Click to donate today!
RENEWED EXHORTATIONS TO OBEDIENCE.
Moses' intercession and its results.
At that time. When Moses thus interceded, God commanded him to prepare two new tables of stone, and to construct an ark in which to keep them (cf. Exodus 34:1, etc.). Directions had been given for the construction of the ark before the apostasy of the people, and it was not made till after the tabernacle had been erected, nor were the tables placed in it till the tabernacle had been consecrated (cf. Exodus 25:10, etc.; Exodus 40:20). But as the things themselves were closely connected, Moses mentions them here together, without regard to chronological order.
Deuteronomy 10:6, Deuteronomy 10:7
Not only did God, of his grace and in response to the intercession of Moses, give to the people, notwithstanding their apostasy, the ark of the covenant with the new tables of the Law, but he followed this up by instituting the high priesthood; and, when Aaron died, caused it to be continued to his son Eleazar. This Moses reminds the people of by referring to a fact in their past history, viz. their arrival at Mosera, where Aaron died, and Eleazar succeeded him in his office. Beeroth of the children of Jaakan (wells of the sons of Jaakan); the same place as Bene-jaakan (Numbers 33:31), probably the Horite tribe, called 'Akan (Genesis 36:27), for which, apparently, should be read Jakan, as in 1 Chronicles 1:42. Mosera; Moseroth, plu. of Mosera (Numbers 33:30). As Aaron died there, Mosera must have been in the vicinity of Mount Her. Gudgodah, Hor-hagidgad (Numbers 33:32); cave of Gidgad, a place of caves. Jotbath, Jotbathah (Numbers 33:33), a district abounding in streams, whence probably its name, Jot-bathah, pleasantness, from יָטַב, to be good, to please. None of these places have been identified. Robinson mentions a Wady el Ghadaghidh, a broad sandy valley diverging from the Wady es Jerafeh, in the desert of Et-Tih, and this has been supposed to indicate the site of Gudgodah; but the difference of the consonants in the two words is such as to render this identification more than doubtful. In the Arabic of the London Polyglott, גדגדה is represented by, see Arabic word, (Judjuda), which is totally different from Ghadaghidh. All the places, however, must have been in the 'Arabah, and in the region of Mount Her, or not far distant. That the places mentioned here are the same as those in Numbers cannot be doubted. The two passages, however, relate to different journeys; that in Numbers to the journeying of the Israelites from the wilderness of Sinai to Kadesh, that in Deuteronomy to the march in the fortieth year, when they went from Kadesh to Mount Her.
Deuteronomy 10:8, Deuteronomy 10:9
Moses, here resuming the form of address, refers to the separation of the tribe of Levi to the holy service.
At that time; the time when the covenant was restored at Sinai, not the time when Aaron died. The appointment of the tribe of Levi for service took place in connection with that of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood (Numbers 3:4). The service to which the tribe of Levi was chosen appertained to the tribe as such, including the priests as well as the non-priestly Levites, though parts of it specially belonged to the one class rather than the other. Thus the bearing of the ark was the special duty of non-priestly Levites, the Kohathites (Numbers 4:4, etc.; 1 Chronicles 15:15); but was also, on peculiarly solemn occasions, discharged by the priests (Joshua 3:6, etc.; Joshua 6:6; Joshua 8:33; I Kings Joshua 8:3, Joshua 8:6, etc.). To stand before the Lord to minister unto him was the special function of the priests; but as the service of the Levites was also a sacred service, they too are said to stand to minister before the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:7; 1Ch 15:2; 2 Chronicles 23:6; 2 Chronicles 29:4, 2Ch 29:5, 2 Chronicles 29:11, 2 Chronicles 29:12). To bless in his name does not mean, as some propose, to invoke the Name of God, or to praise his Name, but to pronounce a benediction or invoke a blessing on the people in his Name (cf. 2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Chronicles 16:2). This was the special duty of the priests (cf. Numbers 6:22-27; Deuteronomy 21:5; 1 Chronicles 23:13), but might also be done by others (as by David), and in this benediction the Levites might join (2 Chronicles 25:27).
(Cf. Numbers 18:20-24.)
Deuteronomy 10:10, Deuteronomy 10:11
Moses here sums up the general result of his intercession. As at the first, he was on the mount the second time forty days and forty nights; and in response to his pleading, the Lord willed not to destroy Israel, and commanded him to resume his place as leader of the people, and conduct them to the Promised Land "This commandment and promise was a testimony that God now was reconciled unto them by the intercession of Moses" (Ainsworth).
Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 10:13
God had showed great favor to Israel; what return did he require? Only what, without any prescription, they were bound to render—fear, love, and obedience (comp. Micah 6:8). To fear the Lord thy God (cf. Deuteronomy 6:2, Deuteronomy 6:13). To walk in all his ways; to receive his truth, accept his law, and follow the course of conduct which he prescribes (cf. Genesis 18:19; Psalms 25:4, Psalms 25:5; Psalms 67:2; Acts 18:25, Acts 18:26). To love him (cf. Exodus 20:6). "Fear with love! Love without fear relaxes; fear without love enslaves, and leads to despair" (J. Gerhard). There is a fear with which love cannot coexist—a fear which hath torment, and which love casts out as its antagonist (1 John 4:18); but the fear of God which he requires is that pious reverence which not only can coexist with love to him, but is not where love is not. And to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. Love prompts to service. Wherever love fills the heart, it seeks expression in acts of service to its object; and where no such expression comes forth, the evidence is wanting of the existence of the emotion in the bosom (cf. John 14:15, John 14:23; Galatians 5:13; 1 John 3:18). For thy good (cf. Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:24). "In serving the Lord the glory redoundeth unto him, the benefit to ourselves; for them that honor him he will honor (1 Samuel 2:30), and 'godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come' (1 Timothy 4:8)" (Ainsworth).
Deuteronomy 10:14, Deuteronomy 10:15
To love and serve the Lord, Israel was specially bound, because of God's love to them and choice of them to be his people. He, the Lord and Proprietor of the universe, was free to choose any of the nations he pleased, and needed not the service of any, but of his free grace he chose Israel, in whose fathers he had delight, to love them (cf. Exodus 19:5). The heaven and the heaven of heavens; the highest heavens, all that may be called heaven, with all that it contains. Delight ("set his eve upon," Deuteronomy 7:7); literally, cleaved to, was attached to. "Affection, love, choice, the three moments prompting from the innermost impulses to the historical act" (Lange).
They were, therefore, to lay aside all insensibility of heart and all obduracy, to acknowledge God's supremacy, to imitate his beneficence, and to fear and worship him. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart. As circumcision was the symbol of purification and sign of consecration to God, so the Israelites are enjoined to realize in fact what that rite symbolized, viz. purity of heart and receptivity for the things of God. This is enforced by the consideration that Jehovah the alone God, the Almighty, is mighty and terrible without respect to persons, and at the same time is a righteous Judge, and the Protector of the helpless and destitute.
God of gods (Psalms 136:2). Not only supreme over all that are called god, but the complex and sum of all that is Divine; the Great Reality, of which the "gods many" of the nations were at the best but the symbols of particular attributes or qualities. Which regardeth not persons; is not partial, as a judge who has respect to the condition and circumstances of parties rather than to the merits of the case (cf. Le Deuteronomy 19:15; Acts 10:34; Ephesians 6:9; Jud Ephesians 1:16). Nor taketh reward; cloth not accept presents as bribes (cf. Deuteronomy 16:19; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Job 34:19; Micah 3:11).
Deuteronomy 10:18, Deuteronomy 10:19
As the impartial and incorruptible Judge, God executes the judgment of the fatherless and widow, vindicates the right of the defenseless (Psalms 68:6; Psalms 146:9); and as the God of the whole earth, he loveth the stranger, helpless, and it may be oppressed, and giveth him food and raiment. Following him, Israel, as his people, were to be benevolent to the stranger, inasmuch as they themselves had been strangers in Egypt, and knew by experience what it was to be a stranger (cf. Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 19:33, Leviticus 19:34). They were to love the stranger as God loves him, by relieving his necessities (cf. James 2:15, James 2:16).
Reverting to his main theme, Moses anew exhorts Israel to fear Jehovah their God, and to show true reverence to him by serving him, by cleaving to him, and by swearing in his Name (cf. Deuteronomy 4:4; Deuteronomy 6:13; Acts 11:23). Such reverence was due from Israel to God, because of the great things he had done for them, and those terrible acts by which his mighty power had been displayed on their behalf.
He is thy praise, i.e. the Object of thy praise; the Being who had given them abundant cause to praise him, and whom they were bound continually to praise (cf. Psalms 22:3; Psalms 109:1; Jeremiah 17:14). Terrible things; acts which by their greatness and awful effects inspired fear and dread into those by whom they were witnessed. For thee; literally, with thee, i.e. either in thy view or towards thee, for thy behoof (comp. Deuteronomy 1:30; 1 Samuel 12:7; Zechariah 7:9; and such an expression as "deal kindly [literally, do kindness] with," Genesis 24:49, etc.).
Among other marvelous acts toward Israel, was one done in Israel itself; they, whoso fathers went down to Egypt only seventy in number (Genesis 46:26, Genesis 46:27), had, notwithstanding the cruel oppression to which they were subjected there, grown to a nation numberless as the stars (cf. Genesis 22:17; Deuteronomy 1:10; Nehemiah 9:23).
Deuteronomy 10:1-5, Deuteronomy 10:10, Deuteronomy 10:11
The results of the intercessory prayer of Moses.
In these verses we have a very brief statement of the results of the pleading of Moses for Israel with God, which can only be duly appreciated when set side by side with the fuller account in Exodus 33:1-23; Exodus 34:1-35. It is clear, even from the few words here given us, that the Lord's wrath was turned away, that the covenant and the covenant promise were again renewed. But we must at least indicate the points of detail ere we can gather up the sublime teachings of the whole.
I. THE RESULTS OF THE INTERCESSION OF MOSES.
1. Generally. "The Lord repented," etc. (Exodus 32:14). The passage in Numbers 23:19 is by no means contrary to this. It means that there is no fickleness nor falseness in the Divine promises, and that the fulfillment of them is not subject to human caprice; which is gloriously true, and in perfect harmony with the before-named words. These do not denote a change in the mind of God, but rather a change in the Divine acts. God's promises are, in an important sense, conditional, and his threatenings too. If we reject the promise and fail to rely upon it, it will not be fulfilled in our case; so, if we repent and turn from sin, the threatenings will cease to apply to us. The virtual withdrawal of promise or threatening is called "repenting," not because God changes his will, but because he varies his action. God may plan and effect a change without ever changing a plan.
2. In detail.
(1) There were two manifest tokens of the Divine displeasure.
(a) Exodus 33:7; the tabernacle of Moses, where he would hear the causes of the people, and maintain the mediatorship, was removed from within the camp to the outside of it. Still, mercy and judgment were blended, for the pillar of cloud did not forsake them.
(b) Exodus 32:34, Exodus 32:35; this is very obscure; but it at least means that, though they were forgiven, yet they were chastised. In after times, the Jews were wont to say that never any trouble came upon them without an ounce of the dust of the golden calf in it. The intercession of Moses, though it secured inestimable blessings, yet did not avail to remove all reminders of their sin, or to make things as though it had not been.
(2) Dire threatenings were removed one by one.
(a) They should not be consumed, still, only an angel should go with them (Exodus 33:2, Exodus 33:3).
(b) The Divine presence should go with them (Exodus 32:12-14).
(3) Abounding mercy is vouchsafed. The mercy is gradually brought out more and more fully, as Moses pleads more and more persistently.
(a) Though the tabernacle is out of the camp, yet communication with Jehovah is still maintained (Exodus 33:9).
(b) The old promise is renewed (Exodus 33:12-14). "Rest!" Rest in God. What less, what more, could they desire?
(c) There was a formal renewal of the covenant (Deuteronomy 10:1-5).
(d) Jehovah grants a new disclosure of his glory. The recent exhibition of the frailty of man might well have crushed Moses if he had not been sustained by a new vision of God. And what a vision! What a declaration! Nowhere else on earth had a Name so glorious then been proclaimed (Exodus 34:6-9).
(e) The long-continued communion with God illumed the face of Moses (Exodus 34:29-35). Was this supernatural or miraculous? Supernatural? Yes. Miraculous? No. We believe intensely in the religion of the face (see Acts 6:15; vide a lecture by Joseph Cook, of Boston, on 'The Solar Light'). Moses was full of the Holy Ghost. The luster without was but the index of the light within. He had gone in unto God to plead for others, and he was rewarded openly, by bringing down from the mount a radiance that told with whom he had been! If our faces were oftener directed towards God in intercessory prayer, they would certainly beam with new light, and men would take knowledge of us that we had been with Jesus.
II. THE LESSONS TAUGHT BY THIS NARRATIVE.
1. We see here the abounding mercy of God—how slow he is to anger, how ready to forgive. We can imagine, indeed, an objector interposing here, and saying, "Precisely the reverse. The fact of the severity of God's judgments being abated, removed, and even exchanged for mercy, just in response to the intercession of Moses, seems to make Moses appear more merciful than God." Perhaps it seems so at first, but it only seems. And even the seeming ceases when we look all round. For was it not the same God whom Israel had offended, who had given them Moses, who taught him to pray, and who sustained his pleading power? So that the lines of judgment and of mercy have a common meeting-point in the same hand. Besides, we must never forget that the Great Father adapts himself in the methods of his teaching to the capacities of the child in learning. And even the severity of the judicial sentence comes out of mercy. When will men learn the profound truth in Psalms 62:12? The greatest mercy which can be. shown to a people is to educate them in righteousness. How constantly are men making the mistake of regarding suffering as the grievance rather than sin! as if it were not the sin which is the people's bane, and the suffering consequent on it which is really their guard, that they may learn to dread the sin which brings such sorrow with it. And if the Great Lord, over and above the merciful threatenings which show the evil of sin in his sight, provides Israel with such an intercessor as Moses, and if by virtue of his pleas will withhold the dreaded stroke, and for the uplifted arm of justice will show the directing and sheltering hand,—both the one act and the other are joint illustrations of that glorious Name, the Lord thy God! There is no schism in the manifestation of that Name. The terror and the kindness perfectly accord, and it is only our defective sight which makes them appear inharmonious in hue. The very God who guards Law by the holiest sanctions, has provided also in his government for the efficacy of interceding prayer! "He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy."
2. This mediatorship of Moses is but one illustration of the working of a permanent law, that God wills to be approached by his saints in prayer on behalf of others. It were well if some were to collate the intercessory prayers in the Bible, and the passages which bear on the theme of pleading for others. The Apostle Paul understood the blessedness of intercessory prayer. He himself rose to a glorious height in this sublime act, and yet he declares his own dependence on and appreciation of the prayers of the saints. Nor do we at all understand the priesthood of believers, till we regard this as one of its special privileges, functions, and duties. Let those who "profess and call themselves Christians" see to this. Let them rise to this high and holy service. Let them enter into their closets, fall on their knees, and pour out before God petitions for all. We sometimes ask whether the yearning spirit of intercession is dying out amongst us (Joel 2:16-18).
3. This Divine law, of the power of intercession, has its supreme illustration in a greater than Moses (Hebrews 7:25), even in him, of whom in so many respects Moses was a type. Human mediation may achieve much, but ah! even the men who plead most with God for others do feel most their need of One to plead for them! There, there, at the Father's throne, is One who, having given himself a ransom for many, does present his own work as the ground on which the coming sinner may be forgiven, accepted, and saved.
4. There are three things which no intercession, either of saints on earth or of a Savior in heaven, can secure. Why? Because in the nature of things they are impossible, and therefore for them no holy one can intercede.
(1) No intercession can secure men against either the inward smart or physical consequence of committed sin, even though it may have been repented of and forgiven. There is nothing in the freeness of Divine grace to afford the slightest encouragement to men in playing or parleying with sin. "In the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them," is as irrevocable a law as any other. It is quite true that if the worldling, or the drunkard, or the fornicator, repents, he will obtain mercy; quite true that he will be a child of God, and will be trained for the Father's house. But—the enfeebled will, the sapped strength, the deteriorated judgment, the haunted and haunting memory of evil, will abide with him, and will cast their shade over all his remaining days. The bitter taste of committed sin will come up into the soul a thousand times; and though it is true that even that will be sanctified, and will prompt new prayers for restraining and renewing grace, yet, oh, how far more peaceful would life be, if such nausea had not been made an enforced part of its experience! While no penitent need despair of mercy, yet, for all that, he may well dread the sins which, even after forgiveness, will "bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder"!
(2) No intercession can secure pardon for sin which is not repented of and forsaken. Hence, whoever there may be who is valuing the prayers of others on his own behalf (and few, surely, would be so indifferent as to set no value on a father's, mother's, brother's, sister's prayers), let us remind such a one that, unless he repents of sin, those petitions will avert no sorrow, no judgment, no ruin. No; not even the atonement of Christ was ever intended to save people in sin, but from it. "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
(3) If repentance be delayed, there may come a point beyond which no intercession will avail, because the "day of visitation" is past (see Jeremiah 7:16). There is a limit beyond which not even the vine-dresser dares to ask for further postponement of the sentence (Luke 13:9; see Luke 19:41-44; Revelation 2:21). "Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation" (cf. Isaiah 5:3-6). And if after all the blended judgment and mercy in the way of providence; if after all the teachings, prayers, and intercessions as means of grace; if after all the striving of God's Spirit with men, there is a steady, stout, obstinate resistance to all,—then, such is the view of the holy ones on earth and in heaven, such the view of our Great Intercessor, of the evil of sin and the honor of God, that not from one pleader, however powerful or however tender, can there come even one more request for any further arrest or delay of the judgments of God. In the treatment of every sinner, love, justice, mercy, forbearance, will all have played their part, and if, after all the patience of a God and the entreaties of man, impenitent he still remains, all heaven will acquiesce in the justice of the verdict—his blood shall be upon his own head!
Israel's duty summed up and touchingly enforced.
The rehearsal and review of Israel's waywardness, in which the great lawgiver had been reminding the people how much God had had to bear with from them, must have been extremely painful to him, as it was reproachful for them. That part of the review closes with the eleventh verse. And then follows thereon one of the most tender and touching appeals to which the old man could give vent. The two first words of the twelfth verse," And now," convey a world of meaning. We think we see the lips of Moses quiver, we hear his voice falter, we note the tear standing in his eye, as, with intensely deep pathos and loving solicitude, he shows Israel how past waywardness on their part, and forbearance and forgiveness on God's part, gave them an urgent reason why they should seek henceforth to love, not in word only, but in deed and of a truth. There are two lines of thought suggested by this paragraph.
I. HERE IS THE SUM OF ISRAEL'S LIFE-DUTY NEWLY ENJOINED. This may be set under six heads, which will be but enumerated here.
1. They must cease their rebellious spirit: "be no more stiffnecked."
2. They must fear the Lord their God.
3. With fear they must blend love.
4. To love and fear they must add loyalty of action, by walking in God's ways.
5. They must observe alike the commandments or moral precepts, and the statutes or several appointments.
6. And finally, they must guard against all merely surface work: "Circumcise the foreskin of your heart." Though there were many more rites in Judaism than there are under Christianity, yet a merely ritual service was no more acceptable then than now. This summing up of life's duty should be compared with that in Micah 6:8.
II. THERE IS A GREAT REASON FOR DISCHARGING THAT DUTY ENFORCED BY TENDER APPEAL. In this appeal, as we venture to call it, there are but few words. But how full of meaning they are! The word "now"—nunc, at this time; and as put here it may suggest six queries, each of which contains a most tender reason for future loyalty, which the preacher may well urge with all possible force. We will name the queries one by one.
1. And now, Israel, have you not been thus wayward long enough? Is it not time that you reconsidered the position in which you stand with reference to Jehovah? Look! See where you are! Think how long you have been trying God's patience and long-suffering!
2. And now, Israel, since God has continued to spare you, since he has forgiven you and not cast you off, since he has consented to bear with you still,—will you not renew your vows, with less, indeed, of self-confidence, but with more of penitential loyalty?
3. And now, Israel, think again, "what doth the Lord thy God require of thee?" Is it more than what is reasonable and right? Could he ask less consistently with his righteousness and honor? Are not all his commands wise and right? Is it not an easy yoke to love a God so kind, to fear a God so holy, to obey a God so faithful and true?
4. And now, Israel, look at the fact that all God's commands are for your good (Micah 6:13)! A perfect obedience would ensure perfect content. All the while you have been rebellious against the Lord, you have been fighting against your own highest interests. God's honor and your happiness require precisely the same course of life.
5. And now, Israel, do remember this, for consider how great is the Divine condescension in caring for you at all (Micah 6:14): "Lo! the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is." And what, what but infinite love should lead him thus to stoop from his high throne to care for you? It is not for your righteousness, for you are a stiffnecked people. No account can be given of why God should care for you so, save that he loves to do it. Then surely the reason is overwhelmingly strong for your gratitude, loyalty, and love.
6. And now, Israel, seeing these things are so, could you do less for such a God than he asks of you, even if he did not ask it? So rich should be your joy in him, so reverent your fear, so devout your love, that you would with ready mind give God all, even if he did not require all. What he is to you should lead you to be to him all that he would have you be. Such seems to us to be a true expansion of the pathetic plea which this passage contains, which the connection in which it stands necessarily suggests. How much stronger every one of the six points may be made from the evangelic standpoint, the Christian preacher will in a moment see. By as much as the love of God in the great redemption in Christ Jesus is a grander disclosure than his love as revealed in the deliverance from Egypt, by so much should each argument be the more tender and strong. When we read, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," what can the proper response for our hearts be but this, "We love him, because he first loved us"? Such love should constrain us to obey, even if we had no written Law by which obedience was required.
God no respecter of persons.
Having reminded the people of their duty towards God, the aged lawgiver next shows the people what their God is to them, and draws from thence a new argument for obedience and love towards him. In doing this, however, while there is much which we treat of in other Homilies, there is one special sentence, peculiar to this passage, which is yet made so much use of in the teachings of other parts of the Word of God, that we feel called on to note it as the center point of this paragraph, to show what the truth is which is indicated therein, and the bearing of that truth on the various phases of life and duty. We have in the Word of God no fewer than ten or twelve quotations or uses of this text, each one setting it in some special aspect as a point of doctrine, or drawing therefrom some special inference on a matter of duty. These several allusions, direct or indirect, will suggest the plan of this Homily. The verse thus frequently referred to is the seventeenth. "For the Lord your God regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward."
I. WHAT DO SUCH WORDS MEAN, AS A STATEMENT OF TRUTH? We might not have seen much in them, if the Holy Ghost had not inspired the sacred writers to quote them so frequently in new and varied lights. Being thus quoted, however, we ought to show by reference to the several quotations, the varied phases of their meaning.
1. God knows no distinctions in his moral government of the nations. This is suggested by the words in this passage. Moses says, in effect, to Israel, "You have been chosen, out of all the nations, to receive a special revelation, and to be made the bearers of a special mission to the world; but do not think that because of that you are at liberty to trifle with the rules of the Divine Law: God will not tolerate sin in you any more than he will in other nations. Think not that he frowns on iniquity on Canaan and regards it more mildly with you. 'He regardeth not persons.' And only as you are loyal to him, and faithful in doing the right, will he smile upon you."
2. God makes no distinction in the basis on which men are accepted in his sight. The Apostle Peter throws quite an unexpected (and we fear to a large extent as unperceived) light on these words in Acts 10:34. He is preaching to Cornelius; he is opening the kingdom of heaven to the Gentile. To induce him to do this, he needed the vision of the great sheet let down from heaven. That gave him a new revelation. God's grace was larger than he had thought for. He had never seen till then the deep meaning of the words in his old legislator's code. He saw them then, and they shone with glory—"Of a truth … but in every nation." As if he had said, "I used to think that because our nation was favored with more light, therefore it stood on another basis fur acceptance and safety. And now I find that the great plan of God's grace so covers the globe, that in every nation, he who fears God and follows the light is accepted with him!" Men are saved, not according to the measure of light they have received, but according to the use they have made of the light which God has given them.
3. God is exercising over every man a present judgment according to perfect impartiality. The truth just now referred to made so deep an impression upon the Apostle Peter, that he refers to it again in 1 Peter 1:17, and would have the thought of the absolute impartiality of God act as a perpetual influence on believers, generating and maintaining a holy fear. There is no favoritism with God. He regards not the person, but the deed; "judging according to every man's work."
4. God revealed this attribute of his in the Lord Jesus Christ. For this side-light on the truth, we are indebted to a scribe, an uninspired man, who, possibly indeed in flattery, but we rather think otherwise, intimates that this attribute of impartial equity, which his lawgiver attributed to the Divine Being, was manifest conspicuously in the Lord Jesus Christ. However he may have meant it, he certainly uttered a profound and glorious truth. For who, on earth, ever so clearly showed himself no respecter of persons, as our Divine Lord and Master?
5. Precisely the same feature of God's government will mark the final judgment. (Romans 2:11, Romans 2:16) There will be one rule of righteousness, which will be inflexibly adhered to then, and which not even the glorious grace manifested in the gospel will deflect or obscure. Not from the most hidden souls, nor from the most prominent, will any impeachment of the Divine righteousness ever rise up. The great system of mediatorial administration may then reveal a plan of larger grace than ever entered into the heart of man to conceive, but most assuredly there will be no flaw in its equitable impartiality, for "there is no respect of persons with God." That very impartiality will bring about many startling changes, for "many that are first shall be last, and the last first."
II. TO WHOM ARE THESE WORDS APPLIED IN SCRIPTURE, AS A DIRECTORY OF DUTY?
1. They are applied to the querulous. This absolute righteousness being revealed as an attribute of God, should teach men to be cautious, who are too ready to pass judgment on the ways of God when they are past finding out. Such is the use to which Elihu applies the doctrine. He did not understand Job's case, perhaps, any better than Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar; but in this point he is undoubtedly correct. We know God is righteous, therefore we must not impeach what he does.
2. They are applied to magistrates and judges (see 2 Chronicles 19:6, 2 Chronicles 19:7). The like equity to that which marks the Supreme Judge should characterize all who have to administer justice in any nation.
3. They are applied by Paul as a guide in religious controversy (Galatians 2:6). "God accepteth no man's person, therefore," says Paul, "neither might I. Truth with me must be supreme, and even if James, Cephas, or John, who seemed to be pillars, were to utter aught inconsistent with the gospel or grace of God, whosoever they are, it matters not." The truth, not the person, commands our homage. Well would it have been if in all ages this had been a guiding principle in the controversies of the Church. Well would it be, if it were men's guide now.
4. The words are applied to individual treatment and judgment of others in the varied relations of private life (Colossians 3:25). A man, however lordly, or however lowly, will receive from God a reward or penalty according to what he hath done, and not according to his station in life. And we, like God, must apply like moral rules all round, and never justify a bad act because done by a rich man, nor depreciate a good act because done by a poor one.
5. They are applied to masters with regard to their treatment of servants (Ephesians 6:9). We must not forget that the "servants" here referred to were "slaves." Neither Jesus Christ nor his apostles, any more than Moses had done, made any open attack on slavery. But by teaching this principle of the equality of men in God's sight, they dropped a truth which, when it had time to grow, would cause slavery to fall, by uplifting the people to so high a standard of moral virtue that it would no longer be tolerated by them. And even now there is need for the continued reiteration of the same truth, that masters on the one hand may feel their responsibility to God for dealing justly with their servants, and that servants may feel their responsibility for doing justice to their masters.
6. They are applied to Church members, in reference to their treatment of the poorer members (see James 2:1-9). Church life is social life gathered round the cross. "Life's poor distinctions vanish here." "The rich and the poor meet together, and the Lord is the Maker of them all." Each one is at liberty to form his own private circle of friendship, according to taste, culture, etc. But in Church life, work, and worship, all ranks meet on one common platform, acknowledging "one Lord, one-faith, one baptism," and recounting in song one common salvation. The artificial distinctions set up by men are nothing in the eye of God. To reproduce them in the Church is an offence in his sight. If here we have respect of persons, we commit sin, and are convicted of the Law as transgressors.
7. The principle implied in the words is taught by the evangelist in its most impressive form in the cross of Christ. Such, surely, is the conclusion to be drawn from the weighty words of the Apostle Paul, "Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16). "Wherefore;" because Christ died for all. "Henceforth;" from the time that we understand the world-embracing purpose of his death, do we know no man after the flesh. The little distinctions men make so much of here, all vanish in the light of the cross. We ask not whether men are rich or poor; we ask not their name, nationality, or rank. "Christ died for all." That stamps on every man's brow the inscription, "Dear to Christ." Wherefore he will be dear to us for Christ's sake, the wide world over, whatever his caste, country, color, or clime. If Christ died for all, we preach to all. So that the very principle which under the old covenant is enforced by Law, is under the new created by love. That selfsame impartiality disclosed from Horeb in the methods of Law, is again revealed from Calvary in the methods of God's grace. And thus, through Old and New Testaments the appeal is the same, though made first through thunder, and afterwards through tears. "Be ye imitators of God." Plant your feet firmly on the revealed doctrine of the impartial equity of God. Accepting that, acquiesce with loving submission in the mysteries of his ways, even when they are in the deep waters, and when his footsteps are not known. Then seek in your sphere to follow God in his. Let the judge and magistrate in his decisions, the disputant in his arguments, the private individual in his home sphere, the master in ruling, the servant in obeying, the Church member in his worship and fellowship with his brethren, the evangelist in evangelizing,—all remember that as there is no respect of persons with God, there must be none with them. And let all strive to be like God, who in his Law encircles all men with one bond of duty, while in his gospel he holds them all under one dispensation of grace!
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Tokens of mercy.
Various pledges of his forgiveness were given by God to the people.
I. THE RENEWAL OF THE TABLES. (Deuteronomy 10:1-5.)
1. Reconciliation to God is only possible through return to obedience. God cannot but require that we accept his commands, and make them the rule of our life (Matthew 5:19, Matthew 5:20; Romans 6:13-23). Such return to obedience is involved in gospel faith (Romans 7:4). "Repent ye" (Mark 1:15).
2. The Law is one and unalterable (Deuteronomy 10:4). We must change; God cannot.
3. The Law underlies the mercy-seat (Deuteronomy 10:2). A testimony against sins, yet the foundation of the covenant. In redemption, the covenant obligation is not annulled, but fulfilled representatively in the spiritual Head—Christ. In receiving Christ, the Law's Fulfiller, we bind ourselves to be fulfillers of it also, as no longer servants of sin, but of righteousness (Romans 6:1-23.). Our justification is in him; his Spirit of life is in us (Romans 8:1, Romans 8:2; Hebrews 10:16).
II. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF RELIGION. (Deuteronomy 10:6-10.) The renewal of the high priesthood in the person of Eleazar (Deuteronomy 10:6); the separation of the tribe of Levi for the service of the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 10:8, Deuteronomy 10:9). The existence of ordinances is a proof of continued mercy. God punishes unfaithfulness by removing the candlestick out of its place (Revelation 2:5). The gospel ministry is Christ's gift to his Church (Ephesians 4:11). Means of grace end with the close of the day of grace (Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2 Corinthians 6:2), and the removal of the individual from their midst ends the day of grace to him (Hebrews 9:27).
III. THE COMMANDMENT TO GO FORWARD. (Deuteronomy 10:7, Deuteronomy 10:11.) We also are commanded to go forward—to advance to the conquest of the world—to press to heaven. So long as that command stands unrepealed, so long may sinners be assured that the day of grace lasts, and that they are warranted in believing in the mercy of God towards them.—J.O.
Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 10:13
The supreme requirement.
With this Moses began (Deuteronomy 6:4), and with this he ends. The sum of the Law, and the sum of all his exhortations. It all and always comes back to this (Ecclesiastes 12:13): "What doth the Lord require of thee?" etc. We have here:
1. The central requirement.
2. The all-embracing requirement.
3. The indispensable requirement; that for which nothing else can be accepted as a substitute.
4. The requirement of kindness—"for thy good."
5. A reasonable requirement. This love and obedience were due from Israel for God's mercies to them. As in the gospel, grace precedes, obedience follows. Saved by grace, we are to make such return as is possible by loving and fearing God, and diligently keeping his commands (Luke 7:47; Romans 6:13; Romans 7:6; Ephesians 2:8-11).—J.O.
The supreme persuasive.
The revelation of God's character in its double aspect of exalted might and of condescending grace.
I. GOD EXALTED, YET STOOPING. (Deuteronomy 10:14-16.) The wonder of revelation:
1. That One so exalted should stoop at all. The wonder is not abated by reflecting that infinite perfection must include infinite mercy with every other attribute. It fills us with amazement to think of the Possessor of heaven and earth stooping to hold friendly converse with his creature, man. The Bible dwells on the thought with astonishment (1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 8:3, Psalms 8:4; Psalms 147:3-6; Isaiah 57:15). Modern science indirectly testifies to the wonder in objecting that, with our enlarged conceptions of the universe, it is impossible to believe that God should feel the special interest in man which the Bible says he does.
2. That One so exalted should stoop so far. God's depth of condescension seen peculiarly in the gospel.
(1) In sending the Son.
(2) In surrendering him to death.
(3) This for enemies.
(4) In dwelling by the Spirit in imperfectly sanctified hearts (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-10; Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Galatians 5:17).
The persuasiveness of the revelation lies in its blending of majesty with grace.
II. GOD MIGHTY AND EQUITABLE, YET TENDERLY SYMPATHETIC. (Deuteronomy 10:17-20.) Another aspect of the Divine greatness, blending with lowliness, which attracts the heart. The combination of great strength with great gentleness; of judicial sternness with humane consideration of those in distress, are sufficiently rare to be always striking. We marvel when, in the hero of a hundred battles, we discover a heart of woman's tenderness; when in the judge whose strictness on the bench every one remarks, we light on a spring of deep and genuine compassionateness. It is this combination we see in God. A God of gods, a Lord of lords; great, mighty, terrible, sternly just; yet, what might seem incompatible with this, tenderly and touchingly compassionate. His might and equity, so terrible to evil-doers, he throws as a shield around the fatherless, the widow, and the stranger. He executes their judgment. They are his peculiar care. Them, above all others, will he not allow to be wronged (Psalms 68:5).
III. GOD OMNIPOTENT, YET HIS OMNIPOTENCE EXERTED IN DEFENDING AND BLESSING HIS CHURCH. (Deuteronomy 10:21, Deuteronomy 10:22.) Power in itself awakens fear; power known to be engaged in our protection and for our good inspires the highest confidence. Moses recalls to the Israelites, as a reason for fearing and loving God, his acts of power on then behalf, especially his power as exerted in their extraordinary increase. God's power may be viewed as displayed:
1. In the Church's redemption (Colossians 1:13).
2. In the Church's increase (Acts 5:38, Acts 5:39).
3. In the Church's protection from her foes (Matthew 16:18; Acts 4:24, Acts 4:31).
The individual Christian will have reason to rejoice in the same power as exerted in his conversion (Ephesians 1:19), in his upholding (Jude 1:24), in his protection (Romans 8:35-39), in his ultimate salvation (1 Peter 1:5).—J.O.
I. HEART CIRCUMCISION IN ITS IMPORT.
1. Betokens the existence of natural impurity. The rite of circumcision, as the initiatory rite of the covenant, taught that man, in his natural, unpurified state, is unfit for fellowship with God. "In us, that is, in our flesh, dwells no good thing" (John 3:6; Romans 7:18). It was a symbol of the putting away of "the filth of the flesh"—a truth now signified in baptism (Colossians 2:11; 1 Peter 3:21).
2. Illustrates the painful nature of the renunciation of fleshly lusts. The operation was sharp, painful, bloody. It vividly set forth at once the necessity of renouncing the lusts of the flesh, and the pain attendant on the act. We are called on to mortify our members which are upon the earth (Colossians 3:5). The process is described as a crucifying of the flesh, with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24). The deepest form which this renunciation can assume is the renunciation of the principle of self-will in its entirety, the sharp excision of evil in its root.
3. Implies the grace of the covenant. The reception of God's grace as exhibited in the covenant is the condition of the possibility of this renunciation. We achieve it, not in our own strength, but through the impartation of a new principle of life. Paul makes it a result of faith in the risen Christ (Co Deuteronomy 2:12). The circumcised heart marks the accepted and restored recipient of the grace of God—a child of the spiritual covenant, one born again.
II. HEART CIRCUMCISION IN ITS NECESSITY.
1. As distinguished from outward circumcision. The latter was valueless without the former. Being but a symbol, its sole worth lay in that which it represented. The true Jew was he who was one inwardly, whose circumcision was "that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter" (Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29). The remark applies to baptism. It also is but a symbol, and without the grace which it exhibits, and the inward renewal which it betokens, it is a dead work, a valueless rite, leaving its subject as little a Christian as at first. So with all ceremonies.
2. As a positive qualification for God's service. Pure obedience can flow only from a pure heart, a renewed will. It is not a fruit of the flesh. The flesh must he renounced, and a new and spiritual nature begotten in us before we can render it. What is needed is not reformation, but regeneration—a new birth, a new creation, a new heart (John 3:3; Romans 7:18-25; Romans 8:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16-25).—J.O.
Love the stranger.
The precept has numerous applications—
I. TO LITERAL STRANGERS. Persons from foreign countries, or from distant parts of our own country, settling in our midst. Why should these be treated so often as intruders, "incomers," persons to be jealously watched and suspected, instead of being taken by the hand and welcomed?
II. TO THE UNFRIENDED AND HELPLESS. To all whose hearts are lonely, and their lives destitute of the cheer given by the love and sympathy of friends. To the fatherless and the widow—strangers in a very true sense m a world where selfish interests so hugely predominate.
III. TO YOUNG MAN IS GREAT CITIES. Often lost for lack of some one to take a kindly interest in them.
IV. TO STRANGERS TURNING UP IN CHURCHES. Coldness here repels many who might otherwise be won to interest in religion, and secured for Christ. Brotherly and friendly attention, a kind word, the warm shake of a hand, the courteous offer of a pew,—how far will they often go? They are, like "good words," worth much, and cost little.
Show kindness to strangers:
1. Because they peculiarly need it. "The heart of a stranger."
2. Because God loves them. He will avenge their wrongs. He will reward kindness shown to them (Matthew 25:35).
3. We may be placed in similar circumstances. Changes in fortune (Ruth 1:19-22).—J.O.
Religion in brief.
A text made illustrious by our Savior's use of it. Like Deuteronomy 10:12, a summary of duty, but in a form giving prominence to the truth that fear of God works from within outwards. This central religious principle particularizes itself into—
I. SERVING HIM—or religion in deed. In resistance of all seductions to a counter-service (Matthew 4:10). In the faithful and diligent discharge of all duties.
II. CLEAVING TO HIM—or religion in heart. Fear and love, rooted in faith, here reveal themselves as an energy of trust and adherence. They dread separation from God as the worst evil. They hold by him for support, for keeping, for strength, for direction.
III. SWEARING BY HIS NAME—or religion in word. This includes religious oaths, but denotes also willingness at any time to make public confession of God.
IV. REJOICING IN HIM. "He is thy praise" (cf. Philippians 4:4).—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
The Law deposited in the ark.
The first attempt to convey God's Law to man in a written form had proved a failure. The human links in the system had snapped. Moses had overrated the people's loyalty. The people had overrated their own strength of purpose. So far, the Law had been to them a ministration of death. But knowledge grew out of experience.
I. WE SEE THE HUMAN FACTOR IN DIVINE REVELATION. The conceptions that dwell in God's mind are incomprehensible until they are put into human mold. This introduction of a human element implies limitation, but does not imply error. The prophet becomes the channel through which Divine communications flow; but the prophet needs great subjective preparation to receive the message. He must leave the throng and bustle of men, ascend above the low cares of earth, and spend forty days in communion with heavenly realities, before he is competent to receive the gift of Divine Law. Such absorption of mind in Divine fellowship will make us also susceptible of larger revelation. Obedience likewise to Divine command fits us for this fellowship.
II. WE SEE THE PERMANENCY OF GOD'S LAW.
1. The words that were written on these second tablets were the same as were written on the first—were the same as were spoken in the flame. Though man may violate and break his Law, God does not modify nor reduce his claims.
2. They were recorded on stone, on the granite stone of Sinai. There is significance to be found in the material chosen. In many respects stone tablets would involve inconvenience, but the impression to be made on men's minds was of the first importance, and God does nothing without reason.
3. They were to be preserved in a chest. Thus they would be handed down from age to age as the unchanging will of God.
III. WE SEE THE SUCCINCTNESS OF GOD'S COMMANDS. These cardinal precepts were but ten, which might easily be laid up in memory, and recited by aid of the fingers. In the absence of writings, this natural aid to memory would be in common use. Yet, though few in number, these ten words were pregnant with meaning—were living seeds of truth, which, planted in the soul, would yield a copious harvest. The two stone tablets may have been ordered to correspond with the two hands, or to embrace man's twofold relationship—Godward and manward.
IV. THE CONSERVATION OF THE LAW IN THE ARK IS HIGHLY SUGGESTIVE.
1. It is suggestive of mystery. Since the human mind cannot measure the universe, mystery is necessary—mystery is wholesome discipline.
2. It is suggestive of protection. The stony tablets needed protection against the ebullitions of Moses' anger. They needed to be hid to prevent their becoming an object of idolatry.
3. It is suggestive of value. They had both an extrinsic and an intrinsic worth. They would be valued as rare and unique. They ought to have been valued more highly still as the records of God's will.
4. It is suggestive of the use men should make of them. This hidden deposit is symbolical. As the material temple is the symbol of the human soul, in which God most of all prefers to reside, so the word of God is required to be enshrined within. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart." The word is the true forerunner, which prepares the way for the entrance of the Living God.—D.
Progress is the law of human life. Perfection is reached only by steady advancement.
I. PROGRESS IS MARKED BY DISTINCT STAGES. There are times for action, and times for rest. Neither body nor mind can, in our present state, bear the strain of continuous exertion. There is an advantage in an occasional halt, by which we can review the past, measure our progress, examine our resources, and reconnoiter the future. The soul is many-sided, and advance in knowledge, devout feeling, practical exertion, self-denial, cannot be made at one and the same time. Today we gain clearer perception of heavenly truths; tomorrow we exercise our best affections on abject sufferers; the day following we fight with the enemy with sword and buckler.
"Each morning sees some task begun,
Each evening sees its close."
II. PROGRESS IS ACCOMPANIED BY CHANGEFUL INCIDENT, PAINFUL AND PLEASANT. At one halting-place Aaron died, and the camp was plunged into bitter mourning; at another halt they came upon streams of refreshing water. Yet all events may minister to the soul's progress. There are no absolute impediments to the highest progress, "Out of the eater comes forth meat." "All things work together for good." The order of experience usually happens, as in this case, viz. first the bitter, then the sweet first loss, then gain. The evening and the morning make one day. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
III. THERE IS PROGRESS TOO IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOD'S PLANS. At another stage of their pilgrimage, God chose the tribe of Levi to minister unto him in sacred things. Heretofore, the firstborn in each family was claimed by God as his special minister; now a particular tribe is selected on the ground of its zealous exertions in God's cause. Character, not the accident of birth, is the basis of God's approval. In God's kingdom, he bears the palm who merits it. Higher service is to be accounted the most honorable reward. Promotion to a nearer fellowship with God—this ought to be our richest joy.
IV. THERE IS PROGRESS SHOWN ALSO IN THE NATURE OF DIVINE AWARDS. It had been considered hitherto that the supreme mark of Jehovah's favor was the gift of Canaan. Now the people are gradually led to perceive that there is something better than that. One tribe, and that the most signally separated by God for favor, is deprived of participation in the Promised Land. The Levites, like Abraham, though dwelling in the land, shall possess no personal property in fields or vineyards. Their advantage it shall be, to be exempt from the cares and ambitions and jealousies pertaining to landed estate. An inheritance shall be theirs, boundless in extent; satisfying in its nature; inalienable in its tenure; uncorrupting, yea, ennobling, in its effect upon the possessor; uncreated, and therefore undecaying. Their inheritance was God himself. He who has God, has all things. The universe is his.
V. TRUE PROGRESS IS THE RESULT OF COMBINED CONTEMPLATION AND ACTION. In the busy life of our Lord, communion with God and intense activity sweetly blended. To be always on the mount would make us pietists and recluses and mystics—hot-house plants. To be always on the field of action will make us narrow, hard, arrogant, self-reliant. Both sides of our nature must grow in ratio, if we are to be full-orbed, attractive Christians. The ferry-boat of the gospel, which is to carry men to the other side, must be rowed with two oars—prayer and labor.
VI. THE PROGRESS OF ONE IS THE PROGRESS OF MANY. A useful principle of emulation appears in human nature. It is painful to be left behind in the race. If we cannot be in the front, we wish to be near it. Every man has a following. We cannot go to heaven or to hell alone. With more or less of persuasiveness, every man is saying, "Come with me!" Is my influence beneficial or baneful?—D.
Knowledge of God the parent of obedient faith.
Every honest view we take of God's service brings to light fresh features of attractiveness. It is the only right course. It satisfies conscience, reason, affection, desire. Having right dispositions and purposes in life, all larger knowledge of God makes service pleasant; yea, true service ministers to our best life.
I. THE REASONABLENESS OF GOD'S SERVICE HAY RE DEDUCED FROM THE PERFECTION OF HIS CHARACTER.
1. His supremacy. He is "God of gods." He stands alone, the sole Creator, but himself uncreated. His claims upon his creatures are absolute, unlimited, and unconditioned.
2. His equity. If, at any time, men suspect any unrighteousness in God, it is because of some obliqueness of vision, or some defect in their mental instrument, or some deficiency of knowledge. No shadow of partiality has ever once been found in him. The favorites of God have been the most chastised.
3. His immense power. He is "mighty and terrible." A breath of God can create; a breath can destroy. "With the breath of his mouth he will slay the wicked."
4. His goodness and pity. His goodness is profuse, is distributed with royal generosity, without stint. But his special care is reserved for the helpless. Widows and orphans have exceptional protection and defense. He makes their case his own, and becomes their unseen Patron. Human monarchs lavish their favors upon those who can do them most service; God lavishes his kindness upon the most needy. Want is the passport to his storehouse. Infinite worth belongs to him.
II. THIS REASONABLENESS OF SERVING GOD IS SEEN IN HIS GRACIOUS TREATMENT OF MEN.
1. There was no need, so far as we can discover, that God should be served by men. The heaven was his, and all previous orders of intelligent beings. The earth also was his, and all its various contents. Here was large scope for the display of his perfections. If men were rebellions, he could readily crush the race, and sweep it from the face of the earth. And no other motive for his kindness to men can we discover, than that of generous and irrepressible love.
2. He has made covenant engagements with them. Moses never fails to remind Israel that the God of heaven was their God. With condescending grace, that excites our perpetual surprise, God had chosen them to be recipients of special blessing. He had found "delight in their fathers;" and for the fathers' sakes had loved the children. We, too, who believe in Christ, "are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." God regards renewed men as his treasure, his portion, his jewels. They are dear to him as "the apple of his eye." There is no service he will not render for them, "no gift will he withhold." He has redeemed them with life-blood, and esteems them as unspeakably precious. They are destined to share his society, his possessions, his throne, his image. God has bound himself to us by most solemn compacts, and all his vast resources are pledged to us. It is a covenant made in heaven, and "is ordered in all things and sure."
III. THIS REASONABLENESS IS SEEN IN THE SELF-ADVANTAGE OF SERVING GOD.
1. It is "for our good." Every command may not be pleasant to flesh and blood, nor always to appetite and inclination; but obedience is salutary to all the better parts of man's nature. "In keeping his commandments we have great reward." There is large present benefit, and there is larger prospective good.
2. It is a credit to us to serve such a God. "He is our praise." The statesmen and ambassadors and generals of England count it high honor to serve Britain's queen. How vastly greater the honor to serve the King of kings! We may suffer passing reproach from our attachment to Christ, but reproach is like the early hoar-frost, which the ascending sun will scatter. If men do not perceive the honor, it is because they are blind. "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord."
3. God's past goodness excites our largest hope. God had already done great things for Israel. He had multiplied them in Egypt a thousandfold. Nor had he reached the end of his power nor the end of his intentions. What he had done was only a sample of what he yet meant to do. A world of good is yet in store for each believer. We shall never touch the furthest limits of God's beneficence. "Eye hath not seen it." To his faithful servants the invitation is repeated a thousand times over, "Come up higher."
IV. THIS REASONABLENESS IS SEEN IN THE KIND OF SERVICE REQUIRED. Nothing more is demanded than our thoughtful reason and enlightened conscience approve.
1. Reverence. We have only to know God in order to yield him the reverence of our souls. If we could perceive his inherent majesty, his real excellence, and his unsullied purity, we should (if feeling were right) instinctively yield to him the profoundest reverence of our hearts. Were it not for the corrupting effects of sin, this would be natural.
2. Submission to his superior will. By virtue of his wisdom, he has a right to counsel. By virtue of his relation as Monarch, he has a right to command. By virtue of his supremacy as Creator, he has claims on every part of our nature and on every moment of our time. His will is excellent, benevolent, unerring. To take his will, not ours, for chart and compass is simplest duty, ay, is largest privilege. "Be no more stiffnecked." A pliable will alone makes a dutiful child.
3. Hearty love. That we can love at all is due to him. The power to cherish love, to receive love, is his gift. Hence, if we love at all, our love belongs to him. If we love in proportion to benefits received, or in proportion to the worth of the object, or in proportion to the love expended on us, then all our love will center in God.
4. Practical service. Genuine love will always seek some channel for its outflow, and service for love's object is a delight, and is only love in active exercise. It would be a restraint and a pain for love to be silent. She would justly count it bondage to be caged up within the heart. Having feet, it would be a restraint not to walk; how great the honor to be able to walk in God's paths, in the highways he himself doth take! True service for God is freedom, life, joy, heaven. If we love we must obey.
5. Such service makes us Godlike. God counts it a joy to serve us, though he is under no obligation of law or right so to do. To serve him means that we grow like him. We imitate him first in actions, then in disposition, then in purposes, then in character. Said Moses significantly to Israel, "God loveth the stranger Love ye therefore the stranger."
Through every hour of every day we may be climbing heavenwards, becoming Godlike. Every duty may become to us an instrument actively molding us into the image of perfection. The obedience that springs from love is a pathway of flowery pleasantness, ascending gradually to the hills of frankincense, and to the presence of God.—D.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The covenant renewed.
The severe intercession of Moses succeeds at last, and he is directed to get two tables like unto the first, and to bring them up to God for his inscription upon them. He was also directed to make an ark for their reception. There was thus provided the tables of the testimony, and a place in which to keep them.
And here we have to notice—
I. MAN IS ASKED TO PROVIDE THE TABLES. God loves the co-operation of his people as far as possible. "Fellow-workers with God" is our highest honor. Just as when Christ was raising Lazarus he allowed men to roll away the stone (John 11:39-41), so when he would write the Decalogue anew, he directs Moses to provide the tables. This is better than to encourage man's indolence by God doing all.
In the very same way it is upon "the fleshy tables of the heart" God writes his Law (2 Corinthians 3:3). Man, so to speak, provides the material, offers his heart for the sacred inscription, and thus becomes a living epistle, known and read of all men.
II. GOD'S WILL IS UNCHANGING. The two new tables received the same words as the first which were broken. The second edition of the Decalogue was identical with the first. God's will may be stereotyped, it is so perfect and changeless. Man may be wayward; but God will not alter his standard to suit man's low ideal. The Divine plan is to keep before man the unchanging Law, and bring him by easy stages up to it. There is no depreciation of the Divine requirements.
III. THE ARK WAS PRIMARILY INTENDED AS A DEPOSITORY OF THE LAW. This chest of shittim wood, made strong and beautiful, was evidently meant as a "safe," where this precious deposit, this oracle of God, should be placed. There was nothing so precious in the keeping of Israel. It was their great riches. What advantage had the Jew? "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God."
And this ark not only typified the care taken of the canon, but also it would seem Christ himself, who, as the Ark, kept the Law in its entirety; it was the expression of his own will, and it was the deposit within him. "Think not that I am come, to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
IV. SANCTIFIED MEN ARE SIMILARLY TO BE DEPOSITORIES OF GOD'S HOLY WILL. Those who are regenerated hide God's Law in their hearts, as Christ says prophetically he did (Psalms 40:8). The preservation of the sacred books has been wonderful—but better is it to have truth settled in the soul and manifested through the life. The blessedness of him who makes God's Law his meditation day and night is great indeed (Psalms 1:2). "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:16, Hebrews 10:17).
When God's word and will are so deposited; when human hearts receive, like Lydia's the truth,—then is it carried not only through the wilderness of life, but out into "the undiscovered lands." The ark of shittim wood, so strong and precious, only faintly images the more precious receptacle of the human heart, rendered by Divine grace strong and true, which accepts of God's word of promise, and becomes thereby partaker of the Divine nature and escapes the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1:4).—R.M.E.
The separation of the sons of Levi.
The tables of stone in the ark had to be committed to special officers. These were the sons cf. Levi. God called them to this, a high and glorious honor surely. They were also to minister unto him and to bless in his Name. To this order of men no mere temporal inheritance was given; God was their inheritance.
I. IT IS SURELY DESIRABLE THAT A SPECIAL ORDER OF MEN SHOULD BE SET APART FOR THE CUSTODY OF THE DIVINE WORD. This was the primary office of the sons of Levi, custodians of the ark of the covenant. In this respect they resemble the Christian ministry, whose great office is to keep and to propagate the Divine Word. In the "division of labor" to which human wisdom brings us, it is surely important that a special class should be charged with the sacred deposit of the Divine Word. Men secularized by business cannot be expected to handle the Word of God with the wisdom and power of those who are set apart for this special purpose.
II. THE SONS OF LEVI WERE ALSO TO BE MINISTERS UNTO GOD. They were directed to stand and officiate. They were the ministers of God. They were his servants, not man's. We do not now refer to the priestly rites, through which they passed according to the Mosaic Law. These were special and temporary. They typified the priestly office fulfilled by Christ, and, when fulfilled, no longer needed. But the general idea of ministration in God's presence and for the Lord is surely the very essence of the ministerial office.
III. THE SONS OF LEVI WERE ALSO TO BLESS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. They were charged to pronounce certain benedictions in God's Name. And this right is manifestly continued in the Christian Church. The pronouncing of the benediction is surely something more than a mere prayer breathed to heaven for the blessings specialized. Is it not the assurance on the part of God's officer that the blessings are conveyed to those waiting to receive them (cf. Numbers 6:24 and 2 Corinthians 13:14)?
IV. IT WAS ARRANGED THAT THE LEVITES SHOULD NOT BE SECULARIZED, BUT SHOULD LIVE AT THE ALTAR OF GOD. "Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God hath promised him." This means that this tribe was not to be secularized by worldly anxieties and common cares. The Lord guaranteed their support by arrangements at his altar.
And "ministerial support" should mean no more! It is a Divine expedient to secure a class of men for his service, emancipated from secular cares and troubles. The privilege of studying and enforcing God's Word is great and glorious. We only ask such support as ministers as will preserve us from corroding cares, and enable us with free spirits to give ourselves to this high business.
It is this only we ask for, the freedom from the secularity which the world demands even when one is most watchful, in business struggles, against it. It is when a believing Church gives the ministry of Christ such emancipation all round that they may expect the ministerial office to be fulfilled with superior power and to command the ablest men.—R.M.E.
Moses, having detailed the success of his intercession in Horeb, and that the threatened doom was averted and the pilgrimage proceeded with, goes on in this passage to analyze the obedience to be rendered. It is all summed up in fearing the Lord, walking in his ways, loving him, serving him with heart and soul, and keeping his commandments. Let us try to grasp the description of new obedience here presented.
I. ISRAEL WAS TO BE A GOD-FEARING PEOPLE. A fine word this, "the fear of God"—not indicative of slavish consternation, but of reverential awe. It is the fear which springs from a fitting sense of God's greatness and majesty. He is too great and too glorious (Deuteronomy 10:17) for any of his people to trifle with or to presume upon him, as in the familiarities of ordinary intercourse.
II. AND CONSEQUENTLY ISRAEL WILL SERVE GOD WITH HEART AND SOUL. For when in faith we fear God, we find that "faith worketh by love," and so we throw ourselves "heart and soul" into his service. We adore his excellencies, and then are "proud to serve him." His commandments become our songs in the house of our pilgrimage, and we find in keeping them a great reward (Psalms 119:54; Psalms 19:11).
III. THE NEED OF SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION WILL THEN BE FELT. "The circumcision of the foreskin of the heart" can only mean the use of all lawful means to restrain the willfulness and waywardness of the heart. The lusts must be subdued, of which self is the center and selfishness the essence. God has become central and supreme, and so all that interferes in any way with his rights must be "cut off," no matter how painful the process be. This is the cure for "stiffneckedness."
IV. THE CARE OF THE FATHERLESS, WIDOW, AND STRANGER, IS FELT TO BE DIVINEST DUTY. God is impartial, he respects not persons. He is just in all his reign. But he is also compassionate, and makes the defenseless and the helpless his special care (Deuteronomy 10:17, Deuteronomy 10:18).
And in this we feel it our privilege as well as duty to follow him. This is manifested in—
1. Orphan societies. Where the widow is considered with the fatherless, and as much of the wrecked home as can be kept together is tried by loving care to be preserved. We are finding more considerate ways every day of ministering to the lonely and the desolate.
2. Hospitality. This means love manifested to a stranger because he is a stranger. There is a speculative hospitality that is poor and mean; and there is a Divine hospitality that asks those who cannot repay the attention, and asks them for the good Lord's sake.
For if we are redeemed of God, like Israel, we must feel that it is due to God's kindness to strangers. We were naturally "aliens," but his love made us friends, and we have entered into his fellowship and joy. It is this felt obligation which sustains the attention to "strangers" which the Lord enjoined.
It is evident that the Jewish religion was intended to be a lovely thing because a thing of love; a matter of broad and genial sympathies and of noble efforts after divinest duties.—R.M.E.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19