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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Deuteronomy 4

 

 

Verses 1-24

EXPOSITION

Deuteronomy 4:1-40

ADMONITIONS AND EXHORTATIONS. Moses, having presented to the people certain facts in their recent history which had in them a specially animating and encouraging tendency, proceeds to direct his discourse to the inculcation of duties and exhortations to obedience to the Divine enactments. This portion also of his address is of an introductory character as well as what precedes.

Deuteronomy 4:1-8

Exhortation to the observance of the Law generally. The Law was to be kept as a complete whole; nothing was to be taken from it or added to it; it comprised the commandments of Jehovah, and therefore they were not only to do it as what Moses, their leader and lawgiver, had enjoined, bat to keep it as a sacred deposit, not to be altered or tampered with, and to observe it as what God their Sovereign had enacted for them. The dignity and worth of the Law are here asserted, and also its completeness as given by Moses. Any addition to it, no less than any subtraction from it, would mar its integrity and affect its perfection. Altered circumstances in process of time might, indeed, lead to the desuetude of some parts of the Mosaic enactments, and new institutions or laws might be required to meet a new condition of things, or even in that new condition to fence and sustain the primitive code; but that cede was to remain intact in the Statute-Book, and no alterations were to be made upon it that should affect its substance or nullify any of its principles. New laws and institutions appointed by God would, of course, have the same authority as those originally ordained by Moses; and such, it can hardly be doubted, were in point of fact under the Hebrew monarchy introduced by the prophets speaking in the name of God. The Law, nevertheless, was kept substantially entire. Even under the new dispensation, the Law has not been abolished. Christ, as he himself declared, came not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The sin of the Pharisees, for which they were censured by our Lord, lay in this, that they taught for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9), and had "made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions" (Matthew 15:6).

Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 4:2

Now therefore; rather And now. With this Moses passes from referring to what God had done for Israel to admonish Israel as to what they had to do as the subjects of God and the recipients of his favor. They were to give heed to all the statutes and judgments which Moses, as the servant of God, had taught them, in order that they might do them. Statutes ( חֻקִּים), the things prescribed or enacted by law, whether moral, ritual, or civil; judgments ( מִשְׁפָטִים), rights, whether public or private, all that each could claim as his due, and all he was bound to render to God or to his fellow-men as their due. These two comprehend the whole Law as binding on Israel. On the doing of these by the people depended life; these had been made known to them, not merely for their information, but specifically that they might do them, and thereby have life; not long life in the Promised Land alone, though this also is included (Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 6:2, etc.), but that higher life, that life which man lives "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3; cf. Le Deuteronomy 18:5; Ezekiel 20:11; Matthew 4:4), that spiritual life which is in God's favor (Psalms 30:5). Enjoying this life as the fruit of obedience, they should also possess as their inheritance the laud promised to their fathers.

Deuteronomy 4:3, Deuteronomy 4:4

The people had had personal experience of the danger, on the one hand, of transgressing, and the benefit, on the other, of keeping God's Law; they had seen how those who sinned in worshipping Baal-peer were destroyed (Numbers 25:3, Numbers 25:9), whilst those who remained faithful to the Lord were kept alive. This experience the people had had only lately before, so that a reference to it would be all the more impressive. Baal-peor, the idol whose cultus was observed at Peor. Baal (Bal, Be‛el, Bel, Lord) was the common name of the supreme deity among the northern of the Semitic-speaking people, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the Aramaeans, and the Assyrians. There were thus many Baals. Followed: walked after; a common Biblical expression for religious adherence and service (cf. Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 9:14; and with a different formula, Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8; 2:12, etc.). Ye that did cleave unto Jehovah your God. "To cleave unto one" is expressive of the closest, most intimate attachment and communion (cf. Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 14:1). The phrase is frequently used of devotion to the service and worship of the true God (cf. Deuteronomy 10:20; Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:8; Acts 2:23, etc.); here it expresses the contrast between the conduct of those who remained faithful to Jehovah and those who forsook him to worship Baal. Are alive every one of you this day. "Thus they that keep themselves pure in general defections, are saved from the common destruction (Ezekiel 9:4-6; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 20:4)" (Ainsworth).

Deuteronomy 4:5, Deuteronomy 4:6

The institutes of Moses were the commandments of Jehovah, and therefore obedience to them was imperative. By this was conditioned the enjoyment by Israel of the Promised Land; and this would be their wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations; to themselves it would be life, and to the nations it would convey an impression of their being the depositories of true wisdom and knowledge, so that they should be constrained to say, Surely a wise and understanding people is this great nation. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that is wise winneth souls" (Proverbs 11:30). God's statutes make wise the simple (Psalms 19:8; Psalms 119:98, Psalms 119:99); and they who are thus made wise attract the attention of others by the fame of their wisdom. Thus the Queen of Sheba heard in her distant country of the wisdom of Solomon, and came to him to commune with him of all that was in her heart (1 Kings 10:1, etc.); and many throughout the ages who were seeking after truth among the heathen, were drawn to Israel by seeing how with them was the true knowledge of God. Israel was thus exalted because God was nigh to them, ready to hear their cry and to give them what they needed; which none of the gods of the nations were or could be to their votaries; and because, in the Law which God had given them, they had such instruction and direction as no heathen nation possessed.

Deuteronomy 4:7, Deuteronomy 4:8

Translate, For what great nation is there that hath gods that draft near to it, as Jehovah our God whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there that hath righteous statutes and ordinances like this whole Law which I am giving before you this day? (comp. Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 34:17-20; Psalms 145:18; 1 Samuel 14:36; I Kings 1 Samuel 18:26-29, 37; James 4:8). "True right has its roots in God; and with the obscuration of the knowledge of God, law and right, with their divinely established foundations, are also shaken and obscured (cf. Romans 1:26-32)" (Keil).

Deuteronomy 4:9-14

The possession of the oracles of God by Israel was a benefit to them only as these were kept in mind and reverently obeyed. Therefore they were to take heed and diligently beware of forgetting the circumstances under which the Law had been received at Horeb. God had then commanded the people to be gathered together, so that they stood before the Lord, were in his manifested presence, and were made to hear his voice speaking to them from amidst the fire and the clouds that covered the mount. They had thus actual evidence and guarantee that the Law they had received was Divine; and this they were to keep in mind as long as they lived, and to communicate to their children in all coming time, that so they might fear the Lord; for on this rested that covenant which God had made with Israel, and which they were to keep as the condition of their continuing to enjoy privilege and life.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Keep thy soul diligently; i.e. Be very careful to preserve thy life (cf. Job 2:6; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 19:16; in all which passages the same formula is used as here). The Hebrew ( נֶפֻשׁ) means primarily breath, then vital principle, natural life (anima), then soul life, the soul or mind (animus). The forgetting of the wonders they had seen would lead to their forgetting God, and so to their departing from him, and this would mar and ultimately destroy their life (cf. Joshua 23:11-16). The things which thine eyes have seen (see Exodus 19:10, etc.).

Deuteronomy 4:10

Specially the day. The word "specially," introduced by the translators into the Authorized Version, is a needless interpolation. With this verse begins a new sentence, which is continued in Deuteronomy 4:11 on to the end of Deuteronomy 4:13. Render, On the day [i.e. at the time, the יום, is an adverbial accusative] when ye stood before Jehovah your God in Horeb when ye came near and stood,… then Jehovah spake to you, etc.

Deuteronomy 4:11

The mountain burned with fire unto the midst [unto the heart] of heaven; i.e. up to the Very skies; a rhetorical description of the mighty pillar of fire that blazed on Sinai, and betokened the presence of him whose symbol is fire. With darkness, clouds [cloud], and thick darkness; underneath the fire was a cloud of deep darkness, out of which it blazed, the "thick cloud" of Exodus 19:9, Exodus 19:16, and the "smoke" out of which the lightnings flashed, and over which the glory of the Lord, like devouring fire, rested on the top of the mountain (Exodus 19:18; Exodus 20:18; Exodus 24:16, Exodus 24:17).

Deuteronomy 4:12

On this occasion the people heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; there was no form or shape apparent to the eye. No man can see God's face (Exodus 33:20, Exodus 33:23); "no man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18); and though the nobles or elders of Israel who went up with Moses into the mount are said to have seen God, it is evident that what they saw was only some luminous manifestation of his glory, and not a form or shape of which a similitude could be made (Exodus 24:9-17). Even Moses, with whom God said that he would speak mouth to month, and who should behold the similitude of God (Numbers 12:8), was told that he could not see his face, his essential personality, but only his back, the reflection of his glory (Exodus 33:18-23).

Deuteronomy 4:13

His covenant; God's gracious engagement with Israel for their good, and by which they were bound to observe all his commandments. God declared this at Sinai when he uttered the ten commandments (words, דְבָרִים), "the words of the covenant, the ten words" (Exodus 34:28), which he afterwards gave to Moses on two tables of stone, written with the finger of God (Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18). Besides these, there were other statutes and ordinances which Moses was commanded to teach the people, and which, with them, comprised the Law given at Sinai (see Exodus 21:1-36. and following chapters).

Deuteronomy 4:15-20

As the people had seen no form or figure when God spake to them, so they were to beware for their very lives (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9) of acting corruptly by making any kind of image, whether of man or of beast, for the purpose of worshipping God as represented by it; they were also to beware of being so attracted by the splendor of the heavenly bodies as to be forcibly seduced to worship them and offer them religious service. They were not in this respect to imitate the heathen; for God, who had delivered them out of the furnace of Egyptian bondage, had taken them for himself to be his special possession; and therefore they were to take heed not to forget the covenant of Jehovah their God, nor to offend him by making any image or representation of him as the object of worship. Among the heathen, and especially in Egypt, images were the very pillar and support of religion; but in Israel, as God had revealed himself to them without form, it was as a spirit he was to be worshipped, and not under any outward representation.

Deuteronomy 4:16

Graven image ( פֶסֶל), carved work or sculpture, whether of wood, or metal, or stone—the similitude of any figure—the form of any idol ( סֶמֶל, form, statue, idol)—the likeness—figure ( תַבְנִית, a building, a model, a form, or figure)—of male or female—in apposition to graven image, and illustrative of it.

Deuteronomy 4:17, Deuteronomy 4:18

The likeness—the figure—of any beast, etc. A warning against the animal-worship of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 4:19

Lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, etc. The worship of the heavenly bodies, especially star-worship, prevailed among the Canaanites and many of the Semitic tribes, but was not confined to them; the Egyptians also reverenced the sun as Re, the moon as Isis, and the stars as the symbols of deities. The Israelites were thus, both from past associations and from what they might encounter in Canaan, exposed to the danger of being seduced into idolatry. Shouldest be driven: shouldest be urged on, drawn, or constrained (cf. Deuteronomy 13:13). Which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven, God had allotted ( חָלַק) to all mankind the heavenly bodies for their advantage (Genesis 1:14-18; Psalms 104:19; Jeremiah 31:35); it was, therefore, not competent for any one nation to seek to appropriate them as specially theirs, and it was absurd for any to offer religious service to objects intended for the service of man. Targum: Which the Lord thy God prepared for all peoples under heaven; Vulgate: Quae creavit Dominus Deus tuus in ministerium cunctis gentibus. This seems better than the interpretation that God had "allotted them for worship, i.e. had permitted them [the nations] to choose them as the objects of their worship" (Keil, etc.); for:

1. There is no distinction here between the Hebrews and the other nations of the earth; "all nations" includes them as well as the heathen.

2. Though God permitted the heathen to worship the heavenly bodies, he never allotted these to men in order that they might worship them. "It noteth God's bounty in giving all people the use of those creatures, and the base mind of man to worship such things as are given for servants unto men" (Ainsworth).

Deuteronomy 4:20

Iron furnace—furnace for smelting iron: "figure of burning torment in Egypt" (Herxheimer). This reference to the smelting of iron shows that, though the implements of the ancient Egyptians were mostly of copper, iron must also have been in extensive use among them. Other references to the use of iron are to be found in the Pentateuch; see Genesis 4:22; Le Genesis 26:19; Numbers 35:16; Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 8:9; Deuteronomy 19:5; Deuteronomy 27:5 (Goguet, 'Origine des Lois,' 1.172; Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egypt,' 1.169; 2.155). To be unto him a people, etc. (cf. Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 7:6).

Deuteronomy 4:21-24

Moses, after again referring to his being not permitted to enter Canaan, takes occasion anew to warn the people against forgetting the covenant of Jehovah and making any image of God, seeing he is a jealous God, and a consuming fire.

Deuteronomy 4:21

The Lord was angry with me … and swore, etc. Neither in Numbers 20:12, nor in Numbers 27:12-14, is there any mention of God's having sworn that Moses should not enter Canaan with the people; but it is absurd to suppose, as some have done, that the writer here has confounded this with what is recorded in Numbers 14:21, Numbers 14:28,—that is inconceivable; and it certainly does not follow, because no mention is made in Numbers of God's having sworn, that he did not swear on this occasion; if he confirmed with an oath his decree that the generation that rebelled at Kadesh should not enter Canaan, the probability surely is that he would do the same when he announced to Moses the decree that he should not conduct Israel into the promised laud. "It is perfectly obvious, from Deuteronomy 3:23, sqq; that all the details are not given in the historical account of the event referred "(Keil).

Deuteronomy 4:23

A graven image, or the likeness of any thing, etc.—literally, a graven (sculptured) image of a form of all that Jehovah thy God hath commanded thee; s.c. not to make (cf. Deuteronomy 16-18 and Deuteronomy 2:37).

Deuteronomy 4:24

A consuming fire. When God spoke to Israel at Sinai, his glory appeared "like devouring (consuming) fire on the top of the mount" (Exodus 24:17); and in allusion to this Moses here calls God "a consuming fire." He is so to all his enemies, and to all who disobey him; by severe inflictions he will punish, and, if they persist in their hostility and rebellion, will ultimately destroy them (comp. Deuteronomy 9:3; Isaiah 10:16-18; Amos 5:6; Zephaniah 1:18; Hebrews 12:29). A jealous God; LXX; θεὸς ζηλωτής God has a burning zeal for his own glory; he guards it with jealous care; and he will not spare those who do him dishonor, especially those who are guilty of idolatry, whereby they "change the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25; cf. Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 6:14, Deuteronomy 6:15; Deuteronomy 32:16, etc.; Psalms 78:58, etc.; Nahum 1:2). He is jealous also over his people, because he loves them, and will not endure any rival in their affection and devotion.

HOMILETICS

Deuteronomy 4:1-4

Life and prosperity dependent on obedience to God.

In this paragraph Moses indicates, by the word "therefore," the purpose he has had in the review in which he had been indulging. It was not for the mere rehearsal's sake that the varied incidents in Israel's career were thus recalled to memory, but to stimulate the people anew to obedience, by reminding them how strong was the reason for it, and how great would be the blessedness of it. It was then, as it is now, "godliness is profitable for all things;" and though that would be a low standard of virtue attained by a man who served God merely for what he could get by it, yet, on the other hand, if no good came of it, the reason for it would certainly be seriously affected in the influence it had on a man. There is a mean and selfish form of utilitarianism. But if, when a man contends for utility as the foundation of virtue, he means by utility "a tendency to promote the highest good, on the largest scale, for the longest period," there is nothing selfish or mean about the theory then, whether we accept it as sound philosophy or no. And it is certain that our Lord Jesus Christ meant considerations of profit to weigh with men (see Matthew 16:25, Matthew 16:26). Observe—

I. GOD'S STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS ARE THE BEST MORAL AND SPIRITUAL FURNITURE WITH WHICH A PEOPLE CAN BE ENRICHED. The word "statutes" includes "the moral commandments and statutory covenant laws." "Judgments" are precepts enjoining what is due from men to man or to God. Sometimes we get the word "commandments," including both the former; at other times we have the word "testimonies; in which duty is looked at as that concerning which God bears testimony to man Now, men will rise or fall according as the moral nature is cultured or neglected. And it is because the Divine precepts constitute a directory for our highest selves, that they are so invaluable to us. Doubtless, to some extent, the Law of God is still graven in the hearts and consciences of men; and if men were perfect, the Law written on the heart would be clear enough. But as men neglect God's Law, they come to fail in discerning it. The characters written inwardly are more and more faint, and, lest it should cease from among men, our God has had his will graciously recorded in a Book, our constant standard of appeal, our unvarying directory of right!

II. THESE STATUTES AND JUDGMENTS ARE TO BE PRESERVED INTACT. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." The manifestation of the tendency of men to do one or the other, yea both, is one of the saddest chapters in human history (see Homily on Deuteronomy 12:32). (Cf. Jeremiah 26:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, Revelation 22:19; Matthew 5:19; Matthew 15:1-13.) Skepticism violates God's Law by subtracting from it; superstition, by adding to it. Our appeal must ever be "to the Law and to the testimony," and the appeal will only be valid, nay, will only be possible, as both are preserved intact and kept free from the tampering of men.

III. THEY ARE TO BE PRESERVED IN THEIR ENTIRETY, IN ORDER THAT THEY MAY BE OBEYED IS THEIR ENTIRETY. Hearken, for to do them (see John 13:17; James 1:22). A mere reverence for the letter, without obedience to the spirit, is displeasing to God. Jesus Christ complained of this among the Jews (John 5:38-40). A written law, honored as to its preservation, but yet neglected in life, is a silent witness against us (John 5:45). Men may rest in having the oracles of God, and may cherish even up to the last, vain hopes of acceptance on the ground of privilege, but they will be undeceived (Matthew 7:21-27). Obedience to the Law of God includes the two great duties of trust in a great salvation and loyalty to moral precepts. No man was allowed to trifle with the sacrificial code any more than with the ethical: both formed parts of the Law; both were to be observed with equal exactitude.

IV. OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW WOULD BE FOR ISRAEL'S WEAL, AND WAS THE CONDITION OF THEIR CONTINUANCE IN THE LAND.

Deuteronomy 4:1

"That ye may live," etc. The word "life" is very far from being a mere synonym for "existence." It is equivalent to "healthful existence," a state of being in which all his powers and functions are in harmonious exercise, and directed to their proper objects and ends. Nor can any one doubt that obedience to the laws of God has a tendency to promote true comfort and success in this life, while it is certainly the truest, yea, the only, preparation for the next. Besides, the blessing of God is promised to the obedient. If a man's life accords with the laws of God, he will find out how conducive obedience is to good. But if he "strives with his Maker," his life-course will bristle up with prickles everywhere.

V. AS WE LOOK ROUND, WE MAY SEE SAD EXAMPLES OF THE REVERSE, FROM WHICH WE MAY TAKE WARMING. (See the sad history of Baal-peor, referred to in Deuteronomy 4:3.) Surely we should take warning from that, and from too many similar instances. The prevalence of lust will be destructive of life's beauty, peace, power, and hope.

VI. THE EXPERIENCE OF THE PEACE AND JOY, ATTENDANT UPON A LIFE OF LOYALTY TO GOD, IS A STRONG ARGUMENT FOR CONTINUANCE THEREIN.

Deuteronomy 4:4, "Ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day." What would the victims of lust and greed and passion give if they could but have the calm peacefulness of one who follows the Lord fully I But that cannot he. The test of a life for God is God's own seal to its worth in his eye (cf. Psalms 91:1-16.); while (coet. par.) long life is ensured by the healthy state of body which a righteous life induces. And the hope—the good hope through grace—which gilds the outlook, oh, the unutterable joy of that!

IN CONCLUSION.

1. It is just as imperative, in a Christian point of view, for us to combine obedience to the sacrificial and ethical law of the gospel, as it was for the Hebrews to obey both parts of their Law. No outside virtues performed in a legal, self-righteous spirit will save us. Nor will any trust in the sacrifice of Christ, apart; from holiness, be accepted. Both faith in Christ and holy living, form inseparable parts of a true obedience to God.

2. The rich fullness of peace which those enjoy who trust, love, and obey, is far greater under the gospel than it could have been under the Law of Moses, because, in Christ, the revelation of Divine love is so much clearer, and the "blessed hope" is so much brighter. Christ gives us a rest in himself, and the life he quickens and sustains in believers is a restful life (see Romans 5:1-11; Philippians 4:4-7). "Though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." This is life indeed!

Deuteronomy 4:5-9

National greatness dependent on obedience to God.

In these verses we have a continuation of the address of Moses to the people. He had previously reminded them of incidents which had occurred. He here points out to them the advantageous position they are privileged to occupy, and shows them how to maintain and perpetuate it. He reminds them of the following points:—

1. That theirs was the very special privilege of having God nigh unto them as the Lord their God (see also Deuteronomy 4:32-34).

2. That they would occupy a prominent place among the nations round about (cf. Exodus 9:16; Exodus 15:14; Numbers 14:13-21; Deuteronomy 28:10).

3. That the cornerstone of their national life and honor was the worship of God and the practice of righteousness. Their" statutes and judgments" were characterized by this special mark—they were righteous above those of any other nation £ (Deuteronomy 4:8).

4. That the carrying out into action of these precepts was their only wise course (Deuteronomy 4:6).

5. That such wisdom would be their true greatness, and such greatness would win them regard and honor from surrounding peoples (Deuteronomy 4:6). [This was actually the case to a very large extent. Our space will not allow us even to touch on the matter here; but careful research will show the student how Israel's greatness has manifested itself in the influence exerted by them in modifying the religion, philosophy, literature, politics, institutions, and moral judgments of the world. First, among the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Phoenicians; and then among the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, See Wines, Gale, Stillingfleet, and others.]

6. That it behooves them to "keep and do" these precepts, to retain them in their heart, to hand them down to their children, and to take constant care of themselves. In turning all this to pulpit use for modern times, observe—

I. THERE ARE CERTAIN PRINCIPLES, THE APPLICATION OF WHICH WILL SECURE THE TRUE GREATNESS OF A PEOPLE. It is becoming to a true patriot to think of his country as being renowned among the nations of the earth, Jehovah evidently meant the people to be moved by such an ambition. It is far more healthful to direct natural desires into a right channel than to try to suppress them. Let a man cherish the most fervent wish to see his country unsurpassed among the people. God promises this as the result of his blessing. Thou shalt be "the head, and not the tail." But observe: No conspicuousness is so much to be desired as that arising from wisdom and understanding. The prominence which arises from moral influence is that alone which is worth striving after. Any influence by which we help to lift up other nations in virtue and power, is worth infinitely more than that which comes of martial valor, or diplomatic tactics, or such supremacy over a people as shall simply make them stand amazed at the length of our purse, or the precision and deadly fire of out arms. To be known as the wisest people, so that others seek in friendly emulation to learn from us—this is an eminence any patriot well may desire for the land he loves. But observe: This will depend on the amount of moral culture in a people, i.e. on the degree of clearness with which a people see what is right, on the measure of force they put forth in the pursuit of it, and on the firmness with which they insist on the right being paramount to any considerations of power, expediency, or gain. "The throne shall be established in righteousness." "Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people." Not only in the individual, the family, and the social life must righteousness be the chief corner-stone of a common weal, but in those acts in which a man has to play the part of a citizen, and in which a nation has to do with other nations. Righteousness may not be eliminated from politics, nor may it play a subordinate part. Universal, eternal, unchangeable, are the laws of righteousness, and by whomsoever they are violated—by individuals, families, Churches, or nations—such violation will surely be followed by remorse and shame. The truest form of moral culture is loyalty to the Divine Being and his commands. No nation ever has or ever can thrive without the recognition of a Great Supreme. It is only the fool, the "nabal," the withered one, who says there is no God. And no nation which ignores the duty of loyalty to God will ever be great. But then in the Book, as the world's grandest moral text-book, there are statutes, precepts, testimonies, judgments, for the regulation of life, both individually and collectively. The appeal of verse 8 is still valid, "What nation is there … that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this Law, which I set before you this day?" We know how the Law may be summed up: "All the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law." And this principle of love to all, carried out in loyalty to God, will ensure that greatness which is most worth having. The Egyptians were at one time renowned for learning, the Phoenicians for their commerce; the men of Bashan for their giant strength; Greece for its philosophy; Rome for her "imperium et libertas." Their sway has gone. But the Hebrew race, by whom first and alone this law of love was proclaimed as the one guiding principle of a nation's life, is living in its literature the grandest of all lives, and swaying, with the scepter of its one Perfect Man, men of different nations, tribes, and tongues in every quarter of the globe. Yes, this one law of love has given to the Hebrew race a greatness it will never lose. The brightest streaks of light on the globe now are to be discerned only where the law of love is known and obeyed; that law given by Moses, brought in by Jesus Christ. And in proportion as nations follow and act out this law, will they attain to the only greatness on which heaven smiles. "The world passeth away and the lusts thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." This righteousness is in itself an armor of light—a nation's best defense. For on "the righteous nation which keepeth the truth" will God's blessing rest, and, next to the Divine blessing, the good will of the nations is our surest and happiest guard.

II. HERE IS AN APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS TO TAKE HEED TO THESE PRINCIPLES. The appeal is fourfold in this paragraph.

1. "Keep therefore and do them." There is as much obedience to God in the nation as is rendered to him by individual souls, and no more. Hence it is the part of the true patriot who desires his nation's greatness to see that he is living the life which will help to make the nation great.

2. This is not to be superficial work, but the Law is to be in the heart. Not an accidental, surface life, but an intelligent and designed direction of the inner and outer life according to God's ways and Word.

3. This law of righteousness, truth, and love is to be handed down from sire to son, and so on to generation after generation. The parent is to be the true depositor, conservator, teacher, and transmitter of God's Law. He is to live after he has gone in the truth he has taught, and, when he is dead, his speech is to be molding the young hearts of a nation.

4. Each one is to put a careful guard around himself, lest any of the baneful influences around him should destroy or weaken his loyalty to God and the right. "Take care of thyself;"—such is the meaning of the phrase in verse 9 (cf. Proverbs 4:23, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life"). It is easy to gather from the Book of Deuteronomy against what influences the ancient Hebrews would have to guard. These influences, hostile to unswerving loyalty, vary with each land and race and age. A careful observation and knowledge of the times will show us against what foes we have at all points to be armed. Let us take the whole armor of God. Let us save ourselves from this untoward generation. Let us play the man and the citizen, with hearts loyal to our Savior, jealous for the right and the true, fearing God, but having no fear beside!

Deuteronomy 4:11-20

Israel's peculiar relation to God.

This paragraph sets forth in earnest appeal the peculiar and distinctive relation to God in which Israel was placed. (For the precise details of the point in their history here referred to, see Exodus 19:1-25.; and for the application of several of the expressions used both here and there to believers in Christ under the Christian dispensation, see 1 Peter 2:9.) Here is a noble theme for the preacher—Israel's special relation to God, typical of and fulfilled in the present relation of Christian people to him.

I. LET US STUDY THE PECULIAR RELATION OF ISRAEL TO GOD. "The Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace … to be unto him a people of inheritance," i.e. a purchased or acquired people. So in Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6. The Lord had called Abraham, had made promises to him and to his seed. These promises ran down through Isaac and Jacob and the twelve patriarchs. Now their descendants had become numerous enough to form a nation; as such they had been duly constituted, with this peculiar feature—they were to be God's nation. They had been freed by him, they were consecrated to him, and were being trained by and for him. Hence, as Kalisch remarks, every subject is as it were a priest, and every civil action assumes the sanctity of a religious function: idolatry was an offence against his sovereignty, and therefore punishable with death; so blasphemy, false prophecy, Sabbath-breaking, were visited with the like punishment. Disrespect to elders, disobedience to parents (they being the representatives of God), were visited with sore penalties. Hence, too, the whole land belonged to God. The people were but tenants, and in the year of jubilee land reverted to its former owner or his heirs. The Israelites were the subjects and servants of God alone. Slavery, therefore, though not peremptorily put down, was so regulated that the slave went out free in the seventh year; and if he did not desire the freedom, he was branded with an ignominious mark because he refused the immediate sovereignty of God. £ Now, this expression, "God's nation," is the key wherewith to interpret many of the enactments which seem to us unintelligible, and many of the punishments which seem unusually severe. This truth, that Israel is the Lord's people, runs through the Old Testament Scriptures, as will be seen if we note the varied names by which they are distinguished.

1. God's son, his firstborn (Exodus 4:22, Exodus 4:23; Jeremiah 3:4, Jeremiah 3:9; Hosea 11:1).

2. Firstfruits (Jeremiah 2:3).

3. The people of God (Psalms 81:8-11; 2 Samuel 7:23, 2 Samuel 7:24).

4. God's inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9).

5. The people (Deuteronomy 33:29).

6. The chosen ones (Psalms 33:12; Deuteronomy 7:6).

7. His flock (Jeremiah 13:17; Psalms 100:3).

8. The holy people (Deuteronomy 7:6; Jeremiah 7:1-34 :44).

9. The righteous people (Numbers 23:10; Exodus 19:6).

10. The house or the family of God (Isaiah 1:2).

11. A kingdom (Psalms 89:18).

Thus all Israelites were subjects of the same eternal, perfect King, all equal in dignity, rights, and duties. There was among them no institution resembling caste. All were equal in Heaven's eye; all enjoyed scope for the development of their spiritual nature. The poorest herdsman might become a prophet, if filled with the Spirit of God. And the intended differential feature of the whole nation was given to it by the revealed character of its King, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." It is no wonder that a people, selected thus for such a close relationship to God, should be called in the text, "a people of inheritance." Not, indeed, in Israel alone, was there a theocratic form of government. The kings of Egypt, the monarchs of Persia and Thibet, pretended to rule as the representatives of the gods. Minos among the Cretans, Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian, Numa of Rome, and Mohammed, all pretended to have in some sort Divine authority; but these were only the mimicry of the true, and were all lacking in the supreme point to and for which Jehovah was educating Israel, even for "righteousness and true holiness." It is easy enough to win converts by a certain mimicry of the Divine. The early history of many a nation is laden with mythology, but the early history of Israel stands out in clear and startling distinction from that of other peoples, in the clearness with which they witness for the one living and true God, the accordance of their early records with known life and manners, and the clear and striking demand in their precepts for love and goodness, holiness and truth. This was at the time, and ever will be in the history of that age, the one bright spot amid the surrounding gloom. The people were "a peculiar treasure to God above all people."

II. WHAT ISRAEL WAS DESIGNED TO BE AMONG THE NATIONS, CHRISTIAN PEOPLE ARE TO BE WHEREVER THEY ARE: a holy people unto the Lord their God. The Apostle Peter intimates this in the verse to which we referred at the outset (see also Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Peter 1:16). There are many more passages in which believers are spoken of not only individually but collectively, as making up a family, a household, a city, a commonwealth (Ephesians 2:12, Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20, Greek). And there are four features which mark this new commonwealth, which correspond to those which marked that of the Hebrews.

1. The members of this Christian commonwealth are redeemed (cf. 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 1:19). From the curse of the Law, from the bondage of sin, believers have been redeemed by an offering of unspeakable value, even the precious blood of Christ.

2. Thus redeemed, they come to have such a knowledge of God as their God as the world has not and cannot have (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7). They are redeemed out of a state of servitude into a state of sonship (cf. John 8:34-36).

3. They are redeemed to a life of close fellowship with God (cf. Deuteronomy 4:7; 1 John 1:1-3). They are at home in God.

4. They are redeemed to this close fellowship with God, that thereby they may become pure; and that in this life of purity they may "show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light." Not one of these four stages must be lost sight of; redeemed out of sin and servitude, into sonship, to fellowship, for holiness. Not one of these features must be left out; nor can the order in which we have put them be reversed or even transposed. The only mark by which the world can know God's people is—their holiness (Hebrews 12:14). It is not for naught that Scripture speaks of a great redemption. And no preacher preaches the gospel fully, who does not insist on its side of ethics as well as on its side of grace. And no professing Christian is worthy of the name he bears, who loses sight of holiness as the end to be attained, any more than he would be if he were to lose sight of the grace of God as that by which alone he can attain the end. How many of the controversies in the Church of God have arisen from an unequal perception of the varied truths of God's holy gospel! Out of an inadequate view of the evil of sin and of its affront to God's honor and government, many have felt but feebly the need of the Great Atoning Sacrifice, whereby the injured honor of the Law was vindicated and a redemption for man made possible! And then, on the other hand, through dwelling all but exclusively on the evil from which man is rescued, others have failed to insist sufficiently on the holiness for the sake of enabling him to attain which his rescue was effected at such a cost. Perhaps few preachers present in perfection an exactly balanced gospel. It is a doctrine according to godliness. Some decry doctrine because they see around them such a lack of godliness. But if we would have the godliness which is to illustrate the doctrine, we shall never secure the end by weakening the exhibition of the doctrine which, rightly used, will certainly lead to it. And not only do preachers need to take heed to both doctrine and practice, but private professors also. If we want the world to understand the value of the Christian religion as an object of revelation, we must show its power in a holy, personal life. If we want others to believe its doctrines to be superior to any other doctrines, we must show that the life it secures is superior to any other life. Thus must we be, like Israel, a peculiar people; showing to others that we have not been redeemed in vain. Be it ours to let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. Thus shall we show we are his people indeed.

Deuteronomy 4:21-24

God a consuming fire.

"The Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." This is no obsolete sentence. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it, and urges the truth it expresses as a reason for serving God "with reverence and godly fear; for," he adds, even "our God is a consuming fire." Perhaps the first impression which these words would convey to the earnest and thoughtful mind would be that of terror. Perhaps, too, some may even almost shudder at such a representation of God, and may at once declare that it belongs to a past age, and to a decaying order of ideas. But others who are more cautious would be likely to say, "We must be quite sure that we understand the phrase before we say that." Doubtless we say with pleasure, "God is light," "God is love," but who can delight in saying, "God is fire?" Is it possible that any one can go even further, and delight in saying, "Our God—the God who is in covenant relation to us—is a consuming fire"? Does not the phrase act as a repellent force, and inspire one with dread? No doubt it may have that effect in many cases, specially if men have carelessly fastened on one aspect of things, or where they have been misled by a popular misquotation, "God out of Christ is a consuming fire." For whatever the phrase means, it is just as true that God in Christ is a consuming fire, as that God out of Christ is so. The phrase is one which should be thoughtfully and devoutly studied in the general light of Scripture teaching, in order that in God's light we may see light. It may be, if thus we try to feel our way to its meaning, that it opens up views of God with which we would not willingly part.

I. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE IN THE TEXT? It must have often struck an attentive reader of the Bible how frequently the figure of" fire" is found therein, both in connection with man's offerings to God, and with God's manifestations of himself to man (cf. Genesis 3:24; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 15:17; Exodus 3:1-22.; 19.; Isaiah 4:1-6.; Isaiah 31:9). Now, whatever may be the attribute of God here set forth under the figure of fire, it, like all God's attributes, must he twofold in its action in a sinful world. The action of fire is according to the object on which it acts.

1. There is a terrific action of fire. It tries what is bad (1 Corinthians 3:13). It consumes (Le Deuteronomy 10:2). It appalls (Numbers 11:1-3; Isaiah 33:14). It destroys (2 Kings 1:12; Luke 3:17; John 15:6; Psalms 98:3; Hebrews 6:8).

2. There is a kindly action of flame. It enkindles (Le Deuteronomy 9:24). It tries (1 Peter 1:7; Isaiah 48:10). It purifies (Psalms 12:6). It guards (Zechariah 2:5; 2 Kings 6:17; Deuteronomy 9:3). It escorts (2 Kings 2:11). It guides (Exodus 40:38). It enlightens (Psalms 78:14). It is as a pavilion of glory (Exodus 3:2; Isaiah 33:14-17). Now, widely different as is the action or the meaning of flaming fire from heaven in all these cases, the difference is not in the flame, but in the material on which it acts. The same fire that melts the wax will bake the clay. So the very same attribute of God in which the righteous may glory will be a terror to his enemies.

3. Fire, when spoken of in reference to God, is an emblem of:

4. But we may take another step, and reduce this fourfold conception to a twofold one. There is anger against sin because of spotless purity. There is jealousy which will brook no rival, and a power, that will guard its own because of intensest love. Thus the consuming fire is purity, in which righteousness may dwell, and in which sin is consumed; and love, which is mighty in its active care, and jealous of any rival in the human heart.

5. We may simplify yet again, and reduce the twofold conception to a unity, and say that God is a consuming fire, inasmuch as he is perfect love—pure love, active love, jealous love; so that oar text is but another way of saying, "God is light, God is love." Let us now—

II. LOOK AT THESE THREE FORMS OF THE EXPRESSION "PERFECT LOVE," AND SEE WHAT THEY INVOLVE.

1. Pure love. God is a flaming fire of infinite purity, and yet a burning flame of tenderest love. He receives the sinner on a basis of righteousness. He makes men who are in covenant relation to him perfectly pure. They are to be tried and purified and made white, till they are without fault before the throne of God. Would we have it otherwise? God's love without its purity would be worthless to us!

2. Active love. God castles his saints in a wall of fire (Isaiah 4:6), while he also destroys their foes as with a tongue of fire.

3. Jealous love. There is a hateful jealousy. There is a rightful one. The first it would be unworthy of a man to possess; the second, a man would be unworthy of himself if he did not. A father would be worth little if he were not jealous for the purity of his child; so would a husband if not jealous for the honor of his wife; or an Englishman, if not jealous for the honor of his queen! Even so, it would be unworthy of God if he were not jealous, in the scriptural sense. Note:

He will not let one be lost who receives him, nor will he let one be saved who trifles with him. To go against Christ is to rush into the consuming flame!

III. WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL USES TO RE MADE OF THIS SUBLIME ATTRIBUTE OF GOD? (See the use made of it in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Deuteronomy 12:1-32; the last three or four verses.)

1. Is God thus a consuming fire? Then let us never attempt to draw nigh unto him without a recognition both of his purity and of our sinfulness. No service is accepted before God which does not take account of sin, and in connection with which there is not "reverence and godly fear."

2. Do not let us think of any mode of recognition of sin which ignores God's own way, viz. that of an atoning sacrifice. God will jealously guard the honor of his dear Son. "If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven."

3. If thus we are penitently making use of the atoning sacrifice of Christ as our only means of approach to and ground of hope in God, then let us glory in this holy, jealous love, which guards us as with a wall of fire, and is our everlasting guarantee that we shall not be put to shame.

4. Let us remember that it depends on ourselves whether the "consuming fire" is a flame at which we tremble, or a pavilion in which we can hide. God cannot deny himself. He will not deal with the sinner on any principle which ignores the great atonement which his Son has effected, or which admits of his accepting the service of a divided heart. It is for us to say whether the great redeeming work of Jesus shall be the means by which we are raised to fellowship in infinite holiness, or whether it shall be to us the savor of death unto death. It must be one or the other. If we receive it, it will bring us to eternal rest in God; if we reject it, it will deepen our condemnation more terribly than if no Savior had been provided! Our God is a consuming fire. If, in Jesus, we draw near to him, that burning, blazing holiness shall be the secret place of his tabernacle in which we are safely hidden. If we neglect this great salvation, as men unpardoned and unsaved, we shall remain, and at the flame of Jehovah's purity we shall tremble forever! Sinner, say, oh say, shall this fire of God's perfect love surround you ever as a wall of protection, or shall it terrify and consume you as devouring flame?

HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES

Deuteronomy 4:1-13

The sacredness of the Divine Law.

Law, being the utterance of righteousness, is unalterable as righteousness itself, permanent amid all the mutations of human affairs. Its requirements are statutes, stable as the everlasting hills.

I. LAW IS THE VERITABLE VOICE OF GOD; the manifestation of his thought; the mirror of his mind. "The Lord spake unto you." "Out of the midst of the fire" the flame of holiness and zeal—issues every command. If man's moral nature has an open ear, it may often detect the imperial voice of Heaven. 'Tis not to sight God reveals himself, but to the ear. His messengers are emphatically "a voice." "Faith comes by hearing."

II. LAW, IN ITS SPHERE, IS PERFECT. Over every work of his hands God pronounces the verdict "Very good;" and Law, being the instrument with which he works, is "holy, just, and good." For unrighteous man there may be something more precious than Law; but when restored to God, Law is his delight. In the domain of belief we cannot augment or diminish God's Law without self-injury. Perfection cannot be improved upon. In the sphere of practice, to halt short of the line of duty, or to go beyond the line, is alike an offence. Self-mutilation, or blemish, is the effect.

III. THE VERACITY OF LAW ATTESTED BY ACTUAL EXPERIENCE. Every honest minded man may discover whether or not the written Word embodies a Divine Law. If a genuine Law, its authority is ratified by an honest conscience; as sanctions, whether of commendation or curse, are witnessed by every clear-sighted eye. Every truthful man is a witness that God's laws (whether written in external nature, in man's constitution, or in Scripture) bring life to the obedient, death to the transgressor. Not a Law is revealed in the Scriptures, but it tends to righteousness, happiness, life!

IV. DIVINE LAW ASSERTS ITS AUTHORITY OVER THE WHOLE MAN.

1. Over the intellect, for it demands attention, investigation, comparison, and discrimination.

2. Authority over the affections, for it demands reverence, esteem, choice, and love.

3. Authority over the moral faculty; for it demands assent, response, and loyalty.

4. Over the active powers, for it requires watchfulness, self-restraint, uninterrupted deference, and uncompromising service.

V. LAW IS THE PATHWAY TO TRUE EMINENCE. Every successful application of science to practical life is simply a treading of the pathway of law. So long as man finds the footprints of God's Law, he moves onward. There is no real progress in any department of human life, except along the line of God's Law. To find that, and to follow it, is success. This is equally true in the spiritual province. This is the quintessence of wisdom—the stepping-stone to eminence! What men—what nation—have ever reached to permanent greatness, save they who have trodden the path of Divine Law?

VI. LOYALTY TO GOD'S LAW BRINGS US NEAR TO GOD. As when we follow up the footprints of a man rapidly enough, we at length come up with the man himself; so, as we pursue the pathway of Law, we come soon without the hallowed precincts of God's presence. We see the working of the heavenly machinery, the movements of God's thought and purpose. We move with it, and ever come nearer to the central light and love. It is a narrow path, and few they are who find it.

VII. A SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE IS SELF-PROPAGATING. Like plants in the garden, every righteous man bears seed after his own kind. Without formal teaching, the beauty of his life will be a living lesson—the fragrance of his deeds will be contagious. They who love God's Law will be zealous to teach God's Law, and to commend it to others. A fine trait in Abraham's character comes into view when God said, "I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him." Every man bequeaths to posterity a large legacy of blessing or of bane.

VIII. THE LAW OF GOD B DESTINED TO HAVE PERMANENCE IN HUMAN LIFE. There was high significance in the fact that the Decalogue was written, not in rays of light upon the sapphire firmament, nor in legible characters upon parchment, but on stone. The stone of Sinai is said to belong to one of the oldest formations—the granite period. The forms and modes of law may undergo change to meet the growing necessities of men; but the inner sense—the kernel—of every law still abides. "Heaven and earth may pass away," all material stricture may undergo radical change—but the words of God can undergo no change. What is true once is true always! What was right a myriad of ages since, retains all its authority today, and will be obligatory world without end. The sum and substance of moral law is writ by the finger of God, and graven on the solid rock!—D.

Deuteronomy 4:1-28

The curse of idolatry.

Idolatry is the general bias of fallen humanity, the perversion of an innate principle, the misgrowth of the religious instinct. Men everywhere "feel after God, if haply they may find him." Absolute atheism cannot long endure anywhere. If men reject a personal Deity, they invent an inferior God, and practically worship that. The wildest atheist which the world has seen, must admit that there is some power or force in the world superior to himself. There is no resting-place for reason, short of a spiritual God.

I. IDOLATRY WAS THE PREVALENT DANGER OF THE PATRIARCHAL AGE. During the childhood of men, they are under the domination of the bodily senses. They demand a god whom they can see and handle and hear. The kindred of Abraham were addicted to idolatry. The wife of Jacob furtively abstracted the teraphim of her father, and held them in a measure of reverence. Even Moses yearned for a visible Deity. "I beseech thee, show me thy glory!" The absence of Moses from the camp for forty days sufficed for the people to relapse into idolatry. Throughout their history, every decline in relic, ions feeling showed itself in a fresh lapse towards idolatry.

II. IDOLATRY GROSSLY CORRUPTS ITS VOTARIES. The object which is at first selected to be a symbol of the Deity, soon detains on itself the homage of the worshipper, and becomes his Deity. Matter is at the antipodes from spirit. The laws and forces working in material nature may help us to understand the Divine Being, but matter itself never. Apart from a written revelation, we best rise to the knowledge of God through the contemplation of our own minds and consciences. The object of our worship molds us after itself. The worshipper of beasts becomes bestial. "They that make them become like unto them." This is God's law.

III. MATERIAL IMAGES DEGRADE THE GODHEAD. For God is a Spirit, and cannot be represented by material images. For matter can convey no impressions of omnipresence, or of eternity, or of moral qualities, or of emotions, affections, or joys! Representation by material images strips our God of all that is noblest in his nature, cf. all that is distinctive in the Godhead. It cloaks his perfections and eclipses his glory.

IV. IDOLATRY ANNULLED THE COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND ISRAEL. That gracious compact required upon the part of the Israelites the honest recognition and worship of the One Jehovah. Unfaithfulness on this vital point invalidated the entire covenant; God had pledged himself specially to be their God, on condition that they were his loyal people. All the resources of God's kingdom were pledged to Israel in that covenant. It was an act of mercy that God should bind himself in any form to his creatures, and this superabundant grace ought to have held their homage by closest and tenderest ties. His part of the covenant, God had conspicuously observed in the release of his people from the "iron furnace." Was not every sign and wonder wrought in Egypt a fresh seal upon the heavenly bond? This covenant, between a gracious God and undeserving men, idolatry destroyed.

V. OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS DESIGNED AS A REGULATIVE FORCE. There are limitations to our knowledge of God imposed by our constitution, and further limitations imposed by our sin. These latter can be removed at once by the redemptive power of Christ; and the first named shall gradually be relaxed in the resurrection state. Fire does not represent God, except so far as it consumes, and this illustration is meant to check our presumption; 'tis not for the satisfaction of a curious intellect, but to restrain a wayward life. Knowledge of God, which is honestly reduced to practice, becomes larger and clearer knowledge. "Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord."

VI. INIQUITY BECOMES ITS OWN PUNISHMENT. Throughout the Scriptures this doctrine is taught, that sin ripens and culminates in punishment. The penalty threatened upon the idolatry of the Jews was this, that they should be driven into a heathen land, and be compelled to serve the senseless blocks of wood and stone. The punishment of avarice is this, that the sensibilities become as hard as gold. The penalty of drunkenness is this, that the morbid appetite grows into an uncontrollable passion! The voice of doom says, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still."

VII. PRESENT PUNISHMENTS ARE THE TYPE OF FUTURE PUNISHMENTS. The penalty to be imposed on the Jews for disloyalty, was banishment from Canaan—defeat, scattering, death. So the final penalties revealed for reprobate men are exclusion from the heavenly Canaan; banishment to the darkness they have preferred; utter destruction. Each man "goes to his own place."

VIII. SUFFERING FOR OTHERS, A PATHWAY TO HUMAN HEARTS. In connection with these fatherly counsels, Moses again reminds the people of his privation on account of their sins. The blame of his exclusion from Canaan he attributes to them. He who aforetime had prayed that, for the sake of Israel, his own name might be blotted out of God's book, now submits to this chastisement for the people's good. But Moses would not throw away the advantage which this fact might bring. In his desire for the people's good, he converts it into a persuasive argument, by which to confirm their loyalty to God. As if, should every other appeal fail, this appeal to their sensibility might succeed. It is as if he had said, "Remember what I am called to endure for you! Let your requital be unswerving obedience to my God." Here he serves as a feeble type of Jesus.—D.

HOMILIES BY J. ORR

Deuteronomy 4:1, Deuteronomy 4:2

Acceptable obedience.

I. ITS BASIS—the Divine command. "Statutes and judgments." Action originating in self-will, however correct in moral form, is not obedience. It is God's command which is the rule and starting-point. Recognition of his authority is essential. Kant distinguishes religion from morality thus'' Religion is the doing of all duties as if they were Divine commandments." The objective rule is found in the inspired Scriptures.

II. ITS CHARACTER. It must be:

1. Entire, not partial. Having respect to all that God reveals.

2. Honest, neither altering, mutilating, adding to, nor subtracting from (cf. Matthew 5:19; Matthew 15:6, Matthew 15:9).

3. Persevering.

III. ITS REWARD. "Life," possession of blessings. This reward not legal, but of grace through Christ, as on the legal basis no one can attain to it (Romans 3:20). But though, as sinful, we cannot have life through obedience, we still have it in obedience. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21; Romans 2:7).—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:6-10

A nation's glory.

I. A NATION POSSESSING GOD'S WORD IS SUPREMELY FAVORED. (Deuteronomy 4:8.) Even to have such a Law as Israel possessed exalted her to a position of unique greatness. The knowledge of the true God—light on the great principles of conduct-equitable statutes-institutions adapted to promote material, moral, and spiritual well-being. Our own nation is exceptionally favored in the plentiful enjoyment of religious privileges—Bibles, churches, Sabbath schools, evangelistic agencies, Christian literature, etc; bringing the highest knowledge within the reach of the humblest; while the laws, institutions, etc; under which we live, as the fruit of a Christian civilization, are not surpassed by any on the earth. God has indeed, favored us to an unexampled degree in every religious respect.

II. A NATION ENLIGHTENED BY GOD'S WORD IS SUPREMELY WISE. To have is much, but to be truly "a wise and understanding people," we must "keep and do" (Deuteronomy 4:6). It is not in knowing, but in adopting, the wise course that we show ourselves truly wise. Wisdom is the course that conduces to the formation of a brave, noble, resolute, happy, and contented people; and the nation that loves God's Word, fears God himself, and applies the teaching he has given it in the various spheres of domestic, social, commercial, and political existence, is indubitably in possession of that wisdom. It is to be regretted that the nations most peculiarly privileged do not always set that store upon their privileges which they should do, or make a good use of them. The amount of irreligion, infidelity, and general indifference to the Word of God in our own land is a startling omen for the future. Britain's greatness will soon wane if she abandons her respect for the Bible, the Sabbath, and the guiding principles of revelation,

III. A NATION ORDERING ITSELF BY GOD'S WORD IS SUPREMELY EMINENT. (Deuteronomy 4:7.) Its prosperity:

1. Rests on a solid foundation.

2. Is built up under conditions that ensure its permanence.

3. Is secured by a special blessing of God. And this is a matter admitting of ample historical verification.

Compare:

1. Pagan nations with Christian.

2. Unbelieving nations with believing (France: Britain).

3. Roman Catholic nations with Protestant (see Laveleye on 'Protestantism and Catholicism in their bearing upon the Liberty and Prosperity of Nations').

4. Sabbath-desecrating nations with Sabbath-keeping. It will be found that the Bible-loving, Bible-obeying, Sabbath-keeping nations exhibit:

IV. A NATION OBEYING GOD'S WORD WILL HAVE THE SOURCE OF ITS GREATNESS ACKNOWLEDGED BY OTHERS. (Deuteronomy 4:6.) They will not only own to its eminence, but they will discern its true cause, and acknowledge that it springs from its religious faithfulness. Numerous testimonies of this kind exist to the source of the national greatness of our own country.

Lessons—

1. Value our religious privileges.

2. Seek the furtherance of religion in the community.

3. Be diligent in the training of our children (Deuteronomy 4:9).

4. Extend our blessings to others.—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:9

The religious education of children.

1. God's way of handing down the fruits of present privilege.

2. God's way of maintaining his witness in the world.

3. God's way of extending his Church.

The natural law of the increase of population leads, where parents are faithful, to a constant increase in the number of the godly.—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:10-14

The revelation at Horeb.

A revelation—

I. OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF GOD'S NATURE. "Ye saw no similitude" (Deuteronomy 4:12). A wonderful truth to be impressed on the minds of a people fresh from contact with the debasing idolatries of Egypt. A truth:

1. Difficult to grasp.

2. Elevating in its influence.

3. The apprehension of which is necessary for spiritual worship (John 4:24).

II. OF THE HOLINESS OF GOD'S CHARACTER. The lightnings that played about the mountain, the fire burning in the midst of it (Deuteronomy 4:11), the fiery law that was given,—all bespoke the awful and terrible holiness of him whose voice was uttering words of dreadful import to transgressors.

III. OF THE VERITIES OF GOD'S LAW. Then were spoken the ten commandments (Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 4:12)—the sum and substance of moral duty—the rule of life to believers—the Law which condemns and slays transgressors. Christ is "the end of the Law of righteousness to every one that believeth," and only in him can we escape from its condemning power (Romans 8:1; Romans 10:4).

IV. OF THE TERRORS OF GOD'S MAJESTY, God surrounded himself with these signs of his greatness, power, wrath, and holiness:

1. That we may reverence and fear him.

2. That we may be kept from presumption in our approaches to him.

3. That we may feel the awfulness of his Word. Recalling this scene, the Israelites should have been preserved from ever trifling with it. God's Word should be handled and read with a deep feeling of reverence.

4. These terrors suggested that the Law, in itself considered, is not a saving, but a destroying power. The whole manifestation was overcast with threatening.—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:15-20

Warning against heathenish idolatry.

I. THE ORIGIN OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY. The result of a "corruption" (Per. 16). Not a stage in the advance upwards from fetishism, etc.; but, as inquiries are tending more and more to show, the consequence:

1. Of a depravation of the idea of God.

2. Of a corruption of the worship of God.

3. Arising in turn from the substitution of the creature for God in the affections (cf. Romans 1:20-26).

II. THE FORMS OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY.

1. Hero-worship (Deuteronomy 4:16).

2. Animal-worship (Deuteronomy 4:17, Deuteronomy 4:18).

3. Nature-worship (Deuteronomy 4:19).

Greek idolatry furnishes conspicuous instances of the first; Egypt was notorious for the second, so Hinduism; while Parseeism, and the early Vedic worship illustrates the third (cf. Job 31:21).

III. THE FRUITS OF HEATHEN IDOLATRY.

1. A degraded intellect.

2. Degraded affections.

3. Degraded morals (Romans 1:1-32.).

Therefore Israel must not "corrupt" themselves.—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:20

The iron furnace.

God had passed his people through a hot furnace in the terrible sufferings they endured in Egypt, but with the gracious purpose of ultimately delivering them, and giving them an inheritance in Canaan. We learn—

I. THAT GOD'S PEOPLE ARE SOMETIMES SUBJECTED TO SUFFERINGS OF INCREDIBLE SEVERITY. The expression an 'iron furnace," i.e. a furnace for smelting iron, conveys no weaker an idea. We know that in fact it sometimes is so. Bodily anguish—mental anguish—stroke after stroke of heaviest trial. An instance in the history of Job. Shakes faith to its foundations—seems to argue that God has utterly forsaken them.

II. THAT THESE SUFFERINGS ARE APPOINTED, AND SERVE DISCIPLINARY ENDS. The use of the figure of a furnace implies a purpose in the sufferings. Iron is put into the furnace deliberately, and with a design. Trials, difficult enough to bear in the faith that God sends them, would ofttimes be absolutely intolerable without that faith. The furnace acts on the tough, hard, impure iron to separate it from dross, and make it soft and workable. The severe sufferings through which God passes believers:

1. Purify character.

2. Make the nature plastic to God's will, and subdue it to meekness.

3. Fit the man thus sanctified for new and higher uses.

III. GOD HAS AN INHERITANCE IN STORE FOR THOSE WHO ENDURE THE FURNACE SUCCESSFULLY.

1. Their sufferings fit them to be God's inheritance. "To be unto him a people of inheritance." He has to melt, mold, and spiritually prepare for his own indwelling those whom he chooses.

2. Their sufferings fit them for the inheritance which God gives them (1 Peter 1:3-10). By creating a pure, chastened, heavenly disposition. By strengthening faith, brightening hope, and increasing love. By subduing pride, rebellion, and impatience; and making the will absolutely pliant in the hands of the Divine.—J.O.

HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR

Deuteronomy 4:1-14

Obedience the secret of success.

Moses here reminds Israel of the privilege it possesses as a nation in having the oracles of God committed unto it (Romans 3:2). He urges obedience upon them as the one purpose for which they are to be introduced into the Promised Land. National prosperity depends upon this. And here we have to notice—

I. DISOBEDIENCE HAS ALREADY PROVED FATAL. He recalls the terrible experience in connection with Dual-peer—how the people in large numbers became lewd idolaters with the Israelites (Numbers 25:1-18.), and how fierce anger from the Lord visited the people. In Canaan they shall be exposed to similar temptations, but the chastisement at Baal-peor must not be lost upon them. Past judgments are to secure more complete obedience.

II. GOD'S NEARNESS TO THEM SHOULD PROVE A HALLOWING PRIVILEGE. How gracious is God to dwell among them, always near at hand to be inquired of, a most serviceable King! He dwelt in their midst as a Pilgrim with his people. Upon his accessibility and wisdom they could always calculate. This distinguished Israel from the other nations. Such a privilege should of itself hallow them, and make them to abide under his shadow. Equally near is God still to all of us who seek him.

III. HIS LAW IS WISER THAN ALL MAN'S DEVELOPED LEGISLATION. The surrounding nations had their laws and customs, but the superiority of the Mosaic code was admitted by all acquainted with it. It was an immense moral advance for Israel, as great an advance as in that rude age they could take in. Similarly, the morality of the gospel is ahead of all jurisprudence. Indeed, enlightened legislation and reform tend towards the scriptural ideal. God is wiser than man, and the Bible better than all acts of parliament.

IV. THE LAW WAS GIVEN AS A RULE OF LIFE FOR A COVENANT PEOPLE. They were redeemed from bondage, and then received the Law at Sinai to guide their redeemed lives. Obedience should be a matter of gratitude for deliverance, and would prove the secret of success. It is so still. "Christ redeems us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us." But as grateful and saved people, we feel that we are "under the Law to Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:21). And this grateful obedience proves the secret of comfort and success. It is the meat of life to do the wilt of him who hath sent us, and to finish his work (John 4:34). Palestine becomes "paradise regained" to the grateful and obedient souls. We find a Promised Land where God's precepts are gratefully observed by redeemed souls. It is the attitude within, rather than the circumstances without, which constitutes life a blessed country and an antepast of heaven.—R.M.E.

Deuteronomy 4:15-24

The Divine jealousy of graven images.

The great temptation of Israel was to idolatry. Images were worshipped by all those nations among whom they came, and they were in constant danger of conforming to the sinful practice. Hence this warning and statement about the Divine jealousy. Let us observe—

I. THAT JEALOUSY PRESUPPOSES LOVE. Love must be strong as death, else jealousy will not be cruel as the grave; nor will its coals prove coals of fire, having a most vehement flame (So Deuteronomy 8:6). The God who proves so jealous is he whose essence is love. If God did not love men so much, he would not be so jealous when they turn away from him. He knows that, as a wife cannot be happy separated from her loving husband, no more can the human spirit be, away from him. Israel then and we now have to deal with a God of love.

II. GOD IS JEALOUS WHEN MEN GIVE HIM VISIBILITY. Idolatry is trying to help worship through the aid of the senses. The image is not regarded as the god, but his likeness. Man embodies his ideas of God in outward forms. But imagination is not creative; it combines in new relations what has already been given to it. Hence idolatry has never done more than place the creatures, whether beast, or bird, or fish, or reptile, or the heavenly bodies, in new relations to the invisible Divinity. God resents this visibility as degradation. He knows that man becomes degraded by such associations. Hence his deserved wrath against idolatry.

III. IF GOD BE NOT OUR KINDLING FLAME, HE WILL IN JEALOUSY BE OUR CONSUMING FIRE. It is at the torch of the Divine that the human soul becomes enkindled. The flaming fires of Pentecost sublimate the soul and fit it for primeval powers. It is this warning, elevating influence that is love's natural action. But when rebellious man turns the grace of God into lasciviousness; when love is ignored instead of returned, and the soul seeks in the things of sense what God only cad give,—then love begins to burn as jealousy with a vehement, consuming flame.

IV. IT BECOMES US CONSEQUENTLY TO WORSHIP GOD IN THE SPIRIT. We must keep upon the serene heights of faith, and not fall into the degradation of superstition. We are made for better things than weakly to associate in our minds the invisible and eternal God with the creatures of sense. Let us give faith proper scope, and the worship of God will prove both possible and delightful. But the worship of God through images makes stocks and stones of men. "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psalms 115:8). May our worship raise us and not degrade us! Superstition degrades, but worship of the invisible God in the Spirit elevates and ennobles our souls.—R.M.E.


Verses 25-49

EXPOSITION

Deuteronomy 4:25-31

Moses enforces the warning against idolatry, by predicting the evil that should come upon the nation through the apostasy of those who should in after times turn from Jehovah to strange gods. When they should have begotten children and children's children, and had been long in the land, i.e. when in after years a generation should arise that had not known the things they had seen, or had forgotten them (Deuteronomy 4:9), and the nation should then become wanton and corrupt, and fall into idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 6:10, etc.; Deuteronomy 8:7, etc.; Deuteronomy 31:20, Deuteronomy 31:21; Deuteronomy 32:15, etc.; Hosea 13:6); then should they utterly perish from off the land of which they were now about to take possession.

Deuteronomy 4:25

Have remained long in the land; literally, have become old, an ancient nation, etc. To provoke him to anger; i.e. so as that he should be displeased and grieved, and roused to punish.

Deuteronomy 4:26

I call heaven and earth to witness. Moses speaks in the name of the Lord of all, and so calls to witness the whole created universe to attest his words; the heavens and earth are witnesses for God, and when evil comes on those who transgress his Law, they declare his righteousness (Psalms 50:4, Psalms 50:6), in that what has befallen the sinner is only what was announced beforehand as the penalty of transgression. Soon; hastily ( מַהֵר), without delay (cf. Deuteronomy 7:4, Deuteronomy 7:22 ["at once," Authorized Verses]; Deuteronomy 9:3 ["quickly"], Deuteronomy 9:12, Deuteronomy 9:16). Prolong days; usually equal to have a long life (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 17:20, etc.); here it means "continue long to occupy." Only as they continued faithful to Jehovah could they continue as a people to possess the land; severed from him, they lost their title to occupy Canaan, and ceased to be his special people; as a nation they would be destroyed by being scattered among other nations. From Le 26:33, etc; and Deuteronomy 28:64, it is evident that the author had in view "all the dispersions which would come upon the rebellious nation in future times, even down to the dispersion under the Romans, which continues still; so that Moses contemplated the punishment in its fullest extent" (Keil).

Deuteronomy 4:27

Few in number; literally, men of number, i.e. that may be counted; few as compared with the heathen among whom they should be dispersed (Genesis 34:30). Shall lead you. The verb here ( נִהֵג, Piel of נָהַג) is frequently used in the sense of conducting gently and kindly (Isaiah 49:10; Isaiah 63:14; Psalms 48:14; Psalms 78:52); but it also means to drive, to carry off, to convey forcibly (Exodus 14:25; Genesis 31:26; Exodus 10:13; Psalms 78:26); the connection shows that it is in the latter sense it is to be taken here. Dispersed among the heathen, they, who had dishonored God by making an image to represent him, should be compelled to do service to mere dead idols, the work of men's hands, which not only could not hear or see, as God can, but also could not-perform even such animal functions as eating and smelling (Psalms 115:4-7; Jeremiah 10:3-9). These idols are called "gods" by Moses, because they were so counted by those who worshipped them; elsewhere he stigmatizes them as "abominations," things to be loathed and abhorred ( שִׁקּוּצִים, Deuteronomy 27:15; Deuteronomy 29:17). As had been their sin, so should be their punishment; as they had dishonored God, so should they be themselves dishonored; as they had worshipped by an image him who is spirit and without form, they should be made to sink down to an utterly materialized worship, that of mere idols, the work of men's hands; as they had apostatized from the one holy and true God, they should be degraded to become the servants of abominations, objects of loathing and abhorrence (Jeremiah 16:13; Acts 7:42). God, however, would not utterly cast them off: if, in their misery and degradation, they should repent and turn again to him and seek him sincerely and earnestly, they should find him; for he is a merciful God, and mindful of the covenant which he swam unto their fathers (cf. Le 26:39, etc.).

Deuteronomy 4:29

With all thy heart and with all thy soul. As true religion consists in loving the Lord with all the heart and soul, the whole inner nature (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12), so true repentance consists in a turning from sin and all ungodliness to God, in a coming from a state of enmity to him, or of indifference to his claims, to honor, reverence, and serve him intelligently and sincerely, thinking of him aright, adoring his perfections, delighting in him u the alone good, giving to him that honor which is his due, and doing his will from the heart (of. 2 Chronicles 15:15). When men have apostatized from God, it is often by means of "tribulation" that they are brought to a right state of mind towards him, and to a true repentance "not to be repented of;" and to effect this is the design of all the chastisements which God sends on his own people (Hebrews 12:5-11; cf. Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 29:10-13; Jeremiah 50:4, etc.; Ezekiel 6:11, etc.).

Deuteronomy 4:30

In the latter days; in the afterward of days ( בְּאַחֲריִת הַיָּמִים; "end," Deuteronomy 11:12)-a phase used sometimes to designate the times of the Messiah (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; comp. Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 1:20; Hebrews 1:1; 1 John 2:18); but here, as generally, it simply indicates futurity, the time to come (cf. Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:29, etc.). This, however, may include the far distant future, and so points to the time when Israel shall finally return to the Lord and be saved, through the acknowledgment of him whom they despised and rejected when he came as the Messiah promised to the fathers. As St. Paul grounds the assurance of the final redemption of Israel, as a whole, on their calling of God (Romans 11:26-29), so Moses here sees in God's covenant the ground of the ever-watchful care and grace of God to Israel, and the security of their final restoration as a nation.

Deuteronomy 4:31

Will not forsake thee; literally, will not let thee loose, will not lose hold of thee, will not cast thee off (cf. Romans 11:1, etc.). "Israel will return and find God, because he loses not hold of it" (Herxheimer). "The sinner will incline to seek God only when he apprehends him as gracious and ready to hear" (Calvin).

Deuteronomy 4:32-40

Still more to enforce his warning against apostasy, and urge to obedience and faithful adherence to the service of Jehovah, Moses appeals to what they had already experienced of God's grace in the choosing of them to be his people, in his speaking to them to instruct them, and in the miracles which he had wrought for their deliverance and guidance; grace such as had never been showed before to any nation, or heard of since the creation of the world, and by which those who had experienced it were laid under the deepest obligations of gratitude and duty, to love and serve him by whom it had been showed. With this appeal he closes his first address.

Deuteronomy 4:32

For. This connects the statement that fellows with that which precedes as its cause; it is because Jehovah is a merciful God, that the unparalleled grace showed to Israel had been displayed. The days that are past, etc; i.e. inquire from the earliest time of man's abode on the earth. From the one side of heaven unto the other; search the records of all times and places, whether any so great a thing has ever happened or been heard of.

Deuteronomy 4:33

(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 5:22-26; Genesis 16:13.)

Deuteronomy 4:34

Hath God assayed, etc.; hath he ever made the attempt to come on the earth and take a nation from the midst of a nation, as he took the Hebrew people from among the Egyptians? By temptations ( מַסּוֹת, plu. of מַסָּה, a testing, a trial)—i.e. by the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and his people, whereby they were tested and tried—by signs and by wonders. "The wonder ( מופֵת) differs from the sign ( אוֹת) in this, that the former denotes the properly marvelous, the extraordinary, the uncommon, consequently the subjective apprehension of the miraculous event; the latter the significant element in the miracle, the reference to the higher, Divine design, the purpose of God in it, consequently to the objective side of the miracle (comp. Deuteronomy 13:2)". By war (cf. Exodus 14:14; Exodus 15:3-10); by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 14:8; Deuteronomy 5:15); and by great terrors (Exodus 12:30-36), the effect on the Egyptians of the Divine inflictions (cf. Psalms 105:27-38; Psalms 106:21, Psalms 106:22).

Deuteronomy 4:35

All this Israel was made to see, in order that they might know that Jehovah is alone God, and beside him is no other. God ( הָאֱלֹהִים, the God), the one living and true God.

Deuteronomy 4:36

(Cf. Exodus 20:18-22.) To indicate still further the pre-eminence of Israel, Moses emphasizes the supernatural character of the revelation God had given to them, and the awful manner of its delivery; God spake to them with audible voice, out of heaven, amidst fire, and they heard his words out of the fire. To instruct thee. The verb here used ( יָסַד) means primarily to bind and thence to correct, to chasten, which meaning some interpreters would give here. But the word means also to correct by instruction, to instruct or persuade (cf. Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 28:26; Psalms 16:7); and the connection, both with what precedes and with what follows, requires this meaning here.

Deuteronomy 4:37

And because he loved thy fathers (cf. Genesis 15:5-7; Exodus 13:15-17, etc.). Inasmuch as God had loved their fathers, the patriarchs, and had chosen them their descendants to be his people, and had delivered them out of Egypt, that he might establish them in the Promised Land, having driven out thence nations mightier than they, therefore were they to consider in their heart and acknowledge that Jehovah alone is God, and that in the wide universe there is no other. The apodosis in this sentence begins at Deuteronomy 4:39, and not, as in the Authorized Version, at "he chose," in Deuteronomy 4:37, nor at "brought thee," as some suggest. Because he loved thy fathers, and chose his [i.e. Abraham's] seed after him, and brought thee, etc.,—for all this thou shalt keep his statutes, etc. In his sight; literally, in his face, i.e. in his presence, by himself present with them; with special reference to Exodus 33:14, where the same word is used as here. Onkelos has hero "by his Word," and the rabbins explain it of "the angel of his presence, as it is said, Isaiah 63:9".

Deuteronomy 4:38

As it is this day; as this day has shown, or as it has come to pass this day, in the overthrow, namely, of Sihon and Og.

Deuteronomy 4:39

Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, etc.; literally, bring back into thy heart. "Because we cannot lay hold of spiritual things in thought instantly in a moment, God commands to make them to revert, i.e. again and again to recall them to the mind".

Deuteronomy 4:40

Upon the earth,—rather upon the land ( הָאֲדָמָה)—which the Lord thy God giveth thee forever. The comma after "thee" in the Authorized Version should be deleted. "The sum of this whole exhortation is

Deuteronomy 4:41-43

APPOINTMENT OF THREE CITIES OF REFUGE BEYOND JORDAN.

A short historical notice is here inserted, probably because it was during the interval between the first and second addresses of Moses that he carried into effect the Divine command to appoint cities of refuge for the manslayer (Numbers 35:9, etc.; cf. Exodus 21:13). This notice, therefore, is here in its proper place in the order of the narrative. That Moses should, just at this stage, have made this appointment was fitting and proper, seeing he had been urging on the people obedience to the Divine statutes and commandments, and had represented their conquest of the territory of Sihon and Og as an earnest of their ultimate possession of the whole land of the Amorites. By appointing these cities, Moses gave an example of obedience to God's injunction, and, at the same time, not only asserted on the part of Israel a right of proprietorship in this trans-Jordanic territory, but assumed as certain that, on the ether side of Jordan also, the same right of proprietorship should be possessed and exercised by Israel in the fulfilling of the whole law concerning cities of refuge (cf. Deuteronomy 19:1, etc.). That this section belongs properly to Numbers 35:1-34; Numbers 36:1-13; and has been interpolated here by some later hand, is a pure assumption, for which there is no ground.

Deuteronomy 4:41

On this side Jordan; beyond Jordan, more expressly defined as toward the sun rising, viz. on the east of that river.

Deuteronomy 4:42

Unawares; literally, in lack or want of knowing ( בְּבְלִי־דַעָת), i.e. unconsciously, unintentionally; in Numbers 35:31, Numbers 35:15, another word ( בִּשְׁגָגָה, by mistake) is used, rendered in the Authorized Version by "unwittingly;" in Joshua 20:3, both words are used. In times past; literally, yesterday, three days since, i.e. formerly, heretofore (cf. Genesis 31:2; Exodus 5:8).

Deuteronomy 4:43

Names of the cities set apart. Bezer; LXX. βοσόρ; one of the cities of the plain or table-land of the Amorites, on the east of Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 20:8), afterwards a Levitical city in the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 21:36). It is probably the Bosor of 1 Macc. 5:36; it has not been identified with any existing locality, but the ruined heaps of Burazin to the east of Hesban, or those of Berza in the same district, may mark its site. Ramoth in Gilead; probably the same as Ramoth-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26); it lay to the northwest of Philadelphia (Rabba or Rabbath-Ammon, hod. Amman), on the Jabbok ('Onom.,' s.v." Rammoth" and "Remmoth"); a Levitical city in the tribe of Gad (Joshua 21:38), hod. Es Salt, six hours from Amman (Von Raumer, Porter). Golan in Bashan. Eusebius identifies this with Gaulon, a very large village in Batanaea, from which the surrounding region had its name, viz. Gaulonitis, hod. Jolan ('Onom.,' s.v. "Gaulon"); it was a Levitical city in the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 21:27; 1 Chronicles 6:71); it has not been identified.

Deuteronomy 4:44

PART IISECOND ADDRESS OF MOSES.

CHAPTER 4:44—CHAPTER 26:19.

THIS address is introduced by a general notice of what is to form the subject of it, viz. the Law, with a more especial description of that in its different parts, as consisting of ordinances, statutes, and rights; together with a reference to the place and time when this address was delivered.

This is the Law—the Torah—which Moses set before the children of Israel. "He meaneth that which hereafter followeth; so this belongeth to the next chapter, where the repetition of the laws begins" (Ainsworth); cf. Deuteronomy verse 1; Deuteronomy 6:1; Le Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 7:1, etc.

Deuteronomy 4:45

Testimonies; ordinances attested and confirmed by God; the word used here ( עֵדוֹת, plu. of עֵדַה) occurs only in Deuteronomy (here and Deuteronomy 6:17, Deuteronomy 6:20) and in the Psalms. Statutes and judgments (cf. Deuteronomy 4:1). After they came forth out of Egypt; "i.e. not immediately after their exit, But, as verse 46 shows, when they were already beyond Jordan" (Herxheimer); literally, in their coming out: i.e. during the process of their passing from Egypt to Canaan; more exactly defined by what follows.

Deuteronomy 4:46

In the valley (cf. Deuteronomy 3:29). In the land of Sihon; on ground already captured and possessed by Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 2:32-36; Deuteronomy 3:1-17; verse 48; cf. Deuteronomy 3:9, Deuteronomy 3:12-17).

HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR

Deuteronomy 4:1-14

Obedience the secret of success.

Moses here reminds Israel of the privilege it possesses as a nation in having the oracles of God committed unto it (Romans 3:2). He urges obedience upon them as the one purpose for which they are to be introduced into the Promised Land. National prosperity depends upon this. And here we have to notice—

I. DISOBEDIENCE HAS ALREADY PROVED FATAL. He recalls the terrible experience in connection with Dual-peer—how the people in large numbers became lewd idolaters with the Israelites (Numbers 25:1-18.), and how fierce anger from the Lord visited the people. In Canaan they shall be exposed to similar temptations, but the chastisement at Baal-peor must not be lost upon them. Past judgments are to secure more complete obedience.

II. GOD'S NEARNESS TO THEM SHOULD PROVE A HALLOWING PRIVILEGE. How gracious is God to dwell among them, always near at hand to be inquired of, a most serviceable King! He dwelt in their midst as a Pilgrim with his people. Upon his accessibility and wisdom they could always calculate. This distinguished Israel from the other nations. Such a privilege should of itself hallow them, and make them to abide under his shadow. Equally near is God still to all of us who seek him.

III. HIS LAW IS WISER THAN ALL MAN'S DEVELOPED LEGISLATION. The surrounding nations had their laws and customs, but the superiority of the Mosaic code was admitted by all acquainted with it. It was an immense moral advance for Israel, as great an advance as in that rude age they could take in. Similarly, the morality of the gospel is ahead of all jurisprudence. Indeed, enlightened legislation and reform tend towards the scriptural ideal. God is wiser than man, and the Bible better than all acts of parliament.

IV. THE LAW WAS GIVEN AS A RULE OF LIFE FOR A COVENANT PEOPLE. They were redeemed from bondage, and then received the Law at Sinai to guide their redeemed lives. Obedience should be a matter of gratitude for deliverance, and would prove the secret of success. It is so still. "Christ redeems us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us." But as grateful and saved people, we feel that we are "under the Law to Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:21). And this grateful obedience proves the secret of comfort and success. It is the meat of life to do the wilt of him who hath sent us, and to finish his work (John 4:34). Palestine becomes "paradise regained" to the grateful and obedient souls. We find a Promised Land where God's precepts are gratefully observed by redeemed souls. It is the attitude within, rather than the circumstances without, which constitutes life a blessed country and an antepast of heaven.—R.M.E.

Deuteronomy 4:15-24

The Divine jealousy of graven images.

The great temptation of Israel was to idolatry. Images were worshipped by all those nations among whom they came, and they were in constant danger of conforming to the sinful practice. Hence this warning and statement about the Divine jealousy. Let us observe—

I. THAT JEALOUSY PRESUPPOSES LOVE. Love must be strong as death, else jealousy will not be cruel as the grave; nor will its coals prove coals of fire, having a most vehement flame (So Deuteronomy 8:6). The God who proves so jealous is he whose essence is love. If God did not love men so much, he would not be so jealous when they turn away from him. He knows that, as a wife cannot be happy separated from her loving husband, no more can the human spirit be, away from him. Israel then and we now have to deal with a God of love.

II. GOD IS JEALOUS WHEN MEN GIVE HIM VISIBILITY. Idolatry is trying to help worship through the aid of the senses. The image is not regarded as the god, but his likeness. Man embodies his ideas of God in outward forms. But imagination is not creative; it combines in new relations what has already been given to it. Hence idolatry has never done more than place the creatures, whether beast, or bird, or fish, or reptile, or the heavenly bodies, in new relations to the invisible Divinity. God resents this visibility as degradation. He knows that man becomes degraded by such associations. Hence his deserved wrath against idolatry.

III. IF GOD BE NOT OUR KINDLING FLAME, HE WILL IN JEALOUSY BE OUR CONSUMING FIRE. It is at the torch of the Divine that the human soul becomes enkindled. The flaming fires of Pentecost sublimate the soul and fit it for primeval powers. It is this warning, elevating influence that is love's natural action. But when rebellious man turns the grace of God into lasciviousness; when love is ignored instead of returned, and the soul seeks in the things of sense what God only cad give,—then love begins to burn as jealousy with a vehement, consuming flame.

IV. IT BECOMES US CONSEQUENTLY TO WORSHIP GOD IN THE SPIRIT. We must keep upon the serene heights of faith, and not fall into the degradation of superstition. We are made for better things than weakly to associate in our minds the invisible and eternal God with the creatures of sense. Let us give faith proper scope, and the worship of God will prove both possible and delightful. But the worship of God through images makes stocks and stones of men. "They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psalms 115:8). May our worship raise us and not degrade us! Superstition degrades, but worship of the invisible God in the Spirit elevates and ennobles our souls.—R.M.E.

Deuteronomy 4:25-49

EXPOSITION

Deuteronomy 4:25-31

Moses enforces the warning against idolatry, by predicting the evil that should come upon the nation through the apostasy of those who should in after times turn from Jehovah to strange gods. When they should have begotten children and children's children, and had been long in the land, i.e. when in after years a generation should arise that had not known the things they had seen, or had forgotten them (Deuteronomy 4:9), and the nation should then become wanton and corrupt, and fall into idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 6:10, etc.; Deuteronomy 8:7, etc.; Deuteronomy 31:20, Deuteronomy 31:21; Deuteronomy 32:15, etc.; Hosea 13:6); then should they utterly perish from off the land of which they were now about to take possession.

Deuteronomy 4:25

Have remained long in the land; literally, have become old, an ancient nation, etc. To provoke him to anger; i.e. so as that he should be displeased and grieved, and roused to punish.

Deuteronomy 4:26

I call heaven and earth to witness. Moses speaks in the name of the Lord of all, and so calls to witness the whole created universe to attest his words; the heavens and earth are witnesses for God, and when evil comes on those who transgress his Law, they declare his righteousness (Psalms 50:4, Psalms 50:6), in that what has befallen the sinner is only what was announced beforehand as the penalty of transgression. Soon; hastily ( מַהֵר), without delay (cf. Deuteronomy 7:4, Deuteronomy 7:22 ["at once," Authorized Verses]; Deuteronomy 9:3 ["quickly"], Deuteronomy 9:12, Deuteronomy 9:16). Prolong days; usually equal to have a long life (cf. Deuteronomy 5:16; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 11:9; Deuteronomy 17:20, etc.); here it means "continue long to occupy." Only as they continued faithful to Jehovah could they continue as a people to possess the land; severed from him, they lost their title to occupy Canaan, and ceased to be his special people; as a nation they would be destroyed by being scattered among other nations. From Le 26:33, etc; and Deuteronomy 28:64, it is evident that the author had in view "all the dispersions which would come upon the rebellious nation in future times, even down to the dispersion under the Romans, which continues still; so that Moses contemplated the punishment in its fullest extent" (Keil).

Deuteronomy 4:27

Few in number; literally, men of number, i.e. that may be counted; few as compared with the heathen among whom they should be dispersed (Genesis 34:30). Shall lead you. The verb here ( נִהֵג, Piel of נָהַג) is frequently used in the sense of conducting gently and kindly (Isaiah 49:10; Isaiah 63:14; Psalms 48:14; Psalms 78:52); but it also means to drive, to carry off, to convey forcibly (Exodus 14:25; Genesis 31:26; Exodus 10:13; Psalms 78:26); the connection shows that it is in the latter sense it is to be taken here. Dispersed among the heathen, they, who had dishonored God by making an image to represent him, should be compelled to do service to mere dead idols, the work of men's hands, which not only could not hear or see, as God can, but also could not-perform even such animal functions as eating and smelling (Psalms 115:4-7; Jeremiah 10:3-9). These idols are called "gods" by Moses, because they were so counted by those who worshipped them; elsewhere he stigmatizes them as "abominations," things to be loathed and abhorred ( שִׁקּוּצִים, Deuteronomy 27:15; Deuteronomy 29:17). As had been their sin, so should be their punishment; as they had dishonored God, so should they be themselves dishonored; as they had worshipped by an image him who is spirit and without form, they should be made to sink down to an utterly materialized worship, that of mere idols, the work of men's hands; as they had apostatized from the one holy and true God, they should be degraded to become the servants of abominations, objects of loathing and abhorrence (Jeremiah 16:13; Acts 7:42). God, however, would not utterly cast them off: if, in their misery and degradation, they should repent and turn again to him and seek him sincerely and earnestly, they should find him; for he is a merciful God, and mindful of the covenant which he swam unto their fathers (cf. Le 26:39, etc.).

Deuteronomy 4:29

With all thy heart and with all thy soul. As true religion consists in loving the Lord with all the heart and soul, the whole inner nature (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12), so true repentance consists in a turning from sin and all ungodliness to God, in a coming from a state of enmity to him, or of indifference to his claims, to honor, reverence, and serve him intelligently and sincerely, thinking of him aright, adoring his perfections, delighting in him u the alone good, giving to him that honor which is his due, and doing his will from the heart (of. 2 Chronicles 15:15). When men have apostatized from God, it is often by means of "tribulation" that they are brought to a right state of mind towards him, and to a true repentance "not to be repented of;" and to effect this is the design of all the chastisements which God sends on his own people (Hebrews 12:5-11; cf. Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 29:10-13; Jeremiah 50:4, etc.; Ezekiel 6:11, etc.).

Deuteronomy 4:30

In the latter days; in the afterward of days ( בְּאַחֲריִת הַיָּמִים; "end," Deuteronomy 11:12)-a phase used sometimes to designate the times of the Messiah (Isaiah 2:2; Hosea 3:5; comp. Acts 2:17; 1 Peter 1:20; Hebrews 1:1; 1 John 2:18); but here, as generally, it simply indicates futurity, the time to come (cf. Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14; Deuteronomy 31:29, etc.). This, however, may include the far distant future, and so points to the time when Israel shall finally return to the Lord and be saved, through the acknowledgment of him whom they despised and rejected when he came as the Messiah promised to the fathers. As St. Paul grounds the assurance of the final redemption of Israel, as a whole, on their calling of God (Romans 11:26-29), so Moses here sees in God's covenant the ground of the ever-watchful care and grace of God to Israel, and the security of their final restoration as a nation.

Deuteronomy 4:31

Will not forsake thee; literally, will not let thee loose, will not lose hold of thee, will not cast thee off (cf. Romans 11:1, etc.). "Israel will return and find God, because he loses not hold of it" (Herxheimer). "The sinner will incline to seek God only when he apprehends him as gracious and ready to hear" (Calvin).

Deuteronomy 4:32-40

Still more to enforce his warning against apostasy, and urge to obedience and faithful adherence to the service of Jehovah, Moses appeals to what they had already experienced of God's grace in the choosing of them to be his people, in his speaking to them to instruct them, and in the miracles which he had wrought for their deliverance and guidance; grace such as had never been showed before to any nation, or heard of since the creation of the world, and by which those who had experienced it were laid under the deepest obligations of gratitude and duty, to love and serve him by whom it had been showed. With this appeal he closes his first address.

Deuteronomy 4:32

For. This connects the statement that fellows with that which precedes as its cause; it is because Jehovah is a merciful God, that the unparalleled grace showed to Israel had been displayed. The days that are past, etc; i.e. inquire from the earliest time of man's abode on the earth. From the one side of heaven unto the other; search the records of all times and places, whether any so great a thing has ever happened or been heard of.

Deuteronomy 4:33

(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 5:22-26; Genesis 16:13.)

Deuteronomy 4:34

Hath God assayed, etc.; hath he ever made the attempt to come on the earth and take a nation from the midst of a nation, as he took the Hebrew people from among the Egyptians? By temptations ( מַסּוֹת, plu. of מַסָּה, a testing, a trial)—i.e. by the plagues inflicted on Pharaoh and his people, whereby they were tested and tried—by signs and by wonders. "The wonder ( מופֵת) differs from the sign ( אוֹת) in this, that the former denotes the properly marvelous, the extraordinary, the uncommon, consequently the subjective apprehension of the miraculous event; the latter the significant element in the miracle, the reference to the higher, Divine design, the purpose of God in it, consequently to the objective side of the miracle (comp. Deuteronomy 13:2)". By war (cf. Exodus 14:14; Exodus 15:3-10); by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 14:8; Deuteronomy 5:15); and by great terrors (Exodus 12:30-36), the effect on the Egyptians of the Divine inflictions (cf. Psalms 105:27-38; Psalms 106:21, Psalms 106:22).

Deuteronomy 4:35

All this Israel was made to see, in order that they might know that Jehovah is alone God, and beside him is no other. God ( הָאֱלֹהִים, the God), the one living and true God.

Deuteronomy 4:36

(Cf. Exodus 20:18-22.) To indicate still further the pre-eminence of Israel, Moses emphasizes the supernatural character of the revelation God had given to them, and the awful manner of its delivery; God spake to them with audible voice, out of heaven, amidst fire, and they heard his words out of the fire. To instruct thee. The verb here used ( יָסַד) means primarily to bind and thence to correct, to chasten, which meaning some interpreters would give here. But the word means also to correct by instruction, to instruct or persuade (cf. Isaiah 8:11; Isaiah 28:26; Psalms 16:7); and the connection, both with what precedes and with what follows, requires this meaning here.

Deuteronomy 4:37

And because he loved thy fathers (cf. Genesis 15:5-7; Exodus 13:15-17, etc.). Inasmuch as God had loved their fathers, the patriarchs, and had chosen them their descendants to be his people, and had delivered them out of Egypt, that he might establish them in the Promised Land, having driven out thence nations mightier than they, therefore were they to consider in their heart and acknowledge that Jehovah alone is God, and that in the wide universe there is no other. The apodosis in this sentence begins at Deuteronomy 4:39, and not, as in the Authorized Version, at "he chose," in Deuteronomy 4:37, nor at "brought thee," as some suggest. Because he loved thy fathers, and chose his [i.e. Abraham's] seed after him, and brought thee, etc.,—for all this thou shalt keep his statutes, etc. In his sight; literally, in his face, i.e. in his presence, by himself present with them; with special reference to Exodus 33:14, where the same word is used as here. Onkelos has hero "by his Word," and the rabbins explain it of "the angel of his presence, as it is said, Isaiah 63:9".

Deuteronomy 4:38

As it is this day; as this day has shown, or as it has come to pass this day, in the overthrow, namely, of Sihon and Og.

Deuteronomy 4:39

Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, etc.; literally, bring back into thy heart. "Because we cannot lay hold of spiritual things in thought instantly in a moment, God commands to make them to revert, i.e. again and again to recall them to the mind".

Deuteronomy 4:40

Upon the earth,—rather upon the land ( הָאֲדָמָה)—which the Lord thy God giveth thee forever. The comma after "thee" in the Authorized Version should be deleted. "The sum of this whole exhortation is

Deuteronomy 4:41-43

APPOINTMENT OF THREE CITIES OF REFUGE BEYOND JORDAN.

A short historical notice is here inserted, probably because it was during the interval between the first and second addresses of Moses that he carried into effect the Divine command to appoint cities of refuge for the manslayer (Numbers 35:9, etc.; cf. Exodus 21:13). This notice, therefore, is here in its proper place in the order of the narrative. That Moses should, just at this stage, have made this appointment was fitting and proper, seeing he had been urging on the people obedience to the Divine statutes and commandments, and had represented their conquest of the territory of Sihon and Og as an earnest of their ultimate possession of the whole land of the Amorites. By appointing these cities, Moses gave an example of obedience to God's injunction, and, at the same time, not only asserted on the part of Israel a right of proprietorship in this trans-Jordanic territory, but assumed as certain that, on the ether side of Jordan also, the same right of proprietorship should be possessed and exercised by Israel in the fulfilling of the whole law concerning cities of refuge (cf. Deuteronomy 19:1, etc.). That this section belongs properly to Numbers 35:1-34; Numbers 36:1-13; and has been interpolated here by some later hand, is a pure assumption, for which there is no ground.

Deuteronomy 4:41

On this side Jordan; beyond Jordan, more expressly defined as toward the sun rising, viz. on the east of that river.

Deuteronomy 4:42

Unawares; literally, in lack or want of knowing ( בְּבְלִי־דַעָת), i.e. unconsciously, unintentionally; in Numbers 35:31, Numbers 35:15, another word ( בִּשְׁגָגָה, by mistake) is used, rendered in the Authorized Version by "unwittingly;" in Joshua 20:3, both words are used. In times past; literally, yesterday, three days since, i.e. formerly, heretofore (cf. Genesis 31:2; Exodus 5:8).

Deuteronomy 4:43

Names of the cities set apart. Bezer; LXX. βοσόρ; one of the cities of the plain or table-land of the Amorites, on the east of Jordan (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 20:8), afterwards a Levitical city in the tribe of Reuben (Joshua 21:36). It is probably the Bosor of 1 Macc. 5:36; it has not been identified with any existing locality, but the ruined heaps of Burazin to the east of Hesban, or those of Berza in the same district, may mark its site. Ramoth in Gilead; probably the same as Ramoth-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26); it lay to the northwest of Philadelphia (Rabba or Rabbath-Ammon, hod. Amman), on the Jabbok ('Onom.,' s.v." Rammoth" and "Remmoth"); a Levitical city in the tribe of Gad (Joshua 21:38), hod. Es Salt, six hours from Amman (Von Raumer, Porter). Golan in Bashan. Eusebius identifies this with Gaulon, a very large village in Batanaea, from which the surrounding region had its name, viz. Gaulonitis, hod. Jolan ('Onom.,' s.v. "Gaulon"); it was a Levitical city in the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 21:27; 1 Chronicles 6:71); it has not been identified.

Deuteronomy 4:44

PART IISECOND ADDRESS OF MOSES.

CHAPTER 4:44—CHAPTER 26:19.

THIS address is introduced by a general notice of what is to form the subject of it, viz. the Law, with a more especial description of that in its different parts, as consisting of ordinances, statutes, and rights; together with a reference to the place and time when this address was delivered.

This is the Law—the Torah—which Moses set before the children of Israel. "He meaneth that which hereafter followeth; so this belongeth to the next chapter, where the repetition of the laws begins" (Ainsworth); cf. Deuteronomy verse 1; Deuteronomy 6:1; Le Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 7:1, etc.

Deuteronomy 4:45

Testimonies; ordinances attested and confirmed by God; the word used here ( עֵדוֹת, plu. of עֵדַה) occurs only in Deuteronomy (here and Deuteronomy 6:17, Deuteronomy 6:20) and in the Psalms. Statutes and judgments (cf. Deuteronomy 4:1). After they came forth out of Egypt; "i.e. not immediately after their exit, But, as verse 46 shows, when they were already beyond Jordan" (Herxheimer); literally, in their coming out: i.e. during the process of their passing from Egypt to Canaan; more exactly defined by what follows.

Deuteronomy 4:46

In the valley (cf. Deuteronomy 3:29). In the land of Sihon; on ground already captured and possessed by Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 2:32-36; Deuteronomy 3:1-17; verse 48; cf. Deuteronomy 3:9, Deuteronomy 3:12-17).

HOMILETICS

Deuteronomy 4:25-28

Penalties of disobedience and apostasy.

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 28:1-68.)

Deuteronomy 4:29-31

Punishment not rejection

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 30:1-5.)

Deuteronomy 4:32-36

Israel's peculiar greatness.

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 4:11-20; Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 33:29.)

Deuteronomy 4:37, Deuteronomy 4:38

The dispossession of the Canaanites.

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 1:1-8.)

Deuteronomy 4:39, Deuteronomy 4:40

Loyalty to God the basis of national prosperity and of family happiness.

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 4:1-4 and Deuteronomy 4:5-9.)

Deuteronomy 4:41-43

The cities of refuge.

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 19:1-21.)

Deuteronomy 4:44, Deuteronomy 4:45

The Law: its value.

(See Homiletics, Deuteronomy 5:22-33.)

Deuteronomy 4:44-49

The territory of Sihon and Og occupied by others.

(See Homiletics, De 2:24-3:1-11.)

HOMILIES BY J. ORR

Deuteronomy 4:23-32

National backsliding.

The history of the Jews is an unanswerable argument in favor of the truth of prophecy and the reality of Divine revelation. The singularity of that history is such as can only be fully accounted for on the idea of a supernatural Providence interesting itself in their fortunes; but the strangest fact is in that, their own sacred books, this wonderful history is predicted with minute precision. The Book of Deuteronomy furnishes a series of these predictions, the extraordinary character of which is not removed by any date to which the book may be assigned. We may read this passage first as a prophecy, then as a warning.

I. A PROPHECY. It does not, as several later passages do, put the backsliding of the Jews hypothetically, but states the fact plainly that they will backslide—takes it for granted (verse 25). There is a prediction:

1. Of national apostasy. The whole history of Israel, beginning with the time of the judges ( 2:19), is a commentary on this statement.

2. Of national rejection (verses 26-29). How remarkably has this testimony been fulfilled in the rooting out of both Judah and Israel from their own land; in their scattering throughout the nations, in every region and country under heaven; in their preservation amidst all vicissitudes as a distinct people; in the conformity to alien worships, customs, and beliefs, to which they have so often been compelled; in the miseries and indignities which they have endured! Surely we are entitled to ask from the unbeliever that he should give us, when rejecting revelation, some satisfactory explanation of these coincidences.

3. Of national repentance (verses 29-32; cf. Deuteronomy 30:1-20.). Though yet unfulfilled, there can be little doubt in the minds of any who study past fulfillments, that this prophecy of the repentance of Israel will in God's good time receive its accomplishment also (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:26).

II. A WARNING. We learn the truths:

1. That backsliding is possible from a state of high attainment.

2. That backsliding is commonly of gradual development (verse 25).

3. That backsliding may assume very aggravated forms.

4. That backsliding exposes to severe punishment from God. But, finally, and for our encouragement:

5. That backsliding, if repented of, will be graciously forgiven.—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:32-41

The wonderfulness of Israel's history.

I. THE WONDERFULLNESS OF REVELATION AT ALL. (Deuteronomy 4:33.) It may be argued with great propriety that man needs a revelation; that if there is a God, it is probable he will give one; that the absence of all special revelation would be a greater wonder than the fact of a revelation being given. Yet, when the mind dwells on it, the sense of wonder grows at the thought of the Eternal thus stooping to hold converse with finite, sinful, dying men on earth. Whatever enhances our conceptions of God's greatness, intensifies in the same measure our wonder at the condescension, grace, and love implied in special revelation (Psalms 8:1-9.).

II. THE WONDERFULLNESS OF GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN ISRAEL'S HISTORY. (Deuteronomy 4:34-39.) God revealed himself to Israel; but, inasmuch as the calling, deliverance, and whole history of the nation was full of the supernatural, he was revealed also in Israel—in its history. The miraculous element in the history of Israel is urged as a reason for rejecting it. But remark:

1. It claims to stand out as something absolutely unique in time. This is no case of the vulgar supernatural, begotten of a childish, miracle-loving age. Moses is as conscious of the marvel, of the exceptional character of the occurrences he narrates, as any of his critics; probably more so. He rises to the grandeur of the subject he speaks of, and puts it on the express ground that nothing like it was ever known, or rumored, in history.

2. An adequate reason existed for these wonders. The interposition of God, as narrated in these verses, the whole revelation, with its terrors, its signs and wonders, its fire, its lawgiving,—is abundantly worthy of the Being who is said to have revealed himself, and of the ends for which that discovery of himself was made. On the other hand, it rises high above what man would naturally have imagined God to do, had he set himself to invent a story of the kind.

3. The wonders are well attested. Moses appealed to a generation, the older part of which had witnessed them. Critics dispute the Mosaic authorship of the address; but apart from this, it is to be said that the whole after-history of the nation rests on their reality. There is, however, an inherent sublimity, fitness, vividness, sense of reality in the narratives, and in this appeal to eye-witnesses, which speaks of itself for the truthfulness of the history. When narratives of the same kind, presenting the same marvelous characteristics, can be produced from other literatures, and laid alongside of these, we will be able to believe in their legendary or invented character.

4. These wonders established a unique claim on Israel for obedience and fidelity (Deuteronomy 4:39, Deuteronomy 4:40).

III. THE WONDERFULNESS OF GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN ISRAEL IS SURPASSED BY HIS REVELATION OF HIMSELF IN CHRIST. These wonders in Israel were but the earlier acts in a great drama, of which the later belong to the dispensation of the gospel. While Moses appeals to the limited character of the former revelation as enhancing its wonder (Deuteronomy 4:34), it is the greater marvel of the revelation in Christ, that it is universal in its scope, and brings in a redemption which all can share. We think here of the incarnation, the miracles of Christ, the resurrection, the outpouring of the Spirit, the miraculous spread of the gospel, subsequent reformations and revivals, conversions, the supernatural power exhibited in the renewal and sanctification of souls, the successes of missions, etc. (cf. Hebrews 2:1-5). The appeals of Moses, and his exhortations to wonder and obey, come down to ourselves, accordingly, with enormously enhanced force.—J.O.

Deuteronomy 4:37

Beloved for the fathers' sake.

We learn, taking this verse with the context—

I. THAT THE PIETY OF ANCESTORS IS REMEMBERED BY GOD IN HIS DEALINGS WITH THE DESCENDANTS. He remembers:

1. Their piety.

2. The love he bore them.

3. His promises.

4. Their prayers.

II. THAT THE PIETY OF ANCESTORS IS A FREQUENT GROUND OF LONG-SUFFERING AND FORBEARANCE. It was SO with Israel (Deuteronomy 9:5); Solomon (1 Kings 12:12), etc.

III. YET THAT THE PIETY OF ANCESTORS WILL NOT OF ITSELF SECURE SALVATION. The Jews were not to be exempted from chastisement for personal transgressions. If "they abide still in unbelief" (Romans 11:23), they cannot be saved. There cannot be salvation without personal faith and obedience.—J.O.

HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES

Deuteronomy 4:29-40

The mercy of God.

The knowledge of his own deceitful heart, and his observation of others' waywardness, convinced Moses that, in spite of all warning and appeal, the people might yet wander into evil ways. But Moses had also such a comprehensive vision of God's mercy, that he foresaw that there would be room for repentance even in the land of exile, and that Divine mercy would be available in every extremity of distress. Since God had designed to show mercy unto Israel, Moses felt assured that he would not allow his gracious designs to be frustrated.

I. AFFLICTION OFTEN REVEALS TO OUR MINDS OUR NEED OF MERCY. Amid the joyous excitements induced by earthly prosperity, men forget the deeper needs of the soul. They spend life as if they had no soul, as if this earth were their all. But the deep gashes, which suffering makes, become mouths through which the imprisoned soul makes herself heard. When events defeat our selfish plans, or when health is interrupted, we are made to feel that there is a higher Power than ourselves, who reigns upon the throne, and often, in sheer despair of other help, we appeal to him for mercy; like Manasseh, who had long hardened his heart against God, yet, when he was in sore affliction, sought Jehovah's face. When brought to the lowest ebb, the prodigal son bent his steps homeward. Affliction often serves as the shepherd's crook.

II. EARNEST APPEAL FOR GOD'S MERCY IS NEVER UNSUCCESSFUL ON EARTH. From the furthest limit of apostasy the cry for help is heard. 'There is no spot on earth front which lines of connection with heaven will not be found. Our God is not wont to hide himself in secret places, where the eye of faith cannot find him. If only the bow be well bent by the arm of spiritual earnestness, and the arrow be feathered with faith, and aimed by heavenly wisdom, it must penetrate the skies. Without gracious influences from above, men will not pray; but whensoever they do pray, they shall be heard. The prayer of the rich man in his torments was unheard, because it was a godless and a selfish prayer, and because we have no ground for expecting mercy when life has closed; in his case there was no appeal for mercy.

III. GOD'S MERCY IS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE REVELATION OF HIMSELF FOR SINNERS. So far as we know, this revelation of his merciful character was reserved for guilty men. In the construction of this material universe, we see chiefly a forth-putting of amazing power. In the creation of sentient beings, capable of deriving pleasure from the processes of natural law, we see in active exercise the qualities of wisdom and benevolence. In the Divine treatment of apostate angels, we discover brilliant coruscations from the flames of justice. In the provision of pardon and hope for human transgressors, we see in God's nature the fascinating quality of mercy. This mercy manifests itself in a thousand ways, and is a prolific parent of blessing. It restrains from flagrant sin. It envelops the sinner in a network of heavenly influence. It holds back the hand of justice from summary destruction of the culprit. Though men forsake God, he does not forthwith forsake them. Retaliation finds no place in the Eternal Mind. It is negative and positive good.

IV. THIS MERCY IS SECURED TO MEN BY COVENANT. A covenant is a compact or treaty made between two persons, and which is intended for the advantage of all parties interested. But it is a pure act of condescension, when God undertakes to bind himself in solemn engagements with his feeble and fallen creatures. This gracious procedure is taken in order to encourage our trust, and to pierce unbelief through and through with a two-edged sword. Now that God has made a covenant with men, and repeated it age after age, his truth and faithfulness and integrity are pledged for our salvation. He made a covenant with Christ, by which he secured to him an ample recompense of redeemed men, and our Lord pleads in prayer for the fulfillment of his Father's covenant. So gracious is the covenant that God makes with us—the new covenant—that he writes it on the tablet of our minds, yea, deeply engraves it upon the soft affections of our hearts.

V. THIS MERCY IS MADE CONSPICUOUS BY THE MIGHTY DEEDS OF GOD. Moses reminds the Hebrews of the splendid tokens of God's goodness they had seen; for every one of these was a pledge of unchanging love. God's signal emancipation of the people from the iron bondage of Egypt; his care over them throughout the desert pilgrimage; his unprecedented revelation of himself on Horeb, in fire and cloud and voice;—all these things were tantamount to fresh covenants—earnests of yet larger blessing. In deeds, more eloquent than words, he assured them that all his resources were available for them. And we, in New Testament times, can make this argument stronger still. Calvary serves as a platform, on which we may erect a magnificent structure of expectation. If God had meant to desert us, would he have shown to us such kindnesses as these?

VI. GOD DISTRIBUTES HIS MERCY IN VARIOUS MEASURES, He did for the Hebrews what he did not do for other nations of that period. In the way of providence, and in the way of revelation, he deals differently with separate nations, and with individuals. We cannot understand all the rules and methods by which he is pleased to work, but we can leave it to himself to justify his ways. Because mercy snatched the crucified thief from the jaws of perdition at the last moment of life, it is criminal presumption for any other man to expect mercy in his last hour.

VII. MERCY FLOWS TO MEN THROUGH A VICARIOUS CHANNEL. God assured that generation of the Jews, that they were blessed for their fathers' sake. Not on the ground of personal merit, nor on the ground of personal claim, did God show them his distinguishing favor, but because he had loved Abraham their father, and for his sake loved his seed. Learn here how greatly God loves a good man! Abraham was not destitute of fault; yet so conspicuous was his practical faith, that God could not do enough for him during an earthly lifetime. The benediction of God overflowed (like the oil on Aaron's head), and descended to the skirts of his posterity. So, and much more, the love which God bears his only Son flows to us for his Son's sake. The same rich quality of love God cherishes for his Son, he cherishes for us. The gift of salvation can flow to us in no other way than through this channel of vicarious merit. "God, in Christ, reconciles the world unto himself."

VIII. GOD'S MERCY A POTENT INDUCEMENT FOR LOYAL OBEDIENCE. When all other methods have failed to elicit a man's loyalty, the unexpected display of mercy has often succeeded. Justice, and honor, and all sense of obligation in man have been appealed to over and over again, and always in vain. No appeal moves his callous nature, except the plaintive voice of love. We may tell him of the measureless power of Jehovah, of his inflexible justice, of his inviolable truth, of his fixed determination to root out sin from his kingdom; he hears it all unmoved. But tell him of Jehovah's overflowing mercy, of his tender love for the chief of sinners, of the costly provision of salvation; and by the gracious application of this by the Divine Spirit, man's nature relents, becomes docile, and enshrines the Law of God in its inmost center. "Man!" says the silvery voice of mercy, "thy sins are forgiven thee." And the swift response is, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"—D.

Deuteronomy 4:41-43

The cities of refuge.

Regard for human life is more important than regard for private property. With legislative prescience, Moses secured three cities on the east of Jordan as sanctuaries for fugitives, before the land was allocated to their several families. Still further security for the unwary manslayer was obtained by the decree that these cities should be occupied by families of the Levites.

I. GOD'S HIGH REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE. This Divine thoughtfulness for men is impressive. Not a life was to be wantonly wasted. Human life, it is plain, was counted inferior in value to the interests of public justice; but it was to be sacredly protected against private revenge. This humane provision was all the more required at that time when Israel had been commanded to slay such vast numbers of Canaanites. Inevitably, human sensibility would be blunted, and a grave peril arose that human life would be cheaply rated. The entire land, purchased at such great cost, was a temple—a sacred enclosure—which God had chosen for his abode, and the shedding of innocent blood would degrade and desecrate the hallowed soil. Human life, sustained by God with exquisite pains—capable of eminent usefulness—is appraised by God as of great value.

II. THE JUDICIOUS ADJUSTMENT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PITY. Both these are sentiments implanted in the breast by a Divine hand; both serve the interests of humanity; and both have a fitting sphere in which to move. For the nation's good, the conscience of every man should be kept in healthful activity. It needs illumination, discipline, vigor. The moral sense is as liable to injury, disease, and decay, as any other faculty of mind. It may be deficient in wisdom; it may be overburdened with sensitiveness; it may magnify molehills into mountains; it may act with precipitate haste. Side by side with unrelenting hostility for sin, should dwell honest pity for the sinner. This provision of "sanctuaries" in Israel was in no wise an interference with the proper procedure of justice. By the decision of competent magistrates the fugitive might yet be handed over to the executioner. It gave full opportunity for investigation. It safeguarded a suspected man, if he were innocent of the greater crime. It taught men to draw a deep line between unintentional injury and premeditated murder. It shielded from needless death many a useful life.

III. PROMPT AND SEVERE EXERTION WAS THE CONDITION OF ESCAPE. When a man was killed, his next of kin was expected to avenge his blood. This rough ministry of justice was needful in those early days. It strengthened family ties. It fostered a spirit of brotherhood. It was a shield for the weak and defenseless. If one man had slain another, the presumption was that it had been maliciously done, and prompt vengeance was preparing for him. He had placed himself in a serious plight. He was exposed to a sudden reprisal. Before an hour his own life might be forfeited. If his conscience told him that he was innocent, there was a possibility of escape. But he must promptly flee. He must bid a hasty adieu, or none at all, to wife and children, and run at highest speed for the refuge city, for vengeance is swift-footed as an antelope. Every muscle must be strained to the utmost; his eye must be on every bush and rock, lest the foe should be lurking in ambush; his last resource of strength must be expended upon his flight; he must go direct as an arrow for the provided sanctuary. So for every guilty son of Adam there is a refuge provided on the hill called "Calvary;" and because Death rides apace upon our heels, we are charged to flee—to flee for very life—to this capacious Refuge. So run, that ye may be safe!—D.

HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR

Deuteronomy 4:25-31

Judgment leading to mercy.

After stating the fact of God's jealousy in the matter of graven images, Moses goes on as a prophet to declare that, if they corrupt themselves in this way in Canaan, the result will be their destruction and dispersion. But in dispersion, if they turn with all their hearts to God (Deuteronomy 4:29), they shall find him and be restored. God is merciful as well as jealous (Deuteronomy 4:31). The following thoughts are hereby suggested:—

I. JUDGMENT IS WITH A VIEW TO AMENDMENT. Of course, the incorrigible stage may eventually be reached. But until this spirit is manifested, judgment is remedial. The dealings of God with Israel, as we know from the history, were in hope of national amendment. Defeat at the hand of their enemies, exile in Babylon, and all the severe dispensations were to bring them to their senses and lead them to return to God. Judgment, in fact, is first the servant of mercy.

II. TRIBULATION SHOULD AT ONCE LEAD US TO HEART-SEARCHING. It is not an infallible sign of special sin, as the case of Job proves. But the probabilities are in favor of supposing that some special sin has called for special sorrow. Let self-examination, then, be the rule in the midst of all our tribulations. God is calling us in trumpet-tones to return to his embrace.

III. MERCY FINDS IN TROUBLE A SPLENDID SPHERE. The riches of God's grace and mercy can be displayed only in the permitted extremities of human experience. Tribulation, exile, the bitterness which no earthly intermeddling can relieve, are so many worlds into which mercy enters to assert its power and to reign. The permission of evil has here the only explanation which the present life allows. We shall learn more afterwards, but meanwhile this is all we can learn here.

IV. THE MERCIFUL ONE COUNSELS SOULS TO RETURN AT ONCE TO COVENANT RELATIONS. A loving God is jealous of the defections of his people—hence the judgment and the tribulation. But in mercy he counsels return, and promises to receive them into covenant relationship again. Here alone can we have peace and satisfaction of a permanent character. Outside the covenant there can be no real comfort or joy. In covenant relations with God, there is a charmed circle, and peace passing all understanding. As Israel returned after the exile, may we return from our backslidings to the consolations of the covenant again!—R.M.E.

Deuteronomy 4:32-40

The deliverance of the Lord's people unparalleled.

Moses would have the Israelites to regard God's deliverance of them from Egypt as a matter for the most grateful admiration. There had been nothing like it since the beginning of the world. There was direct and immediate communion with God; there was deliverance of the people from Egypt by unexampled judgments; and all was to show his character as a sovereign and loving God. The effect of such a discipline should be filial obedience. It suggests the following lessons:—

I. THE LORD'S PEOPLE SHOULD GRATEFULLY STUDY THEIR DELIVERANCE. The marvelous Exodus from Egypt and communion at Sinai were deserving of the most faithful study. No people had ever been so favored before. But our personal deliverance from the bondage of sin, our march through the wilderness of life, our fellowship with God from the mountain-top of ordinances, the entire experience of a spiritual soul, combine to eclipse even the discipline of Israel. Each one is prepared, who understands his state, to say, "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul" (Psalms 66:16).

II. UNPARALLELED EXPERIENCE FROM GOD ARGUES AN UNPARALLELED GOD. For it is a revelation of his powers and character he makes in these matters, and we are expected to reason from our experience up to himself. "Unto thee it was showed," said Moses, "that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him." He moves in an unparalleled fashion, that we may recognize in him the unparalleled One.

The use of personal experience is, therefore, to reach the Divine side of it, and see what reflection of Deity it presents.

III. IT WAS GOD'S LOVE WHICH HE ILLUSTRATED IN BRINGING ISRAEL FROM EGYPT TO CANAAN. The casting out of the Canaanites, the extermination of the idolaters, was judgment justly exercised upon them; but it was love towards Israel. Hence one of the psalmists makes these conquests a proof that "his mercy endureth forever" (Psalms 136:17-22). And God's dealings with his people always are to illustrate his love, They find how all things work together for good unto them (Romans 8:28).

IV. IT IS FILIAL OBEDIENCE HIS PEOPLE SHOULD RENDER. The similarity between verse 40 and the fifth commandment of the Decalogue is certainly remarkable. The idea of God's fatherhood is as certainly in the mind of Moses and of the filial obedience of Israel. Long life is attached to their filial obedience to God, as it is attached in that commandment to the filial obedience we render to man. And indeed this "fatherhood of God," with its correlative "sonship of man," constitutes the crowning relation into which God and man come. How glorious it is l Earth becomes the school of God's children; the promise of the life that now is cheers them on, and heaven contracts the kindly light of home. We should never rest contented till our study of God's dealings leads us into assurances and hopes like these. The Israelites were to be obedient, and in consequence successful children; and the same blessed conditions become ours by faith!—R.M.E.

Deuteronomy 4:41-43

The cities of refuge beyond the Jordan.

After the discourse contained in the preceding portion of this book, Moses seems to have taken a breathing time, during which he designated Bezer in the wilderness, Ramoth in Gilead, and Golan in Bashan, as cities of refuge. To these the manslayers were directed to flee, when they had been guilty, not of murder, but of manslaughter. In this way a distinction was introduced in the Mosaic code between manslaughter and murder, which did not obtain in the code of revenge among the other nations. And here let us observe—

I. RETALIATION CONSTITUTED THE RUDE JUSTICE OF THIS EARLY AGE. Vengeance seems dreadful to many because we live under an organized system of public justice. But if we were translated to some uncivilized country, where each one is forced to fight for his own hand, we should regard it less painfully. We should recognize it, in fact, as a necessary assertion of justice. "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord," seems dreadful only to those who have not appreciated the need of a perfect public justice. The Divine vengeance will be public and perfect, from which there will and can be no appeal.

II. RETALIATION, SUCH AS THE MOSAIC CODE PRESCRIBED, DEMANDED COURAGE AND SELF-DENIAL. The kinsman was directed to pursue the manslayer, and to seek the payment of life for life. It was not one of those feats which would be lightly undertaken. In fact, it was one of those dangerous duties, which a person would shirk if he could. The command reinforced the courage and sustained the self-denial of the people.

And in the Divine vengeance—with reverence would we say it—there is needed courage and self-denial. The infliction of it is forced upon him.

III. THE CITIES OF REFUGE AFFORDED PROTECTION TO THE MANSLAYER WHO DID NOT DELIBERATELY TAKE AWAY LIFE. Here the manslayer lived in lonely exile till the death of the high priest. This milder sentence, however, was preferable to a violent death. The opportunity was afforded of examining himself and of being penitent for his sins. The sojourn in the city of refuge corresponds to the spiritual experience of those who have betaken themselves to Jesus under a sense of their sin and blood guiltiness, to find under his wings freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1), and the necessity of great watchfulness and circumspection. If the manslayer had left the city of refuge, he would still have been liable to the avenger.

IV. BUT WHEN THE HIGH PRIEST DIED THE MANSLAYER REGAINED LIBERTY AS WELL AS LIFE. "Life in Christ" is indicated by the sojourn in the city of refuge. But liberty through the death of Christ is indicated by the release at the death of the high priest. It takes many relations to bring out the truth as it is in Jesus. He is our God, or Avenger, as we have seen where he says," Vengeance is mine." He is our City of Refuge; he is our High Priest, whose death secures the return of the exile. May Jesus be all in all to us!—R.M.E.

Deuteronomy 4:44-49

The circumstances under which the Law was reiterated.

These verses are manifestly introductory to the discourse of the succeeding chapters. Moses is about to declare the "testimonies" ( הָעֵדֹת), what comes forth from God to indicate his will; and the "statutes" ( הַחֻקִּים), the defined duties of moral obligation; and the "judgments" ( הָמִּשְׁפָּטִים), or mutual rights of men. The conditions of his speech are here detailed.

I. THE ISRAELITES HAD RECEIVED AN EARNEST OF THE PROMISED INHERITANCE. They had got, as we have seen, the land of the Amorites. The kingdoms of Og and of Sihon were already in the hands of the two and a half tribes. Moses had a vantage-ground, therefore, from which to plead the claims of God. And so, when we get an earnest of the promised inheritance in the gift of the Spirit, we are more likely to yield ourselves to the Divine demands (Ephesians 1:14). We have an inheritance on this side the Jordan of death, more important than the pastures of Bashan, and God, having given us this, may well make demands upon us.

II. THE EXPERIENCE THROUGH WHICH THEY HAD PASSED WAS ALSO MOST IMPORTANT. For the temporal inheritance in Moab and Bashan was a minor part of their gifts from God. Their fellowship at Sinai, their wanderings through the wilderness, the chequered experience of judgment and of mercy, all combined to make the Israelites in Moab a favored people. No other nation had had such an experience and history.

III. THE REITERATION OF THE LAW WAS IN THE MIDST OF HAPPIER CONDITIONS. At Sinai their fathers and themselves had witnessed awe-inspiring wonders. The mount was the center of quaking and fear. Even Moses had to yield to the panorama of terror, and to say, "I exceedingly fear and quake." But now in Moab all around them is bright and hopeful. Mercy encompassed them, and so they were more likely to enter into the spirit of the Law, which Moses makes out to be love (Deuteronomy 6:1-5).

IV. WE LEARN FROM THIS THAT GOD FIRST GIVES BLESSINGS AND THEN ASKS OBEDIENCE. It is here that we see plainly the essence of the gospel. The glad tidings consist of the offer of a full and free salvation to the sinner, on the ground that he is a sinner and cannot save himself. The salvation is saddled with no condition. This is the trouble—it is too good news to be true, in the sinner's sight. He can hardly credit such free gift—he would rather pay something for it. But God is firm, and will make no half bargains. But when the sinner has been redeemed from Egypt and brought to God, he is expected in gratitude to obey God's Law. It is his rule of life, and he renders obedience to it willingly. People "put the cart before the horse," and fancy God will take something in part payment, and could not think of refusing them! Nothing is so important just now as clear views about the plan of salvation.—R.M.E.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 4:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/deuteronomy-4.html. 1897.

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