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Though rejected and exiled because of rebellion and apostasy, Israel should not be absolutely or forever cast off. When dispersed among the nations, if the people should return to Jehovah their God, he would again receive them into favor and gather them from their dispersion (cf. Deuteronomy 4:29, etc.; Leviticus 26:40, etc.). Moses, looking into the future, anticipates that both the blessing and the curse would come upon the people according as they were faithful to their covenant engagement and obedient to God's Law, or were disobedient and unfaithful. But even when the curse came upon them to the full, this would not amount to final rejection; but God would, by the discipline of suffering, lead them to repentance, and then he would again bestow the blessing (cf. Nehemiah 1:9).
Thou shalt call them to mind (cf. 1 Kings 8:47, where the same expression is rendered by "bethink themselves"). This is the meaning here also; it is not the mere recollection of the curse and the blessing that is referred to, but a general consideration of their own condition and conduct.
And shalt return unto the Lord thy God; retrain from the worship of false gods to worship and serve Jehovah the one true God, the God of their fathers, and the God whom as a nation they had before wet-shipped (cf. Nehemiah 1:8, Nehemiah 1:9).
The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity. This does not mean will cause thy captives to return, for
(1) the verb in Kal (as it is here, שָׁב) never has the force of the Hiph.; and
(2) the returning of the dispersed is afterwards referred to as consequent on the turning of the captivity. The plural is used here as elsewhere to indicate the cessation of affliction or suffering (cf. Job 41:10; Psalms 14:7; Psalms 85:2; Psalms 126:1, Psalms 126:4; Jeremiah 30:18; Ezekiel 16:53). The rendering of the LXX. here is noticeable, καὶ ἰάσεται Κύριος τὰς ἁμαρτίας: "and the Lord will heal thy sins," i.e. will remit thy guilt and will deliver thee from the pernicious and destructive power of sin (cf. Psalms 41:4; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 17:14; Hosea 14:4; Matthew 13:15, etc.).
Deuteronomy 30:4, Deuteronomy 30:5
Consequent on this deliverance would be the gathering of Israel from all the places of the dispersion and their return to possess the land which their fathers possessed, in greater numbers than their fathers were. This last statement suggests doubt as to the literal interpretation of this prediction, for, as Keil remarks, "If there is to be an increase in the num-bet of the Jews when gathered out of their dispersion into all the world, above the number of their fathers, and therefore above the number of the Israelites in the time of Solomon and the first monarchs of the two kingdoms, Palestine will never furnish room enough for a nation multiplied like this." The reference in the following verse to a spiritual renewal suggests the inquiry whether the reference here is not to such a gathering and restoration of Israel as that which St. Paul describes in Romans 11:1-36; when the branches that had been broken from the olive tree shall be again grafted into it, and all Israel shall be saved after the fullness of the Gentiles shall be, brought in. To Moses, and indeed to all the Old Testament prophets and saints, the Israel of God presented itself as a nation dwelling in a land given to it by God; but as the national Israel was the type of the spiritual Israel, and as Canaan was the type of the spiritual kingdom of God, the full import of what is said concerning the former is only to be perceived when it is viewed as realized in the latter. Certain it is that it was on this principle that the apostles interpreted the fulfillment of the Old Testament declarations concerning Israel, of which the explanation given by St. James of Amos 9:11, Amos 9:12 may be noted as an instructive example (Acts 15:15-17). If the rebuilding of the ruined tabernacle of David is to be effected by "the residue of men" being brought to "seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom his Name is called," we need not shrink from interpreting this prophecy of Moses as referring to the restoration of Israel by the bringing in of Jew and Gentile into the one fold under the one Shepherd, the Shepherd of Israel (John 9:16).
The Lord will circumcise thine heart; "when thou wilt become better, God will help thereto (cf. Deuteronomy 10:16)" (Herxheimer). When Israel should return to the Lord, he would take away from them the evil heart of unbelief, and give them the new heart and the right spirit. "Qui pravis affectibus renunciat is circumcisus corde dicitur" (Rosenmüller. Cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19, etc.; Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11).
Deuteronomy 30:8, Deuteronomy 30:9
Thou shalt return and obey; i.e. thou shalt again hearken (see Deuteronomy 30:9, where the same expression is thus rendered). These two verses are closely connected, the former expressing the condition on which the aspect expressed in the latter depends. They should be rendered accordingly, If thou shalt return … then the Lord thy God, etc. (comp. Genesis 42:38; Exodus 4:23, where a similar construction occurs).
Israel would then be restored to the full enjoyment of privilege, would again enter into covenant union with the Almighty, and would be enriched with all the blessings of his favor (cf. Deuteronomy 28:11, Deuteronomy 28:63); only, however, on the indispensable condition of their hearkening to the voice of God and being obedient to his Law.
The fulfillment of this condition was not impossible or even difficult; for God had done everything to render it easy for them. The commandment of God was not hidden from them; literally, was not wonderful to them; i.e. hard to be understood or to perform (see the use of the Hebrew word in Psalms 131:1; Proverbs 30:18); nor was it far off; it was not in heaven—i.e. though heavenly in its source, it had not remained there, but had been revealed—so that there was no need for any one to say, Who will ascend to heaven, and bring it down to us, that we may hear it, and do it? The idea is not, as Keil suggests, that of "an inaccessible height" which none could scale; nor is it, as suggested by Knobel, that of something "incomprehensible, impracticable, and superhuman;" it is simply a statement of fact that the Law had not been retained in heaven, but had been revealed to men. Nor was this revelation made in some far distant place across the sea, so that any need say, Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? On the contrary, it was very near to them, had been disclosed in words so that they could utter it with their own mouth, converse over it, and ponder it in their hearts (cf. Isaiah 45:19; Jeremiah 23:28; Romans 10:6). In the allusion to the sea, the representation is not that of depth (Targum Jon.), but that of distance.
Moses concludes by solemnly adjuring the people, as he had set before them, in his proclamation of the Law and in his preaching, good and evil, life and death, to choose the former and eschew the latter, to love and serve the Lord which is life, and to shun apostasy and disobedience which are death (cf. Deuteronomy 11:26, Deuteronomy 11:27).
(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:19.)
(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:26.)
For he is thy life; rather, for this is thy life; to love the Lord is really to live the true, the higher life (cf. Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 32:47).
Dispersion not rejection.
It is very comforting to pass from so gloomy a chapter as the twenty-eighth to such a paragraph as this. In this thirtieth chapter, the onlook and outlook of Moses are much more extended than before. So distantly is his eye cast now, that he actually looks to the further side of the gloomy scene he had so recently sketched, and sees in the horizon a belt of glory bounding his view (Deuteronomy 30:9). So that, although the present darkness and distress into which the scattered nation is plunged are the exact fulfillment of the Word of God, yet that same Word declares this to be a transition, and not a final state of things. "God hath not cast away his people." Concerning them there is a twofold promise:
(1) of their conversion to God;
(2) of their restoration to their land.
Both are certain. Both will be fulfilled. The first, in their conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. The second, in whatever sense the Holy Ghost used the words, but what that sense is, is not so clear. There had been a promise made to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). The Law did not annul that (Galatians 3:17, Galatians 3:18). Now, if we turn to the promise to Abraham, we find (Genesis 12:1-8) there are three parts in it:
(1) that Abraham should have a seed;
(2) that his seed should bless the world;
(3) that they should inherit the land.
Now, when Paul expounds this Abrahamic promise, he shows:
(1) that all who are Christ's are Abraham's seed (Galatians 3:26);
(2) that the promise made to Abraham was" the gospel" (Galatians 3:8),
—it was made to him, "foreseeing that God would justify the nations through faith." But since the promise swells out to the full gospel, since the expression "Abraham's seed" includes all who are Christ's,—may not, yea, must not, the land-promise also swell out into something proportionately larger and grander? Such is the question.
Further. The same apostle not indistinctly teaches that, within the lines of his own exposition, there is mercy in store for Israel. What are these lines of exposition?
1. That Jew and Greek are one in Christ Jesus.
2. That the Jewish rites and ceremonies are forever abolished.
3. That the commonwealth of Israel now is made up of men of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.
In the application of these principles, the following steps of thought, taken in order, will enable us to summarize Scripture teaching thereon:—
I. There is a condition laid down in Deuteronomy 30:2.
II. The Lord Jesus has come, laden with blessings for Jew and Gentile (Romans 11:26).
III. As the Gentile obtained mercy through Jewish preaching, so the Jew is to obtain mercy through the instrumentality of the Gentile (Romans 11:30, Romans 11:31).
IV. The Lord Jesus Christ declares (Luke 21:24) that Jerusalem shall be trodden clown of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
V. The apostle declares (Romans 11:25) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, till the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
VI. A time is foreseen when Israel shall "turn to the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:15, 2 Corinthians 3:16). They will yet see Jesus as their Messiah.
VII. The prophets also speak of their conversion to God (Ezekiel 36:21-32).
VIII. Then, too, will such predictions as Ezekiel 36:24, Ezekiel 36:28, Ezekiel 36:34, Ezekiel 36:35, etc; be fulfilled, but whether in the literal or in the larger sense indicated above, we leave for the providence of God to show.
IX. The same Book which predicts all this tells us also of the means and agencies by which it shall be brought about. There will be providential movements (Ezekiel 21:27). But the supreme agency will be the power of the Holy Ghost (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Zec 13:1-9 :10. For the means to be used by us, see Ezekiel 36:37).
X. The reason or ground of all will be the sovereign good-pleasure of God (Ezekiel 36:32; cf. Isaiah 43:25).
XI. When Israel is thus restored, it will be like "life from the dead" (Romans 11:15). When the long-lost nation is thus regathered, when it returns with weeping and supplication to the Savior, and, saved by him, sings the songs of Zion, then will it become by its evangelistic zeal what it now is by its sacred literature—a priesthood for the world!
XII. Concerning all this, the fulfillment of past prophecy is a prophecy of future fulfillment!
1. Let us ever hold the Hebrew race in high honor. "Salvation is of the Jews."
2. Let us bear them on our hearts in prayer.
3. Let us watch the movements of God's providence.
4. Let us heed the cautionary words in Romans 11:18-21.
(comp. with Jer 30:1-24 :31-34, and Hebrews 8:6).—
The old and new covenants.
It may not be uninstructive at this stage of homiletic teaching upon this book, to place on record the points of comparison and of contrast between the old and new covenants; i.e. between the covenant made through Moses and that propounded and sealed through the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. LET US NOTE THE POINTS OF COMPARISON.
1. Both are made with a people formed for God (Isaiah 43:21; 1 Peter 2:9).
2. Both make God all in all (Deuteronomy 14:2; 1 Corinthians 6:20).
3. Both inculcate holiness (Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 1:15).
4. Both of them are based on sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22, Hebrews 9:23).
5. Both teach a mediatorial administration (Leviticus 16:1-34.; Hebrews 8:6).
6. Both set before the people a future inheritance (Deuteronomy 12:1).
7. Both urge to duty by the impulse of gratitude (Deuteronomy 5:6; Hebrews 4:9).
8. Both appeal to fear as well as to hope (Deuteronomy 11:16; Hebrews 4:1).
II. THERE ARE ALSO POINTS OF CONTRAST.
1. In the form of the covenants.
(1) They differ as to the extent of their compass. One includes a nation, the other men of every nation.
(2) The spirituality of its genius, and paucity of definite rules and ritual is another mark of the New Testament covenant (cf. Romans 14:17).
(3) The new covenant has clearer revelations:
(a) Of the law of sacrifice (comp. Leviticus with Hebrews).
(b) Of the Divine character (Hebrews 1:1-14.).
(c) Of the destiny of mankind (Hebrews 10:25-31).
(d) Of the tenderness of the Divine concern for man as man (Luke 15:1-32.).
2. In their promissory grounds they differ quite as widely.
(1) The old covenant ensures objective good, if there is a subjective fitness for it; the new covenant promises subjective fitness that objective good may be secured. The one says, "Do this, and thou shalt live." The other, "Live, and you will do this" (Deuteronomy 30:6).
(2) The security for the fulfillment of God's promises to us is far more strikingly seen in Christ than it could possibly be under Moses (2 Corinthians 1:20).
(3) The certainty of the fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant by those who are included in it, is provided for under "grace," as it was not under "Law." This covenant is "ordered in all things and sure," and is in no way contingent on the fickleness of human will. It is a "better covenant," and is "established upon better promises." And the reason of the difference is found in the fact that the first covenant was intended to serve an educational purpose, and so to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus Christ to bring in a greater and larger one, under which regeneration unto salvation should be certainly secured (John 6:37-40).
(comp. with Romans 10:6-13).—
The word of faith.
No Christian preacher is likely ever to deal with these words of Moses without setting by the side thereof the words of the Apostle Paul respecting them, in which, indeed, we have the best possible exposition of and commentary upon them. We propose to give an outline Homily thereupon.
I. THERE IS A "WORD OF FAITH" WHICH, THOUGH ANTICIPATED IN THE OLDEN TIME, IS NOW MADE THE BURDEN OF CHRISTIAN PREACHING.
1. There is a grand thesis to be maintained throughout all time, viz. that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11).
2. There is a twofold duty required with reference thereto.
(2) Confessing, i.e.
(a) letting the faith cherished in the heart become a practical power in the life;
(b) letting the tongue speak for him;
(c) letting the noblest energy be spent for him.
We see why these two and just these are named. Believing is the attitude of the soul Godward. Confession is the attitude of the life manward. Both are required. A faith which can content itself without a confession, and a confession which has not its root in faith, are alike valueless.
3. There is a double effect of this double act.
(1) Faith—the Godward act—is followed by "righteousness," i.e. in Pauline usage, justification.
(2) Confession—the manward life—issues in "salvation," i.e. the sound use of all our spiritual powers (cf. Acts 4:9-12 (Greek) and 1 John 1:7). The effects are as the duties. Justification is a right-setting before God. Salvation, a transformed life before man.
4. For all this we have the sure guarantee of God's own Word (Romans 10:11-13).
II. THERE ARE SOME NOTEWORTHY FEATURES ABOUT THIS "WORD OF FAITH." Moses had said, "It is not too hard, nor too high, nor too far off (cf. Hebrew), but it is very near," etc. Paul quotes this with some variation, saying:
1. "It is near." It speaks to man's inner self—to his conscience.
2. "It is in thy mouth." In words which can be uttered to the people and by them.
3. "It is in thine heart." The word "heart," being quoted from Moses, we take rather in its Hebrew sense, as meaning "understanding," and thus the phrase would signify, "It is intelligible to you." Being thus near, we have not to go to heaven to fetch a Savior, nor to the grave to fetch him from the dead. He came. The work is done—done for all, without distinction of persons. Done—once and forever,
1. How large the encouragement to call on the Lord Jesus and be saved!
2. Men need not remain unsaved.
3. Men ought not to remain unsaved.
A dread alternative.
While handling substantially the same momentous themes, the aged lawgiver, as if the thought were oppressing him that he should very soon speak his last word, becomes more and more intensely earnest, and mingles a solemnity and pathos which may well be followed by those whose work it is to "warn every man, and teach every man in all wisdom," that they may "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Here is presented to us a series of considerations, which are cumulative in their force, and which should be deeply pondered in strict order of progress.
I. HERE IS A GREAT MASS OF TRUTH SET BEFORE MEN'S CONSCIENCES AND HEARTS. There are a few words and phrases here given, in form most short and simple, yet in meaning how august! how deep! how high! They are such as these—God,—the Lord thy God,—good,—evil,—life,—death,—blessing,—cursing. "Dread words! whose meaning has no end, no bound." There are immeasurable, yea, infinite realities behind them. And having once been lodged in the conscience with the significance which is theirs, no power can dislodge them, nor can any one cause it to be to the man as if he had never heard them.
II. THERE IS A GREAT DUTY WHICH PRESSES ON MEN WITH WHOM THIS TRUTH IS DEPOSITED. (See Deuteronomy 30:16, Deuteronomy 30:20.) To love the Lord, to obey him, to cleave to him, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and judgments,—this is obviously the right course for men to follow. On many grounds.
1. The Lord God is holy, and all his commandments are so too; and it is intrinsically and manifestly right to follow what is holy.
2. As our Maker and Preserver, God has supreme claims on our loyalty of heart and life.
3. As our Lawgiver, he has the infinite right to require our obedience.
4. As our Infinite Benefactor, having commended his love towards us, having bought us with a price, he has a claim of love as well as a right of law. And it is not possible for a man to dispute this claim unless his nature is becoming so perverted that he begins to call evil good, or good evil.
III. THERE IS A GREAT BLESSING WHICH WILL FOLLOW OUR LOYALTY AND OBEDIENCE. This is so under the gospel, as really as under the Law. For the Law rested on a basis of gospel, and the gospel brings with it its own law. How can it be otherwise? The gospel call is, "Repent, believe, obey." This is the precise and immutable order. The grace of God teaches us that "we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope," etc. And we know what is the promised issue: "Godliness … hath promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." "For God is our life and the length of our days." Peace, joy, hope, and all joyful graces and blessings attend on a life which is in accordance with God's will.
IV. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE THAT OPPOSITE MORAL COURSES SHOULD HAVE LIKE ISSUES. Men going in opposite directions, in a right line, on a plane surface, from the same point, can never meet. If to love and obey God be good and tends to good, then the reverse must be evil, and can work nothing but evil. And such ill effects must, for aught we know, go on forever and ever, unless something or some being interposes (Deuteronomy 30:18). The prolongation of Israel's life in the Promised Land, even though they reached it in peace, would depend on the continuity of their obedience to their God. They rebelled. Their kingdom was broken up; their people were carried captive; and the sad story already rehearsed became theirs. And if now men quit the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be—there must be, a sorer condemnation than for those who rebelled against the Law of Moses (Hebrews 6:1-20; Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:1-39.; John 3:36). The outlook for the despisers of Christ, in the next life, is darkness without a gleam of the light of hope in the distant horizon. And even in this life nothing but woe can possibly be to him who striveth with his Maker.
V. THERE ARE WITNESSES THAT WE HAVE NOT BEEN LEFT UNDIRECTED AND UN-WARNED. (Deuteronomy 30:19.) Compare with this solemn adjuration of Moses that of Paul in Acts 20:26, Acts 20:27; Philippians 1:8. "Heaven" was witness. For every warning given to men in God's Name is known and received on high. "Earth" is witness, for the record of the warning is published to the world. And the warning itself was heard by thousands of ears, and was heard of by many thousands more. By the very directions of our Lord, we are to proclaim to the many, not to whisper to a few.
VI. SUCH OPEN HERALDING SHOULD PREVENT ANY ONE WHO HEARS THE MESSAGE FROM CHERISHING THE HOPE OF SCREENING HIMSELF UNDER FALSE PRETENCES. The following passages may be compared with our text:—Ezekiel 33:2-5, Ezekiel 33:9; Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42; Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12. If any one, having heard the gospel message in all its fullness and freeness, should ever attempt to throw the blame of his destruction upon others, the light of eternity will be to his complete unmasking and discomfiture. No false pretences will stand in the judgment (Psalms 1:1-6.).
VII. AN OUTLOOK SUCH AS THIS MAY WELL GIVE A DEEP AND DEEPENING EARNESTNESS TO A PREACHER'S TONE. Specially:
1. If he is nearing the close of his course.
2. If a year is approaching its close.
3. If he realizes the thought that soon, very soon, some of his hearers may be in the eternal world.
4. If he gives due heed to the thought that, even apart from the possible nearness of the next life, the accidents of time may make the period exceedingly short for teaching and warning any one individual.
VIII. AFTER ALL, THERE IS A LIMIT BEYOND WHICH NO HERALD FOR GOD CAN GO. He may teach and warn and plead, but when he has done that—where his responsibility ends, that of the hearer begins; Matthew 8:19, "therefore choose life." The preacher witnesses. The hearer must be left alone with God and his own conscience to decide the all-important question, on which a whole eternity depends. Man can direct his fellowman to God. He may plead and beseech, even weeping. He may, as in Christ's stead, pray, "Be reconciled to God." But on the hearer alone the full responsibility for the final step must rest. We may point to God: but we cannot come between the soul and God. We can herald the way: but we cannot lead the soul along the paths of righteousness (Ezekiel 33:4). Hence the final word must be, "Choose life." "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." With the power of free choice man cannot interfere. With it God will not trifle. And what should be the effect of such an appeal, but to shut the sinner up alone with his God, that between him and Heaven the great matters of life and death may be decided, and that, with the judgment seat alone in view, in full sincerity of soul, the sinner, pressed with the weight of the Divine claims, may then and there "repent," and "yield himself unto God?" And if then, conscious of the feebleness of a will weakened by so oft determining on the wrong side, he cries, "Lord, help me, and I will be thine forever," a regal love shall cancel past sin and completely forgive; and a gracious power shall cure the weakness and perfectly restore!
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The blackness of the picture of Israel's rejection and desolation is relieved by this rim of gold on the further edge. The verses seem to teach, not only that if Israel repent, mercy awaits it, but that Israel will repent; that a day of repentance is ordained for it—a day in which the veil that has been so long left lying on Jewish hearts will be lifted off, and the nation will mourn for him whom it has pierced and has so long rejected (Zechariah 12:9-14; Romans 11:25-33; 2 Corinthians 3:14-16). The result will be the incorporation of the Israelitish people into Christ's kingdom, with possibly restoration to the land given them as a national possession, and blessings, temporal and spiritual, beyond those bestowed upon their fathers (Deuteronomy 30:5). In a wider regard, the passage teaches—
I. THAT IN MAN'S CONVERSION, IT IS THE SINNER, NOT GOD, WHO CHANGES. Israel is saved at last, not by any lowering of the standard of holiness, or by any change in God's requirements, or by any new and easier way of life being discovered than that originally provided, but by Israel coming round to God's way of thinking, and doing in the end what God pleaded with it to do at first (Deuteronomy 30:2). After all their sorrowful experiences, the people are brought to this: that they must submit to do what they were told in the beginning that they ought to do. It is so always. There can be no change on God's part. If the sinner is to be saved, it is he who must forsake his thoughts and his ways (Isaiah 55:7). He must do at last what he now feels he has not the least inclination to do—what, as years go on, he is getting the more disinclined even to think about. Will he do it? Is it likely? Is it certain? If ever it is to come about, what agonies of soul must be gone through before so great a revolution can be produced!
II. THAT CONVERSION IS SOMETIMES A RESULT OF THE EXPERIENCE OF THE HARDNESS OF TRANSGRESSION. It is in the far-off country, broken, peeled, and scattered, that Israel, like the prodigal (Luke 15:14-19), remembers the Father's house. Is not this a reason why God sometimes leaves a sinner to eat of the fruit of his own devices—to take the reins upon his own neck, and plunge wildly away into sin's wildernesses?—that he may taste the hardness of such courses, the bitterness, the emptiness, the essential unsatisfyingness of a life of evil, and so, if by no gentler methods, be brought back to ways of righteousness? The penalties which attend sin are, while retributive, also designed in this world for the sinner's correction (Hosea 2:6-23; Hosea 14:1-9.).
III. THAT THE MOMENT THE SINNER RETURNS, GOD IS READY TO FORGIVE HIM. We must not, indeed, post-date the mercy of God, as if that waited on the sinner's self-moved return as a condition of showing him any kindness. God's gracious action goes before conversion—leading, drawing, striving, enlightening, aiding; nay, it is this gracious action which leads to conversion. This is of itself a pledge that when conversion comes, he who has thus drawn us to himself will not say us "nay." But we have express assurances, backed by numerous examples, that whoso cometh he will in no wise east out (Psalms 32:5; John 6:37; 1 John 1:9). There is:
1. Forgiveness, with reversal of sentence of rejection (Deuteronomy 30:3).
2. Redemption from bondage (Deuteronomy 30:3, Deuteronomy 30:4; Colossians 1:13).
3. Restoration to inheritance (Deuteronomy 30:5; Ephesians 1:14).
4. A new heart and spirit (Deuteronomy 30:6).
5. Deliverance from enemies (Deuteronomy 30:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 1:6).
6. Untold blessings (Deuteronomy 30:9; Ephesians 1:3).—J.O.
The word of faith.
Paul, in Romans 10:6-10, applies these words to the "righteousness of faith," and contrasts them with the voice of the Law, which is, "The man which doeth those things shall live by them" (Romans 10:5). That this application is not a mere accommodation of the words of Moses to a new subject, will be evident from a brief consideration.
I. ISRAEL AND THE "RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH." The constitution under which Israel was placed, while formally a legal, was practically an evangelical one. On the legal footing, on any other footing than that of the "righteousness of faith," the statement that the commandment was neither far to seek nor difficult to obey would not have been true. The Law, as requiring perfect holiness, obedience unvarying and uninterrupted, prescribed as the condition of life (Romans 10:5) that which no one on earth, saint or sinner—the sinner's Savior only excepted—has ever rendered. It was certainly "nigh," but, as a "ministration of death"—"of condemnation" (2 Corinthians 3:7, 2 Corinthians 3:9), its nighness was no boon. How, then, was the curse averted or acceptance made possible? Not by the ability of the Israelite to yield an obedience adequate to the Law's requirements, but by the introduction of the principle of grace. Sin was forgiven, and, shortcoming notwithstanding, the sincere worshipper accepted in "his full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience;" or rather, in view of his faith, of that spiritual trust in Jehovah in which these strivings after obedience had their origin (Genesis 15:6; Psalms 32:1, Psalms 32:2). The hidden ground of this acceptance was Christ, now manifested in the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:1-21.). From this point of view, the commandment no longer towered above the Israelite, stern and forbidding, launching out curses against him, and filling him with dread and dismay; but its precepts were sweet and consolatory to him, and only filled him with the greater delight and love the longer he meditated on them or practiced himself in obeying them (Psalms 19:7-14; Psalms 119:1-176.). It is in this evangelical spirit we are undoubtedly to read these exhortations of Moses, whose standpoint, therefore, essentially harmonizes with that of Paul.
II. ISRAEL AND THE NIGHNESS OF THE COMMANDMENT. "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good" (Micah 6:8). God had written to Israel the great things of his Law (Hosea 8:12). He had made known his Name, his precepts, the conditions of acceptable service, the way of life; had given that people a revelation, full, clear, adequate, adapted to their mental stature, and to their condition as sinners. This takes for granted the underlying evangelical element above referred to. Without that, the "commandment" would but have mocked their weakness. And it is this evangelical element in Moses' "commandment" which comes clearly to light in Christ, and which is embodied in Paul's doctrine of the "righteousness of faith." The words of this passage apply with increased force to the historical revelation of the Savior. They strikingly suggest:
1. That man needs a revelation.
2. That he instinctively craves for one: "Who shall go up?" etc.
3. That he would sometimes make great sacrifices in order to get one: "Go up to heaven;" "go over the sea."
But the revelation which man needs most of all is the revelation of a Savior. He wants to know how he can escape from sin, from guilt, from wrath, from bondage; how he can be restored to holiness, to peace, to blessedness. The "commandment," in its wider sense, gave him this knowledge in part; the full discovery is in the gospel. The Word, in the preaching of this gospel, as well as in the circulation of copies of the Scriptures, and the innumerable opportunities enjoyed in Christian lands of getting acquainted with the way of life, has now come very nigh to us. It is in our mouths and in our hearts, while the salvation which the Word makes known is as readily available as the Word itself is simple and intelligible. "If thou shalt confess," etc. (Romans 10:9).
III. ISRAEL AND THE PRACTICABLENESS OF OBEDIENCE. The word which Moses gave was one which could be obeyed—nay, obedience to which was easy. Only, however, provided there was circumcision of heart (Romans 10:6)—a sincere willingness to know and to do God's will (John 7:17). To the natural heart the commandment is hard, and must always remain so. This, again, shows that the obedience Moses has in view is the spiritual, though not faultless, obedience of the believing and renewed heart—the result of possession of and standing in the righteousness of faith. Only through faith relying on a word of grace, and apprehending mercy in the character of God, is such obedience possible. Ability to render it is included in that "being saved," which Paul posits as a result of believing with the heart in the crucified and risen Christ (Romans 10:9). Observe, further, how the Law, with all its apparent complexity and cumbrousness, resolves itself in Moses' hands into one "commandment" (Romans 10:11). It is this which makes the Law simple, just as it is the simplicity of the gospel that it reduces all "works of God" to the one work of "believing on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29). Amidst the multiplicity of commands, there was but one real command—that of loving the Lord their God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 10:6, Deuteronomy 10:10, Deuteronomy 10:16, Deuteronomy 10:20). In love is implied faith—the knowing and believing the love which God has to us. Love is faith's response to the revelation God makes of himself to man. Faith is thus the condition:
1. Of justification.
2. Of acceptableness in obedience.
3. Of power to render obedience.—J.O.
A last word.
I. AN ALTERNATIVE. Life and death; good and evil (Deuteronomy 30:15); blessing and cursing (Deuteronomy 30:19). An alternative for the nation, but also for the individual. "Life" is more than existence—it is holy and happy existence. "Death" is not equivalent to non-existence. As respects the natural life, it is the separation of the living, thinking principle from the body, and is compatible with the survival of the soul in a future state. As respects the spiritual life—that life which the believer has, and the unbeliever has not, even now, while yet both have conscious being (1 John 5:12)—death is the cessation in the soul of all holy, spiritual functions, implying, indeed, a state of moral ruin, destruction, and disorganization, but by no means the wiping out of consciousness. "Eternal death"—a phrase not scriptural, though "eternal punishment" is (Matthew 25:46)—is not held by any one to mean "eternal existence in suffering;" but it is believed that a being who exists eternally, and exists consciously, whether in actual suffering or not, may yet in a very true sense be "dead." "Death," in this verse (Deuteronomy 30:15), is deemed compatible with experience of "evil." How strange that between such alternatives there should be a moment's hesitation!
II. A WARNING. (Deuteronomy 30:17, Deuteronomy 30:18.) If the heart is drawn away from God, and turns to idols, i.e. sets up any other objects in God's place, and forbears to give to God his proper love and honor, he whose heart does this, or the nation if it does so, shall surely perish.
1. An awful end.
2. A certain end.
3. An end of which due warning has been given.
III. AN APPEAL. (Deuteronomy 30:19, Deuteronomy 30:20.) "Therefore choose life," etc. On which note:
1. That choice or moral determination underlies our salvation.
2. That choice underlies the possibility of love to God.
3. That one deep choice in the heart's center underlies all the separate acts of choice involved in a life of obedience.
4. That the choice God wishes involves the choosing of himself, with a view to love him, to obey him, and to cleave to him.
5. That the choice of God is the choice of life, and carries all lesser good with it.—J.O.
Nature a witness.
(See for other instances, Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 31:28; Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2.) The invocation of heaven and earth as witnesses turns on deep principles. They are "called to record"—
I. BECAUSE THE MIND RECOGNIZES THEIR PRESENCE AS WITNESSES OF ITS TRANSACTIONS. It projects its own consciousness on its surroundings, and feels as if earth and sky, sun, moon, rock, river, tree, mountain, were not inanimate but animate and sympathetic witnesses of its doings. It attaches its own thoughts to the outward objects. In presence of the scene of any great transaction, it feels as if the place retained its memory; still spoke to it of the past; thought, felt, rejoiced, accused, praised, according to the nature of the deed. Define as we will this feeling of a "Presence" in nature—this "sense of something far more deeply interfused," which we inevitably carry with us into our relations with the outward universe—it is a fact in consciousness, and furnishes a basis for such appeals as those of Moses.
II. BECAUSE GOD IS PRESENT IN HEAVEN AND EARTH AS A WITNESS OF WHAT IS DONE. (Cf. Matthew 5:34, Matthew 5:35.) Heaven is his throne; earth, his footstool. He is present in them, upholding them by the word of his power, and through them is a true witness of all we say and do.
III. BECAUSE HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE CREATURES THEMSELVES CONSPICUOUSLY FULFILLING THE ENDS OF THEIR CREATION. The universe as a whole is thus a standing protest against the apostasy and self-willedness of the sinner (Isaiah 1:1, Isaiah 1:2). It bears witness against him by its very fidelity to its Creator. "They continue this clay according to thine ordinances, for all are thy servants" (Psalms 119:91).
IV. BECAUSE HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE SIGNAL MONUMENTS OF THE DIVINE FAITHFULNESS AND IMMUTABILITY. (Psalms 119:89, Psalms 119:90.) They testify to the reign of law, to God's constancy of purpose, to the uniformity and inflexibility of his rule. They dash the sinner's hopes of his Word failing, of his threatenings not being put in force.
V. BECAUSE HEAVEN AND EARTH RETAIN AN ACTUAL RECORD OF WHAT IS DONE IN THEIR PRESENCE—a record which may admit of being produced. This is simple truth of science.
VI. BECAUSE HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE INTERESTED SPECTATORS OF WHAT IS BEING DONE. They have shared in the consequences of man's transgression; they will share in the glory of the manifestation of the sons of God. They wait the day of their redemption with earnest expectation (Romans 8:19-23).
That Moses, in connection with his appeal to the people, summoned heaven and earth to witness, was an evidence:
1. Of the solemnity of this appeal. It must be a matter of momentous importance when the universe is called in to witness it.
2. Of the rationality of this appeal. Nature and nature's God were on his side. He had the universe with him, though a foolish people might reject his counsel.
3. Of the enduringness of the issues which depended on this appeal. Neither the blessing nor the curse would work themselves out in a day. It needed lasting witnesses to take account of the fulfillment of God's words.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Divine discipline founded on known principle.
Human anger is often an uncontrollable passion. God's anger is directed, not so much against the man, as against his sin. God's anger is the acting of sound principle—a part of his righteousness. Hence, as soon as chastisement produces its designed effect, it ceases. Instantly that the wayward child turns to its Father, the Father turns to his child.
I. REPENTANCE OFTEN SPRINGS OUT OF THE BITTER EXPERIENCE OF TROUBLE.
1. Disobedience brings degradation. Moses foresaw that the elect of God would become, for their sin, captives in a foreign land. No chastisement would be more galling to their pride. Their renown as conquerors had spread far and wide. To be crushed, enchained, and exiled was humiliation unspeakable. Such degradation is the native fruit of sin.
2. The curse would be felt the more as a contrast to former blessing. The ploughboy does not bemoan his lot, but for a prince to be tied to a plough would be a galling pain. So the prodigal boy, in the parable, was stung by the remembrance of former plenty.
3. Impression would be deepened by the recollection that this misery had been predicted. It was evidently no casual occurrence. They had brought the disaster upon themselves. They could lay the blame nowhere but on their own folly. Unless the moral nature be utterly dead, such experiences often lead to reflection, sorrow, and repentance.
II. REPENTANCE INCLUDES PRACTICAL REFORMATION. Repentance that expends itself in idle grief is a counterfeit. True repentance takes instant decision to retrace false steps. Darkness had come by turning away from the sun; now the penitent man turns fully toward it. He does not wait for others to act. He is not going to be deterred by others' indifference or by noisy ridicule. Call him "turncoat," if you will; there are worse characters in the world than turncoats. He is more afraid of God's anger than of man's paltry spleen. It is not only a halt in the downward course, but "right-about face." He returns unto the Lord. He now docilely listens to his voice; he honestly endeavors to practice all the Father's will. "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" is his daily prayer. His whole heart goes out in repentance. To repair past follies—this is his special work. So earnest is he in his new life, so marked a change and so beneficent is there in his character, that his children feel the impression, and catch the blessed contagion. As formerly his influence over his family was most baneful, so now it becomes vernal sunshine, like the fragrance of sweetest flowers.
III. REPENTANCE SECURES THE REVERSAL OF THE CURSE. NO sooner do men return to God than God returns to them. Only level the barrier which sin has set up, and reunion of man with God is restored. The return of favor shall be most complete. No matter how far the curse had taken effect; no matter how far the separation had proceeded; no matter to what extremity of woe the rebels have been driven;—from thence will Jehovah gather them,—reconciliation shall be thorough. Omnipotence will outpour itself in benedictions. Let the frost of winter be ever so severe, the summer sun shall melt it. He who created the universe out of nothing can reverse all the wheels of adversity; and, out of ruins, rebuild a glorious city. As sin is the only source of disorder and woe, so repentance is the extinction of the cause of woe. If God takes in hand to restore his people to peace, all opposition is vain. The thing is done.
IV. REPENTANCE LEADS TO ENTIRE RENEWAL OF A MAN'S NATURE. "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed." Honest endeavors after a righteous life shows to us a corrupt heart—a heart prone to love evil. The man who begins to pray for pardon soon learns to pray for purity. Nothing will satisfy the mind (when divinely illumined) short of complete regeneration. The repentant Jew discovered that the circumcision of the flesh effected nothing to deter from sin; Now he perceives that circumcision of heart is the only real safeguard. At a later day, this inward change was more clearly pictured: "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh." To the same effect Jesus promised: "If ye … keep my commandments, I will send you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, who dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
V. REPENTANCE IN MEN AWAKENS PUREST JOY IN GOD. "The Lord will again rejoice over thee for good." So Jesus himself affirmed: "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." For reasons which we cannot fathom, the well-being of man is a matter of the liveliest interest with God. Union of nature, and of interest between man and God is intimate. "His glory is great in our salvation." To bring all his purposes and enterprises to a successful issue—tiffs is a source of loftiest joy to God. "He will rejoice over us with singing." The gladness of Jehovah at the completeness and beauty of creation was great; a hundredfold greater will be his joy at the final success of redemption. Messiah will "see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."—D.
Revealed truth clear and available.
Dishonest minds are wont to plead that religious truth is recondite, self-contradictory, hard to be understood. Its obligations too, they aver, are impracticable, beyond the power of man to fulfill. Self-indulgence and impiety have never yet failed to frame excuses for their rejection of the Divine Word. But excuses avail them nothing. The indolent man has for long ages past learnt to say, "There is a lion in the path." Honest investigation soon finds the truth of God "worthy of all acceptation."
I. OBSERVE THE AUTHORITY OF GOD'S WORD. It is a "commandment." It comes to men with all the character of a law. It is not possible that we should treat it as we please. We are not permitted to mutilate or dismember it—not permitted to accept a part and reject a part. As in a tree the living sap runs into every branch and twig and leaf, so that we cannot pluck the tiniest part without breaking the vital current; so every part of God's Scripture is instinct with high authority, nor can we neglect the least commandment without defying the majesty of heaven. We are bound to bow our wills to it; it will, in no degree, bend its requirements to suit our tastes.
II. THE PERSPICUITY OF GOD'S WORD. Its essential truths are within the compass of every mind. Every man knows what it is to love; that love is due from each man to his Maker. Every child knows what obedience means; that obedience is due to the Father of our spirits. Truly, some facts concerning the eternal world are so profound that, like ocean-depths, human reason cannot fathom them. But these are not the facts which lie at the foundation of man's safety and hope. The practical duties which appertain to virtue and well-being are so plain that even a child may understand. Whatever difficulty lies in the way of human obedience, it does not lie in the haze or uncertain meaning of the revelation. The difficulty is within a man, not without him. The objects of faith are clearly revealed; we want only an eye to discern them.
III. THE ACCOMMODATENESS OF GOD'S WORD. On the part of scriptural truth, there is an exquisite fitness to meet the capacity of men's minds and the needs of their souls. "The word is nigh thee; yea, in thy very heart." There is perfect accord between the constitution of the man and the contents of revelation. The Bible is the counterpart and complement of conscience. It is obvious that the Lord of conscience is Lord of Scripture also. The Bible says, "Thou hast sinned;" and conscience admits the fact. The Bible says, "Thou art helpless to save thyself;" and conscience knows it true. The Bible declares that happiness is inseparable from obedience; and conscience feels that it is so. There is a living witness in every man (until gagged by sin) which testifies to the authority and necessity and reasonableness of God's Law.
IV. THE PRACTICALNESS OF GOD'S WORD. "That thou mayest do it." Religious truth is not revealed to gratify a prurient curiosity, not to afford matter for speculation, but solely to promote obedience. To know God's requirements will bring us no advantage unless we heartily and loyally do them. Accurate and orthodox beliefs convey, in themselves, no life nor joy. Right belief is barren and abortive until it brings forth active obedience. We are not to be judged at God's tribunal for our opinions or theories, nor for our religious creeds; we are to be judged of "the deeds done in the body." "I was hungry, and ye gave me meat," will be the grounds of the judicial verdict. Practical service is the end and purpose of Divine revelation.—D.
An alternative choice.
The prophet's power to persuade and influence a people is great—unspeakably great; yet it is not irresistible. It has its limits. After all that has been said to him, a man feels that the determination and choice rest within himself. Reason may be convinced; judgment may give a decided verdict; still inclination may inordinately lean to the weaker side, and baffle all prudent calculations. The intense eagerness of Moses for the people's weal is a sublime spectacle of generous devotement—an unparalleled instance of ardent patriotism. Calling up all his powers of persuasive and passionate appeal, he makes a final effort to win the tribes for God. We have here—
I. ALTERNATIVE LINES OF CONDUCT. All possible courses of life are reduced to two—one of which every man must take; a third course is excluded. The two are separately described.
1. The course of loyalty is described:
(1) By the man's state of heart. "To love the Lord thy God." This determines all that follows—the root out of which all flowers and fruits of obedience spring. This love arises from a right appreciation of God. "He is thy life," yea, the life of thy life. Without him, life is a shadow—a dream—outside showy. "In him we live." "Christ is our life"—the Source of all strength and goodness and joy. This love arises from near relationship. He is our God; he has entered into loving covenant with us—joined forever his interests with ours.
(2) By the man's habit of life. He "walks in God's ways." In those ways he finds God. It is the King's highway. He has daily companionship with Jehovah. All his tastes and wishes are gratified. His will is sweetly acquiescent in God's will. He steadily makes advancement in the beauteous life. He does not halt; he walks.
(3) By his practical obedience. "He keeps his commandments and his statutes." He keeps them in memory, and has regard to them in every step he takes. They are written upon the tablet of his heart; they shine out in lustrous characters in all his actions. He guards them from the assaults of others. As the stone tablets of the Decalogue were preserved in the ark of the covenant, so in the more capacious ark of a good man's heart, the commandments of God are kept.
2. So, also, the course of disloyalty is portrayed:
(1) As a dislike of God. "If thine heart turn away." Through ignorance, or prejudice, or pride, or sensual indulgence, men grow in dislike of God, until his very Name is odious—his presence a very hell. Repugnance to God is the livery they wear.
(2) Is wanton deafness. "So that thou wilt not hear." The ear is only an instrument; the effective power comes from a deeper source. We gradually bring ourselves into a condition in which we hear only what we wish to hear. The bulk of men have made themselves deaf to God's voice.
(3) Is weak compliance to temptation. Thou "shall be drawn away." The habit of most men is to float with the stream. They yield thoughtlessly to the influence of public example. They do as others do, speak as others dictate.
(4) As ignoble service of idols. "And worship other gods." Man must worship somewhat. It is a necessity of his being. He is not self-contained; nor can he be satisfied out of himself. He worships power, wealth, fashion, social fame, fate, the devil.
II. ALTERNATIVE EXPERIENCE.
1. The course of loyality secures:
(1) All real good. The good is not always apparent—not always immediate. Yet even the experiences of pain and calamity prove ultimately to the obedient soul a real good. The storms of winter are as needful to the best life as the warm breath of spring. All that is wise, pure, excellent, elevating, noble, useful, is to be gained in the pathway of obedience. Every stage accomplished is a new installment of good.
(2) It secures increase of numbers. Rapid multiplication was, humanly speaking, Israel's security. By this means, they could outnumber their foes. Through our children, blessing and gladness come. So is it in spiritual things. We taste the highest joy when we become the channels of Christ's life to men. We long to have many genial companions in the road to heaven.
(3) It secures Divine blessing. "The Lord thy God shall bless thee." External possessions contain no blessing in themselves. The richest lands—the fairest scenes on earth, are stripped of charm, so long as they are enveloped in absolute darkness. It is the light of God's favor that converts possession into blessing. Hence the little of the righteous is better than the abundance of the wicked. If God's blessing be on our estates, that makes them secure. That blessing is the core and marrow of true prosperity. That blessing alone gives fragrance and gladness to life. This blessing is secured by the oath of God.
2. But the course of disloyalty is marked by the opposite experience.
(1) It is an experience of evil. The table may groan under the profusion of dainty food, but there is a scarcity of food for the soul. The body may be pampered, but there is leanness in the spirit. Riches may increase, but they daily corrupt the mind. There may be noisy laughter, but it only covers inner sadness and hidden grief. No sorrow is sanctified. The real man is starved and ruined.
(2) There is distressing insecurity. We are rich today; we may be paupers tomorrow. "Ye shall not prolong your days in the land." Apart from God's favor, we have not a day's lease of life—not the certainty that any possession of ours shall continue. We dwell on the verge of a volcano. The earth quivers under our feet.
(3) There is a sense of the Divine curse. A life of disloyalty is a life of constant warfare with God—a conflict with Omnipotence. Every plan which impious men make is a plan to elude and defeat God. And they know they cannot permanently succeed. There is a dark pall overhanging every prospect—a night of gloom closing in their little day. The curse of a good man is an awful calamity: what must God's curse include?
III. ALTERNATIVE DESTINY.
1. The destiny of the good man is life. This means life in its fullest measure, in its highest form, in its perpetual developments. Gradually all the elements of weakness and pain and decay shall be eliminated. Compared with the future life of the righteous, the present life is but childhood—the feebleness and ignorance of infancy. The life which is promised to the righteous is nothing less than the life of God. "We shall be like him."
2. The destiny of disloyalty is destruction. "Ye shall surely perish." This includes disappointment—the sudden collapse of all earthly hopes. It embraces shame and public reproach. The disloyal will be the laughing-stock of the universe. They shall be covered with confusion. This dark destiny includes poignant remorse. The unrighteous will know, to their deepest grief, that they might have been saved if they would. Such despair baffles all description.
IV. INSTANT CHOICE DEMANDED. We cannot do other than admire the condescension of God in pleading so pathetically with men.
1. There is full instruction. "I have set before thee life and death." Every element of needed information is furnished; and personal examination of spiritual facts is expected. Every man is bound to investigate, to ponder, to judge.
2. There is authoritative command. "I command thee." On the side of righteous precept there is supreme authority. Every appeal of God is an appeal to the noblest part of our nature—to conscience. Every solicitation of the tempter is an appeal to appetite and passion.
3. There is tender entreaty. To the activities of wisdom and authority is added the impulse of love. If man's benevolent love prompt him to use all measures to turn the disloyal unto God; how much deeper must be the love of God, of which man's affection is but a faint adumbration! With all the pathos which human sympathy can lend to entreaty Moses pleads, "therefore choose life."
4. Heaven and earth are summoned to hear the solemn charge. Angels note the fidelity of God's prophets. All heaven is interested in man's obedience. The joy of heaven rises to new heights with every accession of loyal subjects. And all the inhabitants of earth are interested in our obedience, whether they feel that interest or not. The future history of this world is in our hands—is being molded by our deeds. What we are today determines what the next generation will be. Each man who hears the heavenly summons makes decision straightway, if not in form, yet in reality. Each man is writing the epitaph for his tomb—preparing his verdict for the last assize! Can we not today forecast our final destiny?—D.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The restoration of the Jews.
So certain is the apostasy and the judgment on the land, that Moses assumes it as an accomplished fact, thereupon proceeding to predict a restoration of the "scattered nation" in case of their repentance. There must be the penitent return to God, and then God will restore them and bless them abundantly. It was this principle which was carried out in the restoration from Babylon, and which will be carried out in any future restoration of Israel. We have here the raison d'etre of Jewish missions.
I. THE PENITENCE OF ISRAEL IS THE PRELIMINARY TO THIS RESTORATION. Their captivity and dispersion having arisen from their forsaking God, it is only reasonable that their penitence should precede their restoration. Into the question of the re-establishment of the Jews in Palestine we need not here enter. Dr. Brown, who has written so well on the second advent, and shown conclusively, we think, that it will not be pre-millennial, has also advocated a restoration of Israel to their own land. £ However this may be, of one thing we may be certain, that the spiritual restoration of Israel will precede any local restoration. They will be restored to God before being restored—if restored they are to be—to Palestine.
II. TO THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE JEWS, CHRISTIAN CHURCHES SHOULD INTELLIGENTLY DEVOTE THEMSELVES. The winning of them by and to the gospel is the most important service we can render them. No movement of the political chess-board is half so important as the winning of them back to God. When, moreover, the local restoration is problematical, while the spiritual restoration is the indispensable preliminary to any further good fortune,—the duty of Christians is most clear. The gospel of Jesus must be adapted to the peculiar circumstances of Israel, and pressed upon their attention with all the sweet persuasiveness Christian grace ensures.
III. JEWISH MISSIONS ARE THE TRUE COMPENSATION FOR THE PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS, TO WHICH, ALAS! THEY ARE STILL IN SOME QUARTERS SUBJECTED. For it must be remembered that the persecution of Israel, though allowed as a just retribution for their rejection of God, may be prosecuted in such an unholy spirit as to entail upon the persecutors the merited curse of God. Because there may be Shylocks among the Jews is no reason why men should wreak their vengeance on them. Indeed, the Lord threatens to put the curses upon their persecutors, when they have turned unto him.
If this be so, then it is the duty of Christian people to repudiate all persecution of the Jews as such, and to organize such mission work as may bring the truth and claims of God before the mind and heart of his ancient people. This will prove the true compensation to them. It will solace them under suffering and trial, and enable them to forget in the joys of a new life the pains and judgments of the old. Besides, the mission work undertaken by God's people may avert the judgments of Almighty God deserved by the nations that have persecuted the Jews. It is a matter of great thankfulness that England and America have an open door for Israel, and no sympathy with their present oppressors.
IV. THE FUTURE OF ISRAEL IS TO EXCEED IN GLORY THE PAST. This seems clear from this passage. The Jewish development is to exceed all past developments. They are to have a mighty population, great wealth, and God is to rejoice over them for good again. We do not regard a national organization as essential to influence. Christianity is now, for example, the mightiest factor in human society, and yet it is not, organized nationally. Should the Jews by their rare linguistic powers, by their patient courage, by their singleness of aim, become when converted to Christianity the predominant missionary factor in the world, then we can see in such a restoration a more powerful and blessed influence than if they furnished to the world a new line of famous kings. It is not dynasties, but the devotion of the people, which goes to make a people mighty. The kingdoms over which men rule may not be defined in statute-book or in treaties. There are kingships exercised by humble, devoted, cross-bearing men, which explain the kingship of the crucified Nazarene. It is to this spiritual domination that we trust Israel shall yet come.
And this shall prove its glory. For glory consists not in the employment of physical and mechanical force, but in the exercise of self-denial and devotedness of spirit. As Carlyle has said in 'Sartor Resartus,' "The first preliminary moral act, annihilation of self (Selbst-todtung), had been happily accomplished; and my mind's eyes were now unsealed and its hands ungyved." It is they who have realized this who are on the path of real glory. From their money-lending and money-grubbing the Jews, by Christianity, shall yet be delivered, to devote themselves in a more excellent way to the interests of mankind.—R.M.E.
The revelation at man's door.
We have a very beautiful thought inserted by Moses regarding the proximity and handiness—if we may be allowed the thought—of God's commandments. It is used by Paul in the same connection, and so adapted to the gospel as to show its practical tenor (Romans 10:6-9). And here we would observe—
I. EXTRAVAGANT NOTIONS ARE ENTERTAINED OF WHAT A DIVINE REVELATION OUGHT TO BE. It is thought that it should be some far-away affair, to which none but seraphic spirits could soar; as high as heaven, and requiring vast powers and efforts to reach. Or it is thought to be as recondite as matters lying in the deep-sea bed, demanding such diving apparatus as practically to put it out of reach of ordinary mortals. This is the favorite notion of the self-confident critics, that a Divine revelation must be something attainable only by scholars, appreciable only by the geniuses of mankind.
II. BUT AS A MATTER OF FACT, GOD'S REVELATION COMES DOWN TO EVERY MAN'S DOOR. God came down to Mount Sinai, and spoke to the people directly. The trouble then was that he was too near—too homely; they wished him further away. Then prophets came, and for fifteen hundred years the word was brought very nigh to men. At last God's Son became incarnate, and was each man's Brother, and brought the message so close to men that only the proud escaped it. The whole genius of revelation is contained in the remarkable words, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight" (Matthew 11:25, Matthew 11:26). The revelation is for babes; for men of a childlike—not a childish—spirit; for men who have laid aside their pride and presumption, and can take truth trustfully from the Infinite Father.
The idea is surely monstrous that God cannot break his Divine bread small enough for his human children; that none but men of a certain mental caliber can get hold of the food or digest it. It is surely a diviner plan to bring the truth so plainly home that none have any excuse for rejecting it.
III. LET EACH OF US GIVE UP OUR GRAND EXCURSIONS BOTH SKYWARD AND SEAWARD, AND RECEIVE GOD'S MESSAGE BROUGHT NEAR US BY HIS SON. Pride is forever leading men upon some aerial or aquatic adventure, searching the heights of heaven on the wing of fancy or of speculation, or exploring the deepest depths, professedly to find truth and God. Philosophy is invoked, and everything brought to the test of it. Now, all this must be sacrificed before we receive the truth. We must humble ourselves, and recognize the truth brought in Jesus Christ to our very door. If we required terrific effort to reach the truth, we would boast that we had succeeded through that effort. If it depended on great mental powers and struggle, we would take credit for both. But the fact is, it is brought so near to each of us, and so plainly home, that not one of us can boast of our discovery, but only chide ourselves that it was so long near us and so long overlooked!
IV. IT IS HERE THAT WE MUST BEGIN WITH THE JEWS. As a rule, they are so puffed up with pride and serf-importance, that the gospel is overlooked in its glorious proximity and adaptation. They think they are such linguists and such thinkers that none can instruct them, and the result is that the simplicity of the gospel escapes their notice altogether. The grandeur of what is simple and comprehensible by all who are not too proud to consider it must be urged with earnestness. The apologetic now needed is, not what follows speculation to its utmost height or utmost depth, and boasts itself of learning as great as the objector has; but what takes its firm stand upon the simplicity of revelation as the supreme proof that it is Divine. It seems to us that some of the apologetic to which we are now treated is as pedantic as those it desires to convince, and, in a contest of mere pedantry, it is sure to be defeated. Rather should we assure men that it is pedantry and pride which keeps them from discovering the wondrous revelation that lies so near us. Let Gentile and Jew give up the weary wandering, the "will-o'-the-wisp" work of pride, and recognize the God who is knocking at each man's door.—R.M.E.
Death and life set before the people.
In this earnest word which concludes a section of his address to the people, Moses is summing up his deliverance. It has been called by Havernick "the classic passage" upon the subject of death and life as understood in Old Testament times. £ "Shut out from the true community of life (Lebensgemeinschaft)," says Havernick," the sinner puts in only a pretended life (Scheinleben), without God, enduring and promoting ruin in himself, until death physical, with its terrors, overtakes him. The Divine penalty manifests itself to the sinner as death." Let us consider what is here suggested. And—
I. GOD IS THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE. He was before all things; in him they live and move and have their being; by him all things consist. Life physical is from him; but so also, and in a much fuller fashion, is life spiritual. The inner man is from him, and depends upon him for sustenance. And when his only begotten Son came into the world, he gave him to have life in himself (John 5:26), so that of him it could alone be said, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). We recognize in God, therefore," the Fountain of living waters," from which, to their own great damage, men are separating themselves, as if the broken cisterns of their own hewing could ever slake their thirst (Jeremiah 2:13).
II. LOVE ATTACHES US TO THIS SPIRITUAL FOUNTAIN. As we love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, we find that we have begun to live. On the other hand, the loveless life is only a pretended life, and carries within itself the "Anathema Maranatha" (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22). Love places our heart at a level with God's, and the riches of his life flow into us. As Emerson, writing of gifts, says, "The gift, to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him. When the waters are at a level, then my goods pass to him and his to me. All his are mine, all mine his." It is exactly in this magnanimous spirit God deals with those who love him. All his life and fullness flow down to us; we cannot, of course, take all in-our measure is a small one, but we are filled up to our capacity with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18).
III. LOVE GIVES BIRTH TO NEW OBEDIENCE. If we love God, we shall keep his commandments (John 14:15). In the eye of love, his commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3). Our meat is found in doing the will of him that sends us, and in finishing his work (John 4:34). We say with the Master, "I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy Law is within my heart" (Psalms 40:8). And so, in the terms of the passage before us, we walk in God's ways, and keep his commandments and statutes and judgments.
Now, this obedience strengthens the spiritual life. Just as exercise invigorates the body, so work of a spiritual kind invigorates the soul. We not only find rest in coming to Jesus, but refreshment in taking on us his yoke and his burden (Matthew 11:28-30).
IV. SUCH A LIFE OF ATTACHMENT AND OBEDIENCE UNTO GOD TENDS TO PERPETUATE OUR POWER AND EXISTENCE. Other things being equal, a religious life tends to perpetuate physical power. The calm which pervades the faculties, the wholesome exercise which devotedness to God administers, the deliverance from fear which religion bestows in face of all possible vicissitude and change,—all this favors health and longevity. Of course, Christianity does not need now such outward testimonies as these. Many saints are sickly, and die young; but religion never made their sickness a whir more serious, nor shortened their career by a single day. They would have been less easy in their sickness, and it would have cut their thread of life more quickly, had they been strangers to its solaces and joys.
V. SEPARATION FROM THE SOURCE OF LIFE IS DEATH INDEED. In this striking passage, while "good" and "life" go together, so do "death" and "evil." The idea in death is not cessation of existence, but separation from God. Adam and Eve died the day they doubted God's love and ate the fruit. They ceased not to exist that day, but died out of fellowship with God. Hence we are not to associate an annihilation view with the Biblical idea of death. Men die when they are separated from God as really as the branch broken from the stem. Sin is the mother of Death (James 1:15). It brings it forth, because it separates the soul from him who is the Fountain of life.
The Jews found in their national experience how deadly a thing it is to disobey their God and to depart from him. Nor shall their calamities cease till they return to him. Meanwhile, may we see to it that we cleave trustfully and lovingly to God, and have increasing life in his favor!—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25