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This chapter is almost filled with that beautiful song of Moses, which, from its containing so much of gospel in it, hath warned and instructed the mind of GOD'S people in all ages. Having finished his sermon, the dying pastor gives out this hymn at the close of it, before he dismisses his congregation, and is dismissed himself with the blessing. Here are contained some of the many gracious dealings of the LORD with Israel. Here are contained also, some of their many grievous dealings with the LORD. Here are blended promises and threatenings. The chapter concludes with the LORD'S command to his servant Moses, to go up into the Mount preparatory to his death.
There is great elegance, as well as piety, in the whole of this song. The calling upon things inanimate to hear, when, perhaps, the intelligence of man disregards, is uncommonly striking. And will not both heaven and earth be witness against us, if we neglect so great salvation? The heaven shall declare GOD'S righteousness. Psalms 50:6 .
Apply this to the gospel, and observe how suited the figure is. The gospel is from heaven, so is the rain. The gospel is a blessing wheresoever it comes: so is the rain. The gospel acts sweetly and unperceived in the mind of him that receives the truth in the love of it; so doth the dew and the rain. Believers are born from above: so doth the rain come down from above. The people of GOD are numerous, though comparatively a little flock: so are the dew drops of the morning. See those sweet scriptures, Psalms 110:3 ; Micah 5:7 ; John 1:13 ; Psalms 72:6 ; Job 38:28 .
Precious thought! that doctrine will descend as the rain, and under divine influences will work its way, like the soft insinuating dew, which proclaims JEHOVAH in all his threefold personality of character and covenant-offices. For what is GOD'S greatness to his people, but his great salvation in JESUS? When Moses desired to see the glory of the LORD, GOD said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee. Exodus 33:18-2.33.19 .
No less than six times in this chapter, and eighteen times in other places of the Old Testament, is the LORD distinguished by the title of a Rock; as if to show the firmness, durableness, and everlasting strength of the LORD, in his covenant relations to his people. And I beg the Reader to remark with me, the attention of Moses in this description of our covenant GOD. It would have been a striking account of JEHOVAH, had the man of GOD represented him under any of his glorious perfections, for all the attributes of GOD, are so many standards of character, to distinguish the excellency of his nature. But in this place he is speaking of him in a more endearing view; and how shall he do it more effectually than by assuring his people, that his faithfulness is like the rock of ages, Holy LORD! enable me, and enable the Reader, always to keep this view of thy immoveable, and unchanging love to thy people, in remembrance. See that precious continuation of this, Deuteronomy 7:9 .
Alas! what a striking difference, when we look into our own nature, there is between our corruptions and the LORD'S purity. Observe, the charge is, not that GOD made man corrupt, for GOD made man upright, but that he hath destroyed himself. Ecclesiastes 7:29 ; Hosea 13:9 . Their spot is not the unavoidable spot, which compared to the unsullied holiness of GOD, all-created excellence hath but it is the spot of sinful fallen nature. Oh! The happiness of those children of our GOD, who have been washed in that fountain which taketh out all spots! 1 John 1:7 ; Revelation 7:14 .
Reader! suppose you drop the view of Israel for a moment, and fancy this expostulation addressed to yourself, at any time when causing the LORD to serve with your sins, and wearying him with your iniquities. Is not GOD your FATHER by adoption and grace in CHRIST JESUS? Hath he not chosen you in CHRIST; called you in CHRIST; justified you in Christ; fed you, taught you, purchased you, redeemed you, sanctified you; and for which of these acts is it, that a pressing temptation leads you thus to requite him?
No subject more affecting than the remembrance of past mercies. It is the sweetest of all subjects, the most improving of all plans of education, when a father can take his children by the hand and recount unto them the mercies of his GOD and their GOD, to him and to them, and to their father's before them. And especially when a parent can speak of mercies in grace, as well as providence: of redemption, as well as preservation. Oh! the joy of an awakened parent, thus to relate the LORD'S dealings with his soul. The church doth this, after recounting a long series of mercies. Psalms 107:43 . Reader, can you say anything of the like in your own experience? If so, you will not need my advice to tell it to your children, and your children's children. Psalms 103:17 .
The sweetest of all subjects, and the most interesting of all histories, is that which makes a man acquainted with himself. In looking back to the original formation of GOD'S church and people, we behold a plan reaching into eternity. Their husband was set up from everlasting. Proverbs 8:23 . At the creation and division of the earth, the boundaries of men, as well as of the church, were all fixed by infinite wisdom. But there can be no question from the whole account in the Bible, which is but a brief history of the church, that the bounds of all other of the sons of men, were intended to minister to GOD'S church and people. GOD hath made of one blood all nations of men; and they are all the works of his hands: but here he peculiarly calls Israel his portion. The Israel of the LORD are as the garden of the LORD, amidst the world's wilderness. This people, the LORD saith, I have formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise. If the Reader wishes to see some very striking scriptures to this purpose, he will find them, Isaiah 43:21 ; Deuteronomy 7:6-5.7.8 ; Matthew 11:25-40.11.26 . What a rapturous thought is it to the soul, that is conscious of an interest in it, that GOD hath a people, and that he himself belongs to that people, and is of the LORD'S portion. There is but one thing more to make it complete, and that is, when the soul that is the LORD'S portion, can call the LORD his portion also. See Psalms 16:5 ; Song 1-8.
Our GOD may be said to have taken all his people from a wilderness state, when calling them by his grace; for what the Apostle saith of the church of Ephesus, is equally applicable to every individual: we were by nature, children of wrath even as others. Ephesians 2:3 . With respect to Israel of old, nothing could be more descriptive, than that of GOD'S finding them: for they were apparently lost in the bondage of Egypt, and groaning under their oppression. Reader! let you and I look back, and behold the spiritual bondage of our Egypt, when under Sin and Satan. Did not our JESUS find us there when he passed by and saw us cast out, and no eye but his to pity us? Ezekiel 16:5-26.16.6 . And how hath he led us about, nursed, and brought us up and taught us by his HOLY SPIRIT, the great things of salvation, and with that tenderness kept us as the apple of his eye. Oh! thou gracious GOD and Saviour, lead me frequently to review the ruined state of my nature, that the tokens of thy grace may be more abundantly precious. Isaiah 51:1-23.51.2 .
The figure here made use of, of the eagle, is uncommonly beautiful and striking; and especially, if, as some naturalists have said, the eagle, not only protects, feeds, and nourisheth her young, but is much engaged in instructing them. The young eagles, like other young birds, are much disposed to sleep in their nests: but the old eagle stirs them up. When they are awakened she flutters over them, as if to teach them the use of their wings. And as if this was not enough, she carries them on her wings, until they are well able to use their own. All this is uncommonly striking, in illustration of the care of GOD over his people. For Israel lay in Egypt, like the young eagles in their nest, stupid, indolent, and unawakened; as those that were in love with their slavery, and unwilling to be brought out of it. Hence the LORD is said to have borne them on eagles wings, when by the ministry of Moses, he brought them out. Exodus 19:4 . And, if we carry on the similitude further, in allusion to the LORD'S bringing them out in this manner, as nothing from beneath could possibly hurt the young eagles on the back of the old bird, until the shot or the spear had pierced through the body of the dam, to pass through, and wound or destroy the young: so when JEHOVAH undertook the salvation of his people, everything manifested the security of their redemption; as JESUS hath said, Because I live, ye shall live also. John 14:19 . Reader! is there nothing in all this, which bears a resemblance to the same LORD'S dealings with your soul? Hath not your GOD and Savior found you in a desert land, and amidst all the dangers of a waste and howling wilderness; hath he not borne you, as upon eagle's wings; fed you, nourished you, taught you, protected you! Oh! for grace in the review of mercies, to say with one of old, Bless the LORD, Oh, my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Psalms 103:1-19.103.5 .
See! what a good house our GOD keeps! They that sit down at his table, will find both plenty, and of the best. But are not gospel mercies veiled under these figures? It is true, our fathers in the wilderness, had all these things in abundance. But yet in a gospel sense: the pure milk of the word, and the wine of the grape, imply the feast of fat things in GOD'S holy mountain. Isaiah 25:6 .
Jeshurun, means the upright. But alas! how changed!
What a melancholy picture of rebellion, folly, and sin, to forget GOD, to forsake him, to be unmindful of the rock of his strength. Alas! who should have conceived the possibility of the thing itself. But this is not all, Israel added provocations to neglect, and took up with dunghill deities. And observe their character; these gods were not only contemptible in themselves, but gods they knew not. Moreover, they were newly risen up, as if gods, like mushrooms, came up in a night. Neither was this all, they were devils, and such as their fathers feared not. How striking is that expostulation of GOD by the prophet: Hath a nation changed their gods, which yet are no gods? but my people have changed their glory, for that which doth not profit? Jeremiah 2:11 . Reader! is there nothing in all this, in which your heart, and mine, can find a too just resemblance.
Of all sin, and sinners, nothing is so aggravated as in those instances, where a nearness of affection should have induced the reverse. An holy GOD must hate sin, as sin, wherever it be found. But in his children, it appears in the strongest colors. Psalms 55:12-19.55.13 .
The judgments here threatened, will be found in correspondence to their sin. They forsake GOD, and he withdraws the favor of his countenance from them. They provoke him to .jealousy with strange gods; and Israel shall be provoked to jealousy with the call of the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul, under the HOLY GHOST, explains it so in the conversion of the Gentiles. Romans 10:19 . And when we consider the happy state of Israel when in Canaan, and compare it with the desolations of Israel in their captivity in Babylon, their ruin in Jerusalem, after our LORD'S return to glory, and their dispersion at the present hour over the earth; who can help remarking the just judgments of the LORD, as here awfully described, falling upon that people! See Jeremiah 52:4-24.52.11 ; Matthew 24:15-40.24.21 .
Here is a little brightening up in those verses. But Reader! pause, to remark with me, how our GOD over-rules the malice of their enemies, to work for his people's good. We have striking examples in holy writ, where GOD'S people make use of this plea to find GOD'S favor. See Exodus 32:11-2.32.12 ; Joshua 7:9 . And may we not from hence, and from our own experience, draw this certain conclusion, that the LORD absolutely lays the foundation, sometimes, of the peculiar mercies he manifests to his hidden ones, on the very malice of their enemies! That is a very strong passage in the Psalms in proof: Psalms 105:25 .
Even people void of understanding, in divine truths, may consider the sure consequence of sin. The wages of sin is, and must be death. Romans 6:23 .
There are two ways of reading those verses. If we consider the words, How should one Israelite chase a thousand? we must then view the salvation of Israel, as effected by GOD. But if we consider the words, rather as corresponding to a deserted state by reason of Israel's sin, it will then appear; that the timidity of Israel ariseth, in that the LORD hath given them into the hands of their enemies. See Isaiah 30:17 . The contrast drawn between the confidence of GOD'S enemies, and the GOD of his people's confidence in those verses is beautiful. But Reader, remark with me, the graciousness of GOD, and the LORD'S pity over his people, when they are brought down to a low estate. See Leviticus 26:40-3.26.43 .
Observe how GOD asserts his own sovereignty. It is worthy the Reader's observation, how Moses in the close of his day of grace, is reminded of what the LORD said to him, on the first opening of that day: "I am, that I am." Exodus 3:14 . Reader! do not overlook the person of JESUS in this. John 8:59 . How precious to a dying believer, the revelation, that He that was, and is, and is to come, is the eternal I am, who begun, hath carried on, and will complete his great salvation; being the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8 . I would have the Reader to observe in those verses, the LORD'S awful declarations upon the enemies of his people. And it is an awful thought; is not GOD, as much pledged to execute his threats, as to fulfil his promises? Doth he say, if any man love not the LORD JESUS CHRIST, let him be Anathema, Maranatha, and can it be otherwise? 1 Corinthians 16:22 . I beg the Reader to remark with me, how graciously the song concludes. It is full of joy and peace, to GOD'S people. GOD will enlarge the borders of his people: he will avenge them of all their enemies; and the glory of GOD shall be upon them. If we read those words in a gospel sense, they are still more beautiful and refreshing. In JESUS shall all the house of Israel be justified, and shall glory: the multitude of the isles shall stretch out their hands unto GOD. And while his people rejoice, their enemies shall be destroyed: the GOD of peace will bruise Satan under their feet shortly. Romans 16:20 .
When Moses had finished his song, which he delivered not only in the hearing of the people, but particularly of Joshua, his successor, as if that he might be a witness both for the LORD and for himself, he makes a short observation upon the whole: and as a dying pastor, again, and again, affectionately entreats them to be wise unto salvation after his departure. See a beautiful example of this kind in Paul. Acts 20:28-44.20.37 .
What can a true believer in JESUS desire more, when he hath finished his day as an hireling, and seen the LORD'S CHRIST like Simeon, than to depart in peace according to GOD'S word. What is there worth living for! nay, rather what is there not worth dying for! Oh for the spirit and desires of holy Paul! Philippians 1:23 .
There is great mercy in the LORD'S reminding Moses of Aaron's death. But how precious is it to the believer in JESUS, to recollect in his dying hours, that CHRIST hath gone before to the grave, and through that passage to glory. Oh! for faith, lively faith, to be conformed to the lovely image of JESUS in all things. There can be no doubt, but that the view Moses had of the promised land, was accompanied with an assurance in the covenant righteousness of redemption by the promised seed, that though he entered not upon the possession of an earthly Canaan, be should enjoy the heavenly Jerusalem. Dear LORD! let this be the portion of both writer and reader, if it be thy heavenly will, and then it matters not on what mount, in what place, at what time, or in what manner the summons for our dismission is given. To live will be CHRIST, and to die will be gain. Philippians 1:21 .
PAUSE, and behold, the beautifulness of holiness, and of praise, in the conduct of a dying pastor, like Moses; and in the outlines of this hymn, behold how becoming it is to be faithful. Heaven and earth must witness at the last day for every faithful servant of JESUS, if he hath kept back nothing that was profitable for the people; and though the people be not gathered, yet he hath delivered his own soul.
Reader! may it be your happiness and mine, in viewing the LORD'S love to his church, and the series of mercies manifested towards his people, to discover, in a spiritual sense, the same gracious hand bringing us out of Egypt, and bearing us as upon eagles wings all the way through of our eventful journey. Oh! thou most gracious GOD! in every view which my soul is enabled to take of thy love towards me; and in all thy three-fold characters of Person, thou hast been my FATHER, and the guide of my youth. My Saviour, and the Redeemer of my soul; my Sanctifier, and the helper of all my ways. Oh! grant that I may not, like Israel of old, forget the GOD of my mercies, and lightly esteem the rock of my salvation. Do thou perfect that, gracious GOD, concerning me, which thou hast begun, for thou art indeed a rock, and thy work is perfect. It is of thine own free grace thou hast planned salvation, by thine own power thou hast formed it, and wilt execute it. In thine everlasting love, in the eternal purposes of thy counsel, by the blood and righteousness of JESUS, and by thine own grace, and the influences of the HOLY GHOST, in the hearts of thy people, thou wilt accomplish and complete it: and shall I doubt thy gracious purposes concerning me? Be thou my rock, my JEHOVAH JESUS, to which I may alway resort; for thou hast promised to help me; therefore into thine hands do I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, thou GOD of truth.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany