, destroy, and carry in triumph. This is not an overdrawn picture of the danger and the anger of God against presumptuous sins. “Consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver”—
For guilt, no plea! to pain, no pause, no bound!
Inexorable all! and all extreme.
IV. The anger of God is often restrained by mercy. “Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy” (Deuteronomy 32:27). God can make a full end, but desires not the death of sinners. In the midst of wrath He remembers mercy.
1. Restrained in regard for His own honour. “Lest their adversaries should say, ‘Our hand is high,’ ” etc. If God destroyed Israel, the enemy would take the credit to themselves—become proud and boastful. Hence He regards His own name; will not permit its profanation and pollution (cf. Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13; Isaiah 10:5).
2. Restraint in the interests of His people. Unworthy as they are, “a nation void of counsel,” He was concerned for their welfare. (a) For their protection. Their adversaries would injure them, behave themselves strangely; but He defends, restrains the wrath of man, and causes remainder to praise Him. (b) For their correction. He desires to teach and make them wise (Deuteronomy 32:28). “My people is foolish; they have not known Me.” (c) For their continuance (Deuteronomy 32:26). No desire to blot out their name, but to perpetuate their existence, honour, and bless them for ever.
THE DANGERS OF PROSPERITY.—Deuteronomy 32:15-5.32.18
Consider I. How men are affected by abundant prosperity in their social capacity, and with respect to their general worldly interests. History is full of instances to show how national character has deteriorated as the wealth and power of a nation have increased. II. How our churches are affected by such prosperity. Note the various religious errors of the century; antinomianism, &c. Note also the pride of enlightenment, which is the besetting temptation of the present day. III. How the injurious tendencies of long good fortune may be corrected. Let us:
1. Constantly recollect with gratitude the source and giver of our prosperity;
2. Use our resources and advantages as God intends they should be used;
3. Not desire prosperity for itself.—A. Thomson, M. A.
Another outline may be given.
I. Prosperity is not real happiness. Nature knows nothing of moral distinctions; treats all alike. But distinguished rank, long life, abundant wealth and ripe scholarship, do not satisfy inward craving. A millionaire may be miserable. “Prosperity is like salt water, the more you drink of it the thirstier you are” (Talmage).
II. Prosperity profits very little. The wealth of empires cannot add to stature of body or mind, nor secure health and virtue. It is insecure and exposes to envy. “Envious at the prosperity of the wicked.” Earthly possessions—vanity—do not fill, protect nor continue.
III. Prosperity is spiritually dangerous. “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them,” (Proverbs 1:32.)
1. In leading to self-dependence.
2. In begetting contempt for God. “Lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.”
3. In causing apostacy for God. “Then he forsook God.” Guard against selfishness. Be watchful and humble. “In all time of our wealth, good Lord deliver us.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 32:15. Jeshurun. A dishonoured name given to Israel several times (ch. Deuteronomy 31:16, Deuteronomy 33:5; Deuteronomy 33:26), meaning upright, righteous; a term also of endearment and indicating close relation to God.
1. They forsook God, who is just and right and had chosen them to walk in righteousness (Isaiah 64:2.) “By placing the name of righteous before Israel, he censured ironically those who had fallen away from righteousness, and by thus reminding them with that dignity they had been endowed, he upbraided them with the more severity for their guilt of perfidy.”—(Calvin).
2. They degraded themselves. Forsook the ways and the God of their fathers, became corrupt in manners, unworthy of confidence, and abominable in conduct. “A rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord.” (Isaiah 30:9.) Waxed fat and kicked. “The figure is admirably supported, through the whole verse. We see first, a miserable, lean steed, taken under the care and into the keeping of a master, who provides him with an abundance of provender. We see secondly, this horse waxing fat under this keeping. We see him thirdly, breaking away from his master, leaving his rich pasturage, and running to the wilderness, unwilling to bear the yoke or harness, or to make any returns for his master’s care and attention. We see fourthly, whence this conduct proceeds, from a want of consciousness that his strength depends upon his master’s keeping, and a lack of consideration that leanness and wretchedness must be the consequence of leaving his master’s service and running off from his master’s pasturage. How easy to apply these points to the Israelites! and how illustrative of their former and latter state and how powerfully do they apply to many called Christians, who having increased in riches, forget that God, from whose hand alone those mercies flowed.”—A. Clarke.
Deuteronomy 32:17. Not to God.
1. Man, a religions being, will worship, must have a God. “If there be no God, we must invent one,” cried a leader in the French revolution.
2. Right conception of God restrains, elevates, and preserves.
3. When God is cast off, abominable wickedness and awful degradation ensues. Things that are no Gods, devils chosen as substitutes. “Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth.” (Jeremiah 2:26.)
Deuteronomy 32:18. Unmindful.
1. Men outwardly prosperous, but spiritually destitute.
2. Men enjoying every favour, but acknowledging no obligation to God.
3. An offence most unnatural, unreasonable, and provoking. “Thou hast forgotten the rock of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy Strength.” (Isaiah 17:10.) “My people have forgotten me days without number.” (Jeremiah 2:32.)
Deuteronomy 32:19. Lord saw. Divine inspection of Human Life.
1. God remembers the sins of men. Remembrance minute, constant and universal.
2. Men think God is indifferent to their sins. Forget him in thought and disregard him in conduct.
3. When men disregard God in their ways, they become more sinful in their lives. Proud and corrupt, false and unjust, “children that are corrupters, they have forsaken the Lord,” Isaiah 1:4.
“For want of faith,
Down the steep precipice of wrong he slides,
There’s nothing to support him in the right.”
Deuteronomy 32:21-5.32.22. Mine anger.
1. An element of wrath in Divine Government.
2. This wrath may overtake men suddenly.
3. When it does overtake men they cannot escape. “When a great ransom cannot deliver thee.”
Deuteronomy 32:23-5.32.25. God’s arrows. Judgments from the gods represented by arrows in Scripture and heathen writers. Apollo is pictured as bearing a bow and quiver full of deadly arrows, and in answer to prayer coming to smite the Greeks with pestilence (Hom. II. I. 5:43).
1. Innumerable in variety. Famine, pestilence, wild beasts, poisonous reptiles, and war.
2. Direct in their aim. Never fall on wrong persons, never miss the Mark 3:0. Deadly in their effect. Wounds of poisoned arrows intensely painful and internal. No greater suffering than arrows “sharp in the hearts of the King’s enemies,” (Psalms 45:5). “The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit (destroying vital energy, certain death)” (Job 6:4).
Deuteronomy 32:26-5.32.27. Influence of Man’s conduct on the Divine Mind. If God sees, he must, speaking after the manner of man, feel and act. I. Man’s sin rouses Divine opposition. God’s anger not a passion but a principle, not against existence but against the sins and sufferings of existence. Op-position, hatred and sin revealed in judgment upon individuals and communities. II. Man’s sin restrains Divine procedure. Jealousy indicates love. “The wrath of God,” says Meyer, “is the holy love of God (who is neither neutral nor one-sided in his affection) for all that is good in its energy is antagonistic to all that is evil.” The expression the wrath of God simply embodies this truth that the relations of God’s love to the world are unsatisfied, unfulfilled. The expression is not merely authropopathic, it is an appropriate description of the Divine pathos necessarily involved in the conception of a revelation of love, restrained, hindered and stayed through unrighteousness” (Martensen’s Christian Dog.)
1. If not loved and obeyed he feels wronged, therefore does not show mercy.
2. If wronged or insulted he does not revenge himself, lest the enemy should rejoice, his people be destroyed, and his glory tarnished. Let the righteous hope, the wicked trumble, for Divine wrath is only partially poured out in this world. It will be perfectly displayed in the final judgment.
MARKS OF WISDOM.—Deuteronomy 32:28-5.32.30
God complains of Israel’s folly. If they had been more considerate, wiser, they would have foreseen and avoided evil. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”
I. Wisdom gives understanding in the events of life. Wise men value and improve life. Their wisdom is not intuitional, abstract, and speculative. “The inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding” (Job 32:8). Hence it is sound and practical; fixed on a right end (Philippians 3:13), and regulated by right principle (Psalms 119:105). The prudent man regards the events of life, discerns the signs of the times, learns coming judgments from the Word of God, and prepares to meet them. It is reckless folly to walk blindly, carelessly, in the midst of greatest evils. “Men that had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
II. Wisdom is superior to natural strength in the conflicts of life. “One chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight” (Deuteronomy 32:30). A few taught by God are “mightier than they in arms.” As Gideon (Judges 7:22) and David’s worthies (2 Samuel 23:8). “Knowledge is power” is Bacon’s famous aphorism. Physical and mechanical forces increase the power of man. Intellect wisely applied gives moral ascendancy. But “a wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength” (Proverbs 24:5); by faith and dependence upon God “puts to flight the armies of the aliens.” “The battle is not to the strong.” “Wisdom is better than strength.” “Athanasius against the world!” “Wisdom is better than weapons of war” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).
III. Wisdom leads to consideration of the end of life. “That they would consider their latter end” (Deuteronomy 32:29). We know not the end, but it will come. To each, time will close. The last day, the most solemn of all, fast approaches. Instinct leads animals to prepare for the future. Worldly wisdom urges readiness for emergency. God loudly speaks in Providence, and warns in Scripture. “O that they were wise.” “Oh, that My people had hearkened unto Me, and Israel had walked in My ways” (Psalms 81:13).
Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life.
GOD’S REPROOF OF HUMAN FOLLY.—Deuteronomy 32:28-5.32.29
I. As a fact men are extremely foolish. Sinners are shortsighted, regardless of the inevitable consequences of their conduct.
1. They are wilfully ignorant. “That they understood.” We are naturally ignorant, limited in thought and being; but not forced to err and sin. Ignorance may be removed by Scripture and the Holy Spirit. But the careless worldling, immersed in pleasure and playing with trifles, is a man without understanding, and like the beasts that perish. Wilful ignorance is the centre of all evil and the precursor of ruin. “Fools die for want of wisdom” (Proverbs 10:21).
2. They are strangely conceited. Trust to reason; resist Divine teaching because authoritative and practical and would be their own guides. “Vain man (empty and ignorant) would be wise” (Job 11:12), forgets that all knowledge is disjointed, partial, and worthless, without the fear of God. Sages of antiquity “professing themselves wise became fools” (Romans 1:22). “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12).
3. They are habitually indifferent. Accustomed to sin, deaf to the voice of God; nothing stirs or restrains. Rooted habit has become ruling principle. The heart not kept, thoughts not rightly centered, control is lost over actions. “O that they would consider!”
II. God seeks to make foolish men wise. He does not compel, but reproves, expostulates. Wisdom in its very nature cannot be given by force. “Wisdom is the principle thing, therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.”
1. By striking providences. Such mentioned here (Deuteronomy 32:24-5.32.25). Affliction and misfortune, inward darkness, distress, and insanity. Providences which alarm and make us think. Providences which create joy and gratitude. all overruled for good and designed to instruct.
2. By inspired teaching. The Bible, an inspired guide, declares the providence and justice of God. A teacher unerring, free, and common to all. “Written for our learning,” and recording events which are warnings. “All these things happened unto them for ensamples (types), and they are written for our admonition, &c.” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments!”
THE CONSIDERATION OF DEATH.—Deuteronomy 32:29
I. Take account of the general insensibility of men to the grand fact that they are mortal. Note:
1. How little effect the fact that whole races are dead since the beginning of time till now has upon us.
2. How seldom we are struck with the reflection that many things and small things too might cause our death.
3. How soon a recovery from danger sets aside the serious thought of death.
4. How schemes are formed for a long future time, without any thought of possible death. II. See what can be brought in explanation of this.
1. The insertion in the human mind, by the Creator of a principle counteractive in some degree to the influence of this prospect of death.
2. The fearful, radical depravity of our nature.
3. The perfect distinctness of life and death.
4. Even the certainty and universality of death.
5. Our utter inability to form any defined idea of the manner of existence after death.
6. A general presumption of having long to live.
7. The endeavours of men, by occupying their whole thoughts with other things, to preclude a thought of their end. III. Briefly remonstrate against it. To end our life is the mightiest event that awaits us in this world, and it is that which we are living but to come to. To have been thoughtless of it, then, will ultimately be an immense calamity. (John Foster).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 32:28-5.32.29. The Folly of Men. I. Men are not wise.
1. They prefer shadows to substance, worldly happiness. “What shadows we are and what shadows we pursue” (Burke).
2. They avoid not danger when before them.
3. Admit facts, yet live as if they were not facts. II. God’s provision to make men wise. Life the school of God, who provides teachers and gives lessons.
1. In tender appeal.
2. In wonderful events. In patience, perseverance and affection, “who teaches like him?”
Deuteronomy 32:29. Latter End. End of certain actions, end of sin, end of life generally considered not. “What will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:31). “She remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully (in astartling, singular way)” (Lamentations 1:9).
“Heaven gives the needful, but neglected call,
What day, what hour, but knocks at human hearts,
To wake the soul to sense of future scenes.”
GOD A ROCK OF CONFIDENCE.—Deuteronomy 32:31
The gods of the heathen not wise, powerful and gracious, like Jehovah. Enemies and friends can prove that He alone is worthy of confidence.
I. Men chose a rock in whom to have confidence. Wealth, the world and our fellow-creatures. Friends lack sympathy, prove unfaithful and pass away, confidences vain and false, abound and disappoint. Broken reeds which fail, pierce and wound the hand that leans upon them (Isaiah 36:6).
II. God alone is worthy of confidence. A rock the most abiding and unchanging object in nature. God the same yesterday, to-day and for ever. None like him proved.
1. By testimony of friends. Who enjoy shelter, comfort and rest. “Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?” “Not any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).
2. By the testimony of enemies. “Our enemies themselves being judges.” Compelled by dear experience to acknowledge God’s power and supremacy. Egyptians (Exodus 14:25), Balak and Balaam (Numbers 23:0), Philistines (1 Samuel 4:8). “O, Galilean, thou hast conquered!” was the forced confession of the Emperor.
III. God as a rock of confidence should be recommended to others Accessible to all; no steep rugged height to climb to reach it—a fit shelter from the wind and covert from the tempest (Isaiah 32:2). Millions h sheltered and yet room. Blessedness beyond description to those who flee and find. “Blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Psalms 18:0; Psalms 31:21; Isaiah 17:10.
DEMORALIZATION OF MEN.—Deuteronomy 32:32-5.32.33
I. In falling short of the end of Existence. Israel well-pleasing to God at first, a noble vine became a degenerate plant (Isaiah 5:2-23.5.7; Jeremiah 2:21). Like the vine of Sodom emblems of utter depravity (Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14). Not merely frail, but morally corrupted, degraded; unprofitable and unable to answer the end of existence; not living “to the praise of his glory,” but for selfish, useless ends. Sin is degradation of character, perversion of life’s purpose. Other creatures fulfil their mission. All God’s works praise him. But all men “have sinned” (Jew and Gentile, best and worst) and come short of (failed to attain to, disqualified for) the glory of God (Romans 1:23).
II. In becoming pernicious in life. These terms most expressive, indicative of principles and practices most abominable.
1. Offensive in character. “Grapes of gall;” worse than wild grapes, bitter and vexatious to God and man.
2. Mischievous in conduct. “Poison of dragons,” secreted malice, ready to dart forth upon others. “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent (to sting); adder’s poison (most destructive) is under their lips” (Psalms 140:3; cf. Psalms 58:4; Romans 3:13.
3. Fatal in influence. Asps a species of snake whose bite is immediately fatal. “Nothing could be imagined worse or more to be abhorred than that nation” (Calvin). But this wickedness ripens for judgment. The thought of Sodom’s destruction is suggested. Those who imitate Sodom bring forth the worst fruits of impiety, and will perish like Sodom. When great cities sink and great nations morally degenerate, they are doomed to judgments, righteous and complete overthrow. “Turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample (not an exception to the regular laud of the Divine Government) unto those that after should live ungodly,” (2 Peter 2:6.)
GOD’S SUPREMACY IN THE WORLD.—Deuteronomy 32:34-5.32.43
God is represented as killing and making alive (Deuteronomy 32:39); as judging men and punishing gods; as swearing to heaven and calling upon nations to rejoice in His supremacy.
I. Supremacy asserted in the Physical World. God is not quiescent but active in the world, “doing marvellous things without number.”
1. In appointing agents to maintain it. All creatures under His command, mightiest and meanest; gods and men; the “glittering sword” and “arrows drunk with blood;” life and death. He arranges and directs all agencies to work in the circumstances, bodies and souls of men; in the departments of creation and the history of nations.
2. In fixing times to display it. Days of calamity and of joy. In “the wheel of nature” (James 3:6), in the revolutions of time, “to every thing there is a season.” The world not ruled by chance, fate, or accident. Events most casual under control. Every work its part, and “a time to every purpose under heaven.” “He changeth the times and the seasons.” “God hath determined the times appointed” (Acts 17:26).
II. Supremacy vindicated in the Moral World. In the physical world law, abstract principles set up in opposition: in the moral, reason, heathen gods, “humanity,” and the heavenly bodies. “The heavens do rule”—
1. In the experience of men. Nebuchadnezzar’s royal testimony, Belshazzar’s judgment, and Napoleon’s downfall. Man is subject to law as well as creation. “In whose hand is the soul (life) of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind (flesh of man),” Job 12:10.
2. In the customs of society. Social and religious—society is barbarous or civilised, progressive or stationary, degraded or elevated, as it recognises and depends upon God.
3. In the history of nations. God the Supreme Ruler and Proprietor. Nations increase as Rome, Israel, England, and America; or decay as Israel for its idolatry, Rome for its luxury, Spain for its persecutions—according to His purpose. The rise, growth, and ruin of nations with Him. “He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them: He enlargeth the nations and straiteneth them again” (Job 12:23).
III. Supremacy in its influence in the world. Two effects chiefly.
1. A source of joy to God’s people. “Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). His rule is not lawless authority, tyrannical and evil, but just and benevolent. Hence “the Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.”
2. A source of terror to his enemies. “Render vengeance to his enemies” (Deuteronomy 32:43). When He “wounds” by loss (Deuteronomy 32:39); strikes according to the manner in which He swears (Deuteronomy 32:40); and becomes the archer and the arrow, who can resist? “Say to the righteous—it shall be well with him. Woe unto the wicked, etc.” (Isaiah 3:10-23.3.11).
VENGEANCE IN STORE.—Deuteronomy 32:34-5.32.38
“This” (Deuteronomy 32:34) not only includes the sins of the nation, but also the judgment of God. The apostacy of Israel, as well as the consequent punishment, is laid up with God—sealed up in His treasuries; therefore they have not yet actually occurred—an evident proof that we have prophecy before us, and not the description of an apostacy that had already taken place, and of punishment inflicted in consequence (Keil).
I. In store, as a natural consequence of a sinful course. Natural for sin to produce results—results destroyed, checked, or treasured up. Sins stored up in human conscience (Psalms 51:3) God’s providence, and at day of judgment, (Romans 2:5). None lost or left unpunished—all repaid. “Dost thou not watch over my sin (to visit it)? My transgression is sealed up in a bag (as evidence preserved against me); and thou sewest up mine iniquity (to keep it carefully and punish it justly),” Job 14:16. “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.” (Hosea 13:12).
II. In store, to be revealed in due time. Justice pledged to avenge broken law upon disobedient. Time and manner may be sealed up. Long suffering must not be taken for forgetfulness. “Recompense in due time.” Retribution.
1. Terrible. “Kill,” and none can make alive.
2. Near. “At hand.” Instruments of judgment, like weapons of war, are “taken in hand.”
3. Swift. “The things make haste.” Judgment lingereth not (2 Peter 2:3).
4. Certain. “Shall come.” “I will render vengeance.” As surely as I live for ever.
III. The revelation of stored up vengeance will be just and wise. “True and righteous are His judgments.” Restrained and educational; yet sufficient.
1. To convince God’s people of their folly. In forsaking Him for idols which are vain and impotent—in relying upon earthly props which are destroyed—in showing Himself to be the arbiter of life and death.
2. To warn the wicked of their sin. “Reward them that hate me.” No power can avert or escape His anger. They may think themselves to be immovably fixed, but “their foot shall slide.” They shall totter and fall. Refuge, strength, and hope shall fail them. In God only can these be found. “The Eternal God is thy refuge.” Flee to Him.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 32:31. God a rock. A contrast between God and idols—in existence, attributes, and conduct.
Deuteronomy 32:35. Sliding feet. Risks of carnal security.
1. Men fix themselves firmly, feel secure, and think nothing can shake them.
2. This is tremendous risk. Contempt for misfortune of others first sign of insecurity (Job 12:5). Sin overbalances, providence shakes the feet, and the fall begins.
3. Results most sad. Imagine a slip into the abyss from alpine heights! “To slide and fall is in a thousand places certain destruction; and no threatenings against the workers of iniquity are more terrible than that they shall be set in slippery places, that their feet shall slide in due time” (Dr. Thom. Ld. and Bk.).
4. God alone can prevent sliding. “Hold thou me up,” etc. (cf. Psalms 38:17; Psalms 94:18).
1. A warning against self revenge. “Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto (the) wrath (let it spend itself and have free space; or give place, by stepping aside as a man attacked by a wild beast); vengeance is mine (Romans 12:19).
2. God has power to punish. “I will repay, saith the Lord.” Put off indulgence, make room for the judgment of God, who will execute in due time.
“Anger is like
A full hot horse; being allow’d his way,
Self-mettle tires him.”—Shakespeare.
Deuteronomy 32:36. The Lord shall judge. Judicial acts of God.
1. As judge for His people in mercy.
2. As judge against or upon them to correct.
3. As judge of all men in righteousness.
Deuteronomy 32:34-5.32.35. Iniquity reserved for future punishment.
1. Treasured up. Noticed, not forgotten, never forgiven without repentance.
2. Treasured up to be punished. “Evil pursueth sinners.” An order of sequence in moral as physical law. Punishment fixed, certain and near. “Avenging deities are shod with wool,” but never pause nor mitigate their judgments.
3. Be wise and escape. Fatally unwise to delay repentance and return to God!
Defer not till to-morrow to be wise,
To-morrow’s sun to thee may never rise.
Deuteronomy 32:36-5.32.38. Learn—
1. Afflictions of God’s people. Their power gone, reduced to shame and helplessness. Gods whom they worshipped and supported despised and unable to defend them.
2. The pity of God for His afflicted people. Judge, i.e., plead their cause, protect and deliver them. Repent of evils brought against them, and deal in mercy, not in judgment, with them.
3. Lessons to be learned from this experience. The folly of forsaking God. The impotence of idols. The insecurity of any hiding place against the justice of God. The design of mercy to awaken a sense of ingratitude and rebellion. “Experience is the best master.” “Experience teaches fools; and he is a fool, indeed, that does not profit by it.”
Deuteronomy 32:39. Learn—
1. God’s self-existence.” I am He.”
2. God’s sole rule. “No God with me.”
3. God as arbiter of life and death. “I kill and I make alive,” etc.
4. God’s absolute power. “Neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”
Deuteronomy 32:40-5.32.42. A terrible God.
1. Threatening vengeance.
2. Ratifying sentence with an oath.
3. Preparing to execute.
4. No resistance when vengeance comes! “The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies.
THE LAST DISCOURSE.—Deuteronomy 32:44-5.32.47
These are the last words, the repetition of the law of Moses, the ultimatum to the people.
I. The subject of the discourse. “All the words of this law.” Words of warning, promise and command. The law with its claims and authority. Religion represented by law.
1. Its fulness. “All the words” needed. Nothing kept back. Testimony clear and sufficient, enough to satisfy intellect and heart, to guide and bless.
2. Its importance. “Not a vain thing,” an empty, worthless profession; a mere shadow of the good and true, but the highest and only good. The “one thing needful.”
3. Its necessity. “Your life.” Not a philosophy, a mere system of morality, but a power of spiritual life. “The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” “Christianity is not a theory or a speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process.”—(Coleridge). It is the highest life possible to men, an impartation of power by which eternal life may be finally attained.
II. The attention which the discourse requires. Attention and interest should be according to the importance of a thing.
1. A fixed purpose of mind. “Set your hearts.” Heart and mind must be centered on it. Constant thought and application, a firm and earnest resolve. Through decision, not passing feelings and vacillating purpose. “His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psalms 112:7).
2. A due performance in life. “Observe to do.” Hear and practice. Business men say life means energy and work. Idleness and sloth are marks of death. Christ quickens, constrains and becomes the principle of action and obedience. When Christ lives within us, obedience is prompt and loyal. “Keep My commandments and live.”
III. The blessings of thus heeding this discourse. If religion is the essence of wisdom possession must be advantageous.
1. It gives enjoyment of life. “Your life” in its joy, happiness and usefulness. Life—miserable existence without God. Noble and glorious the life of him who loves God and feels that God loves him.
2. It prolongs life. “Prolong your days.” If this promise does not really belong to us, yet religion tends to length of life, in preserving from sins which shorten it, in promoting health, cheerfulness and activity. “The fear of the Lord prolongeth days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”
3. It prepares for eternal life. Heaven not only eternal existence but eternal enjoyment. True religion an earnest and foretaste of it. More than dry formalism, cold assent, barren orthodoxy. It is essentially “the fountain of life,” “the kingdom of God within.”
THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S COMMANDS.—Deuteronomy 32:46-5.32.47
I. Earnest purpose is essential to personal obedience to God’s law. “Set your hearts,” etc. Without a purpose no strength in the will, no direction in effort. Power and activity valueless without a clear aim. To fix our hearts on one great end, to make thought and duty define position and relation to this centre principle are chief means of improvement, advance and obedience in life. “My heart, O God, is fixed (prepared, set up) my heart is fixed” (Psalms 57:7).
II. Obedience to God’s law will secure happiness and prosperity. “It is not a vain thing for you.” The life of individuals, the security and elevation of the nation. Obedience better than gigantic schemes of trade, and colonization than enlargement of frontier and increase of armies. “If thou wilt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments, which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth.”
III. It is our duty to render obedience ourselves and to teach our children. “Ye shall command your children.” Instruct by precept and personal example. Affection and divine law should urge to this. This will secure their interests here and welfare hereafter. Not mere talk, teaching to read, but practical training required in present day. “Train up (instruct, dedicate) a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).
THE LAST DAYS OF MOSES
I. The last days of Moses were marked by sublime self-forgetfulness, and deep solicitude for the well-being of the people. When informed that the time of his departure was at hand, he exhibits no concern for himself, utters no regret because of his great privation, or anxiety as to future destiny. Sublimely he rises above personal and selfish considerations, and applies mind and heart in a last effort to promote good of the people. Asks Jehovah to appoint a successor in his great office (Numbers 27:15-4.27.22); solemnly recapitulates the law to the people (Deuteronomy 31:7-5.31.8; Deuteronomy 31:23); pours forth this lofty and solemn song (Deuteronomy 32:1-5.32.43); and blesses the several tribes (Deuteronomy 33:0.).
II. The last days of Moses were shadowed and saddened by sin. Why die at this time? Why not permitted to complete his work by leading the people into the promised land? Not because physical strength exhausted or body worn out or diseased (Deuteronomy 34:7). Because he sinned against God (Deuteronomy 32:31, cf. Numbers 20:2-4.20.13). Sin imparted mournful interest to last days of Moses.
III. The last days of Moses were relieved and cheered by the mercy of God. God’s kindness exhibited in three things.
1. In the aspect in which He represents his death to him. “Die … and be gathered unto thy people.”
(1.) Death is not the end of our life. “Gathered,” etc., not a poetical phrase for death; often used in addition to the record of death as a fact (cf. Genesis 25:8; Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:33; Numbers 20:26). Nor does the expression relate to burial. In this sense not true of Moses, Aaron, or Abraham (cf. Genesis 15:15; 1 Kings 2:10; 1 Kings 11:43). “The only assignable sense” says Alford, “is that of reference to a state of further personal existence beyond death.”
(2.) To the people of God death is the way to congenial social life. Moses about to pass neither into isolation nor uncongenial society of strangers, but to His own people—persons of kindred sympathies, purposes, and interests.
2. In reminding him of the death of Aaron. Moses witnessed the close of Aaron’s course on Mount Hor. Recollection of that scene would tend to make his own death less formidable and more familiar. Aaron passed away peacefully; why should Moses dread the some journey?
3. In permitting him to see the promised land (Deuteronomy 32:52). Surely this sight, “one of the fairest and widest prospects in all the eastern lands,” must have been a source of consolation and joy to the departing spirit of the man of God. Conclusion.
1. See the beauty and nobility of overlooking self in doing good to others; and imitate it.
2. See how one sin may cause grief and loss to a good man; and abstain from every form of evil.
3. See how in God’s dealings with men mercy is mingled with judgment, and thankfully trust Him.
4. Our last days will come; by the grace of God let us endeavour so to live, that they be like those of Moses—godly, useful, and inspiring in their prospects.—William Jones.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 32:46-5.32.47. True Religion.
1. Not empty profession.
2. A life conformed to God’s will.
3. Real enjoyment. “Religion is the dominion of the soul. It is the hope of life, the anchor of safety, the deliverance from evil” (Napoleon I.) Duty and its Enforcement.
1. What the duties? Personal religion and instruction of posterity.
2. What are the arguments to enforce it? a Importance of the thing. “Your life.” b. Advantage of it, &c.
The path of duty is the way to glory.
Deuteronomy 32:49-5.32.50. Moses on Mount Nebo, or a Ministers death scene. This is the record of a striking death scene. It presents to us—I. The common destiny of our race, “Gathered unto thy people.” This phrase denotes the twofold change which death effects in our condition.
1. The corporal;
2. The spiritual. II. The rigorousness of moral rule. The reason why Moses was required to die now, was because he had committed a sin at Meribah. III. The agency of God in man’s dissolution. Moses died from the determination of the Divine mind. All existence depends upon God’s will. IV. The termination of life in the midst of labour. V. The promptitude of Providence in supplying the place of the dead. This fact is—
1. Encouraging to our faith;
2. Humbling to our pride. VI. The tears of a congregation over the grave of their minister. Well might they mourn (cf. Deuteronomy 34:8-5.34.9).—Adapted from Dr. Thomas.
Deuteronomy 32:51. Trespassed.
1. In strange unbelief.
2. In unrestrained passion.
3. In open rebellion.
4. In publicly dishonouring God. Learn the jealousy of God; the possibility of failure in qualities in which we excel. Never think you are secure; guard temper. Though God pardons sin, yet will He mark His hatred even in His servants. A small sin may be followed by great punishment.
Must I then forward only look for death?
Backward I turn mine eye and find him there.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 32
Deuteronomy 32:2. Dew and rain. It is the transformation of death unto life, and the raising of that which lives into higher and fairer form which is the end in view. The morning sun and the morning rain-cloud may seem wide apart in their purpose, may appear at times to obstruct each other, but they have one great aim. The sun and the rain come to the dying seed, and both together draw it from darkness to light and build it up into the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear, that God’s world may live and praise His name. Both are rich in times of refreshment; the sun after the dark night, the rain after the parched day; and after both, the flower raises its head, and the birds sing, and men are glad.—J. Ker.
Deuteronomy 32:7. Days of old.
“The past lives o’er again
In its effects, and to the guilty spirit
The ever-frowning present is its image.”
S. T. Coleridge.
Deuteronomy 32:10. Apple of his eye. Tender guardianship. This organ more watched than any other. “Does it not appear to thee,” says Socrates to Xenophon, “to be a work of providence that, considering the weaknesss of the eye, He has protected it with eyelids, as with doors which, whenever there is occasion to use it, are opened, and are again closed on sleep? And that it may not receive injury from the winds, He has planted on it eyelashes like a strainer; and over the eyes has disposed the eyebrows, like a penthouse, so that the sweat from the head may do no mischief.”
Deuteronomy 32:15. Fat. The great bulk of mankind resemble the swine, which in harvest gather and fatten upon the acorns beneath the oak, but show to the tree which bore them no other thanks than rubbing off its bark, and tearing up the sod around it.—Seriver.
Deuteronomy 32:23-5.32.26. Mischiefs. Every action becomes more certainly an eternal mother than it is an eternal daughter. Richter. Vice ever carries with it the germ of its own ruin, and a retribution which is all the more inevitable from being often slow, awaits every violation of moral law.—Farrar.
Deuteronomy 32:29. Wise. If you ask me which is the real hereditary sin of human nature, do you imagine I shall answer—pride or luxury, or ambition, or egotism? No; I shall say—indolence. He who conquers indolence will conquer almost everything.—Lavater.
Deuteronomy 32:34-5.32.35. In store. Anne of Austria, Queen of France, once said to Cardinal Richelieu, her implacable enemy”—My Lord Cardinal, there is one fact which you seem entirely to have forgotten; God is a sure paymaster. He may not pay at the end of every week, or month, or year; but I charge you, remember that He pays in the end.”
Deuteronomy 32:39. I kill.
Make then, while yet ye may, your God your friend.
Deuteronomy 32:46-5.32.47. Your life. Faraday’s “religion was a living root. His standard of duty was supernatural. It was not founded on any intuitive ideas of right and wrong, nor was it fashioned upon any outward expediences of time and place; but it was formed entirely on what he held to be the revelation of the will of God in the written word; and throughout all his life his faith led him to act up to the very letter of it.”—Memoir by Dr. Bruce Jones.
Deuteronomy 32:46. Children. John Eliot, on the day of his death, was found teaching an Indian child the alphabet as he lay on his bed; and when one tried to persuade him to rest, he said—“I cannot preach now, but I have prayed God to keep me useful, and He has left me strength to teach a child.”
Deuteronomy 32:50. Die. Life’s evening, we may rest assured, will take its character from the day which has preceded it; and if we would close our career in the comfort of religious hope, we must prepare for it by early and continuous religious habit.—Shuttleworth.
Deuteronomy 32:52. Not go. The death of Moses, though it was to him an entrance into glory, was also a chastisement of his infidelity. How many noble proofs had he given of his courage and strength of faith! I How many gracious services had he done for his Master? Yet, for one act of disobedience, he must be gathered to his fathers. All our obedience cannot bear out one sin against God. How vainly shall we hope to make amends to God for our former trespasses, by our better behaviour, when Moses hath this one sin laid in his dish, after so many and worthy testimonies of his fidelity! When we have forgotten our sins, God remembers them; and although not in anger, yet He calls for our arrearages. (Bp. Hall.) See the land. It is the horizon that gives dignity to the foreground; a picture without sky has no glory. This present, unless we see gleaming beyond it the eternal calm of the heavens above the tossing treetops with withering leaves, and the smoky chimnies, is a poor thing for our eyes to gaze at, or our hearts to love, or our hands to toil on. But when we see that all paths lead to heaven, and that our eternity is affected by our acts in time, then it is blessed to gaze; it is possible to love the earthly shadows of the uncreated beauty—it is worth while to work.—Maclaren.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent