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Great mercies are promised to the penitent: the commandment is manifest and near unto them: life and death are set before them.
Before Christ 1451.
Ver. 1. When all these things are come upon thee, &c.— Houbigant supposes this verse prophetical, and, in that view, renders it thus: It shall come to pass when all these things are come upon thee, the blessings and the curses which I have set before thee, thou shalt recover thy understanding among all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee; and thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, &c. A prophecy, which, he thinks, has reference to a future and complete restoration of the Jews; as it can never be said, that, upon any restoration hitherto, they and their children have obeyed the Lord with all their heart, and with all their soul.
Ver. 4. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven— See Matthew 24:31.Mark 13:27; Mark 13:27. Nehemiah alludes to this promise in his prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem, Nehemiah 1:8-9.; and it was in part fulfilled, when Cyrus made a proclamation throughout the kingdom, that all the Jews might return, if they pleased, to their own country. Ezra 1:4. The Jews themselves apply the passage to their present condition; being of opinion, that God has appointed a time for their deliverance, and that, if they repented, he would shorten the days of their banishment. Houbigant observes, that the Jews are literally and exactly in the state which the words in the former part of this verse describe; and as the former part of the prophecy is thus remarkably fulfilled, it follows, that the latter part, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, &c. remains to be fulfilled, and can never be applied to the return of a remnant of the Jews from Babylon under Esdras and Nehemiah, as clearly foretelling a return of the whole nation to their God; and to their own land, ver. 5 than which nothing can be more plainly pointed out: the land which their fathers possessed.
Ver. 6. The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart— Esdras and Nehemiah inform us, that the heart of the Jews was not circumcised when they returned from Babylon: the whole Jewish history teaches us the same; and so do St. Stephen and St. Paul. It is necessary, therefore, to understand this prophecy of some future restoration of the Jews, says Houbigant; and with him many of the most judicious writers agree: for there are, in this and several other prophecies concerning the restoration of the Jews, such magnificent descriptions of it, as no way appear to be sufficiently accomplished in any restoration yet passed; and therefore they are to be interpreted of a more complete one still to come.
REFLECTIONS.—There is with God grace abounding to the chief of sinners; none who return to him shall be, in any wise, cast out. We have here, 1. The penitent return of Israel, and therein also of every sinner. (1.) It begins with serious reflection on the fulfilment of God's word, begetting humbling conviction on the heart. Note; The first step towards return to God is always conviction of our sin and ingratitude, and a sense of the just desert of both. (2.) Faith in a reconciled God must be exercised. We must, like the prodigal, call him our God and Father in Jesus Christ, though we acknowledge ourselves utterly unworthy to be called his children. (3.) Conversion will, of course, follow, from a constraining sense of God's transcendant compassions; these will engage the heart, and we shall desire, without reserve, to yield up ourselves to him, from a principle of love, and with universal devotedness of body and soul to his service. (4.) Fervent and importunate prayer will express the earnest breathings of the heart after God. Behold he prayeth, is the sign of every returning sinner. Hereupon God promises, 2. To hear and answer them, not upbraiding them with their sins, nor rejecting them, because out of trouble they cry to him; but according to their necessities he will supply them: his bowels of compassion will yearn over them. Such are God's tender mercies to the vilest, that bow with contrite hearts before him; he will from the distant lands restore them; however far gone in sin, they shall be recovered: their captivity shall be loosed, the bonds of sin shall no longer enslave them; God will do them good, temporal good, in restoring them to plenty and affluence in their long lost heritages. Note; Return to God is often attended with great blessings in our worldly affairs. Spiritual good is better still. He will circumcise their hearts, will cut off their vile affections, and shed abroad his holy love within their souls; thereby qualifying them for the obedience he requires, and securing them against future departures from him: their enemies shall now fall before them, and feel the power of victorious grace; thus sin shall have no more dominion over the returning penitent. Finally, by ten several repetitions, God engages to regard them as their Covenant-God. Happy the sinner who thus returns to God, and finds God thus return to his poor soul!
Ver. 11-14. This commandment—is not hidden from thee, &c.— i.e. Is not abstruse and hard to be understood, but easy to be known and comprehended: neither is it far off; so that they needed not to travel into distant countries to learn their duty; as the Greek philosophers and others used to travel into Egypt, and the eastern parts of the world, to gain wisdom. It is not in heaven:—neither—beyond the sea: in which words, Moses, according to Houbigant, alludes to the law delivered from heaven on mount Sinai, and to the passage of the Red Sea; two things peculiarly infixed in the minds of the Israelites: others, however, think, that the phrases are proverbial, signifying that no hard, or rather impossible, labour was required from them to arrive at the knowledge of God's will. So, Grotius observes, the Greeks express things very difficult, by going up to heaven: and Philo thus explains the words, neither is it beyond the sea, &c. "Neither is it so distant as to need long and tedious voyages to fetch it from remote countries." But the word is very nigh unto thee, continues the sacred writer; that is, made so familiar, that thou mayest always have it in thy common discourse; in thy mouth: and now so often repeated, that it may well and easily be laid up in thy memory; in thy heart. See chap. Deu 6:9 Deuteronomy 11:18; Deuteronomy 11:20. In Moses's law there were no mysteries known only to a few, and which were to be kept secret from the vulgar, as was the case in the Egyptian wisdom. Houbigant well observes, that these words clearly prove to us, that the precepts, commonly called legal, are not meant by THE WORD here; for Moses would not say, that it was in the mouth and heart of man to slay sacrifices, pay tithes, and celebrate annual festivals: therefore St. Paul, with great propriety, understood THE WORD for the word of faith, and as pointing out their faith in the word of that Redeemer, whose future coming upon the earth the whole ancient law foretold and prefigured. See Romans 10:6.
Note; The doctrine of grace in a Redeemer is clearly revealed, and easily comprehended by the enlightened mind, brought nigh to us by the ministry of the word: we need not climb the skies to inquire; Jesus incarnate is come down to teach us; nor need we go down to the deep in search for him, who has arisen from the dead, and has accomplished the work of redemption: so that, if with our mouth we confess him as our only hope, and in our heart cleave to him as our only Lord, we shall infallibly be saved.
Ver. 15. Life and good, and death and evil— The life and good is explained in the next verse; the death and evil in the 18th: whence we learn, that the former signifies all manner of national happiness; the latter, all manner of national misery: both which Moses had set before them at large in the twenty-eighth chapter.
Ver. 19. I call heaven and earth to record— See chap. Deu 4:26 Deuteronomy 32:1.
REFLECTIONS.—Warm and urgent when such important concerns were at stake, he seeks to fix some abiding impressions on their hearts, or at least to leave them inexcusable. 1. The case was plain, and on their choice it depended to be happy or miserable; they had every argument pressed upon them to avoid death, every motive urged to engage them to seek the life that God promised. The love of God, and obedience to his will, would infallibly procure the one; disobedience and idolatry inevitably expose them to the other. But if, under the law, where the promises and threatenings were chiefly temporal, their arguments were so strong, how much more so are they to us, before whom death and life eternal are set, according as we believe and obey, or by our disobedience and unbelief reject, the Gospel of Jesus? 2. He appeals to heaven and earth for his faithfulness, and urges them to choose the way of duty as the path of life. Those who perish will have only themselves to blame; they would not receive the knowledge of the truth, that they might be saved: whilst they, who hear and choose it, will own it to be not of themselves, but the gift of God. He that is saved, owes it to God's grace; every man who is damned has only himself to blame. 3. He again returns to exhort them to love, serve, and cleave to God, as the author of their life and all the comforts of it; that they may dwell in the land which he sware to give their fathers, and by their fidelity maintain a long and uninterrupted enjoyment of it. Thus closing with a remembrance, how much in interest, as well as duty, they are bound to obedience.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany