We may consider the contents of this Chapter to be the conclusion of one branch of Moses' Sermon, in the arguments he had been bringing forward to enforce Israel's love and obedience to the LORD. Blessings and cursings are held forth in order to accomplish this great end. The man of GOD is very particular in reminding Israel of the many signal instances of favor the LORD had shown the people, and he carries this subject to a most extensive view.
The charge to Israel was special and distinguishing. Israel was set apart, and distinguished, from all other nations of the earth. No people knew the LORD by signs and wonders, by holy worship and ordinances, as Israel did. What nation (as Moses told them) had the LORD so nigh as Israel? Deuteronomy 4:7. Reader! I charge it upon your mind, in the view of this subject, to consider how infinitely this argument is heightened since the SON of GOD, in substance of our flesh, came and tabernacled among us. Oh! what nearness are believers now brought to, in the blood and righteousness of JESUS! How beautifully the apostle dwells upon this, 1 Peter 2:9-10.
This is a charming line of distinction which the man of GOD hath drawn between the ignorance and unconsciousness of children, and the experience of men. In recapitulating those mighty acts of GOD, he appeals to facts which their eyes had seen, and which their knowledge of allowed no debate concerning, in proof of mercy shown them: what the LORD did for them against their enemies; and what the LORD did to them in numberless providences during their wilderness state: Hence therefore, it is as if he had said, I appeal to your own judgments; is not this a most gracious GOD, and justly entitled to all the love, and reverence, and obedience of a people so highly favoured. But Reader! when you have paid all possible attention to this view of Israel of old, pause over the subject, and consider how increased is the argument, as it may be applied to Israel now. If the Reader himself be an object of divine grace, may I not say, in the language of Moses, Know you this day, for I speak not to the unconscious, unawakened state of childhood, who have never experienced the grace of GOD in JESUS, but it is to you I speak, whose eyes have seen, and whose hands have handed, the word of life. What spiritual foes hath the LORD your GOD driven out, and consumed before you, and what great acts of grace in quickening mercy, converting mercy, and renewing mercy, hath the LORD manifested to you otherwise than he doth to the world? Oh! what a volume is opened to every man's view, in the history of his own heart, who reads GOD'S love to Israel of old with the New Testament explanation, as the truth is in JESUS.
Let not the Reader overlook the expression in those verses that Israel was to go in to possess the land. Not as if they were to fight for it, but as if it was already conquered. The reason was, the LORD their GOD had promised Canaan to his people. He undertook to drive out the present possessors, and to bring them in. And therefore so promised, the thing itself was as good as accomplished. But, considered as this really was, a type of the heavenly Canaan, the subject riseth higher to our view, and becomes abundantly more interesting, JESUS hath in reality already conquered for his people. He hath purchased their redemption by his blood. He is gone before to take possession of the promised land in their name, and will come again, and bring them into the possession of it, with himself; that where he is, there they may be also. See his sweet promise to this effect, John 14:3.
These verses afford a delightful view, even considered as an history of the promised land. It is beautiful to remark the several characters here drawn by the pencil of Moses, under the direction of the HOLY GHOST. Canaan was not as Egypt, even beheld as to its situation by nature. Egypt owed its fruitfulness to great labour and art: but Canaan was watered by the rain of heaven. The river Nile did not overflow its banks to water Egypt but once in the year, and all the rest of the year the country of Egypt became a dry soil. The Prophet gives an account of this, that Egypt had no rain, Zechariah 14:18. No doubt, as Israel had been long in bondage, the Fathers well recollected their labour and toil in the gardens of their masters, and how they had been compelled to sow the seed, and water it with their feet; meaning, perhaps, to fetch water from the Nile. Sweetly therefore the man of GOD draws the contrast to this servitude, in the spontaneous fruitfulness of Canaan, which had the eye of the LORD their GOD upon it from one end of the year to the other. Canaan had no river excepting the sacred stream of Jordan, in which, in after ages, the SON of GOD was baptized. So that, as the Prophet elegantly described it, there was no navigable channel for a galley with oars, or gallant ship, to pass by. No enemy could approach by water. But, saith the Prophet, there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams. His presence made up all deficiencies. See Isaiah 33:20-23. But we lose still greater beauties in this passage if we stop here. Canaan, considered as a type of heaven, is yet more delightful to contemplate. Of the heavenly Canaan it may be truly said, it is not like the earthly Egypt of our fallen state. The land which the believer is going to possess hath not only the eye, but the presence of the LORD GOD upon it forever. JESUS is there, His person, his love, his redemption, his relations, offices, character; all are the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And if the Reader will pursue this train of reasoning through all the various parts in which it is capable of being traced, he will discover a most pleasing subject opening to his meditation. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
GOD'S promises, even in a temporal sense, with respect to earthly blessings, serve to show the wonderful superintendance of the LORD over his people. But we are certainly authorized to accept Israel's history, as forming from beginning to end a subject truly spiritual. And here we find the promise of rain to be sweetly descriptive of the effusion of the SPIRIT. Isaiah 44:3-4; Ezekiel 34:26.
GOD'S withholding the influences of his SPIRIT, is here figuratively set forth. See a proof of this: Amos 4:7-8.
I have often admired the LORD'S affectionate regard to the happiness of Israel, as set forth in these precepts, and have figured to myself the Jewish family following up the command of the LORD, in forming around them their little circle, to speak to their children and little ones of the LORD'S gracious dealings. And what can afford a sight more lovely or more engaging, than to behold the father of a family recounting to his children and household around him, what the LORD hath done for his soul. That is a sweet comment of David upon this scripture: Psalms 34:11.
The extent of Israel's country, great as it was, was nothing compared to the extent of GOD'S love for them. The boundaries here mentioned, if spiritually considered, have a delightful reference to what the apostle observes of the boundless love of GOD in CHRIST. Ephesians 3:18-19.
It is truly refreshing to attend to the practical exhortation which Moses makes, from what he had before said on this interesting subject, if interpreted upon gospel principles. There is indeed a blessing and a curse set before us in the gospel of JESUS. And if any man like the Jews of old, is at a loss to discover on whom the whole blessing rests, and the curse of rejecting; and would ask as they did of JESUS, What shall we do that we might work the works of GOD: the Redeemer hath himself answered it; "This is the work of GOD that ye believe in him whom he hath sent." John 6:28-29.
DEAREST JESUS! be thou everlastingly adored for all the great things which mine eyes have seen of thy wonders of grace, in the rescue of thy people from more than Egyptian bondage in sin and death. Oh! give me yet more and more to see and know my vast privileges, and be ever ready to ascribe the whole where alone it is due, to thine arm, and thy power, which alone bringeth salvation.
Oh, for an ardent zeal to be looking for that city of Canaan whither thou art gone before. Blessed JESUS! may the recollection that thou art there, prompt my soul to be sending forth its warmest affections and desires after the attainment of it, knowing that while I am present in the body I am absent from the LORD.
And do thou, HOLY SPIRIT, whose grace and influence alone can effectually direct and incline my heart to a right judgment in all things, do thou sweetly constrain my soul into the love of GOD and into the patient waiting for JESUS CHRIST that while thy servant is here setting before me, the blessing and the curse, life and death, and good and evil: JESUS himself who is the sum and substance of all blessings, all mercies, all good, may be my choice and my Portion forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany