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CRITICAL NOTES.—The rehearsal of rights and duties, pubilc and private, terminates in this chapter with two liturgical enactments. These have a clear and close reference to the whole of the preceding legislation, and form a most appropriate and significant conclusion to it. (Sp. COM.)
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 First fruits. Fruit. Visible proof of possession; distinguished from those offered in harvest (cf. Exodus 22:29), at feasts of Passover and Pentecost, and from offerings prescribed (Numbers 8:8). These are private and personal—not national.
Deuteronomy 26:3. Priest. Owned the first fruits as property. Profess, a confession of offerer, of indebtedness.
Deuteronomy 26:5. Syrian. (Lit. aramcean) from residence with Laban in Syria. Perish. by Laban’s severity and many hardships in nomadic life. Egypt (cf. Genesis 46:0).
Deuteronomy 26:6. Evil. On multiplication and oppression in bondage, and guidance out (cf. Exodus 1:2, Exodus 1:4, Exodus 1:5, Deuteronomy 26:11. Rejoice either in the possession of blessings given, or in feasting with friends, Levites, and strangers.
Deuteronomy 26:12-15. Tithin. Third year’s tithe employed at home in charity and hospitality.
Deuteronomy 26:13. Hallowed. Consecrated, things devoted to holy uses. I have not. Not a self-righteous boast, but solemn declaration that nothing which should be devoted to God had been secretly kept back.
Deuteronomy 26:14. Mourning. “When the Israelite would be unclean;” or like Egyptians made in harvest time, offered the first fruits of earth and kept feast of Isis in doleful lamentation. Unclean. unworthy of divine acceptance. Dead in funeral service as some; or to idols, deified heroes and lifeless images—all things were dedicated to glad and holy, not to unclean and idolatrous purposes.
Deuteronomy 26:15. Look. Form of thanksgiving (cf. Isaiah 63:15).
Deuteronomy 26:16-19. Faithful obedience. “A brief and earnest exhortation by way of conclusion to the second and longest discourse of the book.” Avouched. solemnly pledged themselves to obey; accepted Jehovah as their God, who had declared that if they kept the covenant they should be His special people.
Deuteronomy 26:19. Above. (cf. Exodus 19:6). “The sanctification of Israel was the design and end of its divine election, and would be accomplished in the glory to which the people of God were to be exalted.”—Keil.
GAINING THE INHERITANCE.—Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Reference had been made to the sanctuary as the place chosen by God and fit for religious worship (Deuteronomy 12:0). Two gifts specially connected with the social life of the people had to be presented—the first fruits and the second tithe. Moses now prescribes the form of the interesting ceremony, which reminded the nation of their indebtedness, and duty to God.
I. An acknowledgment of God’s help in getting the inheritance. God was very prominent in Israel’s history and position. Precept and command, rite and ceremony, reminded them of this.
1. God promised the inheritance. Good and great things are promised to us to wean affection from earth, excite hope, and stimulate effort. God presents worthy objects on which to centre hope, and gives grace by which it may be realised.
2. God settled them in the inheritance. Good may be withheld and fulfilment delayed through ingratitude, unbelief and rebellion. But if we are faithful and follow God, he will fulfil the promise and lead us “into the land.” We shall possess without fear; dwell without disturbance, and no power on earth can uproot us. He can “establish (fix), strengthen (for defence), and settle” (1 Peter 5:10).
II. A confession of unworthiness to receive the inheritance. No merit is due to us. If inheritance is given, it is not created by human toil and skill. From beginning to end of life God must be honoured and man humbled. “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?”
1. Humble in origin (Deuteronomy 26:5). The “nation great, mighty and populous” sprang from “a few,” the many from one, “a Syrian ready to perish.” God is wonderful in working, and brings great results from small beginnings. “Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase” (Job 8:7; Job 42:12).
2. Helpless in history. Few, hated, and oppressed, what could Israel do? “The mighty hand” and “the outstretched arm” alone could deliver, defend, and secure the inheritance. The might of Egypt, the perils of the desert, and the dangers of conquest were overcome by God’s help. With omnipotence on our side we can do anything. “They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm” (Psalms 44:3).
III. The duty imposed by securing the inheritance. Duty means debt. God’s bounties always put us under obligation. The response should be hearty. “What shall we render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards us? “
1. To consecrate the first fruits. “Thou shalt take the first of all the fruit of the earth.” Conscientious and careful dedication of first fruits is required. Everyone should bring his “basket” to God as an acknowledgment of mercy. This in token of the sanctification of the whole. “Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase.”
2. To worship God in public. The offerer bad “to go into the place” which God had chosen. The gift must be accompanied with public worship and confession; “worship before the Lord” (Deuteronomy 26:10). Remembrance of Divine goodness kindles adoration and praise. Fervent praise is acceptable to God, and loads to love and amity in His people.
3. To cultivate social joy (Deuteronomy 26:11). God has made us prosper, and we should make others glad. Gifts received in the right spirit and used in the right way enlarge our sympathies and help us to promote the enjoyment of our fellow men. The highest will remember the lowest in society. The most wealthy will seek out and relieve the outcast and most degraded. In the spirit of Christ we shall “sit down” with strangers and fatherless, “with publicans and sinners, and eat with them.”
DIVINE HELP IN HUMAN LIFE
Israel had “come” to the land, but the way had not been discovered and cleared by their own guides. They had been “brought unto the place,” almost carried like helpless children by Divine goodness. It was fit that they should know, confess this and learn lessons of wisdom. “The private life of man,” says Napoleon I., “is a mirror in which we may see many useful lessons reflected.”
I. Divine help in timely circumstances. Life is full of change, a journey “through many a scene of joy and woe.” But God helps “in time of need.”
1. In periods of risk, “A Syrian ready to perish” was Jacob. The cruelty of Laban, the wrath of Esau and the perilous journey to Egypt endangered life. “There is but a step between me and death,” said David.
2. In periods of adversity. “Evil entreated, afflicted and under hard bondage” (Deuteronomy 26:6). This prepares us for advancement, as it did Joseph, David, and Israel. The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor can we be perfected without suffering.
3. In periods of prosperity. “The day of adversity” is not our entire lot. “The day of prosperity” is equally a divine appointment. “God also hath set (made) the one over against (like parallel with) the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14.) We need divine instruction especially in prosperity, to humble and show us our unworthiness (Genesis 32:10). To keep us dependant and grateful, and remind us of our origin and history. “Look unto the rock whence ye are known, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.”
II. Divine help secured through prayer. “We cried unto the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 26:7). Prayer teaches dependence upon God. In trouble we have an incentive to pray. Men who have ridiculed have then been compelled to acknowledge God. In affliction and danger prayer is earnest and prolonged. “We cried unto the Lord.” Confidence in God has given courage and gained success in battle. Moses and Elijah were the real defence of Israel; Hezekiah and Isaiah brought down blessings upon Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:20-23). “The good man’s prayer moves Omnipotence in the administration of the universe.” It is a mighty, moral force in the history of men; it has achieved what numbers and valour never could achieve. “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.”
III. Divine help acknowledged in grateful remembrance. Several forms of memorial are given. Sensible signs are often needful to quicken memory and prompt gratitude in reviewing past life.
1. In self consecration to God. There can be no worship without this. Attendance and reverent attitude are outward acts. The heart must be touched and drawn out before we can offer spiritual service. Nothing can rise above its limits. A beast cannot act as a man, and a man perform the work of an angel. Neither can the impenitent, ungrateful sinner render true worship. Only when love fills the heart and mercy is duly appreciated do we present ourselves “as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God.”
2. In acts of practical piety. The Israelite was not merely to “profess” (Deuteronomy 26:3), but perform, “take the first of all the fruit.” Words are cheap but deeds are scarce. God requires sincerity as well as sacrifice. The first fruits of time and mental vigour. The produce of our land and the share of our gains belong to Him. The best of everything should be offered to God. “The first fruit of thy corn, of thy vine, and of thine oil, and the first of the fleece of thy sheep, shalt thou give Him.”
3. In works of perpetual charity. Love to God must show itself in benevolence to men—the divinity we preach be seen in the humanity we practise. Charity must never fail. Relief must not merely be given in “deserving cases,” to persons “worthy of help,” but to the undeserving. “The world is the hospital of Christianity,” and the duty of the Church is to seek out the destitute and aged, those in great suffering and unable to work. This is the mark of “pure religion” says James 1:27. This gained Job a character which his friends could not assail, and a reputation which they could not tarnish (Deuteronomy 31:16-22). “Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that those bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7; Isaiah 50:11).
GOD’S GIFTS.—Deuteronomy 26:9-11
The dedication of first fruits was an act of worship, an acknowledgment of God’s bounty, and a confession of entire dependence upon Him for every mercy received.
I. God’s gifts bestowed in rich abundance. Deliverance, security, health, and honour—the fruits of the earth and the profits of business. Everyone has personal experience to relate of thrilling interest;—escape from danger, incidents of travel, reunion of friends. What “signs and wonders” in our past and present life!
II. God’s gifts designed for human happiness. “Thou shalt rejoice in every good thing”—in private comfort or in social festivity. We are objects of God’s constant care and kindness, and others should be remembered and share with us. Our gilts are not for selfish indulgence. We must not be like the Caspian Sea which receives rain and rivers which flow into it, and which is said not to have an outlet—not a rill to run from its waters. “Eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared” (Nehemiah 8:10).
III. God’s gifts dependent upon obedience for continuance. What we have may be taken away if we do not improve it (Mark 4:25). The diligent worker gathers to himself what is lost by the idle, and talents not used pass away from the possessor. “If we do not use, we lose.”—Matthew Henry. Temporal mercies can never produce holy joy unless used for God. Withhold the first fruits and the whole may be withdrawn. Give and you shall possess “a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 11:27; Deuteronomy 30:1; Deuteronomy 30:15).
HOMILETICS HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 26:3-6. Gratitude to God enforced. We shall
1. Point out our duty in reference to the mercies we have received. For this purpose we ought—
1. To review them frequently;
2. To requite them gratefully. Il. Recommend it to your attention. It is—
1. A universal;
2. A reasonable;
3. A delightful duty.—C. Simeon, M.A.
Deuteronomy 26:5. Great results from small beginnings.
1. In the history of Israel.
2. In personal history.
3. In history of the Christian church. What hath God wrought! Admire the power of God; recognise the providence of God; acknowledge dependence upon God.
Deuteronomy 26:11. “Duty of delight.” A duty specially appropriate to a Christian upon whom all gifts of grace and sweet influences are bestowed by a reconciled God. “Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). This was—
1. An O. T. principle, “Neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
2. Α N. T. command. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1).
3. A duty sadly forgotten. “They dwell on the duty of self-denial, but they exhibit not the duty of delight,” says Ruskin.
This verse exhibits—
1. The will of God. Some say “they will suffer for it” if they are glad, as if God grudged happiness to His creatures and took hard compensation for their enjoyments. They forget that God’s nature is a joyful nature—that the element in which He lives is a joyful one, and that when He communicates good and bestows a new nature they are parts of His joy. Showing forth praise is a work and a witness for God in a joyless world and a thankless race.
“A sunshine in a shady place.”
2. The nature of true religion. See the exquisite sense that is in this wonderful book, the Bible. The one extreme is you must live an ascetic, denying yourself everything; the other extreme is, you must live like an epicurean, enjoying exclusively a monopoly of everything. The prescription of the Bible is, take the food that God sends you, thank Him for it, rejoice in it.
THE SACRED USE OF COMMON GIFTS.—Deuteronomy 26:12-15
The second year’s tithe, or vegetable tithe, instead of being taken to the sanctuary as in other years, was devoted to hospitality and charity at home (cf. Deuteronomy 14:28.) At “the end of tithing,” a solemn declaration was made before God that the law had been strictly fulfilled, and nothing reserved for personal use.
I. Nothing had been misappropriated. In many ways God’s gifts are misapplied.
1. In ways of uncleanness. “I have not eaten thereof in my mourning,” when the Israelite would be unclean (Leviticus 21:1; Hosea 9:4). Sorrow should not be associated with thanksgiving and joy in God. The blessings of life tend not to degrade, but to elevate and dignify.
2. In alienation from sacred purposes. “Neither have I taken away aught for any unclean use” (Deuteronomy 26:14). For any common use different from that appointed—gifts have a sacred as well as secular use. They are desecrated if spent upon ourselves or in sin. They are God’s property and must not be used as we please. He has claims upon us. The Levite, the widow, and the fatherless, represent His claims. To neglect them is to disobey and insult Him.
3. In consecration to unlawful practices. “Nor given aught for the dead.” In funeral expenses or feasts Of mourning which were often urgent and unforseen. Houses of mourning or idolatrous customs, it would be unlawful to sanction. Our gifts are abused if diverted from hospitality and religion, if devoted entirely to worldly customs or forbidden uses.
II. Everything had been duly performed. Nothing had been withheld. “I have hearkened and done all thou hast commanded.” If disobedient, this solemn confession was a lie—an act of hypocrisy! The danger of the Church to-day is not from outward assailants, but from unfaithfulness and inward corruption, from false vows of mere professors and partial consecration of real believers. The precepts of the Gospel and the spirit of the Master lay a tax upon the worldly goods and personal sympathies of the wealthy and gifted. If from selfish motives we keep back some and profess to have devoted all to God, we act the part of Ananias. Every one should declare the supreme worth and manifest the inward beauty of truthfulness. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are his delight”
III. Everything was enjoyed by permitting others to share it. “I have given them unto the Levite and unto the stranger,” etc. (Deuteronomy 26:13). Dedicated things were devoted to glad and holy feasting. Do good to all men, for they are God’s creatures. But the necessitous are the special objects of God’s care, and should partake of our beneficence. “God hath left his poor saints to receive his rents” (Gurnall). Alms given to them are lent to God (Proverbs 19:17) and will be paid back with interest in their increase and enjoyment. We double our joys and increase our own store when others share them. “We should remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10).
PRAYER AND CHARITY.—Deuteronomy 26:13-15
The tithes were to be presented, a declaration made that they had not been withheld, and then an earnest prayer offered for the land and the people who dwelt in it (Deuteronomy 26:15).
I. Prayer and charity united in Christian life. We have the aspect man-wards and god wards. Love as you are loved; forgive that you may be forgiven, bestow that you may receive again. Alms and prayers spring from one root and are bound together by one law. Cornelius “was a devout man, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:3).
II. Charity no ground for boasting in prayer. We only do our duty that we are commanded to do, when we help the destitute This affords no ground for pride and the spirit of the Pharisee—a self-complacent and self-vaunting spirit. Instead of numbering fasts, tithes and merits; we must forsake our sins, love God and our neighbour as ourselves (cf. Luke 18:11-12). “These ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone.”
III. Prayer that charity may be constantly practised. We cannot give to others unless blessed ourselves. Constant prayer secures constant supply. “Ask and ye shall receive.” Prayer begets dependence, fitness to receive, and readiness in bestowing our blessings. Our liberality should ever be the outcome of our gratitude to God. “Freely ye have received, freely give.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 26:13-15. Devotion and daily life. Integrity in daily life the condition of acceptable prayer. Prayer reminds of shortcomings in daily life—should prompt to self examination and obedience.
Deuteronomy 26:15. Prayer and patriotism. The prosperity of the nation (land) intimately connected with the moral condition of the people. A blessed people, a blessed land. “We must learn hence to be publics-pirited in prayer, and to wrestle with God for blessings for the land and nation, our English Israel, and for the universal Church, which we are directed to remember in our prayers, as the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).
Reverence in prayer.
1. For God is Holy. Holiness becomes His house.
2. For without His cognizance we could get nothing.
3. It is marvellous condescension to hear at all. “Took down from thy holy habitation.”
4. All that He bestows is from sovereign mercy. “Which thou hast given us.”
A Memorable Day.—Deuteronomy 26:16-19
“This day” was a time of solemn admonition, of wonderful pledges between God and His people, and of deep spiritual significance.
I. A day of beneficent deeds (Deuteronomy 26:16). Laws had been revealed for worship and life. The people had vowed to God that they had liberally devoted “their hallowed things” to the needy. Distress had been relieved, hearts had been gladdened, and burdens removed. Giver and receiver had been thankful, and rejoiced together before the Lord.
II. A day of solemn dedication to God. “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God” (Deuteronomy 26:17). Their hearts had been weaned from idolatry and self. God’s providence had brought them on their journey, and God’s goodness enriched them with blessings. Gratitude bound them to God, and they pledged themselves not to forget nor disobey him. Canaan would have been a dark and dreary land without Him. His presence, like sunshine, fills all hidden recesses of life, and makes creation glad.
III. A day of distinguished privileges from God. God accepts His people’s pledge generously, espouses them, and makes new discoveries of His love.
1. In material pre-eminence. “To make thee high above all nations.” Eminence and honour come only from God. “Glory, honour, and immortality” are reserved in heaven for well-doing (Romans 2:7).
2. In spiritual adoption. He chose them to be His own special and “peculiar people” (Deuteronomy 26:18). They were elevated in position and moral condition—brought near to God by obedience. Christians have a special place in God’s regards on earth. In heaven the relation will be complete.
3. In moral purity. “That thou mayest be an holy people” (Deuteronomy 26:19). This was the end of their obedience and exaltation. They were chosen to be holy (Ephesians 1:4). Moral purity is the highest honour. Worldly greatness will never satisfy the cravings of the heart. Holiness is the admiration of friends, a terror to enemies, and the end of life. “All the people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Deuteronomy 26:16-18. Ready obedience and great reward.
1. The law of God revealed. Divine in origin, wonderful in history, authoritative in claims. These injunctions are not devices of men, but commandments of God.
2. The voluntary obedience to law. They willingly and publicly avowed God to be their God. They were to do, not to dispute the commands. It is not enough to read and understand them. They must be sincerely, faithfully and universally kept. Not as the result of human energy, but of Divine influence (Ezekiel 36:27).
3. The expression of Divine pleasure at this voluntary obedience. Jehovah reciprocates the feeling, “The Lord hath avouched thee.” Natural and supernatural blessings are pledged in variety. Loyal obedience secures present favour, and will gain future honour and renown. “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.”
Deuteronomy 26:19. High above all nations. It is written, righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34). While Israel regarded God’s word, and kept His testimonies, they were the greatest and most respectable of all nations; but when they forsook God and His law, they became the most contemptible. O Britain! even more highly favoured than ancient Israel, learn wisdom by what they have suffered. It is not thy fleets, or thine armies, howsoever excellent and well appointed, that can ultimately exalt and secure thy permanence among nations. It is righteousness alone. Become irreligious, neglect God’s ordinances, profane His sabbath, despise His word, persecute His followers, and thou art lost.—A. Clarke.
Deuteronomy 26:17-19. Covenanting with God. I. Our covenant engagements.
1. To accept God as our God.
2. To act towards Him as becomes us in that relation. II. Our covenant advantages.
1. God will own us as His people.
2. Bestow on us blessings worthy of that relation: holiness, honour, and happiness.—C. Simeon, M. A.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 26
Deuteronomy 26:2-4. First. This is the rule of sacrifice—a costly precept to the worldling and the formalist. But to the servant of God, it is a privilege to lay aside a portion with the sacred stamp, “This is for God.” This sacred devotedness is the true road to riches (Proverbs 11:24). God challenges us to “prove him now herewith,” if the abundant harvest, and the overflowing vintage shall not put unbelief and covetousness to shame (Nehemiah 3:10; 2 Chronicles 31:5-10).—C. Bridges.
Deuteronomy 26:5. Few. Athens and Rome, Babylon and Persia, as well as England and France, rose by slow degrees to their unrivalled eminence. Whereas, the Hums and Vandals flashed in their terrible greatness for a few years, and passed unto oblivion as mysteriously as they rose into power.—Dr. Brewer.
Deuteronomy 26:6-9. Our affliction. Suppose, Christian, that the furnace was seven times hotter, it is but to make you seven times better; fiery trials make golden Christians (Dyer). “God’s children,” says an old author, “are most triumphant when most tempted; most glorious when most afflicted; most in favour with God when least in man’s esteem. As their conflicts, so their conquests; as their tribulations, so their triumphs”—
The good are better made by ill,
As odours crashed are sweeter still.
Deuteronomy 26:10-11. Rejoice. Who partakes in another’s joy is a more humane character than he who partakes in his grief.—Lavater.
All who joy would win
Must share it—happiness was born a twin.—
Deuteronomy 26:12-14. Done all. People in general have no notion of mixing religion with common life—with their pleasures, with their meals, with all their thoughts. Hence it is they think that their Maker is an enemy to happiness, and that religion is fit for the closet only.—Mayow.
Deuteronomy 26:15. Look down. Prayer and thanksgiving are like the double motion of the lungs—the air that is sucked in by prayer is breathed forth again by thanksgiving.—Godwin.
Deuteronomy 26:16-19. Above all. Do not forget that greatness before men is sometimes littleness before God, and that every man who lives only to love God and to do good to his fellows is in the sight of his Maker truly great. It is honour and blessedness the greatest to belong to the army of Jesus Christ—to be holy, loving and faithful, a witness for God, an instructor in His House, a benefactor among men.—(J. E. Rosoman). In the estimate of honour he should learn to value the gifts of nature above those of fortune; to esteem in our ancestors the qualities that best promote the interests of society, and to pronounce the descendant of a king less truly noble than the offspring of a man of genius whose writings will instruct or delight the latest posterity.—Gibbon.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 26". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent