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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
Deuteronomy 7



Verse 21

Deuteronomy 7:21

I. The complaint has been made often that the qualities which Christians are especially encouraged to cultivate are not manliness and courage; that, so far as the Christian ideal is set continually and steadily before the mind of a nation or a man, that mind is likely to become submissive, not energetic. I believe that the courage, which is only another way of expressing the heart, of a nation is liable to a continual weakening and decay; that left to itself it will certainly wither; that some religions may hasten its death; but that by doing so such religion will prove that it does not come from God, that it is not His religion, not His instrument for reforming and regenerating the world.

II. A return to the old faith that courage and humanity are not enemies, but inseparable companions, has certainly commenced among us. The misfortune is that Christianity is supposed to be not identical with humanity, but a substitution for it. And this opinion is closely connected with another: that courage is a heathen, or perhaps the heathen, virtue, and that we have cherished it by giving our children a semi-heathen education. Consider this opinion under different aspects.

III. By a heathen we mean one who is not a Jew. That is the simplest, most accurate use of the name. Taking it in this sense, our text is decisive that a high estimate of courage was not confined to heathens; that if to form such an estimate is ungodly, the chosen people were as ungodly as any. The Bible tells us that idolatry is the great destroyer of courage, reverence for the true God and an abiding sense of His presence and protection the upholder of it.

Now is this doctrine compatible with the fact that the most illustrious of the heathen nations were singularly brave nations, and that our forefathers sought to kindle English courage at their fires?

It is incompatible if we regard a heathen merely as an idolater. It is perfectly compatible if we trace through the history of the great nations that worshipped idols a continual witness against it. Their belief in courage, as a quality which raised them above the animals, was the greatest of all the protests which the conscience of heathens was bearing against idolatry, against the worship of visible things, which is directly connected with our animal instincts, which is always lowering the human being to the level of that which he should rule.

IV. The courage of the Hebrew was derived from his trust in the Being who had chosen him to do his work in the world, who would accomplish that work, let what powers would unite to defeat it. Christianity is not a denial of Judaism or a denial of heathenism, a tertium quid which excludes all that is strongest and most vital in both, but the harmony and concentration cf both, the discovery of Him in whom the meaning of both is realised and raised to its highest power; but out of the union and reconciliation of apparent opposites in the faith of a Father and a Son, of a Spirit proceeding from both, to quicken men and make them the voluntary, cheerful servants, because the sons, of God, there must come forth a courage Diviner than the Hebrew, more human than the Greek, more pledged to a continual battle with disorder than the Roman.

F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 145.

Verses 22-26

Deuteronomy 7:22-26

I. There can be no doubt that these passages represent the Jewish nation as bound to a perpetual conflict with idolatry. The resistance was primarily an internal one. The members of the nation were never to bow down to natural or human symbols. But they were not merely to be tenacious of the true worship and watchful against the false; they were to go forth against the idolatrous people of Canaan, to break in pieces their gods, to destroy their altars and high places. And not only the idol or the idol temple was to be destroyed; the inhabitants of the idolatrous country, their wives, their children, their sheep, and their oxen, were to be put to death.

In explaining these facts, we must remember that the Jews were the one nation that might not go out to win prizes for themselves; they were simply the instruments of the righteous Lord against those who were polluting His earth and rendering it unfit for habitation.

II. We have surely not learned from the Sermon on the Mount that there is not a righteous Being, One whose will is to all good, One to whom injustice and wrong are opposed. Neither did our Lord say that men were not to be the instruments in doing God's work, in carrying out His purposes. The Gospel must be quite as assertive and intrusive as Judaism. Idolatry was more directly assaulted in its high places, received more deadly wounds, in the three centuries during which the Gospel of the Son of God was opposed by all the swords of the Roman empire, and when it had no earthly sword of its own, than by all the battles of the Israelites. The punishment of the idolater is not now the most effectual means of extinguishing idolatry. Our Lord shows us that the proclamation of Himself is a more perfect one.

III. These distinctions are deep and radical; they must affect all the relations between the magistrate and the herald of the Gospel, between the nation and the Church.

If we have learned to believe that the spirit of love is a consuming fire, which must destroy the idols and high places that we ourselves have set up and then all those which are withdrawing men anywhere from the living and true God, we shall find that the command to drive out the debased people of Canaan is an utterance of the same gracious will which bade the disciples go into all lands and preach the Gospel to every creature.

F. D. Maurice, The Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 256.

Reference: Deuteronomy 7:22-26.—Parker, vol. iv., p. 152.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 7:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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