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This Chapter concludes the first part of Moses' Sermon, and a most pathetic and practical conclusion it is: in which he earnestly urgeth the people to the love and obedience of the LORD GOD of their fathers. In the close of the chapter Moses appoints certain cities of refuge for the manslayer on that side Jordan.
It is worthy of remark, how jealous the LORD is of his name and glory; in both Testaments of Scripture the precept of neither adding to, nor diminishing from, is strongly formed. See Revelation 22:18-19 .
Compare this with Numbers 25:4 .
Reader! if your soul be united to JESUS, must not all spiritual life be derived from this union? Oh! the inexpressible preciousness of those words of JESUS: because I live, ye shall live also. John 14:19 .
Into what an astonishing degree of nearness, are believers now brought by the blood of JESUS! Reader! pause and contemplate your vast privileges; and ask your own heart that question, Am I indeed brought nigh, by the blood of JESUS? Ephesians 2:13 .
It is refreshing to see, that while both Testaments enjoin the same precept, of keeping the soul diligently, (see Jude 1:21 .) the apostle had it in commission to tell the church, that the LORD is the keeper of his people. 1 Peter 1:5 . And what is yet if possible, more endearing; JESUS committed all his people to the care of the FATHER, in the last evening of his discoursing with his disciples. John 17:11-15 .
The part of Israel's history, which Moses here referred to, hath been already commented upon. To that I refer: See Exodus 19:18 . But, Reader, we never can sufficiently attend to this interesting part of Israel's history, while connecting with it its typical object. Oh! how sweet, how very sweet is it, when at any time (considering how awful it would be in our poor nature, unconnected with JESUS, to stand before the LORD in Horeb, to answer the demands of GOD'S righteous law;) we call to mind our high privileges, in seeing our persons fully justified by the redemption in CHRIST JESUS. Oh! thou dear Redeemer! give me to sing now, however in broken and imperfect strains it may be, till I come to chant it, in louder sweeter notes with the church above; Worthy is the LAMB that was slain, to receive all glory, and honour, and thanksgiving, and praise; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed me to GOD by thy blood. Revelation 5:9 .
Moses lays great stress upon the prohibition to similitudes: not only condemning all improper resemblances, but all resemblances. "To what will ye liken me?" saith the LORD. Isaiah 40:18-25 . How sweet is pure gospel worship. See our LORD'S short but most expressive statement of it. John 4:23-24 .
It is remarkable, in nations unacquainted with the gospel, how prone the natives have been found to worship the heavenly bodies. Reader! think how precious the gospel is, which hath taught us to consider all these lights of the firmament, but as the servants of our JESUS. Psalms 19:1-6 .
I would have the Reader observe with me, how Moses delights to harp upon that string of distinguishing mercy. The instances of it are very many, through all the parts of the history. See it repeated in Deuteronomy 4:32 , etc. Reader! of all mercies, those which are distinguishing and personal are the highest and the best. See Deuteronomy 5:3 .
It is to be questioned whether anything in the annals of mankind, ever came up to the generous conduct of Moses upon this occasion; who in his love for Israel, passed by his own personal humiliation. Never perhaps was he equaled in this instance, excepting by thee, thou blessed JESUS, who though rich, yet for our sakes didst become poor, that we through thy poverty might be made rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 .
Observe the vast earnestness of the Sacred Preacher in the arguments he adopts to interest the feelings of the people; and how he dwells, again and again, upon the same very powerful motives to induce them to obedience. But Reader! while attending to these things, think yet more particularly, how our Almighty law-giver, and law-fulfiller, the LORD JESUS CHRIST, hath secured the faithfulness of his people. See to this purport that blessed promise, founded as it is, in covenant security. Jeremiah 32:40 .
Reader! pause over those verses, and then call to mind that, concerning the dispersed of Israel, even now in the present hour this blessed promise hath not lost its force. The promise is sure. The event must take place. The day shall come when the deliverer shall arise out of Zion, to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Compare Isaiah 59:20 with Romans 11:26 .
If we read these verses with an enlightened understanding, and paraphrase them in gospel terms, as they really ought to be read by every awakened and regenerated soul, how precious do the evidences of distinguishing grace manifest themselves under everyone of them, to the believer's own experience. Reader! suffer me, for example's sake, only to suppose that you are the happy partaker of the covenant mercies of GOD in CHRIST; and may I not then say to you, as Moses did to Israel; Ask now of the days that are past, or of the thousands of the unawakened around you: did any of them ever hear the sweet voice of the HOLY GHOST in his word? Hath your GOD taken you out of the midst of a sinful world, in which you dwelt at ease, while in your unregeneracy, like Israel in Egypt: and hath he caused you to hear his voice and endeared all his covenant mercies to your heart? Hath he undertaken to drive out all the enemies of your salvation before you, and give you an inheritance, among them that are sanctified? Oh! how precious is it to remark distinguishing mercies; and how powerfully do the arguments, like those of Moses to Israel, constrain the true believer in JESUS! Compare those two last verses, with that sweet one of the Apostles. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 .
GOD hath given commandment concerning those cities of refuge: Numbers 35:9-34 . But of such importance was the thing itself, that Moses in the very opening as it were, of his sermon, breaks off to follow up the LORD'S precept concerning this thing. But is there not a gospel sense in it, and that of a very interesting nature? I think there is. Are not those cities of refuge all typical of JESUS? Is not everyone a manslayer, that slays his own soul by sin? And if the avenger of blood, which is death, overtake the sinner (and death is hourly pursuing him) before the poor soul-murderer hath found refuge in the blood, and righteousness of JESUS; is not his ruin inevitable? Reader! do not overlook the sweet mercy read to us in these verses, in that the city of refuge was open every way. Yes! JESUS is the way for every poor sinner to find refuge in; and he is open to both the Israelite and the stranger, from all parts of the earth: they shall come (our JESUS saith) from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Precious salvation!
I do not insist upon the names Moses gave to those cities: yet considered with an eye to JESUS, and as the Man of GOD hath particularized them with names, which in their original acceptation are peculiarly apposite to some of the distinguishing characters of JESUS; I do not think it would be right wholly to pass them by unnoticed. Observe that Bezer, in the original, signifies a strong hold. And is not JESUS a shelter and strong hold from the storm, and a refuge from the tempest? Isaiah 32:2 . Rameth, signifies what is high or exalted. And to what an height of excellence and of glory, is the LORD JESUS in his redemption work exalted? Philippians 2:6-11 . Golan intimates great joy and glory. And is it not said that in JESUS shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory? Isaiah 45:25 .
The Man of GOD is particular in marking down the very spot, where he rehearsed and performed these things for Israel: because the place was truly memorable; for Israel now possessed, as it were, the earnest of the promised land. And there is somewhat striking also in the observation, that it was over against Beth-peor; that is, the idol temple of the GOD of the Moabites. And where so proper to show GOD'S people their mercies, as in the very face of the ungodly world? Oh! how ought the people of GOD to enumerate their mercies, and to mark down the several tokens of distinguishing grace, when they are in the very moment beholding that the LORD hath called them out from among the carnal, and manifested himself to them otherwise than he doth to the world. That is a precious Scripture of Paul's to this purpose, 1 Corinthians 4:7 .
SWEET and precious Chapter, when explained to my soul by the HOLY GHOST, in reference to my adored Redeemer. May the LORD give me grace to read it with all possible reverence and affection; and may he open mine eyes to see the wondrous things of his law. Oh! may I be enabled to see the vast claims there are upon me, by virtue of my covenant relationship in CHRIST JESUS; and as powerfully find grace to live in them. And as I trust the LORD hath stretched forth his Almighty arm, and assayed, as in the case of Israel, to go and gather me from another nation, greater and mightier than I am; and hath brought me out: Oh! may the same most merciful GOD in CHRIST, which hath called me by his grace, support and keep me by his power. Dear JESUS! be thou my city of refuge, my hiding place, my security, my GOD, my portion! LORD, I come to thee, and do thou remember thy sweet promise, for thou hast said, all that the FATHER giveth thee shall come, and him that cometh thou wilt in no wise cast out.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany