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SONG OF MOSES AND ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS DEATH.
In accordance with the Divine injunction, Moses composed an ode, which he recited in the hearing of the people, and committed to writing, to remain with them as a witness for God against them. With this end in view, the ode is directed principally to a contrasting of the unchanging faithfulness of the Almighty with the anticipated perversity and unfaithfulness of his people. The poem may be divided into six parts.
1. An introduction (Deuteronomy 32:1-3), in which the importance of the doctrine to be delivered is announced.
2. The blamelessness and excellency of Jehovah are placed in contrast with the corruptness and perversity of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:5).
3. The folly and ingratitude of the rebellious people is dwelt upon (Deuteronomy 32:7-18).
4. The purpose of God to punish and reject the rebellious generation is declared (Deuteronomy 32:19-23).
5. The fulfillment of this purpose in the judgments which should come upon the rebels, whilst mercy and favor should be showed to those that repented and were humbled under the hand of God (Deuteronomy 32:24-34).
6. And finally, the judgment which God would execute on the enemies of Israel, and the mercy he would show to his servants (Deuteronomy 32:35-43).
In this ode—"carmine plane divino" (Lowth)—Moses displays the genius of the poet, as in the other parts of this book he has showed the sagacity of the legislator and the skill of the orator. Vigor of diction, elevation of sentiment, vivacity of representation, beauty and sublimity of imagery, characterize this ode throughout. Nor is the piety less noticeable than the poetry; zeal for God, earnest desire far his honor, and devout reverence of his majesty pervade and inspire the whole. Remarkable also is this ode in relation to the later prophetic utterances in Israel. "It is the compendious anticipatory sketch and the common watchword of all prophecy, and stands related to it as fundamentally as the Decalogue to all laws, and the Lord's Prayer to all prayers. The legislator has here condensed in a song the prophetic contents of his last address (Deuteronomy 27:1-26; Deuteronomy 28:1-68; Deuteronomy 29:1-29; Deuteronomy 30:1-20.), wherewith he lives on in the memory and mouth of the people. He here sets before them their whole history to the end of the days. In this ode, each age of Israel has a mirror of its present condition and future fate. This mirror prophecy holds up before its contemporaries" (Delitzsch, 'Jesaias,' s. 33).
Heaven and earth are summoned to hearken to his words, both because of their importance, and because heaven and earth were interested, so to speak, as witnesses of the manifestation of God's righteousness and faithfulness about to be celebrated (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:28, Deuteronomy 31:29; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 2:12; Jeremiah 22:29).
My doctrine shall drop as the rain. The Hebrew verb here and in Deuteronomy 33:28 is properly rendered by" drop;" it expresses the gentle falling of a genial shower or the soft distillation of dew. The clause is best taken imperatively, as it is by the LXX; the Vulgate, and Onkelos: Let my doctrine drop as the rain, let my speech distil, etc. The point of comparison hero is not the quickening, fructifying, vivifying influence of the rain and dew, so much as the effective force of these agents as sent from heaven to produce results. So might his doctrine come with power into the minds of his hearers. Doctrine (לֶקַה from לָקַח to take); that which takes one (Proverbs 7:21, "fair speech," By which one is captivated), or which one takes or receives, viz. instruction (Proverbs 4:2; Isaiah 29:24). Small rain; gentle showers, such as conduce to the growing of herbs. The Hebrew word (שְׂעִידִים) primarily means hairs, and is hare used of rain coming down in thin streams like hair. Showers; heavy rain (רִבִיבִים from רָבַב, to be much or many, equal to multitude of drops).
I will publish the name of the Lord; literally, I will call, i.e. proclaim, or celebrate, etc. Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. The hearers of the song are summoned to join in the celebration of the Divine majesty. The word rendered" greatness" occurs only in this book (Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 5:21; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2), and in Psalms 150:2. It is the greatness of God as the Almighty that is here celebrated.
Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:5
He is the Rock, his work is perfect; rather, The Rock! his work is perfect, i.e. blameless, without fault. God is called "the Rock" (הַצוּר), as the unchangeable Refuge and Stronghold of his people, by which they are sustained, and to which they can resort for defense and protection at all times. The epithet is applied to God four times besides in this song (Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, Deuteronomy 32:31); it occurs also frequently in the Psalms (cf. Psalms 19:14; Psalms 28:1; Psalms 31:2, Psalms 31:3; Psalms 62:2, Psalms 62:7; etc.). The Hebrew word, tsur, cur or zur, appears in several proper names of the Mosaic period, as e.g. Pedahzur, "Rock delivers" (Numbers 1:10), a name of the same import as Pedahel, "God delivers" (Numbers 34:28); Elizur, "God is a Rock" (Numbers 1:5); Zuriel (Numbers 3:35) and Zurishaddai, "the Almighty is Rock" (Numbers 1:6; Numbers 2:12). "Jehovah," says Baumgarten, "is here called Rock, without any qualification, the reason is that he is the only true rock, and all the strength and firmness of earth's stones is but an ectype of his unchangeable faithfulness and rectitude. If one cleaves to the dualism of spirit and nature, and regards the figure as a merely subjective, arbitrary union of the two, such an expression is simply unintelligible; but if we would understand Scripture and religious speech, we must with all earnestness accustom ourselves to recognize the spiritual ground in nature, and apprehend this in the Biblical expression." It is remarkable that none of the ancient versions have retained this epithet here. The LXX. have Θεὸς: the Vulgate, Deus ("Dei opera"); the Targum of Onkelos, תַּקִיפָא, "Mighty;" while the Peshito has simply the pronoun "his" appended to "works," see word. For all his ways are judgment; i.e. accordant with rectitude (cf. Psalms 145:17). A God of truth; rather, of faithfulness (אְמֶוּנָת, from אָמַן, to stay, or be stayed, to be firm). They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Of this difficult passage the following seems the best construction and rendering:—A perverse and crooked generation not his children, [but] their spot—has become corrupt towards him. The subject of the verb at the beginning of the verse is the "perverse and crooked generation," at the end of it, and between the verb and its subject there is interjected parenthetically the clause, "not his children, but their spot." Spot is here used in a moral sense, as in Job 11:15; Job 31:7; Proverbs 9:7. These corrupt persons claimed to be children of God, but they were not; they were rather a stain and a reproach to them (cf. 2 Peter 2:13; Isaiah 1:4). The rendering above given is substantially that of De Wette, Knobel, Keil, and Herxheimer, by all of whom the "perverse generation "is regarded as the subject of the sentence. This is the view adopted also in the 'Speaker's Commentary.' Some would make "God" the subject, and render, "He hath corrupted to him, or to himself" (margin, Authorized Version; Ibn Ezra, etc.). Others take "spot" as the subject, thus: "Their spot or blemish hath corrupted before him children not his" (Lowth, Dathe); but such renderings are forced, and proceed on constructions of the text which are illegitimate. Donaldson, following Lowth's construction, appeals to בָּנִים לאֹ אֵמֻן בָּם (verse 20) as a similar inversion. But the two cases are not parallel. To make them so, we must have here בָנָיו לאֹ מוּם בָּם, "his children in whom is no spot." Ewald takes מוּמֶה as the noun here, instead of מוּם, and tracing it to the Syriac, see Arabic word, juravit, renders "to him they, his not sons, have corrupted their oath," i.e. have broken it; and this Furst approves. But the phrase, "to corrupt an oath" is unexampled in the Old Testament, and there is no ground for changing the noun. The ancient versions vary considerably here: LXX; ἡμάρτοσαν οὐκ αὐτῷ τέκνα μωμητά: Aq; διέφθειραν αὐτῷ οὐκ δι υἱοὶ αὐτου: Sym; διέφθειραν πρὸς αὔτον οὐχ οἱυἱοι τὸ σύνολον: Vulgate, peccaverunt ei et non filii ejus in sordibus; Vert. Itala; peeca verunt non ei filii maculati; Syriac, "They corrupted but not him, children of defilement." These various renderings indicate that probably the text is and has long been corrupt. Some of the older English versions are worth noting on this verse. Rogers [Matthew], "The frowarde and overthwart generation hath marred them selves to himward, and are not his sonnes for their deformitie's sake;" Bishop's Bible, "Frowardly have they done agaynst him by their vices, not being his own children, but a wicked and froward generation;" Geneva Version, "They have corrupted themselves towards him by their vice, not being his children, but a froward and crooked generation."
Deuteronomy 32:6, Deuteronomy 32:7
Instead of gratefully acknowledging the Divine beneficence, and dutifully obeying the Divine will, Israel had perversely and foolishly requited the Lord for all his benefits, by apostasy from him. Do ye thus requite? The verb here signifies primarily to do to any one either good or evil, whether in return for what he has done or not (cf. Genesis 1:15; 1 Samuel 24:18; Proverbs 3:30); then, as a secondary meaning, to reward, repay, requite, as here and Psalms 18:21. To bring more forcibly to their view the ingratitude and folly of their conduct, Moses dwells upon what God was and had been to the nation: their Father, in that he had, in his love, chosen, them to be his people (cf. Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:7; Malachi 2:10); their Purchaser, who had acquired possession of them by delivering them out of Egypt (cf. Psalms 74:2); their Maker, who had constituted them a nation; and their Establisher, by whom they had been conducted through the wilderness and settled in Canaan. Days of old; the times of Israel's deliverance from bondage, and the times during which successive generations had lived and experienced the goodness of the Lord. The form of the word rendered "days" is poetical, and is found only here and in Psalms 90:15, which is also ascribed to Moses. The years of many generations; literally, years of generation and generation; "aetatum singularum annos" (Rosenmüller).
Deuteronomy 32:8, Deuteronomy 32:9
From the very beginning, when God first allotted to the nations a place and a heritage, he had respect in his arrangements to the sons of Israel, who were his portion, and had as it were kept their interest in view in all that he appointed and ordered. According to the number of the children of Israel. When the Most High portioned out to the nations the heritage of each, he reserved for Israel, as the people of his choice, an inheritance proportioned to its numbers. The LXX. has "according to the number of the angels of God," an arbitrary departure from the original text, in accommodation, probably, to the later Jewish notion of each nation having its guardian angel. The Lord's portion is his people (cf. Exodus 15:16; Exo 19:5; 1 Samuel 10:1; Psalms 78:71). The lot of his inheritance; literally, the cord, etc; the allusion being to the measuring of land by a cord, equivalent to the portion by measure which Jehovah allotted to himself as his inheritance (cf. Psalms 16:6).
God's fatherly care of Israel. In the desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; literally, in the land of the desert, in the waste (the formless waste; the word used is that rendered, Genesis 1:2, "without form"), the howling of the wilderness. "Israel is figuratively represented as a man without food or water, and surrounded by howling, ferocious beasts, and who must needs have perished had not God found him and rescued him" (Herxheimer). The apple of his eye; literally, the mannikin (אִישׁוֹן) of his eye, the pupil; so called because in it, as in a mirror, a person sees his own image reflected in miniature (Gesenius), or because, being the tenderest part of the eye, it is guarded as one would a babe (cf. Psalms 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:12). By Delitzsch and others this explanation of the word is rejected as not philologically justified, there being no evidence that the termination וֹן had a diminutive force; and as not in keeping with the earnestness of the passages in which this word occurs. They prefer the explanation man image to mannikin. Anyhow, the use of the word here must be taken as indicating that Israel is ever in the eye of the Lord, the object of his constant and tenderest care.
God's treatment of his people is compared to that of an eagle towards its young (cf. Exodus 19:4). In the Authorized Version, the apodosis of the sentence is made to begin at Deuteronomy 32:12, and Deuteronomy 32:11 is wholly understood of the eagle and its young. To this arrangement it has been objected that it overlooks the fact that the suffixes to the verbs "taketh" and "beareth" are singulars, and are to be understood consequently, not of the eaglets, but of Israel. It has, therefore, been proposed to render the passage thus: As an eagle which stirreth up its nest, fluttereth over its young, he spread out his wings, took him up, and carried him on his pinions. The Lord alone did lead him, etc. The comparison is thus made to pass into a metaphorical representation of the Lord's dealing with Israel. One feels that there is something violent in this, for whilst God's care for Israel might be fittingly compared to that of an eagle towards her young, it is less fit to speak of God himself as if he were an eagle with wings which he spread abroad and on which he bare Israel. The rendering in the Authorized Version is on this account to be preferred, if it can be grammatically vindicated. And this it may on the ground that the suffixes may be understood of the "nest" as containing the young; or the young may be referred to individually, "taketh it, beareth it," i.e. each of them; or, if the nest be understood, the whole body of them as therein contained. Stirreth up her [its] nest i.e. its nestlings; provocans ad volandum pullos suos, Vulgate. This is the explanation usually given of the initial clause of this verse; but its accuracy has been questioned, Furst would render the verb by "watchesover; "but though הֵעִיר, as the Hiph. of עוּר, to watch, may have this meaning, it is undoubtedly used generally in the sense of rousing, exciting, stirring up. Knobel retains this meaning, but understands the clause of the exciting of the nestlings by the parent bird coming to them with food. This is certainly more in keeping with what follows; for when the eagle nestles or broods over her young, she does not excite them to fly. Fluttereth over her young; rather, broods over, nestles, or cherishes (יְרַחֵף). Spreadeth abroad her wings, etc. "I once saw a very interesting sight above one of the crags of Ben Nevis, as I was going in pursuit of black game. Two parent eagles were teaching their offspring, two young birds, the maneuvers of flight. They began by rising from the top of a mountain, in the eye of the sun;—it was about midday, and bright for this climate. They at first made small circles, and the young imitated them; they paused on their wings, waiting till they had made their first flight, holding them on their expanded wings when they appeared exhausted, and then took a second and larger gyration, always rising towards the sun, and enlarging their circle of flight, so as to make a gradually ascending spiral" (Davy, 'Salinertia;' see also Bochart, 'Hierozoicon,' 2.181). The general reference is to God's fostering care of Israel, and especially his dealing with them when "he suffered their manners in the wilderness" (Acts 13:18), disciplined them, and trained them for what they were appointed to do.
The Lord alone did lead him (cf. Exodus 13:21; Exodus 15:13). With him; i.e. along with Jehovah, as aiding him.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth. To ride over or drive over the heights of a country is figuratively to subjugate and take possession of that country (cf. Deuteronomy 33:29; Isaiah 58:14). Israel, having subjugated Canaan, could eat of its produce, the increase of the fields, as his own. Honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock. Canaan abounded in wild bees, which had their hives in crevices of the rock, and in olive trees, which grew on a rocky soil; as is still the case in Palestine.
Butter of kine. The Hebrew word (חֶמְאָה) here used designates milk in a solid or semi-solid state, as thick cream, curd, or butter. As distinguished from this is the milk of sheep; where the word used (חָלָב) properly denotes fresh milk, milk in a fluid state, and with all its richness (חֶלֶב, fatness) in it (cf. Genesis 18:8; Isaiah 7:22). Fat of lambs; lambs of the best, "fat" being a figurative expression for the best (Numbers 18:12). Rams of the breed of Bashan; literally, rams, sons of Bashan; i.e. reared in Bashan, a district famous for its cattle. With the fat of kidneys of wheat; with the kidney-fat of wheat; i.e. the richest fat, the best and most nutritious wheat. And thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape. The blood of the grape is the expressed juice of the grape, which, being red, is compared to blood. The rendering "pure" here is not inapt. The original word (חֶמֶר, from חָמַר, to boil up, to foam, to rise in bubbles) describes this juice as it appears when pressed into a vessel, when the surface of the liquid is covered with froth or foam. There is no ground for the explanation "fery wine" (Keil); wine in such a state was never among the Hebrews counted a blessing. That they had and used fermented wine is certain; but what they specially esteemed as a luxury was the pure unadulterated juice of the grape freshly pressed out and drunk with the foam on it.
Israel's ungrateful return for the Lord's benefits.
Jeshurun. This name, formed from יָשַׂר, righteous, designates Israel as chosen to be a righteous nation; and in the use of it here lies the keenest reproach of apostate Israel, as fallen into a state the opposite of that to which it was destined. "By using the name righteous in place of Israel, Moses ironically censures those who had swerved from rectitude; by recalling to memory with what dignity they had been endowed, he the more sharply rebukes the perfidy which was their crime" (Calvin). This name appears also in Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26, and in Isaiah 44:2; but in these places without any implied censure. By some the word is regarded as a diminutive from יָשׂוּר, the same as יָשָׂר, in the sense of rectulus, justulus, "the good little people" (Gesenius); others as a diminutive from יִשְׂרָאֶל, Israel, as a sort of term of endearment (Grotius). But the latter of these derivations is impossible; and as to the former, there lacks evidence of the termination un having a diminutive significance in Hebrew. Besides, neither here nor in Deuteronomy 33:5 would a term of endearment be suitable. Waxed fat, and kicked (cf. Deuteronomy 6:11; Deuteronomy 8:10; Deuteronomy 31:20). The allusion is to an ox that had grown fat through good feeding, and had become unmanageable in consequence (cf. 1 Samuel 2:26 : Hosea 10:4). Lightly esteemed. The Hebrew is strongly expressive here: Thou hast treated as a fool (נִבֵּל, from נָבַל to be foolish (cf. Micah 7:6).
They provoked him to jealousy. God had bound Israel to himself as by the marriage bond, and they by their unfaithfulness had incited him to jealousy (cf. Deuteronomy 31:16; Exodus 34:15; Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 1:1-11; etc.). Strange gods (cf. Jeremiah 2:25; Jeremiah 3:13).
Devils; shedim, a word which occurs only here and Psalms 106:37. It stands connected with the verb שׁוּד, to rule, and means primarily "lords." The LXX. render by δαιμόνια, demons. In Assyrian it is said to be a name for demigods. Not to God; rather, to a not God, a composite term in apposition to shedim; the meaning is rightly given in the margin of the Authorized Version, "which were not God." To new gods that came newly up. The word rendered by "newly" (קָרוֹב) properly means "near;" it is an adjective both of place and of time; here it is the latter, equal to of a near time, recently—gods recently invented or discovered.
Moses here returns to the thought of Deuteronomy 32:15, for the purpose of expressing it with greater force, and also of leading on to the description he is about to give of the Lord's acts towards the nation who had so revolted from him. Thou art unmindful; LXX; ἐγκατέλιπες: Vulgate, dereliquisti. The Hebrew word שָׁיָה occurs only here, and the meaning is doubtful. From the rendering of the versions, it would seem to be allied to the Arabic, see Arabic word, saha, oblitus est. That formed thee; literally, that brought thee forth or caused thee to be born; "qui te eduxit ex utero materno" (Jarchi. Cf. for the use of the verb, Psalms 29:9). In the Samaritan Codex, מהללך, "who hath glorified or praised thee," is the reading, instead of מחללך; and this the Syriac also expresses. The other versions, however, support the Masoretic reading.
Because of their rebellion. God would cast them off and visit them with terrible calamities.
When the Lord saw how they had departed from him to serve idols, he abhorred (rather, spurned or rejected) them in consequence of the provocation which their unworthy conduct had given him.
God himself comes forth to announce his resolution to withdraw his favor from them, and to inflict chastisement upon them; he would withdraw his protecting care of them, and see how they would fare without that; and he would also send on them the tokens of his displeasure. A very froward generation, etc.; literally, a generation of perversities, an utterly perverse and faithless race.
(Cf. Deuteronomy 5:16.) Because they had moved God to jealousy and provoked him to anger by their vanities, their nothingnesses, mere vapors and empty exhalations (הִבְלָים; cf. Jeremiah 10:6; John 2:8; 1 Corinthians 8:4); as they had forsaken him for a no-God, he would send retribution on them by adopting as his a no-people, and giving to a foolish nation, i.e. a nation not before possessed of that true wisdom the beginning of which is the fear of the Lord, the privileges and blessings which Israel had forfeited by their apostasy. By "a no-people" is not to be understood a savage tribe not yet formed into a community, but a people without God, and not recognized by him as in covenant union with him (cf. Romans 10:19; Ephesians 2:12; 1 Peter 2:10).
(Cf. Jeremiah 15:14; Jeremiah 17:4; Lamentations 4:11.) The lowest hell; the lowest sheol, the uttermost depth of the under-world. The Hebrew sheol (שְׁאוֹל) answering to the Greek ἅδης, by which it is usually rendered by the LXX; is a general designation of the unseen state, the place of the dead. By some the word is derived from שָׁאַל, to ask, because sheol is ever asking, is insatiable (Proverbs 30:16); but more probably it is from a root signifying to excavate, to hollow, and, like the German holle, means primarily a hollow place or cavern. The Divine wrath kindles a consuming fire, that burns down to the lowest depths—to the deepest part of sheol—consumes the earth's produce, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. This does not refer to any particular judgment that was to befall the national Israel, but is a general description of the effects of the Divine wrath when that is poured forth in judgments on men.
I will spend mine arrows upon them; I will inflict on them so many calamities that none shall remain. The evils sent on men by God are represented as arrows shot on them from above. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:42; Job 6:4; Psalms 7:13; Psalms 38:2; Psalms 45:5; Psalms 58:7; Zechariah 9:14; Homer, 'Iliad,' 1.45, etc.)
Deuteronomy 32:24, Deuteronomy 32:25
The evils threatened are famine, pestilence, plague, wild beasts, poisonous reptiles, and war. They shall be burnt with hunger, etc.; render: Sucked out by hunger, consumed with pestilential heat, and bitter plague; I will send against them the tooth of beasts and the poison of things that crawl in the dust. When hunger, pestilence, and contagious disease had wasted and exhausted them, then God would send on them wild beasts and poisonous reptiles. Shall be burnt. The Hebrew word occurs only here; it is a verbal adjective, meaning, literally, sucked out, i.e. utterly exhausted; LXX; τηκομένοι λιμῷ. Tooth of beasts and poison of serpents; poetical for ravenous and poisonous animals (cf. Leviticus 26:22). Shall destroy; literally, shall make childless, shall bereave, viz. the land which is thought of as a mother whose children were destroyed. The verb is here sensu prsegnanti, shall bereave by destroying, etc. (cf. 1 Samuel 15:23; Lamentations 1:20; Jeremiah 18:21).
Deuteronomy 32:26, Deuteronomy 32:27
Israel's desert was to be utterly destroyed, but God refrained from this for his own Name's sake. I said, I would scatter them into corners; rather, I should say, I trill blow them away, i.e. disperse them as by a mighty wind. The verb here is the Hiph, of פָאָה, to breathe, to blow, and is found only here. The rabbins make it a denominative from פֵאָה, a corner, and this the Authorized Version follows; others trace it to an Arabic root, פאא, amputavit, excidit, and render, "will cut them off." The idea intended to be conveyed is obviously that of entire destruction, and this is not satisfied by the representation of their being scared or driven into corners. Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy. Various renderings and interpretations of this passage have been given.
1. Were it not that I feared the provocation of the enemy, i.e. that I should be provoked to wrath by the enemy ascribing the destruction of Israel to their own prowess.
2. Were it not that I feared a wrath upon the enemy, with much the same meaning.
3. Were it not that I feared the fury of the enemy, i.e. against Israel—feared lest the enemy should be encouraged to rise up against Israel and ascribe their destruction to their own valor. Of these that most generally approved is the first. (On this reason for sparing Israel, see Deuteronomy 9:28; Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13, etc.; Isaiah 10:5, etc.; Ezekiel 20:13, Ezekiel 20:14.) Should behave themselves strangely; rather, should mistake or falsely pretend. The verb is the Piel of נָכַר, to look upon, to mark, and conveys the idea of looking on askance or prejudicially, hence being ignorant of, mistaking, feigning, or falsely pretending. Our hand is high; rather, was high, i.e. was mighty in power.
The cause of Israel's rejection was that they were a people utterly destitute of counsel and without understanding. Had they been wise, they would have looked to the end, and acted in a way conducive to their own welfare, instead of rushing upon ruin.
Oh that they were wise, that they understood this; rather, If they were wise they would understand this. They would consider their latter end! i.e. the end to which they were going, the inevitable issue of the course they were taking.
If Israel were wise, they could easily overcome all their foes through the help of the Almighty (Le Deuteronomy 26:8); but having forsaken him, they were left by him, and so came under the power of the enemy.
The heathen had also a rock in which they trusted—their idol-gods; but even they knew and felt that their rock was not as the Rock of Israel, for, having often experienced the almighty power of God, they could not but acknowledge that he was mightier far than the gods whom they worshipped (cf. Exodus 14:25; Numbers 33:1-56; Numbers 34:1-29.; Joshua 2:9; 1 Samuel 5:7). Moses is here himself again the speaker.
If the Rock of Israel was so much mightier than the rock of their enemies, how came it that Israel was beaten and put to flight by their enemies? The reason is here given: It was because Israel had become wholly corrupt and vitiated that they were forsaken of the Lord and left to the power of their enemies. Their vine; i.e. Israel itself (cf. Psalms 80:9, etc.; Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1 ). The vine of Sodom. It has been supposed that there is reference here to a particular plant, and different plants have been suggested as deserving to be so named. But it is more probable that Sodom and Gomorrah are here advanced as types of what is depraved, and to the moral taste nauseous (cf. Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14). Gall (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18).
The wine of these grapes is poison and venom. Dragons; tannin (cf. Exodus 7:9, Exodus 7:10). Cruel [deadly] venom of asps. The pethen, one of the most poisonous of snakes, the bite of which was immediately fatal (Kitto, 'Bibl. Cycl.,' 3.494; Smith's 'Dict.,' 1.21). These figures express the thought that Israel had utterly corrupted their way and become abominable; probably also it is intimated that, as they had imitated the impiety of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, they deserved to perish as they did (J.H. Michaelis).
Notwithstanding the iniquity of Israel and the judgments that should come upon them, God would have compassion upon them for his Name's sake, and would appear for their vindication and defense. The "this" in Deuteronomy 32:34 is by some understood of the sinful doings of the Israelites which God should not forget or overlook. So the Targum of Onkelos: "Are not all their works manifest before me, kept against the day of judgment in my treasures?" So also Calvin, "Quanquam de poenis hunc versum quidam exponunt, acsi Deus assereret diversas earum species apud se paratas esse, quas depromat quoties libuerit: rectius tamen est de sceleribus intelligere." But there is a more 'comprehensive reference here. Not only the deeds of the transgressors, but the judgments that should come on Israel, and also God's interposition on their behalf, were laid up in store with him, and sealed up among his treasures. All that had been done had been noted, and all that should happen was decreed, and should certainly come to pass. The "this' has thus both a retrospective and a prospective reference; it includes both the sin of the nation and God's dealing with them afterwards, as well as his judgments on their enemies.
My treasures. God's treasures contain not only a store of blessing, but also instruments of punishment, which as he sees meet, he sends forth on men (cf. Deuteronomy 28:12; Job 38:22, Job 38:23; Psalms 135:7).
Render: Vengeance is mine, and retribution for the time when their feet shall totter; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and that which is prepared for them maketh haste. The tottering of the feet represents the incipient fall. God would manifest himself as the Avenger when their calamity began to come upon them.
The Lord shall judge his people (cf. Psalms 135:14; 1 Peter 4:17). And repent himself for his servants; rather, and have compassion upon his servants. And there is none shut up, or left. The words rendered "shut up or left" are a proverbial expression for "every one, men of all sorts" (cf. 1 Kings 14:10; 1 Kings 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; 2 Kings 14:26); but how the words are to be rendered or explained is uncertain. Rosenmüller renders as in the Authorized Version; Gesenius has, "the shut up and the let go free, the bond and the flee;" so also Furst and De Wette; De Dieu, "married and single, conjugatus et coelebs," referring to the Arabic usage in support of his conclusion, and this Keil approves. Ewald has "kept in (by legal impurity) or at large." The explanation of Gesenius and Furst seems best.
The Lord would show his people the utter worthlessness of idols, and bring them to acknowledge him as the only true God. Their gods; the idols to which Israel had turned, the strange gods which they had foolishly and sinfully preferred to Jehovah.
See now that I am, even I am he. The Hebrew is more expressive, See now that I, I am; LXX; ἴδετε ἴδετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι (cf. Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 48:12; John 8:24 John 18:5). Their own experience of the utter impotency of these idol-gods to help them or to protect themselves from the stroke of the Almighty was enough to convince them that they were no gods, and that he alone was to be feared and worshipped.
Deuteronomy 32:40, Deuteronomy 32:41
These verses should be read continuously: For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, As I live forever, if I whet my glittering sword, and if my hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, etc. Lifting up the hand to heaven was a gesture intended to express that the person taking an oath appealed to God as a witness of his oath, and who would perish for falsehood (cf. Genesis 14:22); and "as the Lord liveth" was a common formula in taking an oath (cf. Num 14:21; 1 Samuel 14:39, 1 Samuel 14:45; Jeremiah 5:2). As God could swear by none greater, he swore by himself (cf. Exodus 6:8; Numbers 14:30; Isaiah 45:23; Jeremiah 22:5; Hebrews 6:17), that if he did come forth to avenge himself of his enemies, he would not spare, but would do thoroughly what he had come forth to do.—Glittering sword; literally, lightning of sword (cf. Ezekiel 21:10 ).
My sword shall devour flesh; literally, shall eat flesh; "the edge of the sword is called its mouth, because, like a mouth, it is said to eat and devour" (Gesenius). From the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. Different renderings of this have been given: LXX; ἀπὸ κεφαλῆς ἀρχόντων ἐχθρῶν, "from the head of the hostile princes;" "from the head of the chiefs of the enemy" (Geseuius, Furst, Rosenmüller); "from the hairy head of the foe" (Keil, Herxheimer, Knobel). פְרַעוֹת, the plural of פֶרַע, hair, locks, signifies primarily hairs, and a head of hairs, and may be taken as equivalent to "a hairy head;" but the word is also used in the sense of "princes" or "chiefs" (probably because such were distinguished by copious flowing locks; cf. Judges 5:2); hence the rendering, "head of the chiefs." The former is to be preferred here, for why chiefs or princes should be referred to in this connection does not appear (cf. Psalms 68:22). The rendering of the Authorized Version is wholly unauthorized. This verse presents an instance of alternate parallelism; each half falls into two members, and of the four members thus constituted, the third corresponds to the first, and the fourth to the second; thus—
a "I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
b And my sword shall devour flesh;
a' With the blood of the slain and the captives,
b' From the hairy head of the foe."
"As this song commenced with an appeal to heaven and earth to give glory to the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:1-3), so it very suitably closes with an appeal to the heathen to rejoice with his people on account of the acts of the Lord" (Keil). Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people. The Authorized Version here follows the LXX; εὐφράνθητε ἔθνη μετὰ τοῦ λαοῦ αὐτοῦ, and so St. Paul cites the passage in Romans 15:10. The Jewish interpreters generally render, Praise his people, O nations; and this several Christian interpreters adopt. But as Rosenmüller remarks, it is the Divine righteousness manifested in the vindication of his people from their enemies that is to be celebrated, and not the people themselves, as what follows shows. Here as elsewhere the nations and the people are in contrast.
Moses, having composed this song, came, accompanied by Joshua, and they together spoke it in the hearing of the people; after which Moses took occasion to urge upon them anew the importance of keeping the commandments of God.
Hoshea the son of Nun. Moses invariably writes this name Jehoshuah (Jehovah is help; cf. Numbers 13:1-33; Deuteronomy 31:3, Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:14, Deuteronomy 31:20, etc.). The use of Hoshea here is due to the fact that this account is part of the supplement added by another writer to the writing of Moses.
(Cf. Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 11:19.)
It is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life; these are not mere empty words; they are of vital import (cf. Deuteronomy 30:20).
On the day on which Moses rehearsed this song in the hearing of the people, his death was announced to him by God, and the command was again given to him to ascend Mount Nebo, thence to survey the Promised Land, and there to be gathered to his people. The same in substance, the command as given here differs slightly in form and in some minor particulars from that as recorded by Moses himself (Numbers 27:12-14).
Abarim (cf. Numbers 21:10, Numbers 21:20). Nebo (cf. Numbers 32:3, Numbers 32:38). An idol Nebo was worshipped by the Moabites (Isaiah 46:1).
And be thou gathered unto thy people. "To Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This signifies," saith R. Isaac, "that he should be associated and joined to the souls of the just who are called his people. For the people of Moses were not buried in Mount Abarim, and therefore he doth not speak of gathering his body to their bodies, but of his soul to their souls ('Chissute Emuna,' 1. 11)" (Patrick).
(Cf. Numbers 20:13, Numbers 20:24.) Because ye sanctified me not (cf. Numbers 27:14; 1 Peter 3:15).
Yet thou shalt See the land (cf. Hebrews 11:13).
God the believer's Rock.
"Forms change: principles neverse" So have we had often to remark in discovering in and developing from this book the everlasting principles which are therein set in archaic forms. The song of Moses here recorded will yield us many illustrations of this kind of teaching. Its first four versos suggest three lines of thought.
I. THERE IS HERE A REVEALED DOCTRINE CONCERNING GOD. In the last song which the old man utters ere he climbs the mount of Nebo to die, he declares, "I will publish the Name of the Lord."
1. This Name is "Jehovah." The word involves self-existence, self-sufficiency, immutability, pure being, personality. "I am that I am" expresses all this. It would be a burning shame for any one to apply the term "anthropomorphic" to such a revelation as this. Such a conception may be revealed to man, but assuredly it borrows naught from him.
2. To this Being, greatness is ascribed; i.e. royal magnificence and splendor. The sovereignty of heaven and earth is there!
3. All moral perfections are in the" Name "of God (cf. Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7).
4. His work is perfect. The revealed attributes of God warrant us in drawing this conclusion. The intention of Moses here is to set the perfection of God's work over against the sin of man's.
5. His ways are judgment; i.e. they are according to justice.
6. He is the Rock. This epithet is a "piece of Mosaic." It was indeed used by others long after. But the use of it began with Moses. On the rocks of Sinai was the Law proclaimed. In the rock-cleft was Moses hidden. From the smitten rock the waters gushed forth. How natural for Moses to apply this figure to the eternal God! In Deuteronomy 32:31, Moses speaks of God as "our Rock." He was known to Israel as theirs, their own firm, changeless ground of strength, through all the changing years!
II. THIS DOCTRINE OF THE LIVING GOD AS THE ROCK IS FRAUGHT WITH COMFORT AND REFRESHMENT FOR MAN (Deuteronomy 32:2); i.e. what the rain is to the herb, what the showers are to the grass, that is this teaching concerning God to the soul of man.
1. Our heart wants God (Psalms 84:2).
2. Such a God—this God is as rain and as dew: refreshing, enlivening, restoring.
3. This doctrine of God is meant to make the heart productive of holiness. God's revelation of himself is meant to draw men to himself; in doing this God saves them!
III. THE DOCTRINE THUS PROPOUNDED DESERVES TO BE UNIVERSALLY HEARD, LISTENED TO, AND BELIEVED. (Deuteronomy 32:1.) Moses would summon all to hear it. It is—
1. For all classes.
2. For all lands.
3. For all the ages.
The day will never come when this doctrine of God will be obsolete—never!
Ungrateful men interrogated.
In almost every clause of this paragraph there is some specific allusion, for the elucidation of which the reader will refer to the Exposition. The commentary of Dr. Jameson thereon is very valuable. Our aim is strictly homiletic. The central words around which the preacher's expository thoughts may gather are these—"Do ye thus requite the Lord?" Three main lines of illustration are suggested.
I. HERE IS A REHEARSAL OF THE DIVINE LOVING-KINDNESS AND TENDER MERCIES.
1. There is the mercy of redemption. "Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee?"
2. There is the mercy of Divine choice of Israel as a people. "Hath he not made thee, and established thee?" (see also Deuteronomy 32:7, Deuteronomy 32:8).
3. There is Divine leadership. "He led him about," etc.
4. There is Divine guardianship. "He kept him as the apple of his eye."
5. There is Divine help and training of the most tender kind. A wonderful description is given thereof in Deuteronomy 32:11.
6. There is abundant Divine provision for the wants of the ransomed ones (Deuteronomy 32:13, Deuteronomy 32:14). Each one of these six points may be enlarged upon, as applicable to present gospel blessings and providential mercies.
II. HERE IS A STRANGE RESPONSE TO SUCH ABOUNDINGS OF MERCY, The burden of Moses here is not unlike that of a far later prophet, even Isaiah (see Isaiah 1:2-4). The moan of many of God's prophets has been the same ever since; it is so now. The contrast between God's bounty and man's perversity causes a grief almost too heavy to be borne. Here are at least five complaints.
1. They are corrupt.
2. They are perverse, or false.
3. They are crooked, twisted.
4. They are foolish, not acting as reasonable men.
5. Instead of being like his children, they are a spot upon them—a stain (see Hebrew).
The question may fairly be asked, Who are they of whom similar complaints may be made now?
1. Those who profess to be the people of God, and who show no signs whatever that their profession is real.
2. Those of God's children who are but half-hearted in their love and zeal.
3. Those who are ready with lip-service, but are grievously defective in Christian morality.
4. Those who have neither yielded themselves to God nor yet made any profession thereof. Of all such, similar complaints may be made to those here laid against Israel of old.
III. HERE IS A REASONABLE QUESTION. It is, indeed, a reproachful one. And if ever the servants of God now take it up and apply it to the heart and conscience of their hearers, it should be done with the utmost tenderness, even unto tears; remembering, on the one hand, how infinitely greater the mercies of God are now, compared with aught that Moses knew; and also considering themselves, how often they have been as ungrateful Israel of old, and that, if it had not been for almighty grace, would have been ungrateful still. The solemn and sorrowful interrogative—"Do ye thus requite the Lord?"—may be pressed home in a series of cumulative inquiries. It may be asked:
1. Is this the natural return for mercies so great?
2. Do not such love and care demand a holy and grateful life?
3. Can any reason whatever justify so poor a response as God has yet received?
4. Have men no remorse in the review of the contrast between God's mercies and their sin?
5. Should not remorse lead on to repentance?
6. And shall not this penitent life begin now? It is quite certain that, though God is long-suffering, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," he will not always allow his mercies to be thus trifled with (see Amos 4:1-13.). But why, why should men compel us to present thus "the terrors of the Lord?" He would rather win by love. Judgment is "his strange work."
God provoked to jealousy by an unfaithful people.
(On the whole subject of "anthropomorphism," which is alleged against the Old Testament representations of the Divine Being, see the Homily on Deuteronomy 32:1-4 of this chapter, and also Homily on Deuteronomy 4:21-24). This paragraph is a continuation of the same theme as that touched on in preceding verses. It not only sets forth the waywardness of the people retrospectively, but also prospectively. In fact, it is more of a prophetic forecast than otherwise. Moses sees the people in the enjoyment of all the blessings of God's providence; he looks onward, and, with the seer's eye, he beholds them in the Promised Land, their wanderings over, and their marches hither and thither exchanged for a settled life in a land of plenty and of delight. There they are prospering abundantly; and if they only used their prosperity aright they would be doubly blessed, even with that blessing which "maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow therewith." But, alas! how different is the picture here drawn! And how precisely did the after-reality answer thereto! There is in these verses a logical order of thought, in the sketch given, first, of Israel's downward course; and then, of the effect of that on the relations between them and their God.
I. HERE IS A GRIEVOUS PICTURE OF SPIRITUAL DEGENERATION IN THE MIDST OF WORLDLY PROSPERITY. There are four steps in the descent.
1. Prosperity generates willfulness, and a resistance to the Divine claims. If men can have their own way entirely, for a while, and secure precisely their own ends, such success, if not sanctified, will but create a self-will and self-assertion stronger than ever. "Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked." The restraints of duty, conscience, God, will be irksome, and will provoke to resistance. Men will "kick against the pricks."
2. Another stage will surely follow on. The irritation which was at first felt will subside, and insensibility will steal over the soul. "Thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick." Stubborn obstinacy without the former stings of conscience. "Past feeling." The terrible symptom of a moral and spiritual paralysis!
3. To this there will follow a third stage. "He forsook God … and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation." Here there sets in a thinking lightly of God altogether, and a forsaking of him. How true is the picture here given to the actual progress of sin in the soul everywhere!
4. To this succeeds not only neglect of God, but the substitution of other gods (Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:17)! This actually came about (see Jeremiah 2:1-37; specially Jeremiah 2:13). The heart of man must have a supreme object of love; and if God be not enthroned in the heart, some rival will be seated there.
Note—How very little all possible worldly good can do for a man unless there is a process of spiritual renewal and culture going on, which will enable him to sanctify all to the highest purposes! Yea, more. If worldly prosperity is not sanctified to God and by him, it will be as a dead weight upon the spirit. It will engender, first resistance, then deadness, then estrangement, then idolatry! This is the sure and certain effect of an accumulation of worldly good, when its possessor is not led by Divine grace to use it wisely and piously. It is an evil much to be lamented that so many glory in the accumulation of things, while neglecting the culture and education of their souls. Why, even in common life, there are no more awkward, ungainly, and impracticable beings than those who have grown rich while neglecting to educate themselves. They have acquired a prodigious strength of self-will, without the knowledge of self-government. And of all men in the world, they are of the least use to their generation.
II. HERE IS A STRANGE EFFECT OF SUCH DEGENERACY ON THE DIVINE BEING. "They provoked him to jealousy" (see remark in "anthropomorphism," ut supra, and also Homily on Deuteronomy 4:24). Of all the attributes or epithets applied to God, there is no one which endears him to us more than this: "jealousy!" What does it mean?
1. That God has a heart of love.
2. That his love yearns to be reciprocated.
3. That the reciprocation of love for which he yearns is the whole undivided love of our hearts.
4. That if such devoted love is not accorded to him, he feels wronged.
5. That if supreme love is bestowed on any other than God, his holy love is outraged; his pure indignation is "jealousy." And consider how great the wrong is which is thus committed against a gracious God. What would an earthly father think if his children, who lived on his bounty, thought only of eating and drinking, and cared not for him? What if the children thought more of their toys than of their father? Ought he not to be jealous? Would he—could he be a good father, and not be jealous? Surely not. It is easy to apply this in such a case. Christ teaches us to learn of the heavenly Father by means of earthly ones. Consider, moreover,
(1) the wrong done to God,
(2) the misplacement of things,
(3) the injustice and injury done to ourselves, and
(4) the injurious effect of wealth, brought about by such misuse of God's benefits.
III. TWO INQUIRIES CANNOT BUT SUGGEST THEMSELVES.
1. How may such evil be guarded against? This question supposes that the evil has not yet been fallen into. "Prevention is better than cure."
(1) Let us regard ourselves as of infinitely more moment than our possessions. What we are is beyond measure of more concern than what we have. Our culture for eternity is of the first importance.
(2) Let us from the outset of life regard God as the Author of all good, and as therefore having the first claim on our regard.
(3) Let us cultivate the devotional habit of receiving all our temporal comforts as from God. If we have used means to secure them, he it is who has given us the means to use; who has given us the power to use them, and who has made those means a success.
(4) Let us seek wisdom from above to hallow all our good for God, and to "honor the Lord with our substance, and with the firstfruits of all our increase" (see Homily on Deuteronomy 14:22).
(5) Conscious of the deceitfulness of the human heart, let us entreat our God to fill us with the power of the Spirit, as well as to give us providential mercies. Then, the first will ensure the sanctification of the second. The larger our possessions, the more we need of the Spirit of God, to ensure their becoming a blessing, and to prevent their becoming a snare.
2. If we have fallen into such evil, how may we be recovered therefrom?
(1) Let the very suggestion that a spiritual paralysis may have stolen over the soul, startle us into the inquiry. Is this the case with us?
(2) Let us inquire solemnly, "What shall it profit a man, if be shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?"
(3) Let us repent before God of the wrong we have done to him in seeking from creature comforts the joy which he alone can give.
(4) Taught by long and sad experience how a perverted nature may pervert all things, let us implore his renewing and sanctifying grace to enlighten our understandings, to regulate our affections, to mold our will, to empower and transform our life. If God fills us by his grace, then will earthly good be sanctified. Our God will be our richest joy of all, and every worldly comfort will yield us double joy, when hallowed by him and for him.
An unfaithful people provoked to jealousy by God.
This paragraph is the antithesis of the preceding one. In form the expressions are archaic. The principles underlying these ancient forms of expression are for all the ages. In fact, there are few of the Old Testament passages which are more pointedly referred to in the New Testament; and none, the principles of which are more frequently reproduced. The various clauses are seriatim explained in the Exposition. We propose but to develop the main thought, which is indicated in the heading of this Homily. Its contents are fourfold.
1. God was provoked to jealousy by his people choosing a no-God instead of him.
2. The time would come when he would, as a punishment to Israel, choose a no-people instead of them.
3. Those who had been exalted in privilege should be deprived of their privileges, and should pass through the bitterest sorrows.
4. At the thought of their privileges passing away from them, and passing on to others, Israel should be provoked to jealousy.
Now, it would be a most instructive and impressive exercise to compare what is here said by God in his Word with that which actually came to pass. What does history say? Does it not confirm Moses at every point? The facts of history are these—
1. The people of Israel did fall away from the God of their fathers, and bring upon themselves the remonstrance of prophet after prophet, and were made in the course of God's providence to suffer sorrow upon sorrow.
2. The time did come when the kingdom of God passed away from them, and when they were no longer, as they once had been, the favored people.
3. That kingdom of God passed over to the Gentiles.
4. At its so passing over, the Jews were exceedingly jealous and angry.
5. So much so was this the case, that Patti makes use of the fact in arguments to quicken both the Jew and the Gentile, as the case may be.
The following passages of Scripture should be carefully compared together, bearing as they do alike on the history, the principles revolved therein, and their everlasting application:—Romans 10:19; Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12; Matthew 21:31, Matthew 21:43; Acts 13:46; Romans 9:30-32; Romans 11:11; Hosea 1:10 (latter part); Romans 9:25,Rom 9:26; 1 Peter 2:10; Ephesians 2:11-13; Romans 11:13-25. From all which several all-important truths of permanent significance may be clearly deduced and powerfully applied.
I. THESE ARE TIMES OF GREAT RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGE WITH US. True, we are not exclusively a favored race, in the same sense as was Israel of old. But our advantages are not less because others share them with us. We have all that Israel ever had, and vastly more. "The kingdom of God is come unto us." The "word of faith" is nigh us, in our mouth and in our heart. We are bidden to "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," etc.
II. IF THESE PRIVILEGES REMAIN UNIMPROVED, OUR NEGLECT THEREOF WILL BE A GRIEVOUS SIN IN THE EYE OF GOD. We have but to read the Epistle to the Hebrews in order to find such an argument as this repeatedly presented, though in varying forms: If the Law of Moses was trifled with by any one, they did not escape punishment. But Jesus Christ is greater than Moses. By as much as he is greater than Moses, by so much are the sin and danger of neglecting him greater than those of neglecting the lawgiver of old.
III. BOTH CHURCHES AND NATIONS HAVE A DAY OF PROBATION GRANTED THEM, DURING WHICH THEIR PRIVILEGES ARE CONTINUED. (See Isa 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Luke 13:6-9; Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:21; Luke 19:42-44.) An unending probation is granted to no one.
IV. IF THE PERIOD OF PROBATION PASSES BY UNIMPROVED, OUR PRIVILEGES WILL BE TAKEN AWAY FROM US.
V. OTHER LANDS AND OTHER PEOPLES ARE READY, YEA, EAGER TO RECEIVE THE LIGHT WHICH SOME APPRECIATE SO LITTLE.
VI. MANY, MANY WILL COME FROM LESS FAVORED LANDS AND FROM LESS CULTURED RACES, AND WILL STEP INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND BE SAVED; while many of the children of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. Hear what our Lord says to the Pharisees: "The publicans and harlots will go into the kingdom of God before you."
The Divine mind influenced by reasons.
Moses, in uttering this song, is "borne along" (2 Peter 1:21) by a power working through him and yet not of him, to make a most remarkable assertion in the Name of Jehovah; viz. that Israel's Deliverer was moved by fear of the wrath of the enemy not to destroy them altogether! How is this to be understood? Some might perhaps pass it over as a piece of obsolete anthropomorphism. So will not we. To us, many a sentence in the grand old volume, which at first sight seemed uncouth and almost repellent in its archaism, has on further study yielded up treasures of delight with which we would not willingly part. Perhaps it may be so here.
Note—The verb "I said," in Deuteronomy 32:26, is rendered by Keil, "I should say." This shows the sense more clearly, "I should say, I will blow them away, I will blot out the remembrance of them among men; if I did not fear wrath upon the enemy [i.e. "displeasure on the part of God at the arrogant boasting of the enemy, which was opposed to the glory of God" (Vitringa, quoted by Keil, in loc.)] that their enemies might mistake it, that they might say, Our hand was high, and Jehovah has not done all rids. For," etc. If we analyze these words, we shall find that they are separable into six main thoughts, expressed or implied.
1. That Israel was a people void of understanding.
2. That they consequently tried the patience of God, as falling very far below his ideal and their duty and honor.
3. That it would have been no great loss to the world if they should therefore be blotted out of being, and should actually drop out of the remembrance of the nations.
4. That if this extreme punishment should be meted out, then the adversary would glory over them and against them, and say that Israel's God either could not or would not guard the people whom he chose: that their enemies were mightier than their Redeemer.
5. That such a result would veil the glory of Jehovah, and make men uncertain whether God had a special people in the world or no.
6. That consequently, for his own sake, God would punish, but in measure; he would scourge, but not destroy. Hence there stands forth this great and glorious truth, God will so govern and discipline his people as to reveal his own glory in them and by them. This is the thought we now propose to develop in a series of considerations arranged according to the structure of the text.
I. GOD HAS AN ISRAEL NOW. (Ephesians 2:1-22.; Hebrews 12:18-28.) The redemption from Egypt, the march through the wilderness, the formation of a commonwealth, the inheritance of Canaan, are all at once symbolic and typical of a greater deliverance, a nobler commonwealth, a spiritual pilgrimage, a heavenly home.
II. During the march of the Church of God through the wilderness of this world, GOD'S PEOPLE OFTEN FALL VERY FAR BELOW THE IDEAL SET BEFORE THEM. They try the patience of God, and excite the wonder, the laughter, and the ridicule of man. Think of what has been done in the name of religion! Think of the sharp controversies, the angry words, and the prolonged strife of Christendom! Think of the number of inconsistent professors, who cause our enemies to laugh among themselves! etc.
III. SO GRIEVOUS HAVE BEEN THE STAINS AND BLOTS THUS BROUGHT ON THE CHRISTIAN NAME, THAT MEN HAVE BEEN TEMPTED EVEN TO THINK THAT GOD'S CHURCH WAS AN INCUBUS IN THE WORLD; yea, that it might, with advantage to mankind, have ceased to exist. For certain it is that the great God could, even if his Church should become extinct, create a purer and nobler people in their stead, who would honor him and bless the world!
IV. MANY OF THE ADVERSARIES ARE WISHING FOR AND SEEKING TO BRING ABOUT THE CHURCH'S EXTINCTION. They would destroy the fellowship by sapping the life thereof. They would sap the life by undermining the faith. And never more eagerly than now—they are at work to educate men into the belief that God never had a people, that the people never had a God, and that all the faith they have been cherishing for ages has been based on a delusion and a lie!
V. IF SUCH A RESULT WERE TO ACCRUE, HOW WOULD THE ENEMY GLORY! They would say, "Our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this." If only the Church should be driven from her moorings, if her anchor of hope should become unusable, and she should be difted out to a wild, pathless, shoreless sea,—what glorying there would be in the enemy's camp! "Ha, ha! so we would have it!" "How would the powers of darkness boast if but one praying soul were lost!"
VI. SUCH A POSSIBILITY IS GUARDED AGAINST IN THE DIVINE COUNSELS. It is just such a provision that is indicated in the text. God will not let the "adversaries behave themselves strangely" in this way. They will never have the chance! The Church is built on a rock, from which it can never be dislodged. The day will never come when it will cease to exist; And ever will God remember the word on which he has caused us to hope!
VII. GOD GUARDS AGAINST ANY SUCH POSSIBILITY, BY DOING WHAT HE DOES FOR HIS OWN SAKE. The revelation of his own honor and glory in the eyes of men is too precious in his eye for him to let things so move on that all trace thereof is lost to his own people (cf. Isa 43:1-28 :45; Ezekiel 36:21, Ezekiel 36:22, Ezekiel 36:32; Psalms 106:7, Psalms 106:8; Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22). See too what argument Daniel uses in prayer (Daniel 9:19). David also (Psalms 25:11).
For the sake of his own honor, God will purify his Church from all corruption by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning; and while thus jealous for his people's purity, he will as jealously watch over them, so that "upon all the glory there shall be a defense" (Isaiah 4:2-6; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:32; 1 Peter 4:17).
1. Let the righteous rejoice, yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. God's supreme aim is that his glory shall he revealed. The bringing of it forth to clear light is the aim and tendency of events, without let or pause.
2. Let all men clearly distinguish between the two providential processes which are ever, ever in process of fulfillment. One, the purification of the Church. The other, the condemnation and confusion of the world.
3. Let the wicked tremble. Or if they are too benumbed to tremble, let them at least cease to make merry over the corruptions of the Church. They may laugh now. They will not laugh always. The severing processes of God's judgment are going on now, and they will issue in "everlasting contempt" to the ungodly, and in the redemption of Israel from all his iniquities!
The short-sightedness of sinners.
"Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" Such is the moan with which this paragraph begins. By "this" is meant the consequence which will certainly follow on their departure from God. By "their latter end" is meant the latter days of their history, when sins which were beforehand in germ should have wrought out to full development. We need not again recount the historical aspects of this serious outlook. We will but note, in a series of consecutive thoughts, the truths which are here indicated, and which are of universal and perpetual application to individuals, families, and nations.
I. IT IS A MARK OF A VICIOUS SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS TO TAKE NO HEED TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF A COURSE OF CONDUCT. If men take no reckoning of their "latter end," it is the reverse of wise. Our Savior asks, "What shall it profit a man?" etc. To take heed only to present appearances and to avoid all preparations for the future, is folly in the extreme.
II. WHETHER WE WILL OR NO, CERTAIN CONSEQUENCES ARE BOUND UP WITH CONDUCT BY A LAW WHICH NO CREATED POWER CAN AVERT OR MODIFY. They may be "sealed up"—hidden from sight at present, but they are "laid up in store" (Romans 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:3).
III. THE MOST HIGH RESERVES TO HIMSELF THE EXECUTION OF HIS OWN LAWS. "To me belongeth vengeance." Vengeance cannot safely be entrusted to frail and passionate man. Only in the hands of "the Judge of all the earth" is there an absolute guarantee that in its infliction there will be neither excess nor defect. No weakness will cause delay or halt. No vindictiveness will induce any variation from the right.
IV. HOWEVER LONG VENGEANCE MAY BE DELAYED, IT WILL NOT BE POSTPONED TOO LONG. "Their feet shall slide in due time." £ Time is on God's side. In the moral world there is not a moment's pause. Character is ripening for good or for ill, and great issues are working out at every tick of the dial.
V. IN THE RIPENING OF CHARACTER AND THE ADVANCED ISSUES OF CONDUCT THERE WILL BE AWFUL RESULTS ON THE SIDE OF EVIL. The figurative expressions in each clause are of terrific significance. They indicate:
1. The failure of the refuge to which they had fled.
2. The collapse of their strength in great emergencies.
3. Bitterness of misery.
4. Venomous poison as the fruit of their vine of Sodom.
Now is the day for accumulating; hereafter will be the day for the manifestation, of these hidden treasures of ill.
VI. THIS DAY OF AWFUL RECOMPENSE WILL COME UPON SINNERS SUDDENLY. "The things that shall come upon them make haste". It is one remarkable feature of the Mosaic outlook, that the lawgiver scarcely ever refers to another life, but to the working out of God's judgments in this. The future life comes into view in the New Testament. The law of sowing and reaping holds good for both worlds (Galatians 6:7).
VII. WITH AN OUTLOOK SO GRIEVOUS, THE THOUGHTLESSNESS OF SINNERS IS AN EVIL GREATLY TO BE LAMENTED. "Oh that they were wise!" etc. (cf. Jeremiah 9:1; Psalms 119:136).
IN CONCLUSION. There is at least a threefold application of the text, which should be made use of to warn men against sin.
1. Those who have to direct or influence national affairs should remember that a wrong policy is a foolish one. No nation will continue to thrive that fights against God.
2. Heads of families should remember that, by a course of disloyalty to God, they are sowing the seeds of dishonor, grief, and shame in their families, and are entailing sorrow on the children of their care.
3. Let each individual learn that whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap, both in this world and in that which is to come. "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!"
Jehovah reigns; be glad!
This paragraph has about it a remarkably martial ring. It is not to be looked at as bald and literal prose. It is part of a song; it is laden with imagery, in which the God of Israel is set forth as a mighty Warrior, whose march none can hinder, whose inflictions none can withstand or evade. The style of the song was precisely appropriate to the age in which it was composed, and suited to the people in whose hearing it was addressed. The truths clothed in such Oriental garb are for all lands and for all time. For though there is an abundance of figure, yet not all is figurative. There are at least two phrases which are plain in their phraseology, and which furnish us with the key for the right interpretation of the others. One of these is found at the beginning of the passage, the other towards its close. The first is in Deuteronomy 32:36, "The Lord shall judge his people." The other is in Deuteronomy 32:43, "Rejoice, O ye nations—his people." £ The former assures us that all the various processes of judgment to which the seer's eye looks forward are in the hands of God. The second calls upon the nations to rejoice therein. Between these two, the varied details in the paragraph fall naturally into place. Our Homily will, therefore, be mainly an answer to one inquiry, viz. What materials for joy are here given us?
It is useless to bid any one to be glad unless a reason is given them why they should be so. A somewhat careful study of the paragraph in hand will show at least eight reasons for holy and grateful joy.
I. It is matter for joy that God reserves in his own hands the judgment of his people (Deuteronomy 32:36). Where else could it safely be? Who else has the power, the wisdom, the justice, the kindness, the knowledge required? If the scepter of power were in any other hands, the guarantee of righteous administration would cease.
II. We may rejoice that in his judging processes God will convince his people of the folly of relying on any but on himself (Deuteronomy 32:37, Deuteronomy 32:38). The reason of the peculiar imagery in these verses every student knows. The underlying thought is clear. It may be a sharp, but it is a necessary discipline, that every prop should give way which would prevent us from leaning on God alone.
III. We may rejoice in the severity with which a righteous God will deal with sin. Severity against sin is mercy towards the sinner (Deuteronomy 32:42). In the early conquest of Canaan, severity towards Aohan and his accomplices was mercy towards Israel. In the early Church, judgment on Ananias and Sapphira was mercy to the Church. In both cases the canker of dishonesty and hypocrisy needed to be cut out by a strong and firm hand.
IV. We may rejoice that the ruling motive and the ultimate intent of God's dealings are love and mercy (Deuteronomy 32:43). Beyond the blackest clouds Moses sees in the horizon light and glory. The twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth chapters of this book, with all their threatenings, are followed by the thirtieth, with all its promises. Wrath in the process, mercy as the product.
V. Let us rejoice that in this law of recompense there is mercy in the educational process therein ensured (see Psalms 62:12). There is a wide difference between a fatherly correction and the infliction of a legal penalty. It is the former which God metes out towards his people. Their relation to him is one of grace, not of bare law.
VI. Let us rejoice that mercy will regulate the mode, the time, and the result of the chastisement, The mode: "Their power is gone," i.e. their false props are destroyed. The time: "He will repent himself," i.e. he will not be wrath forever; when the infliction has answered its end, he will change his dealings. Though God never changes a plan, he may plan a change. The result: "He will be merciful unto his land," etc; i.e. he will be propitious. When his people are brought back from their wanderings, he will "cover" all their sin in eternal forgetfulness.
VII. Let us rejoice in the clear and perfect discrimination which will mark all the Divine dealings with his people and with his adversaries; Deuteronomy 32:43, "vengeance—mercy." Both form part of God's governmental methods. How can it be otherwise in a world of sin? The perfections of Jehovah guarantee that neither will infringe on the other. Tenderness will never weaken vengeance. Vengeance will never lessen tenderness. God alone knows the absolutely perfect adjustment.
VIII. Let us rejoice that the eye of the seer beholds brightness in the far distance. The gloom does but intervene; it does not cover the whole canopy of heaven, nor darken all the outlook. "Light is sown for the righteous." "Joy cometh in the morning" (Deuteronomy 32:43).
Let all these several particulars be woven together, and they will make one glorious pattern—at the sight of which we may well shout aloud for joy.
1. In such a review of the methods and outcome of God's providential dealings only those who are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ are in a position to understand them. Enmity cannot understand love. And where men are "enemies in their mind by wicked works," they are certain to misunderstand God's nature, and to misinterpret his ways. Man's first duty is to repent of sin and obey God. Till he does this the mysteries of God will not be unveiled to him.
2. When we understand something of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, then the true key to the interpretation of providence is in our hands (Romans 8:34). Hence we can "rejoice in the Lord" (Psalms 33:1; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 4:4; Psalms 97:1; Psalms 96:1-13.; Psalms 98:0.).
3. In proportion to the greatness of the love which furnishes the key for unlocking providential mysteries is the greatness of the sin which turns away from and finally rejects God. (See the use of this paragraph in Hebrews 10:30, Hebrews 10:31.) However deep the gloom which Moses depicts, he sees a rim of golden glory in the horizon, as if another dispensation were to follow. But the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews sees no after-light for those who turn away from Christ. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The contest of the sinner with God must end in the guilty one's ignominious and hopeless defeat; Amos 4:12, "Because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel."
Life at stake!
This paragraph-concerning which Keil is probably right in his surmise, that it proceeds from an editor's hand—sets before us in a quiet and incidental way, one of the most important transitions Israel had yet experienced. We have seen in Deuteronomy 31:7, Deuteronomy 31:8, that Moses gave Joshua a charge, and told him that he must lead the people into the Promised Land. After that came the utterance of this song. When it was uttered, Joshua stood side by side with Moses. Thus, just for once, the two leaderships overlap. The joint presence of both the old and new leaders this signifying, that, though the earthly administration changed hands, the same message would be passed, and not a word of Jehovah's would be lost. There are six feature's about this closing public scene of the life of Moses, which open up an invaluable line of thought.
1. Here is an assembly, met to hear Moses' last song.
2. Though it is the last, there is in it nothing new. It is the one message—God's goodness, faithfulness, and love, calling for their reciprocation and obedience.
3. This old message is reimpressed on their hearts.
4. The people were to command their children to observe it. The children were, in their home life, to receive an education for God.
5. This is urged upon them by the consideration that all that is precious to them in life depends on their obedience to God's message.
6. Moses and Joshua appear together before the people, as if to declare to them that the same teachings which the aged leader had laid down, the younger one would accept, enforce, and transmit. There was a change in human leaders, but not in Divine laws or the Divine message. And to all the solemn sanctions with which Moses guarded the Law, Joshua here pledges himself before the people and before his God. Hence we get this theme—Amid all changes we have an unchanging message from above, on the observance of which our life depends.
I. Let us clearly declare and show that there is at this moment a message of law and a revelation of grace, which have come to us, not of man, but by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, by the manifestation of God in Christ, and by the power of the Holy Ghost on and since the day of Pentecost. This message is, in sum and substance, given in John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15; Revelation 22:17; Titus 2:11-13. This message is the development of that which through Moses was given but in germ (John 5:46, John 5:47; Matthew 5:17).
II. Here past and present generations meet, giving out the same words. We have now "the faith once [for all] delivered unto the saints." Aged patriarchs in their declining years do reiterate the same message they gave when in the vigor of youth. And young men, filled with the same spirit, and having their hearts kindled with the same fire, take it up with the earnest hope and prayer that it may suffer no loss in their hands! Often have a Moses and a Joshua thus stood side by side.
III. The message now is far fuller and clearer than it was when given to Israel of old. How much, Christian preachers and teachers can tell. Yet in three respects they are similar.
1. Both reveal the love of God, and recount a great deliverance.
2. Both solicit, in Heaven's name, the response of the peoples' hearts (see Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Romans 5:8).
3. Both require, on the ground of Divine love to man, love to the redeemed brotherhood, and good will to all men (1 Corinthians 13:1-13.; John 4:10-19).
IV. The commanding force of the gospel message through our Lord Jesus Christ is far greater than that sent through Moses. True, there was terror at Sinai; there is tenderness in Calvary. Moses orders; Jesus pleads. Moses speaks in thunderings; Jesus with tears. Yet must we not mistake tenderness for weakness, nor gentleness for lack of authority or of power. (See the entire argument in the Epistle to the Hebrews.)
V. All that can give fullest value to this life and joy to the next, depends on how we treat this message from God. "It is not a vain thing for you; it is your life" (verse 47). The expansion of this would require many Homilies. We can but hint.
1. The enjoyment of peace with God (Romans 5:1).
2. The growth of character in holiness.
3. The true enjoyment and use of this earthly life, as families, as nations, as individuals, depend on loyalty to God. "Godliness is profitable unto all things; having promise of the life that now is."
4. All our hope for the next life depends on our response to God; hence the close of the verse just quoted—"and of that which is to come." Apart from the acceptance of Jesus Christ by faith, and a life of loyalty to God, there is not a gleam of light or hope for the next life (see Hebrews 2:3). If God did not allow his message through Moses to be slighted with impunity, certainly he will not suffer men to "trample under foot the Son of God," and then leave them unpunished!
VI. What dread, what awful possibilities as to the fate of immortal souls are trembling in the balance, while they refrain from "yielding themselves unto God!" How earnestly and frequently may we with reason reiterate the words, "It is your life!" All that ensures life here and hereafter being a blessing, depends on the way men treat Jesus Christ and his salvation.
VII. However many changes there may yet be in the bearers of this message, yet, down to the end of time, God will never send a greater. Moses and Joshua. The old generation passing away, the new coming on the stage. They meet and greet. The faithful and tried veteran passes on the word. The younger messenger, with solemn vow to God before his brother man, receives it, and swears before high heaven that he will maintain the message unimpaired, and in his turn "commit it to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."
"Thus shall the bright succession run,
Till the last courses of the sun."
Death immediately in view.
The utterance of the sublime song which we have just treated on, was the last recorded public act of Moses. His work is all but done. He receives an intimation that the time is nigh at hand for him to "go up and die." The circumstances which gather round that death are most suggestive. The following passages should be compared together:—Numbers 20:12; Numbers 27:12-14; Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:23-28; Deuteronomy 4:21, Deuteronomy 4:22; Psa 106:1-48 :82. Historically, the following points are indicated in this paragraph:—
1. Moses recognized the call to die, as well as the call to work, as from God; Psalms 106:48, "The Lord spake," etc.
2. His joy in death would be checked by the remembrance of faults in life (verse 51). It is by no means clear to us why so severe a sentence was imposed on Moses for one outburst of temper. Dr. Jameson suggests that there may have been other circumstances, which are unrecorded, to account for it. Possibly, however, the phrases, "for your sakes," "for their sakes," furnish a clue to the reason. The people might need thus to be guarded against presumptuous sin.
3. Visions of the glorious land in store for God's people would be granted him ere he quitted the earth. His joy would be rich, though not unalloyed (verse 52).
4. The work which he had thus far carried forward must be completed by other hands. This is implied, and elsewhere expressed.
5. Moses, like the saints of God who went before him, must plunge into the unknown realm. He must "be gathered unto his people," as Aaron had been (verse 50).
6. He would do so under the eye of the same God whom he so long had served. Till the very last he lives in fellowship with God. At the last he will die in fellowship with him.
No Christian expositor can fail to take note of the different aspect which death has to believers, since "life and incorruption" have been brought to light by Jesus Christ. The believer, at death, enters the invisible world. The names for it are "Sheol" and "Hades." The former is a Hebrew word, the latter Greek. Both mean (practically) the same, though they present the mysterious realm of the departed under different aspects. To the Hebrew it is the all-demanding world. To the Greek, the unknown region. In the New Testament (Revised Version) the word Hades is reproduced. But though the word is reproduced, its meaning is changed. The heathen view of Hades was that of a mysterious under-realm of the dead—gloomy and without hope. The Jewish view of Sheol (LXX. Hades) was also that of a mysterious under-realm—gloomy, but with a hope of glory "in the awaking' (Psalms 17:15). The Christian view of Hades is that of an invisible realm of departed souls, who are entirely under the mediatorial administration of the Son of God; a region without gloom, of perfect rest and of glorious hope for the believer. "Absent from the body: at home with the Lord." "Whether we live or die, we continue to be the Lord's." Let us thankfully make use of this new light which Christ has thrown on the death of believers, in meditating on" Christian dying."
I. THE CHRISTIAN IS ABSOLUTELY AT THE DISPOSAL OF HIS LORD, FOR WORK OR FOR REST, FOR LIVING OR FOR DYING. (Revelation 14:9; Philippians 1:20.) He will be prepared to say, "Lord, it belongs not to my care, whether I die or live." Work is worth doing only so long as Christ has it for us to do. Life is worth living only as we can serve Christ thereby.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S JOY IN DEATH MUST SURELY BE CHECKED AT THE THOUGHT OF NUMBERLESS DEFECTS, FAILURES, AND FAULTS IN LIFE. Whether or no there have been any such serious outbreaks as that of Moses, there must come rushing into memory so much defective work, so much mixed motive, such an utter lack of anything done or said which rose up to even his own ideal, that he would despair of his future, if it were not for the abounding grace of God; and even then, though this grace keeps him from sinking, and he may feel assured that his sin is forgiven, yet it must bring a shade over his spirit to think there has been so much for which he needed forgiveness!
III. ACTIVE WORKERS AND LEADERS IN GOD'S CHURCH OFTEN LAY DOWN THEIR WORK WITH A STRANGE FEELING OF INCOMPLETENESS. Moses had brought the people thus far, just to the verge of the Promised Land I He would gladly have finished the work. But it was well for Moses to feel how entirely the work was of God and not of man. How many a worker would like to see this or that controversy closed, this or that Church settled, this publication completed, this convert a little more-established in the faith! But no. It is as God wills, and that will is best.
IV. THOUGH GOD SUFFERS THIS SHADE OVER LIFE'S CLOSING HOURS, YET HE OFTEN CHEERS HIS SERVANTS BY BRIGHT VISIONS OF THE GLORY WHICH IS IN STORE FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. Verse 52, "Thou shalt see the land before thee." Yes, and Moses knew that, though he must leave the work incomplete, there was yet a great future for God's Church, when the wilderness life was over. And so now. However decided may be the sense of unfinished work, with which God's servants close their earthly career, they have no misgiving as to God's finding others by whom the work will be carried on, nor have they a doubt as to the future triumphs of Christ and his cause. From the top of faith's Pisgah, they "see the laud before them," and though it lieth afar off, yet the sight ravishes them. Lo! "a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
V. MEANWHILE, THE SAINT MUST BREATHE HIS LAST BREATH, AND QUIT HIS HOLD OF EARTH, ENTER THE "GATES OF HADES" (Matthew 16:18, Greek), AND FIND HIS PLACE, TILL THE LORD COMES, IN THE INVISIBLE WORLD. Like Moses, he must be "gathered to his people;" but he knows a great deal more than it is probable Moses did, of what that means. The words in Revelation 1:18 are enough for faith, till God reveals the rest.
VI. HE WILL DO SO, LIKE MOSES, UNDER THE EYE AND CARE OF THE SAME GOD WHOM HE HAS SERVED IN LIFE. By directions from God, Moses would go up to die. And what he thought thereon may be gathered from the words of his own blessing. "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Moses would not—could not fail to take the comfort of all this for himself. We have a like comfort more clearly given (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Once Christ's we are never out of his hands!
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Moses was directed to instruct the people by composing for their use a song (Deuteronomy 31:19, Deuteronomy 31:21). A song is:
2. Easily handed down from mouth to mouth.
3. Of singular power to awaken sympathetic feeling (cf. influence of ballads, of Jacobite songs, of the 'Marseillaise,' of popular hymns). The action of song is not violent, but gentle and persuasive. It steals about the heart like rippling water or like sunlight, trickles into its pores, works as if by spirit-influence on its seats of laughter and tears, explores its innermost labyrinths of feeling. Here compared (Deuteronomy 32:2) to the gently distilling dew and rain.
I. THE DEW AND RAIN AS EMBLEMS OF THE TEACHING MOST LIKELY TO PROVE EFFECTIVE. Their action is:
(4) kindly; yet:
1. Invigorative. They revive, refresh, stimulate.
2. Powerful Rocks shattered by drops of water in their pores and crevices.
3. Deep-reaching. They act on plants by watering their roots. Take a lesson from them. It is not the best kind of teaching which is loud and violent, which tries to force men's convictions. Convictions must have time to grow. Teaching must be loving. The earthquake, the whirlwind, the fire, have their own place, but "the still small voice" is needed to succeed them. The Lord is peculiarly in that. Angry scolding, petulant rebuke, biting censure, clever satire, seldom do much good. Love alone wins the day.
II. THE DEW AND RAIN AS EMBLEMS OF THE TEACHING MOST SUITABLE IN THE INSTRUCTIONS OF RELIGION. Moses employed it here. Christ employed it. "He shall not strive nor cry," etc. (Matthew 12:19). Paul commends "truthing it in love" (Ephesians 4:15). "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (2 Timothy 2:24, 2 Timothy 2:25). This kind of teaching harmonizes best:
1. With the subject of religion—"the Name of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 32:3). God had revealed his Name to Moses (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7), and the attributes of mercy preponderate.
2. With the end of religion—the ascription of greatness to God (Deuteronomy 32:3). Religious teaching fails if it does not inspire men with such convictions of God's greatness as will lead them to fear, honor, worship, praise, and serve him.
3. With the special theme of the gospel—peace, love, good will to men. This song of Moses has to deal with stern truths, but even in its sternest passages it breathes the pathos of tender and sorrowful affection. It dwells largely on God's kindnesses and the people's ingratitude, and ends with loving promises. The song has numerous echoes in Isaiah.—J.O.
God the Rock.
(Cf. Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:31, Deuteronomy 32:37.) This name for God occurs chiefly in this song of Moses, and in the compositions of David and of later psalmists. It was a name full of significance to those familiar with the desert. Rock—rock—rock—Israel had seen little else during the thirty-eight years of wandering. The older men could remember the seclusion and granitic sublimity of the rock sanctuary of Sinai. The congregation had mourned for Aaron under the shadow of Mount Hor, "rising high aloft into the blue sky, like a huge, grand, but shattered rock-city, with vast cliffs, perpendicular walls of stone, pinnacles, and naked peaks of every shape." They had witnessed the security of Edom in the hills in which now stand the wondrous rock-hewn ruin of Petra. They had traversed the defiles of the terrible and precipitous Arabah. When David was hunted in the wilderness, he, too, was often led to think of God, his Rock (Psalms 18:2; Psalms 61:2; Psalms 62:2, Psalms 62:7, etc.). It is wilderness experience which still makes the name so precious.
I. ROCK A NATURAL IMAGE OF DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. The image is not an arbitrary one. Nature abounds in shadows of the spiritual. It is what the mind puts into the objects of its survey which makes them what they are. "The Alps and Andes are but millions of atoms till thought combines them, and stamps on them the conception of the everlasting hills. Niagara is a gush of water-drops till the soul puts into it that sweep of resistless power which the beholder feels. The ocean, wave behind wave, is only great when the spirit has breathed into it the idea of immensity. If we analyze our feelings, we shall find that thought meets us wherever we turn. The real grandeur of the world is in the soul which looks on it, which sees some conception of its own reflected from the mirror around it; for mind is not only living, but life-giving, and has received from its Maker a portion of his own creative power" (Dr. John Ker). Rock is thus more than rock—its awfulness, grandeur, immovability, everlastingness, strength, are born of spiritual conceptions. These attributes do not in reality belong to it. Rock is not everlasting, moveless, abiding, etc. Old rocks are being worn away, new rocks are being formed; the whole system had a beginning and will have an end (Psalms 90:2). It is not that these attributes belong to rock, and are thence by metaphor attributed to God; but these attributes of God, being dimly present in the mind, are by metaphor attributed to rock. We clothe the natural object with shadowy attributes of Deity. God is the true Rock, the other is the image. God is rock, in virtue of:
1. The eternity of his existence (Psalms 90:2).
2. The omnipotence of his might (Daniel 4:35).
3. The wisdom of his counsel (Isaiah 40:13).
4. The immutability of his purpose (Psalms 33:11; Isaiah 46:10).
5. The faithfulness of his Word (Psalms 119:89, Psalms 119:90).
6. The rectitude of his government (Psalms 145:17). Whence:
7. The perfection of his work. Christ is like the Father, eternal (Revelation 1:11), unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8), all-powerful (Matthew 28:18), faithful (John 13:1; John 14:18-20), righteous (Revelation 19:11), wise (Isaiah 9:6).
II. ROCK A NATURAL IMAGE OF WHAT, IN VIRTUE OF HIS ATTRIBUTES, GOD IS TO HIS PEOPLE.
1. A shelter (Psalms 61:3).
2. A defense (Psalms 18:2; Psalms 62:6).
3. A dwelling-place (Psalms 90:1).
4. A shadow from the heat (cf. Isaiah 32:2).
5. A move-less standing-ground (Psalms 40:2).
6. A foundation (cf. Matthew 7:24). The rock smitten in the wilderness furnishes the additional idea of:
7. A source of spiritual refreshment.
Apply throughout to Christ, the Rock on which his Church is built (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 2:11), the smitten Savior (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 John 5:6), the spiritual Refuge and Salvation of his people (Romans 8:1, Romans 8:34-39). Toplady's hymn, "Rock of Ages."—J.O.
God's righteousness and man's iniquity.
The sin of man is only fully seen in contrast with God's righteousness and love. The light is needed to bring out the depth of the shadow. It reveals the "spot."
I. GOD'S FAVOR TO ISRAEL. God's dealings with Israel had been marked by:
1. Rectitude (Deuteronomy 32:4). He had done everything that was just and right to them. His ways had been equal. He had given them just statutes. His covenant-keeping faithfulness had been signally manifested. There was not the shadow of a pretence for accusing God of injustice or of infidelity to his engagements.
2. Love. Love and grace had been more conspicuous in his treatment of them than even justice. It was shown in their election, in the deliverance from Egypt, in the guidance of the desert, in pardon of offences, in the many and undeserved favors which had been heaped upon them (cf. Deuteronomy 32:9-14). Rectitude and love have reached their fullest manifestation in the gospel. The cross displays both. It harmonizes their apparently conflicting claims, and exhibits them in new glories. God's character, revealed in Christ, is the condemnation of an unbelieving world.
II. ISRAEL'S REQUITAL OF GOD'S KINDNESS. (Deuteronomy 32:5, Deuteronomy 32:6.) Their requital was an incredibly base one. They corrupted themselves. They wantonly departed from the ways of right. They behaved ungratefully. Instead of imitating God in the example of rectitude he had set them, and walking before him "as dear children," they flung to the winds the remembrance of his mercies, and brought disgrace upon his Name. He was their Father (Deuteronomy 32:6), but instead of reflecting the features of his image, they dishonored and discredited it (cf. Isaiah 1:2-4, which appears to be based on this passage). Their sin was:
1. Self-caused. There was nothing which they had seen in their God to cause it, to account for it, or to excuse it.
2. Irrational. Their powers, given by God, ought willingly to have been devoted in his service. Obedience is the normal condition. Heaven and earth, undeviatingly obeying the law of their existence, condemn man's apostasy (Deuteronomy 32:1). The very brute creation testifies against him (Isaiah 1:3).
3. Ungrateful. God had bought them for himself, had made a nation of them, and established them in Canaan. Yet, without compunction, they cast off his yoke.
4. Foolish; for the way they chose was the way of death, whereas in God's favor was life (Deuteronomy 32:47), with every blessing that heart could wish for. The same remarks apply to sinners—despising the gracious overtures which God makes to them, with all the favors, temporal and spiritual, he has actually shown them, and careering on to their eternal ruin. "O foolish people and unwise!"—J.O.
The world ruled for the benefit of the Church.
What this verse asserts is that in the providential distribution of the nations, and assignment to them of their special territories, respect was had from the beginning to the provision of a suitable dwelling-place for the chosen race. Our subject is—The government of the world conducted with a view to the interests of the Church.
I. A TRUTH FREQUENTLY TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE. Both by facts of history, and by express statement. Israel's position brought it into contact, not only with petty neighboring states, but with the mightiest empires of East and West. These appear in Scripture only as they affect the chosen race, but it is then made manifest how entirely their movements are directed and controlled by Divine providence. And the center of God's purposes is always Israel. "For your sake," says God, "I have sent to Babylonia, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships" (Isaiah 43:14; cf. Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 43:4). Is Egypt visited with famines—with scarce years and good years? The design is the working out of a certain plan in the chain of God's appointments for Israel. Is a Cyrus raised up in Persia? God saith of him, "He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure," etc. (Isaiah 44:28). So is it throughout. Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, appear in all their relations with Israel as ministers of the Divine will, as simple executors of the Divine purposes, and their power is strictly limited by their commission. In harmony with this prophetic teaching are the express testimonies of the Epistles (e.g. Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 3:9-11).
(2) history, are ruled for the benefit Of the Church.
II. A TRUTH IN ITSELF REASONABLE. Once admit the goal of history to be the establishment on earth of a universal spiritual kingdom—a gathering together in one of all things with Christ as Head (Ephesians 1:10), and it is certain that herein must lie the key to all historical developments, the explanation of all arrangements and movements of Divine providence. The center of interest must always be that portion of the race with which for the time being the kingdom of God is identified. "Just as, in tracing the course of a stream, not the huge morasses nor the vast stagnant pools on either side would delay us: we should not, because of their extent, count them the river, but recognize that as such, though it were the slenderest thread, in which an onward movement might be discerned; so is it here. Egypt and Assyria and Babylon were but the vast stagnant morasses on either side of the river; the Man in whose seed the whole earth should be blessed, he and his family were the little stream in which the life and onward movement of the world were to be traced They belong not to history, least of all to sacred history, those Babels, those cities of confusion, those huge pens into which by force and fraud the early hunters of men, the Nimrods and Sesostrises, drove and compelled their fellows … where no faith existed but in the blind powers of nature and the brute forces of the natural man" (Archbishop Trench).
III. A TRUTH FRAUGHT TO THE CHURCH WITH COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT.
1. When the powers of the world are threatening.
2. In times of internal decay.
3. Under long-continued trials.—J.O.
A panorama of grace.
How Israel was found, led, taught, kept.
I. WHERE GOD FOUND HIM. (Deuteronomy 32:10.) Partly metaphorical—the state of Israel in Egypt being likened to that of a man perishing in the desert; partly literal—it being in the desert that God found the people when he took them into covenant. An image of the helpless and hopeless condition of the sinner. Cut off from life, without shelter, provision, resting-place, or final home.
II. HOW GOD DEALT WITH HIM. (Deuteronomy 32:10, Deuteronomy 32:11.) That Israel was kept in the wilderness so long was his own fault. But grace overruled the discipline for good. The long sojourn in the desert made Israel's case, also, a better type of our own. There are ends to be served by this sojourn (John 17:15). God showed himself:
1. Condescending to Israel's feebleness (Hosea 11:3, Hosea 11:4).
2. Mindful of his ignorance. "Instructed him."
3. Watchful of his safety. "Kept him."
4. Careful of his training (Deuteronomy 32:11).
The love and solicitude implied in such phrases as, "kept him as the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10), and "as an eagle stirreth up," etc. (Deuteronomy 32:11), specially deserve notice. The apple of the eye is a sensitive part, which we protect with the utmost care, and from the slightest injuries. (On the eagle, see below.)
III. WHITHER GOD CONDUCTED HIM. (Deuteronomy 32:13, Deuteronomy 32:14.) To a land of plenty and rest. Made his defense the munitions of rocks. Provided him with all that heart could desire. So does God bring the believer to a large and wealthy place—a place of "fullness of joy," of richest satisfactions, of most perfect delights. Spiritually, even here, where the most unpropitious circumstances yield him unexpected blessings. Eternally and in perfected form hereafter. Note: God alone did all this for Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:12).—J.O.
"The description is of a female eagle exciting her young ones in teaching them to fly, and afterwards guarding with the greatest care lest the weak should receive harm" (Gesenius). In this picture of the eagle's treatment of her young, note—
I. HER AIM. She aims at teaching them self-reliance. It is not God's wish that his children should go in leading-strings. They must be trained to prompt, fearless, self-reliant action. This was an aim of the discipline of the wilderness. Our action is to be in a spirit of dependence, but it is to be active, not passive dependence.
II. HER METHOD. She stirs up her nest. She does not leave her brood to the ignoble ease they would perhaps prefer. So God rouses his people to action by making their place uneasy for them. By placing them in trying situations, by removing comforts, by the stimulus of necessity, by the sharp provocation of afflictions, he goads them to think, act, and put forth the powers that are in them. It is not for the good of Christians that they should have too much comfort.
III. HER CASE. The experiment is not carried to the point of allowing the young to hurt themselves. She hovers over them, supports them on the tip of her wings, etc. God tries us, but not beyond our strength.—J.O.
I. A GOOD NAME BELIED. Jeshurun, equivalent to righteous. An honorable name, but sadly falsified by the conduct described. How many Jeshuruns have thus forsaken the God of their early vows! Notice, a good name is of no account without the good character. Balaam praised Israel's righteousness, and wished to "die the death of the righteous" (Numbers 23:10, Numbers 23:21); but it is the being righteous, not the being called so, which makes the happy deathbed.
II. As EVIL EFFECT OF PROSPERITY. "Waxed fat—kicked." How common! The effect foretold or warned against in earlier chapters (Deuteronomy 8:12-18, etc.). Prosperity, then pride, then stubborn self-willedness. The self willed heart refuses to submit to God's government; throws off the memory of past obligations, and treats God with ill-concealed indifference and dislike; turns from the true God to gods of its own choosing. Two steps in the great apostasy—forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out broken cisterns, etc. (Jeremiah 2:13). Such conduct is
(4) fatal (Deuteronomy 32:22-25).
III. RESULT OF AS ITCH FOR NOVELTY. (Deuteronomy 32:17.) The newness of the gods was a chief attraction. The worship of them was a change, a novelty. It pleased them by variety.
1. When God has been abandoned, men are at the mercy of the most trivial influences. "Itching ears"—"every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:2).
2. When God has been abandoned, novelty is greedily accepted as a substitute for truth, in theories, in creeds, in styles of worship, in religious nostrums.
3. Apostasy from God means transference of the affections to that which is degrading. In this case to "destroyers," so the word means; devils, malignant deities. But we worship devils, or the devil (Matthew 4:9), when we bow in spirit to the world's modes and shows; when we serve gold, or fashion, or the opinion of society; when we are slaves to lust of power; when we bow to a false ghosts, etc.—J.O.
A God provoked.
I. THE REALITY OF WRATH IN GOD. Let it not be minimized or explained away. "Instead of being shocked at the thought that God is wrathful, we should rather ask, With whom? and For what? A God without wrath, and a God who is wrathful on other accounts than for sin, is not a God, but an idol" (Hengstenberg). It is only, as this writer observes, when "man himself is not displeased with sin, when it assumes to him the appearance of a bagatelle," that he no longer perceives why God should feel wrath at it. But man, we may observe, is by no means disposed to treat lightly sins against himself. He never feels that he does not "do well to be angry" on account of these or against the person who does them. A very slight wound to his honor makes him clamor for satisfaction. A God who is incapable of moral indignation would be equally incapable of moral love, and could not, with truth, be spoken of as dispensing mercy. Wrath and love are opposite poles of one affection. Where there is no offence, there needs no forgiveness.
II. WRATH IN GOD, WHEN IT BURNS AGAINST MEN, IS TERRIBLE IN ITS EFFECTS. Two aspects of its operation:
1. Leaving men to themselves (Deuteronomy 32:20). When God hides his face from them, there need be little doubt what the "end" will be. Yet can the sinner complain if he is at length permitted to eat the fruit of the devices which nothing will persuade him to give up?
2. Heaping on them positive inflictions (Deuteronomy 32:22-25). It is a fire, burning to destroy them. It is noteworthy that the conflagration of the Divine wrath is represented as not only taking in sheol, but as widening till it embraces the whole earth (Deuteronomy 32:22). This, in connection with the glimpse at the calling of the Gentiles in Deuteronomy 32:21, points to the future universal extension of the outward dispensation of grace. The extension of the kingdom of God brings all nations within the range of the Messianic judgment (Matthew 25:31). The wrath of God is not represented in less terrible colors in the New Testament than it is in the Old. The individualized description of these verses (Deuteronomy 32:24, Deuteronomy 32:25) figures out terrors of a future life too painful to allow the mind to dwell upon them.
III. WRATH IN GOD IS, IN THIS LIFE, NOT DIVORCED FROM MERCY. Not at least so long as hope of recovery remains. He would fain make punishment subservient to conversion. This is the thought in Deuteronomy 32:21. Israel is not cast off forever. God is seeking to provoke it to jealousy by a transference of his regard to the Gentiles. His retaliation has a merciful as well as a wrathful design. Mercy waits on every sinner, courting his repentance.
IV. THE MANIFESTATION OF WRATH IN GOD IS LIMITED BY REGARD TO HIS HONOR. (Deuteronomy 32:26, Deuteronomy 32:27.) God is jealous of his honor. He will take from his adversaries the power of boasting against him, by marvelously restoring those who, had they received their full deserts, would have been utterly destroyed. This stays his hand from expending his wrath against them to the uttermost. We may read this otherwise, and say that zeal for his honor leads God to spare them, that he may glorify his Name by causing mercy to rejoice over judgment. There is more honor to God in saving men than in destroying them.
And what provokes this wrath in God? Sin—sin only. Most especially the sins of his own people.
1. "No faith"—want of fidelity to vows.
2. "Frowardness" persistence in sin (Deuteronomy 32:20).
Those who have stood in nearest relations to him, who have enjoyed most favors, are those who will be most severely punished (Amos 3:2).—J.O.
Deuteronomy 32:28, Deuteronomy 32:29
The true wisdom.
I. IN WHAT WISDOM CONSISTS.
1. The choice of right ends.
2. Of right means to secure these ends.
3. In harmony with a just and proportioned view of all the circumstances of our situation.
When essential circumstances are omitted in the calculation, when the horizon is unduly narrowed, when all-important factors of the situation are left wholly out of account,—it is vain to speak of wisdom. Absolutely, and as regards our standing as moral beings, wisdom embraces:
1. The choice of a true end, i.e. the choice, as our end in life, of that end for which we were created.
2. The practical sharing of conduct with a view to that end, and in the way best calculated to attain it. And this:
3. In view of all the circumstances of the case, i.e. with right apprehensions of God, of the issues of moral conduct, of eternity. What wisdom is more to be desired than this? What efforts ought to be put forth to attain it! What incalculable value ought to be set upon it!
II. SIN IS THE ABSOLUTE UNWISDOM.
1. For the true end of life it substitutes a false one. The end for which we were made was holiness—the service of God with all our powers of soul, body, and spirit. In this consists our life, our happiness, our well-being. In pursuit of this end, our nature works harmoniously with itself, and With the general constitution of the world. But sin substitutes for this an end which violates, disturbs, perverts the harmony of every sphere of our existence. It asserts a false independence of the creature. It bids us use our powers for self, and not for God. It holds up as an end a shadowy good which is never realized. It cheats with insincere promises. By perverting the nature, it gives to fleshly lusts a tyrannical predominance, and degrades the spirit to the position of a bondservant. For unity there is thus established anarchy—each lust, as its own master, seeking an independent gratification. Life in this way falls asunder—it has a proper end no longer—and the strife continues till a new equilibrium is established by one lust or passion usurping the mastery over the rest.
2. For the true conduct of life it substitutes a course of conduct resting on false bases. The false end yields its natural fruit in false principles of life. The sinner's whole career, whatever he may think of it himself, is one tissue of errors and illogicalities. If measured by the end he ought to set before him, it is seen to be a course leading him wildly and hopelessly astray. The more skillfully and assiduously he applies himself to his ends, only the more conspicuously does he convict himself of folly.
3. Instead of taking all the factors of the case into account, it usually leaves God and eternity out of it. This is that which most convincingly brands the sinner's course as folly. If God exist, and if he have the power to bless or blast our schemes, and if in the end we have to meet him as our Judge,—it surely cannot be wisdom to leave this fact unnoticed. So, if we are beings made for eternity, destined to exist forever, he must be a fool who makes preparations for everything but for eternity. If, again, the issues of obedience and sin are on the one hand life, and on the other death, he must be insane who deliberately makes a preference of the latter. Even if the choice is not deliberately made, but the eyes are kept closed to the issues, this does not alter the unwisdom of the choice itself. We can see, therefore, how a man may be most wise as regards this world, and yet the veriest fool as regards the whole scope of his existence. He may be gifted, talented, energetic, a shrewd man of the world, sagacious in pursuit of earthly ends, yet totally blind to his eternal interests. He may be neglecting the "one thing needful," making no preparation for a hereafter, missing the end of his existence, treasuring up wrath and sorrow for himself at the end. "Thou fool!" was the stern word of Heaven to a man who, in earthly respects, was probably deemed very wise (Luke 12:20). Men are fools who neglect the voice of religion.—J.O.
The superiority of the believer's Rock.
Few men but feel that they need a rock of some kind. Only when their mountain stands very strong do they feel as if they were absolutely secure and independent (Obadiah 1:3, Obadiah 1:4). Even then their trust is in acquired power and riches, which is a "rock" to them, though their confidence often proves delusive (Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, Wolsey). When men have lost faith in religion, they frequently take refuge in the "rock" of philosophy. The "rock" of the heathen is their idols and the arts of the soothsayer. Men tend to make a "rock" of those superior to them in power and wisdom. The "rock" of nations is too often their military and naval defenses, with arts of diplomacy, and alliances with stronger powers (Isaiah 30:1-33.). The believer's Rock, which is the best of all, is God.
I. THE SUPERIORITY OF THE BELIEVER'S ROCK EVINCED.
1. From the nature of this Rock. Grant that God is, a Being, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable wise in his counsel, omnipotent in his power, faithful in his promises, righteous in his actions, infinitely gracious and merciful to those who put their trust in him, a "strong Rock," "an House of defense" to save them (Psalms 32:7), a "Hiding-place" to preserve them from trouble (Psalms 32:7),—and the superiority of this Rock to every other needs no further demonstration. It is self-evidently impossible to have a surer or a better. What can man ask more than that the "eternal God" should be his "Refuge," and that underneath him should be the "everlasting arms"? (Deuteronomy 33:27).
2. From the advantages derived from this Rock. These are such as no other can pretend to give. The believer's life being hid with God (Colossians 3:3) and guaranteed by the life of Christ in heaven (John 14:19), and his inheritance lying beyond death (1 Peter 1:4), no hostility of man can reach either. No other "rock" can give the same security, the same peace, joy, shelter, strength, comfort, and refreshment, as the believer's.
To which considerations add the following:—
1. Many of these so-called "rocks" are nonentities. The idols of the heathen are of this description. So with the arts and charms of sorcery, prayers to the Virgin, etc.
2. The surest of these "rocks" are not to be depended on. "Wisdom is better than strength" (Ecclesiastes 9:16); but wisdom, strength, riches, rank, powerful friend, long-consolidated might,—all sometimes fail those who put their trust in them.
3. Not one of these "rocks" can stand when God wills its overthrow. God's help, on the other hand, is real, always to be relied on, and invincible against opposition.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF THE BELIEVER'S ROCK CONFESSED. It is often confessed, even by the enemy. How often, e.g. have ungodly men expressed themselves envious of the religious trust and peace of the believer! How often have they admitted its superiority to anything possessed by themselves! How often, again, have they owned to their own "rocks" failing them in time of need! How often, even, when it came to the end, have they lamented that they had not sought the Rock of the believer] Philosophy is admitted, even by those who take refuge in it, to be but a sorry substitute for religion. Passages could be culled from current literature showing very distinctly this need of the believer's rock—the almost agonizing expression of a wish that belief were possible—the confession that in the surrender of Christian beliefs a large part of life's hopefulness and joy has gone forever (see in Mallock's "Is Life worth Living?").—J.O.
Apply to the religion of the Bible. Proved to be superior to every other system:
1. In proofs of supernatural origin.
2. In moral and spiritual power.
3. In the privileges it offers.
4. In the prospects it holds out.
Admissions and concessions on each of these points could be gathered from the writings of many of the most noted unbelievers.—J.O.
Deuteronomy 32:32, Deuteronomy 32:33
The vine of Sodom.
Emblem of fruit of sin.
3. Ending in disappointment and disgust.—J.O.
I. VENGEANCE A PREROGATIVE OF DEITY. As just Judge of the earth, God must avenge transgression. Vengeance is to be distinguished from personal vindictiveness. Of that God is incapable. But Scripture, supported by reason and conscience, attributes to him a holy and inflexible determination to punish sin—to visit on the wrong-doer the consequences of his transgression. The rule for individuals is, "Avenge not yourselves," etc.; but the reason for this is not that vengeance is unnecessary, but that God will avenge (Romans 12:18). Magistrates, however, bear from God a certain delegated power to punish public offences—to "avenge" evil (Romans 13:4). He who "takes away vengeance from God, at the same time takes it from God's servant, the magistracy, which carries the sword of vengeance over evil-doers" (Hengstenberg). God has his own time, as well as his own way, of avenging sin, and it is not for man to anticipate this.
II. VENGEANCE ASSUREDLY IN STORE FOR GOD'S ENEMIES. However delayed by forbearance. Because judgment is not executed speedily, sinners take confidence (Ecclesiastes 8:11; 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Peter 3:10). But the sleepless eye of God is all the while upon them, and the stroke falls when they are least expecting it. Sooner or later, every transgression and disobedience will meet with its due recompense of reward.
1. "Judgment begins at the house of God" (Deuteronomy 32:35, Deuteronomy 32:36; 1 Peter 4:17).
2. It will ultimately extend to all who are God's enemies (Deuteronomy 32:41, Deuteronomy 32:42). We are taught that the Messianic kingdom will be established on earth amidst mighty displays of judgment (Revelation 19:11-21). There will follow the general judgment of quick and dead—"that day of wrath, that dreadful day"—which will complete the work.
God's vengeance is:
1. Assured. "As I live," etc. (Deuteronomy 32:40).
2. Terrible. "My glittering sword;" "arrows drunk with blood," etc.
3. No escape from it (Deuteronomy 32:39).
III. JUDGMENTS EMPLOYED TO CONVINCE BACKSLIDERS OF THEIR SINS. They tend:
1. To break up false confidences (Deuteronomy 32:37, Deuteronomy 32:38).
2. To create a feeling of the need of God's help (Deuteronomy 32:39).
3. To convince of the folly of past conduct.
God compassionates even while he punishes (Deuteronomy 32:36). He would fain, through judgment, break a way for mercy. Illustrate this use of judgments from Israel in time of the judges, or from case of Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:11-14). This one use of the present exile. May we hope that the day of God's "repenting himself" toward Israel is drawing near!
IV. THE RECOVERY OF ISRAEL THE INAUGURATION OF A TIME OF BLESSING TO THE WORLD. The nations are to share in the joy (verse 43). God is to be merciful to his land and people. The latter-day glory includes the conversion of the Gentiles (Romans 11:1-36.).—J.O.
The doing or not doing of God's will, the obeying or not obeying of God's Word, is a matter of life and death to us. This is the simple and solemn and uniform testimony of Scripture from its first page to its last. The gospel, with its revelation of "life and immortality," only heightens the solemnity of the alternative. Instead of bare "life," it is now "eternal life" which is proposed for our acceptance, and which is lost or forfeited by sin. If "life" is the promise, the counter-alternative is death, and "death" accordingly is denounced against the sinner in gospel, as in Law. "The wages of sin are death" (Romans 6:23). Eternity is a factor to be taken into account here, as well as in the case of "life." Death, indeed, is not nonexistence, but it is the loss of all that makes existence a boon; the extinction in the soul of holiness, happiness, and love. Whatever the final state of the lost may be, whether one of active torment or not, it will be true death. The man loses his "soul"—his "life"—"himself" (Matthew 16:26; Luke 9:25). Oh that men were wise, that they understood these things, and acted on their choice as wise men should!—J.O.
(see Deuteronomy 34:1-12.).—J.O.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The fatherhood of God.
In this first section of the Divine song, the predominating idea is God's fatherhood. It comes out in Deuteronomy 32:6 in express terms; it is implied in the care that is attributed to him for his children of Israel; it passes into the still tenderer idea of motherhood in the illustration of the eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11); and may fairly be taken as the idea dominating the whole. It has been thought that the fatherhood of God is almost altogether a New Testament idea; but we have it here expressly stated, and it underlies many portions of the Old Testament. This whole song is, in fact, a paternal expostulation with children that have been wayward in the wilderness, and will be more wayward still in the land of promise. We shall notice in order the ideas suggested by this section.
I. FERTILIZING DOCTRINE. Divine doctrine, even in its severest forms, has a gracious and fertilizing influence like rain or dew. It comes down upon the wilderness of human nature, and makes it a fruitful field. It comes down upon the tender herb of implanted graces, upon the grass of humble and useful piety, and makes all to grow more luxuriantly. Nothing is so important as "good doctrine."
II. THE ROCK-STABILITY OF GOD. This is the first inquiry. Can God be trusted as truly stable? The answer is that he is a Rock, and that upon his veracity and justice and helpfulness we can constantly rely. Moses and the Israelites had experienced this; as they wandered amid the rocky fastnesses of the desert, they had found him as firm and as reliable as the rocks. Up to this time, the figure had not been applied to God. The Israelites have, indeed, from the hard and flinty rock, had refreshing streams; the rock was to them a fountain of waters; and doubtless when here the figure is for the first time applied to God, they would find it delightful to associate refreshment and shelter with him. Then in course of time it became a favorite figure, as the Psalms in many passages show (cf. Psalms 28:1; Psalms 31:2, Psalms 31:3; Psalms 42:9; Psalms 62:2, Psalms 62:7; Psalms 78:20, Psalms 78:35; Psalms 95:1, etc.). And we rejoice to call our Redeemer "Rock of Ages," in the clefts of which, according to Toplady's idea, taken from Exodus 33:22, we can take shelter and feel safe. £
III. PATERNAL APPEAL. Although God is so worthy of trust, the Israelites have corrupted themselves; they are unwilling to have upon them the mark or spot of the children of God, but the mark of some other tribe; £ and so as a Father he appeals to them because of their ingratitude. Has he not made them, bought them, and established them, and, in consequence, earned a right to different treatment from this? Fatherhood has rights by reason of service which no grateful child can overlook.
IV. PATERNAL FORESIGHT. He speaks next of the days of old, of the years of many generations, which the fathers and elders could testify about, during which time the Father was but evolving his glorious plan, separating and scattering the sons of Adam according to the interests and number of the children of Israel. At Babel and the subsequent migrations of men, "God so distributed the earth among the several peoples that were therein, as to reserve, or in his sovereign counsel to appoint, such a part for the Israelites, though they were then unborn, as might prove a commodious settlement and habitation for them." £ Noble foresight, worthy of an everlasting and infinite Father.
V. PATERNAL INSTRUCTION. One element in fatherhood is a sense of possession in the children. The father rejoices that the children are his, and will not part readily with his portion. So with God. "The Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance." Out of this sense of property comes the improvement of the children by faithful instruction. Hence Israel were led into the wilderness, and their Father found them there, and led them about, instructing them, and keeping them as "the apple of the eye." It was the Father educating them through his own companionship, and leading them onwards in safety towards their home.
VI. PARENTAL DISCIPLINE. The song introduces (Exodus 33:11) the figure of the eagle, and the motherly discipline to which she subjects her brood. "Naturalists tell us that when her young are old enough to fly, the eagle breaks her nest in pieces, in order to compel them to use their powers of flight; fluttering over them, that by imitation they may learn how to employ their wings, but, when unwilling to fly, spreading abroad her wings, she bears them upwards in the air, and then shaking them off, compels them to use their own exertions." £ From this Mr. Hull deduces the truth that "the Divine discipline of life is designed to awaken man to the development of his own powers." We see thus the kindness of the parental discipline, and that it takes motherhood as well as fatherhood to illustrate the Divine relation (cf. Isaiah 49:15).
VII. PARENTAL BLESSING. Having exercised such parental care over the people, the result was abundant temporal success and blessing. This is beautifully brought out as a "riding upon the high places of the earth." And then the whole panorama of agricultural prosperity is presented, "the increase of the fields" providing bread, the rocks affording shelter for the bees which extracted abundant honey from the flowers, the olives clinging to the flinty rocks and affording abundance of oil, while the kine in the fat pastures gave butter, and the sheep milk, and the lambs were choice food, and the rams of the breed of Bashan, while the finest wheat and the purest wine made the lot of Israel princely. It was a land of promise surely which supplied their wants in such a fashion. God's goodness was exceeding great.
The "fatherhood of God" had thus its grand exemplification in the history of Israel. A Father who was firm as the rocky fastnesses around them and as reliable; who provided for his children long before they were born; who instructed and disciplined them, and brought them eventually to a splendid inheritance,—might well look for their trust and obedience. The Lord shows a similar fatherly care still to all men, even those who do not return a filial spirit; and if, in his grace, they yield at length to his paternal appeals, then he comes and gives them a fellowship such as they never dreamed of. "He that loveth me," saith Jesus, "shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).—R.M.E.
The damager of worldly success.
Success, when granted, bids for men's trust. They begin accordingly to insinuate that the reliable Rock who begat them is not the source of all success, and that the rill may be tracked to some nearer source. Hence new gods, novelties of man's imagination, or demons from the waste, grateful for even a false faith, are worshipped; and the ever-living and true God forgotten. Apostasy and skepticism, we would repeat, are born of luxury and success. Men think, because they are rich, that they can do bravely without God.
I. IT IS WELL TO CONSIDER THE DANGER OF WORLDLY SUCCESS. Many a man was more religious when poor than after he became rich. Increase of riches needs increase of grace; and, if men are not watchful, riches only minister to backsliding. It is undesirable independence which proves independence of God. Better to trust God in the absence of wealth than to defy him or ignore him with it. Many a successful worldling would have had more success in a poor station, through increase of faith and of heart. The success was at the price of leanness being sent into his soul.
II. THOSE WHO WILL NOT SACRIFICE TO GOD ARE ALWAYS FOUND SACRIFICING TO THEIR FEARS. The credulity of unbelief is one of the most curious questions of the time. When men deny God his due reverence and ignore his existence, their fancy haunts them with new gods, and powers whom they must propitiate—the luck and chance that they advance to the throne. The man alone is free from vain fears who trusts in the living God; all others sooner or later prove adepts at new religions, and are devotees at fancy shrines.
III. THE DIVINE JEALOUSY IS JUSTLY PROVOKED BY SUCH FORGETFULLNESS. Jealousy is the anger of ill-requited love. It is what has been called, as already observed, "love-pain," and is eminently worthy of him who is love itself. God cannot but feel he deserves man's love; he cannot but desire it; he longs for it more intensely than ever love-sick one among the children of men has longed; and when he sees the love he deserves made over to another, when he sees his life of love and death of love ignored,—is it not eminently reasonable that he should be jealous and have his holy anger stirred?
Herein lies the danger, then, of success. It may decoy the unguarded soul to mean fears and fancy shrines, and lead at length to the encountering of that jealousy which a God of love most justly entertains. Hence the prayer of souls should be that with success may come watchfulness; that with fatness may come faith; that out of goodness may come repentance. Then success may help and not hinder. Successful saints become a blessing to their kind, and make success a stewardship. "It takes a steady hand to carry a full cup;" so says the proverb. Blessed be God, amid many shaky hands, unequal to the task, there is a select few that carry their success in a cool, conscientious fashion!—R.M.E.
Vengeance and recompense.
The reasonableness of the Divine jealousy being shown already, we can have little difficulty in recognizing the further reasonableness of the Divine vengeance. Paul's treatment of the question is concise and conclusive. "Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man). God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?" (Romans 3:5, Romans 3:6). Vengeance is recognized, therefore, as belonging to God's justice, which shall be called into play as vengeance through the ingratitude and folly of many of mankind. Let us briefly indicate the course of the Divine vengeance as presented in the remainder of this song.
I. GOD PROPOSES TO MOVE HIS UNGRATEFUL PEOPLE BY INTRODUCING GENTILES TO THEIR PRIVILEGES. This is the first experiment of the holy jealousy, to see what effect the ingathering of the Gentiles will have. And to a Jewish mind there must be something striking and convincing in the history of Christianity. Surely the elevation and civilization of the heathen world must be due in large measure to that Divine favor which, as Jews, they despised and forfeited. Such a spectacle is calculated to lead them to earnest thought and deep contrition. Were their hearts not dull and gross, they would humble themselves before God, and acknowledge that they deserve other heirs to be put into their room.
II. THE ACTUALITIES OF THE DIVINE VENGEANCE HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE. The Lord represents his anger as burning to the lowest hell (שְׁאוֹל תַּחְתִּית), reaching manifestly to that "under world," as Kahle would call it, where the spirits of the faithless are confined. £ But in the present life there is a foretaste given of the vengeance which embraces the life to come, which may be summed up, as given in these verses (Deuteronomy 32:23-25), in the terms hunger, pestilence, wild beasts, and war. The faithless nation experienced all these, as an earnest of the Divine vengeance which justly burns even to the lowest hell. The only limit to it is lest the enemies employed to execute part of the vengeance should say, "Our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this" (Deuteronomy 32:26, Deuteronomy 32:27). The Lord will modify and limit his vengeance, lest his instruments should regard it as their work and not his.
III. THE REGRET ABOUT POSSIBILITIES THROWN AWAY WILL FORM PART OF THE DIVINE VENGEANCE. Very pathetically is this put in this song (Deuteronomy 32:29-31). The Israelites, though in a vast minority sometimes, had been carried by their most faithful Father and God to victory, and this would have still characterized them had they remained faithful to him. They would have proved his "invincibles." And no effort of faithless souls can keep regret at bay. We see Milton very properly putting it into the mouth of the archangel when he says—
"Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy forever dwells!"
and subsequently summons his associates from "the oblivious pool," where they are lying astonished. Unholy spirits may doubtless see the vanity of regret, but they cannot dismiss it. Indeed, it is one of the test struggles of the Christian life to put regret away. We need the rousing words of the poetess continually—
"Rise! if the past detains you,
Her sunshine and storms forget;
No chains so unworthy to hold you
As those of a vain regret.
Sad or bright, she is lifeless ever;
Cast her phantom arms away,
Nor look back, save to learn the lesson
Of a nobler strife today."
How deep a sorrow this regret must be to all who despise God and reject his love we cannot in this life tell.
IV. APPARENT PROSPERITY WILL PROVE REAL DISASTER. Just as the osher plant, which flourishes best near the site of Sodom and Gomorrha, presents apparently most luscious and attractive fruit, which yet prove but bags of air and ashes, so the apparent prosperity of the faithless souls proves emptiness and bitter disappointment at last. All the investments, so to speak, which seem so fortunate turn into splendid mistakes and miseries. Upon the whole life, opposed as it is to God, there broods a curse.
V. THE PROGRAM OF VENGEANCE IS CAREFULLY PREPARED. This is the spirit of the remaining verses (Deuteronomy 32:35-43). God makes his calculations calmly and deliberately. The foot of his enemies shall slide in due time, and his work of vengeance, like all his other work, prove perfect. As God refuses to exercise "unprincipled mercy," so will he refuse to execute random wrath. The great Jonathan Edwards has a remarkable sermon on Deuteronomy 32:35, entitled 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' which may be distasteful to some easy-going theologians, but is nevertheless weighty with doctrinal and convincing truth. The idea should surely be got rid of that there is any difference in principle between the Old Testament and the New. The prerogative of vengeance so powerfully asserted in this song of the Lord, put into the mouth of Moses, has not been renounced nor laid down for an instant. The Lord still claims it, as Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30, and other passages show.
VI. THE POLICY OF THE LORD SHALL HAVE A SPLENDID CONSUMMATION. After the cycle is complete, Jews and Gentiles, as verse 43 distinctly indicates, shall be found rejoicing in concert before the Lord, who has shown himself merciful to his land and his people. We need not in this Homily enter upon the discussion of the great difference between the Hebrew of verse 43 and the LXX. It does not affect the truth we draw from the remarkable passage. However the individuals may suffer through the Divine vengeance, it will not be lost as a lesson upon the race. Jew and Gentile shall alike recognize its justice and the compensating mercy which always lay for men in the tender hands of God. The vengeance is forced upon him—the judgment is his strange work; but he delighteth in mercy.
VII. MOSES SUMS UP THE LESSON OF THE SONG BY URGING OBEDIENCE UPON THE PEOPLE AS THEIR LIFE. And when we remember that God is the source of life; that spiritual life lies in his favor and fellowship; then it is clear that the Israelites had but one duty to discharge—to obey God and live. All the energy of Moses and all the urgency of God are devoted to secure this obedience. The remembrance of God's love, the recognition of his vengeance and deserved wrath, and the consummate wisdom manifested in the whole policy pursued, should move our hearts to love and obey. Let us accept of the mercy, and not force the Lord to judgment!—R.M.E.
Death a judgment even to the most faithful servants of God.
After the solemn address to the people, God gives a personal address to Moses. It is about his approaching death. He is to see the land, but not to enter it, because he sanctified not the Lord at the waters of Meribah. It raises, therefore, the whole question of death as the portion even of the most faithful servants of God.
I. IT IS SURELY REMARKABLE THAT, WHEN SAVED THROUGH THE MERCY OF GOD IN CHRIST, WE DO NOT BECOME IMMORTAL. Salvation seizes on the spirit, it becomes life through the righteousness of Jesus, but the body is still dead (or mortal) because of sin (Romans 8:10). Why does salvation take our personality in installments? Save spirit first, and leave the body to the repairs of a resurrection? Can the procedure be vindicated? We think it can. For—
II. IF WE BECAME PHYSICALLY IMMORTAL THROUGH THE RECEPTION OF SALVATION, A MERCENARY ELEMENT WOULD BE INTRODUCED INTO OUR MOTIVES, AND MEN WOULD SEEK SALVATION TO ESCAPE THE PAIN OF DYING. Under the present arrangement, saint as well as sinner has to pass the dark portal. Dying is made the general lot of man, and, if salvation is desired, it is for spiritual purposes. Just as God does not promise immediate success to our efforts or our prayers, lest we should be tempted to live by sight and not by faith.
III. IT IS NOT DESIRABLE THAT, WITH PARDON, WE SHOULD ESCAPE ALL SUFFERING FOR OUR SIN. It is a wise arrangement on God's part, even when forgiving sinners, to take vengeance on our inventions (Psalms 99:8). For suppose that, in praying for pardon, we escaped all physical consequences of our sin, the result would be that pardon would be used as a great physical agent and factor, and the physical escape would be more thought upon than the spiritual. It is better, therefore, that things should take their course so far as the body is concerned, and that, meanwhile, the spirit should be the chief recipient of the benefit. God does not take the seeds of mortality, therefore, out of our bodies: he leaves them there as sin's own work; and he gives us the earnest of complete redemption in the resurrection and emancipation of our spirits.
IV. IT IS A SPLENDID TEST OF OUR FAITH IN GOD TO BE ASKED TO DIE. For up to the hour of death, we have found persons and things to lean upon in a measure; we have not as yet been left to lean on God alone. But when death comes, we are forced to lean on God only, if we are to have any support at all. God says, "Can you trust me, even when I take away your physical life?" "Though he slay me," said Job, "yet will I trust in him." Death brings us all to this test, and happy are we if we reach the same assurance.
"The real is but the half of life; it needs
The ideal to make a perfect whole;
The sphere of sense is incomplete, and pleads
The closer union with the sphere of soul.
"Then let us, passing o'er life's fragile arch,
Regard it as a means, and not an end;
As but the path of faith on which we march
To where all glories of our being tend."
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
God's vicegerent as poet.
The true poet is God's messenger. He that sings not of truth and goodness is not a genuine poet; he is but a rhymester. As the swan is said to sing sweetly only in the act of dying, so, on the eve of his departure, Moses sings his noblest strains.
I. OBSERVE THE POET'S AUDITORY. He summons heaven and earth to hear. We read in ancient story that when Orpheus made music with his lyre, the wild beasts listened, and the trees and rocks of Olympus followed him about. This may serve as a just reproof to some men, who, having ears, act as if they had them not.
1. Heaven and earth may denote both angels and men. For even "the principalities of heaven learn from the Church the manifold wisdom of God."
2. Heaven and earth may denote all classes of the people, high and low. Frequently in Scripture great men are represented as the stars of heaven. The man of ambition is said to lift his head to the stars. The righteous are to shine as the brightness of the firmament.
3. Heaven and earth may denote the intelligent and the material creation. On account of man's sin, "the whole creation groaneth;" and the effect of man's obedience will be felt beneficially on the material globe. It will increase its fertility, its beauty, its fragrance, its music. "Truth" shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look "down from heaven." "Then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice."
II. THE POET'S BENEFICENT INFLUENCE. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain," etc. (Deuteronomy 32:2). This imagery teaches us:
1. The silent, unobtrusive power of truth. It finds it way, quietly and unobserved, to the roots of human judgment and feeling.
2. It is refreshing. What a draught of clear water is to a thirsty man, truth is to a healthy, active soul.
3. It is fertilizing. It nourishes all good affections, and strengthens every virtue.
4. It is most suitable. No fitness can be more manifest than dew for tender grass. Poetic truth is suited to every grade of human understanding.
III. THE POET'S LOFTY THEME. His theme is God; but God is only known as he reveals himself in his Name.
1. He descants upon his majesty, his supreme power, and the splendors of his state.
2. He touches upon his eternal stability. What the unchanging rock is amid the shifting sands, God is—unalterably the same.
3. He dwells upon the perfections of his character ("just and right is he"); upon the perfection of his works, which are incapable of any improvement; upon the perfection of his government ("all his ways are judgment"); and upon the perfection of his speech. He is "a God of truth." He alters nothing, retracts nothing.
IV. THE POET'S MORAL PURPOSE. To restore harmony between man and God.
1. He proclaims man's fallen state: "they have corrupted themselves." Human nature is not as it was when it came from the hands of God. Man holds this tremendous power of ruining his own nature.
2. The mark of sonship has disappeared. "Their spot is not the spot of his children." Childlike docility and submissiveness form the family lineament.
3. This depravity has spread like the virus of disease. The whole race is infected. "They are a perverse and crooked generation."
4. Such conduct is suicidal folly. It is most antagonistic to self-interest. No madman could have acted worse.
5. Such conduct is the basest ingratitude. "Do ye thus requite the Lord?" Consider his claims. Did he not create thee? Has he not been a Father to thee? Has he not redeemed thee? Tender expostulation with the conscience is the poet's mission. For this vocation he has been specially inspired by God. A heavenly spirit breathes through his every word. No higher honor can man attain on earth.—D.
History's testimony for God.
A defective character often results from mental indolence. Men do not use their faculties. Did they consider, reflect, and ponder, they would be bettor men. To call into activity all our powers is an imperative and sacred duty. For this purpose God has given them. Whose am I? whence have I come? what is my business in life? what are my obligations to my Maker?—these are questions possessing transcendent interest, and are vital to our joy. Ask intelligently and thoroughly; then act upon the answers. God's careful provision for Israel had been long-continued, thoughtful, special. No less, probably greater, has been his considerate and far-seeing provision for us.
I. WE NOTE A SPECIAL HABITATION PREPARED BY GOD.
1. Our earth has for untold ages been undergoing preparation as a suitable dwelling-place for man. Rocks have been formed for man's use, treasures of coal and metals have been stored up for his advantage. The soil has been pulverized to receive his seed. A marvelous and painstaking preparation has been made.
2. Equally conspicuous is God's wisdom in selecting special territory for special nations. Amidst all the hurly-burly of war, the unseen hand of God has "divided to the nations their inheritance." Oceans and rivers, mountains and deserts, have been God's walls of partition.
3. All these selections have been subordinate to Israel's welfare. All the lines of God's government met here. To Israel's good everything was to bead.
4. The reason of this is declared. "The Lord's portion is his people." Some location on earth was to be reserved for Jehovah. He too had chosen a dwelling-place, an inheritance. And his habitation was in the hearts of his people Israel. "For to that man will I look, and with him dwell, who is of an humble and contrite spirit." "Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."
II. SPECIAL TRAINING BY GOD.
1. Apart from God, earth would be a barren desert. Man's environment, where God is not, would be discordant, unsuitable, painful. The flowers and fruits of life are divinely provided.
2. Inscrutable are the methods of God's training. "He led him about." A masterly hand is in the matter, and we are very incompetent critics. Those marches and counter-marches in the wilderness were all needful to nourish robust courage and simple faith in the Hebrews. In God's arrangements no waste is permitted.
3. Tenderest kindness is here expressed. "He kept him as the apple of his eye." We count the eye among our most precious endowments. It is protected by the most clever contrivances. No part of the body is so delicate or so susceptible of pain. So God regards his chosen people. As a man guards from harm his eye, so God guards his own.
4. Consummate skill was expended to develop the best qualities of Israel. This is set forth by a piece of impressive imagery. As the eagle knows the perils of indolence, and is anxious to train her young brood to early self-exertion, she breaks up the nest, takes the eaglets on her strong pinions, bears them heavenward, shakes them free, then, as they sink, darts beneath them, bears them up again, and encourages them to seek the sun; so, by a thousand kind devices, God taught his people "to seek the things which are above." So precious an end is worthy of the largest expenditure of means.
III. DOMINION OVER NATURE AND OVER MAN ACCORDED BY GOD. In proportion as man has loyally served his God, man has gained earthly dominion. To Adam was accorded sovereignty over all living things in air, or earth, or sea; and of the second Adam we read, "Thou hast put all things under his feet."
1. Victory over enemies is secured. "He made him ride on the high places of the earth." Every mountain fortress was, one by one, possessed. To ride is significant of military conquest. The triumphs of Israel were swift, signal, and complete.
2. The peaceful conquest of nature followed. To the arts of industry, the earth yielded in sevenfold profusion. The olives on the rugged hills filled their presses with oil. Wild bees toiled early and late to lay up stores of honey. Their cattle, plentifully fed, yielded butter and milk in abundance. Under the curse of civil strife and petty feuds of the Canaanites, crops had been devastated, and flocks had been destroyed. Now, peace reigned in every valley, and the very trees blossomed with ruddy gladness. Hill and plain poured their unceasing tributes at the feet of lordly man.
3. The sole Author of this splendid inheritance was God. "The Lord alone did lead him." The deities of the Amorites (if they had any power at all) had bestowed on their votaries an inheritance of lust and war and ruin. In whatever respect Israel's inheritance was a contrast, it was due to the beneficence of Jehovah. He had blessed them with an ungrudging hand. 'Twas the indulgence of his native instinct to give and to make glad. No sane man among them could reach any other conclusion than that Jehovah was the royal Giver of all. And with one voice they should have made the clear welkin ring with hearty hallelujahs: "The Lord hath done great things for us." The gift was unique. It was conspicuously a deed of grace.—D.
Sowing and reaping.
The connection between sin and suffering is natural, organic, and universal. Suffering, in some form, is the proper development of sin. Like the plants of nature, sin has its seed within itself.
I. WE HAVE A CASE OF AGGRAVATED SIN.
1. It was a wanton abuse of special cloudiness. The splendid gifts of providence, which ought to have bound them by golden ties of obligation to God, were erected into barriers to shut out God from them. An inner principle of selfish perverseness turned all food into poison. Instead of gratitude, there was scoffing; instead of loyalty, there was insolence. So it often happens that earthly wealth is an injury instead of a benefit. It detains a man's faith and delight on itself. He exalts his riches into a god. Entering a man's heart, as his professed friends, riches become his secret foes: they sap the foundations of his piety; they degrade and stultify the man.
2. The flagrancy of sin is seen in the perversion of privilege. The Hebrews had been chosen by God to a place of peculiar honor. They had been admitted to a nearer access to his friendship than any other nation. God had called them his sons and daughters. Nothing of good had God withheld from them. For these privileged persons to turn their backs on God, and act as traitors to their Lord, was sin of more than ordinary flagrancy. If such fall from their allegiance, how great must be their fall!
3. The course of sin proceeds by perceptible stages. Sin often begins by culpable omissions. There is first negative good, then positive offence. The people began their downward course by being "unmindful" of their Maker. Their sense of dependence on God declined. Then they quite forgot the God who had so often rescued them. The next stage was openly to forsake God. They avoided his presence, neglected his worship. Soon they "lightly esteemed" their Deliverer. If they thought of him at all, it was only to look down on him—yea, to despise him. Yet in a condition of atheism they could not long remain. Their nature demanded that they should worship somewhat. So they set up strange deities; they sacrificed unto demons. They provoked to jealousy, and to just indignation, the God of Israel. Beyond this it was impossible for human rebellion to proceed.
4. Sin leads to a terrible alternative, viz. the worship and service of devils. There is no middle place at which a man can halt. He either grows up into the image of God or into the image of Satan.
II. WE HAVE A CASE OF EQUITABLE PUNISHMENT.
1. It was the reversal of former good. He who aforetime had promised them prolific plenty now threatens to "consume the earth with her increase." Instead of the sunlight of his favor, he was about to "hide his face from them." The wheels of providence were to be reversed, and the effect would be to overthrow and to crush them.
2. God's judgments are tardy. He did not smite at once. His first strokes were comparatively light, and then he patiently waited what the effect might prove. "I will see what their end shall be." The long-suffering of God is an immeasurable store. He "is slow to anger." Attentively he listens, if so be he may catch some sigh of penitence. "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself."
3. We may observe here the equity of God's procedure. By making his punishments, in great measure, like the sins, the Hebrews would the readier detect their folly and guilt. They had forsaken God: therefore God will "hide his face from them." They had "lightly esteemed" God: therefore he wilt abhor them. They had "excited his jealousy," by choosing another object of worship: he will excite their jealousy by choosing another nation to fill their place. They had provoked his anger by their choice of vanities: he will provoke their anger by supplanting them with a "foolish nation." The emotions which exist in man have their correspondences in the nature of God. Thus, by stupendous condescension, God accommodates his messages to human understanding—employs a thousand comparisons by which to impress our hearts.
4. God's agents to execute his behests are numerous and terrible. A few only are mentioned here, but these may serve as samples of others. Material forces are pressed into service. The atmosphere will be a conveyer of pestilence. Fire is a well-known minister of God. Earthquake and volcano have often been commissioned to fulfill Jehovah's will. As a skilled warrior aims well his deadly arrows upon his foes, so God sends his lightnings abroad out of his quiver. Famine is decreed: "they shall be burnt with hunger." Sickness and fever shall follow: they shall be "devoured with burning heat." Pestiferous insects shall assail them, and wild beasts shall overrun the land. The sword of the invader shall fall with ruthless violence upon young and old—upon babe and veteran. They who escape from one peril shall fall under another. From the hand of God release is impossible.—D.
The pleading of Divine wisdom.
The judicial anger of God is not an uncontrollable passion; it acts in harmony with infinite wisdom. The vast and varied interests of all God's creatures are tenderly considered in the act of judicial retribution. We have here—
I. GOD'S ESTIMATE OF HUMAN DESERT. Were guilty men alone to be considered, no penalty would be too severe as the award for their high-handed offences. Every vestige of merit has disappeared. The consensus of all righteous beings requires unreserved condemnation. Nor can the condemned offender himself escape this conclusion. When his conscience awakes to ponder his guilt, he joins in his own condemnation; he confesses the justice of his sentence. If the demerit of the sinner were the only question to be solved, the answer would be at once forthcoming; the verdict would be complete destruction.
II. WE SEE GOD'S FORESIGHT EMBRACING WIDER INTERESTS.
1. The advantage of other races is, by God, taken into the account. What effect upon other nations will the condign punishment of Israel have? Will it make them self-confident, arrogant, defiant? The true king has at heart the well-being of all his subjects.
2. The honor of God himself must be taken into account. The public reputation of God is indissolubly bound up with the well-being of his intelligent creatures. His honor is dear to him; for his honor is nothing more than his native excellence illustrated and made known.
3. How graciously the Most High accommodates his speech to suit the conceptions of men! As a man may fear the wrath of his foes, so God (to bring his doings within the compass of the human understanding) speaks of himself as the subject of fear. In our present state, we cannot rise to the comprehension of God as he is; our knowledge of him is conditioned by our limitations of mind.
III. GOD'S GRIEF FOR HUMAN FOLLY. The tender affection of God in pleading with men to avoid sin is very impressive; but more impressive still are his exclamations of grief when the final step has been taken, and when, for many, recovery is impossible. Thus when Jesus looked down from Olivet upon the guilty metropolis, and knew that the die was cast, he nevertheless wept and said, "How often would I have gathered your children, as a hen her brood; but ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!" So too in the Psalms God thus speaks, "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me! that Israel had walked in my ways!" The measure of God's love transcends all known limits; its forms are infinite in their variety! When every remedial measure has been tried in vain, love can only weep.—D.
God's pathetic appeal to men.
Wisdom is far-seeing. Not content with estimating present experiences and fortunes, it embraces the remoter issues of our choice; it takes in all the possibilities of the future.
I. AS THERE HAS BEEN A BEGINNING OF THE PRESENT LIFE, SO THERE WILL COME AN END.
II. THE END OF PROBATIONARY LIFE DEMANDS OUR SERIOUS CONSIDERATION.
III. THE HIGHEST WISDOM FORECASTS THE WHOLE REACH OF LIFE, BOTH PRESENT AND FUTURE.—D.
The devil's counterfeit coin.
It is not in the power of Satan to originate any new thing. Knowing that his power is restricted, the utmost he can do is to make spurious imitations of God's good things. His base purpose is to deceive man with spectral illusions. His nefarious design is to raise before the world's eye an empty mirage of a carnal paradise.
I. EVERY MAN CRAVES FOR SOME GROUND OF CONFIDENCE, EXTERNAL TO HIMSELF. To the men of the East, this external foundation of trust was best described as a rock. What the solid rock is amid the loose alluvial soil of Egypt, or amid the shifting sand of the desert, that God is designed to be unto every man. Complete independence is impossible to created man. He can never be self-contained nor self-nourished. Pure atheism has never been a permanent resting-place for the human heart. When the invisible God is forsaken, the human mind swings toward idolatry. The carnal mind finds delight in a ground of confidence that is visible and tangible. Some god we must have, if it be only the shadowy deity named Fate, or Law, or Chance.
II. COMPLETE CONTRAST EXISTS BETWEEN THE OBJECTS OF HUMAN TRUST. The only point of similarity is the name. The devil borrows this, so as the better to throw dust in the eyes of his followers. Our God is a Rock; the world also has its counterfeit rock. By the judgments and verdict of worldly men, our Rock differs in toto from theirs. Their rock, they acknowledge, is unstable and unreliable. They trust it simply because they know not a better. It is misnamed a rock. Their rock ofttimes deserts them in the hour of greatest need. Ah! fortune, say they, is fickle. Very tyrannical and self-willed is fate. But our God is a Rock in very deed. He never forsakes his liege disciples. In the darkest hour he is nearest—the "shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Their misnamed rock encourages them to enter the battle-field, and then forsakes them. They are "sold to the enemy."
III. NOTWITHSTANDING THE CONTRAST IN THESE OBJECTS OF TRUST, THE FALSE IS A CLEVER IMITATION OF THE TRUE. All through life, we find that the false counterfeits the true. The thief puts on the pretence of honesty. The villain trains himself to use fair speech. The adulterer wears the garb of virtue. Beauty is the robe of God, but the devil fabricates meretricious tinsel. He, too, has his "Promised Land," but it is a fool's paradise. He has his vine, but his vine is the vine of Sodom, which generates drunkenness and unchastity. He also has his fields, but they are fields of Gomorrah. The fruits are pleasant to the eye, but they turn to ashes in the mouth. There is the appearance of grapes, but lo! the juice is gall—the clusters are bitterness itself. And not only is the experience disappointing, it is even disastrous and deadly. This pretended wine is only poison, it is a gilded pill. Cruel deceit has provided this counterfeit banquet. Beneath the glamour of a fair exterior, there is the "serpent's venom." Thus fares it with all who leave their God. They find out the bitter mistake at last. So sang Byron in his last days—
"The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone."
IV. SUCH HUMAN EXPERIENCES OF THE FALSE, GOD USES IN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. "Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?" God knew well what the effects of an idolatrous course would be, what bitter vexation and disaster would come at last. But he foresaw that it was better for men that they should pass through this experience than that he should remove the possibility of it. He might have prevented, by exercise of power, the stratagems of the tempter. He might have curtailed Satan's freedom, and put on him chains of darkness from the first. But his infinite wisdom has decided otherwise. He foresees more glorious results from this method, so he patiently waits; he calmly watches the stages of the process. "Their foot," says he, "shall slide in due time." "The day of their calamity is at hand." Now, it is difficult to discern between a grain of living seed and a grain of dead sand; but put both into the furrowed field, and give them time, so when the day of harvest comes, the man who sowed the sand will be covered with shame, while he who sowed good seed will bear gladly his sheaves into the heavenly garner. Our business now is to discriminate between God's corn and the devil's chaff. "The day will declare it."—D.
The final revelation of God's supremacy.
In this inspired song—an epitome of the Bible—Moses looks adown the long vista of history, and discerns what will be the outcome of the whole, viz. to establish on a safe basis the acknowledged supremacy of Jehovah. Truth shall eventually conquer, whatever be her present fortunes; and the supreme authority of Jehovah is a fundamental truth, which must in duo time effectually shine forth.
I. HUMAN EXPERIENCE WILL ULTIMATELY CONFIRM THE VANITY AND FUTILITY OF IDOLATRY. Men will accept, at the close of a changeful and bitter experience, what they would not accept at the outset of their course, viz. that there is one God—invisible, supreme, eternal. In the conscious pride of self-will, men will sound all the possible problems of life. They will not at first accept, with the docility of a child-like nature, the ipse dixit even of God himself. But when all trust in self and in created power has proved a failure; when all power is gone, and we lie on the battlefield, wounded and helpless;—then we begin to give heed to the heavenly voice. Then the gentle message of God comes, with the charm of evening music, upon the ear—yea, as an anodyne and a balm upon the bleeding heart. In a mood of self-despair, we clutch the hope of the gospel, viz. God manifest to man. God invites us to earnest and profound inquiry. He asks us to give a mature deliverance touching the power and helpfulness of the God whom we have long trusted; and the final experience of men, in all lands and ages, is uniform. "The gods who have not created the heavens and the earth shall perish!"
II. HUMAN EXPERIENCE ATTESTS THE SUPREMACY AND TRIUMPH OF JEHOVAH. "See now, that I, even I am he, and there is no god with me." The eye of man can clearly discern the fact—the foundation-fact of all religion—so soon as the veil of prejudice and sin is removed. The revelation is clear enough, if only the organ of mental vision be in healthful vigor. Without question, God is the sole Arbiter of life and death. No other deity has ever assumed an act of creation. The powers of evil have flourished the wand of a necromancer, and have pretended to effect sudden changes in the conditions of nature; but not one has ever pretended to create a star or to produce a single human life. God is still left upon the throne, as sole and undisputed Monarch.
Eternal existence is another prerogative of Jehovah. Where are now the gods of the heathen? Who now worships Jupiter, or Dagon, or Isis, or Moloch? Their names are historic only. They had a passing popularity, but it has long since vanished. But with solemn form of adjuration, the Most High lifts his hand and swears, "I live forever!" As in a court of justice men accept the testimony of a fellow-man, when that testimony is given under the sanction of a religious oath; so, in self-consistency, are we bound to accept the asseveration of the eternal God. In pity for his creatures, he also takes the form of oath, and since "he can swear by none greater, he swears by himself."
III. THE ROYAL SUPREMACY OF JEHOVAH IS A GROUND FOR HUMAN JOY. Every perfection of God is suitable material for grateful praise. His power is a security for good men. All our interests are safe, being under the protection of such a Friend. His holiness also affords distinct ground for gladness. Because he is holy, we can cherish a confident hope that we shall be holy too. Hence we "give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness." We rejoice to know that the scepter of the universe is in the hands of a God who is absolutely and incorruptibly just. We know that "the right" will not long be trodden underfoot of the oppressor. We are assured that the malice and craft of Satan shall not triumph. We heartily rejoice that Jehovah is King of all the earth; for "all things must now work together for good to them that love him."
"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again;
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
And dies amid her worshippers."
Most of all, we rejoice in his mercy. "He will be merciful to his land and to his people." We are the very persons who need Divine mercy; for lack of that mercy we die. Not more urgently does the parched land need the liquid shower, than do we, who have so grossly sinned, need Jehovah's mercy. Yet not more sure is the need than the supply. That mercy is made amply secure to all who desire it. As certainly as light streams from the natural sun, so freely and copiously does mercy stream forth from Jehovah's heart. Therefore we do well to "rejoice and to be exceeding glad." For saith Jehovah, "I will pardon your unrighteousness, and your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more." God's revelation closes with the theme of mercy.—D.
Religion a reality.
The bulk of men treat religion as if it were a fancy or a myth. They deem it useful for the sick, the aged, and the dying. But for the healthful man and the active man of business it is voted a bore. Now, Moses puts religion in its right place when he declares it vital to human interests—vital, in the highest and largest sense. "It is your life."
I. THE OBJECTS ABOUT WHICH RELIGION TREATS ARE REAL, NOT SHADOWY. "It is not a vain thing." The eye of man cannot embrace God's universe. The material kingdoms are not all. God's creation extends above and beyond the reach of mortal sense. With respect to much that God has made, "eye hath not seen, nor car heard, nor mind conceived." Science deals with one class of objects, religion with another class. The subject-matter of religion is the most excellent, substantial, and enduring. It treats of God, heaven, eternity, the soul of man—its sins and sorrows, the way to holiness, the hope of everlasting life. These things come not under the cognizance of our sensuous organs; they are more substantial than the granite rocks—more real than jewels.
II. THE TRUTHS CONCERNING RELIGION ARE AUTHENTIC, NOT ILLUSORY. They come to us supported by abundant evidence, both internal and external. They come with s better title to belief than any books of equal antiquity. If we reject Moses and Isaiah, we are bound, in self-consistency, to reject Thucydides and Herodotos, Bode and Gibbon. But to every Christian, the most conclusive evidence is experimental. He has the "witness in himself." The truth, admitted to his mind, has elevated his tastes, enlarged his views, purified his affections, ennobled and beautified his whole nature. As light suits the eye and music the ear, so the truth of Scripture exquisitely suits the needs and aspirations of the soul. It meets a real want.
III. THE HUMAN INTERESTS, WHICH RELIGION PROMOTES, ARE REAL AND PRECIOUS, NOT VAPID OR FANCIFUL. These interests are internal and external; they reach to the family and to the utmost limits of human society; they embrace the present and the unbounded future. Reconciliation with God, the removal of sin, the development of man's best nature, the heritage of inward tranquility, the conquest of care, the extraction of blessing out of sorrow, a hope that conquers death,—these are among the advantages obtained by religion. It makes men better husbands, better masters, better servants, better citizens, nobler, truer, wiser. It imparts a meetness for the society and the service of heaven. It brings advantage to every relationship and circumstance of human life. "It is not a vain thing;" it is life and health and joy.—D.
Obedient unto death.
In Moses, Faith had achieved one of her most signal triumphs. From early youth to latest manhood, he had acted and "endured as seeing him who is invisible." No earthly or visible honor had ever enchanted his vision. He had lived very simply "in his Great Taskmaster's eye." Therefore it was that he submitted to be deprived of the earthly Canaan without a murmur, "for he looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker was God." To him death was but a darksome passage to an enduring home.
I. THE GODLY MAN DIES AT GOD'S COMMAND. In this respect, Moses was a type of Christ, and has left us an example deserving our imitation. It should be enough for us to know that God requires it. It is no accident—no unforeseen event. Every circumstance touching the believer's death is wisely arranged by God. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Our Elder Brother has passed the dark valley before us, and his presence lights up the once gloomy way. "I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." At the girdle of our Captain hang "the keys of death and of Hades." "He opens, and no man shuts." To the genuine disciple death is no terror. "It is my Father's voice I hear. I see his beckoning hand. I feel his sustaining arm." "Death is swallowed up in victory."
II. THE GODLY MAN'S DEATH IS PARTLY JUDICIAL, PARTLY MERCIFUL. To the full-grown and ripe Christian, earth has little attraction. Its joys pall upon the taste. We aspire after nobler and better things. "I would not live always." A time comes in the good man's history when he wishes the probation to close, and the real life to begin. The heir longs for his majority and for the ancestral heritage. The believer dies because death is the most convenient portal by which he can enter heaven.
Yet judgment is mingled with the mercy. Moses was on the tiptoe of earthly expectancy—on the threshold of a great success, when God required him to relinquish all for heaven. To him it was revealed, in clearest form, that earlier sin required this late correction. For Israel's sake, for the world's sake, and for Moses' sake, his trespass must bear fruitage in loss and sorrow. In the very nature of things, it is impossible that men can sin without privation of some kind. We may flatter ourselves, at times, that God has winked at our folly, and that no ill consequence has ensued. But judge not prematurely. Possibly, in our last hours of life, the remembrance of that sin will rob us of our peace, will impose some serious loss. In the moral realm, "whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap."
III. THE GODLY MAN DEPARTS THIS LIFE FROM THE MOUNTAIN-PEAKS OF PERSONAL ATTAINMENT. There were solid reasons in the Divine mind (partly hidden and partly revealed) why Moses should die upon the mount. He might have viewed the magnificent prospects, and then have descended to die. But mountains have often been selected by God as the scene of grand events. On the summit of a mountain we are inspired with a sense of awe. We take in the sense of the infinite. We are constrained to worship. Thence we are already half disposed to mount and soar to heaven. This is suggestive. When through much active energy of faith we have climbed the heights of practical holiness, we feel that the work of life is done. We have finished our course. There has been steady advancement thus far, and now, what next? We feel that the world is beneath our feet; and from this pinnacle of moral elevation we wait the revelation of the future, we prepare for the strange transition.
From such an elevation of faith, too, we clearly discern the scene of the Church's future conquests. The past is a light which irradiates the prospective triumphs of truth and holiness. "Much land remains to be possessed;" but the assurance of success is absolute. Already the foes of God are at our feet. "He must reign."
IV. THE GODLY MAN'S DEPARTURE IS NOT TO SOLITUDE, BUT TO SOCIETY. "Thou shalt be gathered unto thy people." Whatever thoughts, or hopes, or fears this language of God suggested to Moses' mind, it suggests to our minds one of the charms of heaven. We love to think of it as a home. Next to the ecstasy which God's presence shall inspire, is the rapture of reunion with departed friends. "In my Father's house are many mansions." No question need distress us touching mutual recognition. Moses and Elijah were recognized as such when they came down in glorified state, and conversed with Jesus on the mount. Not a faculty shall be wanting there which we possessed here. "Then shall we know, even as also we are known." If men from distant climes shall "sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God," one main element of honor and of joy would be missed unless these illustrious patriarchs were known.—D.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany