Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 4

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 9

Deuteronomy 4:9

In the business of life there are three parties concerned, three parties of whose existence it behoves us to be equally and intensely conscious. These three are God on the one hand, and our own individual souls on the other, and the one Mediator, Jesus Christ; who alone can join the two into one.

I. There is all the difference in the world between saying, Bear yourselves in mind, and saying, Bear in mind always the three, God and Christ and yourselves, whom Christ unites to God. For then there is no risk of selfishness, nor of idolatry, whether of ourselves or of anything else; we do but desire to keep alive and vigorous, not any false or evil life in us, but our true and most precious life, the life of God in and through His Son. But what we see happen very often is just the opposite to this. The life in ourselves, of which we are keenly conscious, never for an instant forgetting it, is but the life of our appetites and passions, and this life is quite distinct from God and from Christ. But while this life is very vigorous, our better life slumbers; we have our own desires, and they are evil, but we take our neighbour's knowledge and faith and call them our own, and we live and believe according to our neighbour's notions; so our nobler life shrinks up to nothing, and our sense of truth perishes from want of exercise.

II. In combining a keen sense of our own soul's life with the sense of God and of Christ, there is no room for pride or presumption, but the very contrary. We hold our knowledge and our faith but as God's gifts, and are sure of them only so far as His power, and wisdom, and goodness are our warrant. Our knowledge, in fact, is but faith; we have no grounds for knowing as of ourselves, but great grounds for believing that God's appointed evidence is true, and that in believing it we are trusting Him.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 297.

References: Deuteronomy 4:12 , Deuteronomy 4:13 . S. Leathes, Foundations of Morality, p. 26. Deuteronomy 4:20 . Parker, vol. v., p. 4.

Verses 21-22

Deuteronomy 4:21-22

We cannot consider this solemn, mysterious close of the great prophet's life without feeling that there are lessons of instruction the most manifold which are presented by it.


I. A life may appear in some leading point of it to have been a failure, to have been defeated of that crowning success which in our short-sighted vision it had almost a right to claim, and may for all this have been a life most acceptable to God, and consummated with a death very precious in His sight. The lives of few men are rounded and complete; there is something wanting, something fragmentary, in almost all, and this quite as much in the lives of God's saints as in the lives of other men. God writes His sentence of vanity upon all things here.

II. We see here an example of the strictness with which God will call even His own to account, and while His judgments are in all the world, will cause them to begin at His own house. Moses' sin seems to us to have been a comparatively small one, a momentary outbreak of impatience or unbelief, and yet it entailed this penalty upon him, this baffling of the dearest hopes of his life.

III. We are wont to regard the death of Moses as something unlike the deaths of other men, and so in a sense it was. Yet look at it in another point of view, and what was it but the solitude of every deathbed? " Je mourrai seul ," said the great Pascal, and the words are true of every man. We may live with others, but we must die by ourselves.

IV. Observe and admire the way in which God so often overrules the lives of the saints of the elder covenant that by them He may, in type and shadow, set forth to us the eternal verities of the Gospel. Think not of Moses that he can ever be more than a schoolmaster to Christ; that he can bring thee a foot further than to the borders of the land of thine inheritance. Another must lead thee in if ever that good land shall be thine. Jesus, our Joshua, our Saviour He must do this.

R. C. Trench, Sermons Preached in Ireland, p. 238 (see also Sermons New and Old, p. 152).

References: Deuteronomy 4:21 , Deuteronomy 4:22 . J. A. Sellar, Church Doctrine and Practice, p. 287. Deuteronomy 4:22 . Parker, vol. v., p. 5.Deuteronomy 4:29 . Old Testament Outlines, p. 43; Parker, Christian Chronicle, May 7th, 1885.Deuteronomy 4:29-31 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1283.Deuteronomy 4:36 . Parker, Fountain, March 8th, 1877.

Verses 39-40

Deuteronomy 4:39-40

Moses promised the Jews that if they trusted in God, they would be a strong, happy, and prosperous people. On the other hand, he warned them that if they forgot the Lord their God, poverty, misery, and ruin would surely fall upon them.

That this last was no empty threat is proved by the plain facts of the sacred history. For they did forget God, and worshipped Baalim, the sun, moon, and stars; and ruin of every kind did come upon them, till they were carried away captive to Babylon.

I. The thought that the God whom they worshipped was the one true God must have made His worship a very different, a much holier and deeper, matter to the Jews than the miserable, selfish thing which is miscalled religion by too many people nowadays, by which a man hopes to creep out of this world into heaven all by himself, without any real care or love for his fellow-creatures or those he leaves behind him.

An old Jew's faith in God and obedience to God was part of his family life, part of his politics, part of his patriotism. The duty he owed to God was not merely a duty which he owed his own conscience or his own soul; it was a duty which he owed to his family, to his kindred, to his country. It was not merely an opinion that there was one God, and not two; it was a belief that the one and only true God was protecting him, teaching him, inspiring him and all his nation.

II. God's purpose has come to pass. The little nation of the Jews, without seaport towns and commerce, without colonies or conquests, has taught the whole civilised world, has influenced all the good and all the wise unto this day so enormously, that the world has actually gone beyond them and become Christian by fully understanding their teaching and their Bible, while they have remained mere Jews by not understanding it. God's revelation to the Jews was His boundless message, and not any narrow message of man's invention.

C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 184.

References: Deuteronomy 4:32-40 . Parker, vol. iv., p. 118. Deuteronomy 4:39 . Ibid., p. 126; C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 222.Deuteronomy 4:40 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 220. Deuteronomy 4:41 , Deuteronomy 4:42 . E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons, 2nd series, p. 305.Deuteronomy 4:0 Parker, vol. iv., pp. 97, 104.Deuteronomy 5:1-21 . J. Hamilton, Works, vol. v., p. 214.Deuteronomy 5:3 . Parker, vol. v., p. 5.Deuteronomy 5:6 , Deuteronomy 5:7 . J. Oswald Dykes, The Law of the Ten Words, p. 19. Deuteronomy 5:8-10 . Ibid., p. 53.Deuteronomy 5:11 . Ibid., p. 71.Deuteronomy 5:12 . Ibid.: Old Testament Outlines, p. 45.Deuteronomy 5:12-15 . R. Lee, Sermons, pp. 399, 411, 421; J. Oswald Dykes, The Law of the Ten Words, p. 87; S. Leathes, Foundations of Morality, p. 128. Deuteronomy 5:13 , Deuteronomy 5:14 . A. C. Tait, Lessons for School Life, p. 258.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".