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Moses here renews his exhortation to obedience, enforced by regard to their experience of God's dealings with them in Egypt and in the wilderness, and by consideration of God's promises and threatenings. The blessing and the curse are set before them consequent on the keeping or the transgressing of the Law.
Israel was to love the Lord, and manifest this by the steadfast observance of all that he had enjoined upon them.
His charge; what he has appointed to be observed and done (cf. Leviticus 8:35; Numbers 1:53); more fully explained by his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments.
Knew ye; take note of, ponder, lay to heart. The words that follow, for … seen, are a parenthesis thrown in by the speaker to attract the attention especially of the older generation, who had witnessed the acts of the Lord. The words, the chastisement, etc; are to be connected with know ye, as the object of the knowing, And know ye this day the chastisement, etc. Which have not known, and which have not seen; supp. "what ye have known and seen." Your children; those born during the wandering in the wilderness. Chastisement; not punishment, but discipline, education, training (LXX; παιδεία), including both correction and instruction (of. the use of the Hebrew word מוּסָר in Proverbs 1:2; Proverbs 5:12; Proverbs 6:23, etc.). His greatness …stretched out arm (cf. Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 4:34).
Deuteronomy 11:3, Deuteronomy 11:4
(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22; Exodus 14:1-31.)
What he did unto yon in the wilderness. The doings of God to the people in the wilderness comprehend the manifestations of his omnipotence, both in their guidance and protection, and in the punishment of those who transgressed. One instance of the latter is expressly referred to—the destruction of those who joined in the insurrection of Korah (cf. Numbers 16:31-33). Moses does not mention Korah himself here, but only his accomplices Dathan and Abiram, probably, as Keil suggests, "from regard to his sons, who were not swallowed up by the earth along with their father, but had lived to perpetuate the family of Korah;" perhaps also because, though Korah was at the head of the insurrection, Dathan and Abiram were the more determined, audacious, and obdurate in their rebellion (cf. Numbers 16:12-15, Numbers 16:25, Numbers 16:26), so that it came to be named from them.
All the substance that was in their possession; literally, every living thing (Genesis 7:4, Genesis 7:23) that was at their feet, i.e. all their followers (cf. "all the people that follow, thee," Exodus 11:8; "all the men that appertained unto Korah," Numbers 16:32).
Thus from what they themselves had witnessed does Moses admonish the elder members of the congregation, summoning them to recognize in that the purpose of God to discipline and train them, that so they might keep his commandments and be strengthened in soul and purpose to go in and possess the land, and to live long therein (Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 6:3).
For but, read yea: Yea, your eyes have seen, etc.
Deuteronomy 11:10, Deuteronomy 11:11
An additional motive to fidelity and obedience is here adduced, drawn from the peculiar excellence and advantages of the land. Canaan was not like Egypt, a country that depended for its fertility on being irrigated by man's labor or by artificial processes, but was a land where the supply and distribution of water was provided for in natural reservoirs and channels, by means of which the rain which God, who cared for the land, sent plentifully on it, was made available for useful purposes. In Egypt there is little or no rain, and the people are dependent on the annual overflowing of the Nile for the proper irrigation of their fields; and as this lasts only for a short period, the water has to be stored and redistributed by artificial means, often of a very laborious kind. Wateredst it with thy foot. "The reference, perhaps, is to the manner of conducting the water about from plant to plant and from furrow to furrow. I have often watched the gardener at this fatiguing and unhealthy work. When one place is sufficiently saturated, he pushes aside the sandy soil between it and the next furrow with his foot, and thus continues to do until all are watered. He is thus knee-deep in mud, and many are the diseases generated by this slavish work. Or the reference may be to certain kinds of hydraulic machines which were turned by the feet. I have seen small water-wheels, on the plain of Acre and elsewhere, which were thus worked; and it appeared to me to be very tedious and toilsome, and, if the whole country had to be irrigated by such a process, it would require a nation of slaves like the Hebrews, and taskmasters like the Egyptians, to make it succeed. Whatever may have been the meaning of Moses, the Hebrews no doubt had learned by bitter experience what it was to water with the foot; and this would add great force to the allusion, and render doubly precious the goodly land which drank of the rain of heaven, and required no such drudgery to make it fruitful". Philo describes a machine cf. this sort as in use in Egypt; and in that country, "a garden of herbs" is still generally watered by means of a machine of simple construction, consisting of a wheel, round which revolves an endless rope to which buckets are attached; this is worked by the feet of a man seated on a piece of wood fastened by the side of the machine, labor at once monotonous and severe.
Careth for; literally, searcheth or inquireth after, i.e. thinks about and cares for (LXX; ἐπισκοπεῖται, oversees; cf. Job 3:4; Psalms 142:4; Jeremiah 30:17; Ezekiel 34:8; Isaiah 62:12). The eyes of the Lord thy God; i.e. his special watchful providence (cf. Psalms 33:18; Psalms 34:15; Ezekiel 4:5). It was a land on which Jehovah's regard was continually fixed, over which he watched with unceasing care, and which was sustained by his bounty; a land, therefore, wholly dependent on him, and so a fitting place for a people also wholly dependent on him, who owed to his grace all that they were and had.
Being thus wholly dependent on God, it behooved them to be careful to attend to his commandments and to obey them, that so his blessing might be continued to them and to the laud. If they would love and serve the Lord as they were bound to do, he would give them the rain of their land, i.e. rain for their land, such as it required (cf. "rain of thy seed," Psalms 30:2, Psalms 30:3), in the proper season, the early and the latter rain, so that they should fully enjoy the benefits of the land.
The first rain; the rain which falls from the middle of October to the end of December, which prepares the soil for the seed, and keeps it moist after the seed is sown. The latter rain; that which falls in March and April, about the time when the grain is ripening for harvest; during the time of harvest no rain falls in Palestine. But if they allowed themselves to be deceived and misled, so as to apostatize from the Lord and serve other gods and worship them, the Divine displeasure would be shown in the withholding from them of the blessing, so that they should miserably perish.
That your heart be not deceived; literally, lest your heart be enticed or seduced (יִפְתָה). The verb means primarily to be open, and as a mind open to impressions from without is easily persuaded, moved either to good or evil, the word came to signify to induce in a good sense, or to seduce in a bad sense. Here the people are cautioned against allowing themselves to be enticed so as to be led astray by seductive representations (cf. Job 31:27; Proverbs 20:19 ["flattereth"]; Job 5:2 ["silly one"]; Hosea 7:11).
He shut up the heaven. "The heaven conceived as a womb" (Schulz); cf. Genesis 16:2. The want of rain was regarded as a sign of the Divine displeasure and as a curse (1 Kings 8:35; Zechariah 14:17; Revelation 11:6).
(Cf. Deuteronomy 6:7-9.)
(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:2.) As the days of heaven upon the earth; as long as the heavens continue stretched over the earth, i.e. to the end of time, forever (of. Job 14:12; Psalms 89:29; Genesis 8:22).
If they were sedulous to keep God's commandments, and faithfully adhered to him, loving him and walking in all his ways, he would drive out before them the nations of the Canaanites, and cause them to possess the territory of nations greater and mightier than themselves. Every place on which the soles of their feet should tread should be theirs, i.e. they had but to enter the land to become possessors of it. This is more exactly defined as restricted to the land the boundaries of which are given—from the Arabian desert on the south to Lebanon on the north, and from the river Euphrates on the east to the Mediterranean on the west (Deuteronomy 1:7). From the wilderness and Lebanon; read, even unto Lebanon; הַעֶ בָנוֹן is for עַד־הַלְּ בַנוֹן(cf. עדהַיָּם in the end of the verse). The uttermost sea; rather, the hinder sea (Numbers 34:6), the sea that lay behind one looking to the east (Deuteronomy 11:26; cf. Deuteronomy 7:24; Deuteronomy 2:25; Exodus 23:27).
Moses, in conclusion, refers to the blessing and the curse consequent on the observance or the transgression of the Law, and prescribes that when they had entered on possession of the land the blessing should be proclaimed from Mount Gerizim, and the curse from Mount Ebal.
Behold, I set before you; place for your consideration (Deuteronomy 4:8; Deuteronomy 30:15), so that you may see whither tends obedience on the one hand, and disobedience on the other.
Other gods, which ye have not known; in contradistinction to Jehovah, the revealed God, made known to them by word and deed.
Deuteronomy 11:29, Deuteronomy 11:30
(Cf. Deuteronomy 27:11.) Thou shalt put the blessing; thou shalt give (נָתַתָּה), i.e. give forth, utter, announce, proclaim (cf. Genesis 49:21; Job 1:22 [gave, i.e. uttered impiety to God]; Psa 1:1-6 :20, gavest, didst utter, slandered. The two mountains named stand opposite to each other, with a valley between, about two hundred yards broad at the widest part, in which stood the town of Shechem, now Nablus. They were selected for the purpose mentioned, doubtless, because of their relative position, and probably also because they stand in the center of the land both from north to south, and from east to west. It has been suggested that Ebal was appointed for the uttering of the curse, and Gerizim for the uttering of the blessing, because the former was barren and rugged, the latter fertile and smooth; but this is not borne out by the actual appearance of the two bills, both being equally barren-looking, though neither is wholly destitute of culture and vegetation. That Gerizim was selected for the blessing because of its position on the south side of the valley "towards the region of light," while Ebal was appointed for the curse because it was on the north side, can be regarded only as an ingenious fancy. In verse 30, the position of the two mountains is defined as on the other side of Jordan, i.e. on the side opposite to where the Israelites then were, the western side; and as by the way—rather, behind the way—where the sun goeth down; i.e. the road of the west, the great road which passed through the west-Jordan country, and which is still the main route from south to north in Palestine (Ritter, 4.293, etc.; Robinson, 3:127), passing Nablus and the two menu-rains on the east, so that they are behind it. Which dwell in the Champaign; in the 'Arabah (see Deuteronomy 1:1), "mentioned here as that portion of the land on the west of the Jordan which lay stretched out before the eyes of the Israelites, who were encamped in the steppes of Moab" (Keil). Over against Gilgal; i.e. not the Gilgal mentioned in Joshua 4:19, which was east of Jericho (hod. Jiljulia), nor the Gilgal of Joshua 12:23 (probably the modern Jiljulieh, in the plain of Sharon), but the Gilgal of Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6; and 2 Kings 2:1 (hod. Jiljilia), to the north of Bethel, from which there is "a very extensive prospect over the great lower plain, and also over the sea" (Robinson, 'Bib. Res,' 3:138); so that the mountains by Nablus may be very well described as "over against it." Beside the plains of Moreh; for "plains" read oaks (cf. Genesis 12:6; Genesis 35:4).
Deuteronomy 11:31, Deuteronomy 11:32
The assurance that they should pass over Jordan and possess the land of Canaan, is assigned as a reason and motive why they should observe to do all that God had commanded them.
The voice of God in passing events to be heeded, interpreted, and obeyed.
As in former paragraphs, we have here much repetition of the same teachings which had been already given. We therefore select for homiletic treatment the one distinctive feature which marks it. The people of God are now on the verge of Canaan, Multitudes of them had been born since the march through the wilderness had begun forty years before. They could not have seen the wonders in Egypt, nor could they know, except by report, of the manifestations of the Divine displeasure at the rebellious spirit manifested by the people during the first years of their course. But there are still some seniors left who had seen all. To these Moses makes his appeal, ere the discourse in which he exhorts to obedience is brought to a close. And he urges them anew, from a consideration of the deep meaning of the events which their own eyes have seen, to learn to be faithful and obedient. We by no means understand Moses as intending to say that the children are not before him to hear his words, but rather that the argument he is now using is specially for the sires rather than the sons. It is in effect this: "You, the seniors among the people now, have seen all these things. God has spoken in them directly to yon: therefore, it is incumbent upon you to assign to these events their true meaning, and to give them their rightful power over yon." Whence we get the topic named above for our Homily: "The voice of God in passing events to be heeded, understood, and obeyed."
I. HERE ARE STIRRING EVENTS WHICH HAD OCCURRED UNDER ISRAEL'S OWN EYES. Three of them are specially named.
1. The plagues brought on Pharaoh and the land of Egypt.
2. The overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea.
3. The overthrow of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
(For remarks on these, see Exposition, and Homilies in loc. For much light on the second, see Brugsch's 'Egypt.')
II. HERE IS A SPECIFIC MEANING GIVEN TO THESE EVENTS. They are all called "chastisement" (Deuteronomy 11:2). They are not only referred to as works of greatness, deeds of power and of terror, but their moral meaning is given in the word "chastisement." It is of very much more consequence to understand the meaning of an event, than to merely have the event stored up in memory as a piece of history. In fact, it may fairly be questioned whether the latter is of any value at all. Of what value is it to a student to know that King John signed Magus Charts, unless he knows the meaning thereof, as related to the rise anti growth of the British Constitution? Even so it is not of the slightest service to know of Red Sea wonders, nor of the plagues in Egypt, unless their place and meaning in history are known. This is the case likewise with events of much greater moment. Not even the wonders of Gethsemane and Calvary are exempted. If regarded only as incidents in history, apart from their spiritual, redemptive meaning, they will serve us nothing. "As the body without the spirit is dead," so facts without their significance are dead also. Hence it is that the attention of Israel is recalled to these olden wonders as "chastisements" from the Lord their God.
III. THESE EVENTS MAT BE DIVIDED INTO TWO CLASSES; in each class a like principle is illustrated, though in a different form.
1. The first two were the chastisement of Egypt on behalf of God's oppressed people, showing them the strength of his arm and the value of his covenant love.
2. The third was the chastisement of the chosen people themselves, when they rebelled against the divinely appointed order with reference to the priesthood. In the former cases, God's jealous love on behalf of his people was proven; in the latter case, God's jealousy for his own honor, in maintaining his appointed order and ordinances unimpaired. In the former, that jealousy chastised Egypt for Israel's sake; in the latter, Israel for Jehovah's sake. Thus Israel would have before them the lesson that, as God in his love would snap the fetters that bound them, so in his purity he would remove the stains that disfigured them; that as they rejoiced in the love of God which was round them as a mighty guard, so they might also cherish a holy fear of that purity which would mark its displeasure at their waywardness and sins.
IV. SUCH EVENTS, SO FULL OF MEANING, SHOULD HAVE A CONSTANT EFFECT IN IMPELLING TO OBEDIENCE, AND IN QUICKENING AND SUSTAINING A REVERENT FEAR AND LOVE. God meant much in bringing them to pass, and they should mean much in the use they made of them (verses 8, 9). If they laid them to heart, and acted out the lessons they were designed to teach, they would continue in the land which God had assigned to them. The reference in the phrase, "that ye may prolong your days in the land," is rather to Israel's continuance as a nation, than to the long life of the individual. National continuance dependent on national obedience, is the one truth most frequently named in the exhortations of Israel's lawgiverse
V. ALL THIS HAS A PRESENT-DAY APPLICATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD NOW. Forms change; but principles neverse There are few passages, even in the grand old Book, that open up a wider scope or a sublimer field for the preacher's efforts than the one before us. The following enumeration of the successive links of thought may be helpful. Our pages give no space for more.
1. At the background of the Christian dispensation there are solid and substantial historical facts on which we can ever fall back.
2. Though the facts, comprised in the birth, cross-bearing, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, did not occur in our times, yet the evidence thereof has come down to us in unbroken line, and with unimpaired force.
3. The meaning of these facts is even better known now than it was at the moment of their occurrence; for their significance has been recorded for us in books which have survived fire and flood, and have reached us in all their integrity.
4. There are other sets of facts connected therewith of which we are witnesses, viz. that the gospel of Christ has been the power of God unto salvation to those who believe it, and that believers therein are the guardians of it, holding it in trust for others.
5. Those thus guarding the faith of Christ are the present "commonwealth of Israel;" taking the place in this economy of the Israel of old. They are not indeed visibly one now as in ancient days. But they form a host a hundredfold more numerous, ranged under differing names, yet guarding the ancient faith.
6. Those Churches which are faithful to their acknowledged mission, prolong their days in the land; while those which, either in faith or life, are less loyal and true to their God, die out, and "the candlestick is removed out of its place."
7. This law of Church life is a perpetual declaration of God's jealousy for his honor. "In proportion to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness," says a modern writer, "particular Churches overcome the world, or are overcome by the world." Thus God shows his care for these supreme facts of our faith, by saying to Churches, "If you guard them, you live; if you guard them not, you die." In the great redemption which is in Christ Jesus, God has broken the fetters which bound man. In his watchful jealousy, he will bring honor to the Church which holds forth and acts out his redemption, and will bring shame to one which represses it, weakens it, or turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. Just as our God cared not for Israel to remain a nation unless they preserved his honor unimpaired, so he cares not for the continued existence of any Church, unless it is "earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints."
8. While, however, the claim and demand of God upon the fidelity of his Israel now is as strong as ever, yea stronger, the mode in which that claim is presented is vastly more tender than in ancient days. In the Epistles to the seven Churches we have a kind of appeal to the Christian Israel, analogous to this of Moses to the Hebrew Israel. But, in lieu of the thunder, trembling, and flame of Sinai, we have the pathos and love of Gethsemane and Calvary. Can we resist such appeals as those which Christ presents? Can we consent to keep back from man the cross, with all its fullness of meaning; or fail to respond to it by intensest love and closest obedience? May our once suffering and now glorified Lord make us faithful, and keep us so till death!
The order of nature subservient to moral purposes.
(For information concerning methods of irrigation in Egypt, see the Exposition, and works on the subject.) Moses here reminds the people:
1. That the land of Canaan would not require artificial irrigation, as that of Egypt had done; that it was a land specially cared for by God, who gave it the early rain after the sowing, and the latter rain before the harvest; so that there would be no occasion for them to put forth the same kind of labor that had been performed in the land of their bondage.
2. That if they were obedient and true to their vows, the fruitfulness of Canaan would be ensured through the continuance of the early and the latter rain.
3. But that if they allowed themselves to be seduced to the service of other gods, the Lord's wrath would be kindled, the heaven would be shut up, the rain would be withheld, and so from want of sustenance the people would perish. Now, it is evident that this is one of those passages with which what is called "modern thought" ventures specially to come in conflict. We do not now concern ourselves with any physical theory of the working of nature which the Hebrews may have had. Moses did not give them any. It was not his province, which was simply to teach them the moral and spiritual laws under which they were placed; to show them that these were such as to subserve their training in righteousness, and that nature itself was so regulated by Jehovah, as to be a most important factor in the educational forces which were at work on their behalf. The series of thoughts here given opens up a most important theme for pulpit teaching; viz. The order of nature subservient to moral purposes.
I. LET US INDICATE THE MAIN THOUGHTS WHICH ARE CONTAINED IN THIS PASSAGE.
1. The sending of rain from heaven is an act of God (Jeremiah 14:22). This is a truth taught by natural religion, and recognized in the whole of Scripture.
2. The sending of the rain from heaven is an act of, and to us a proof of, the Divine benevolence (Matthew 5:45).
3. There was manifest kindness to Israel, in leading them to a land so spontaneously and richly fruitful as Palestine. In Egypt, where rain falls so seldom, God had taught man to water it by artificial means, anti compensated for the want of rain by the periodical rise of the Nile. But whereas in Palestine there was no such phenomenon, and as the people would have perished therein from want, had artificial means of watering it been required ere these irrigating measures could have been carried out, it was no mean mercy that they were led to a land which did not need them. They lose very much who do not see proofs of Divine care in these natural counterpoises and compensations. Moreover, had the fruitfulness of Canaan been dependent on Israel's "watering it with the foot" they might, in their ignorance, have attributed its fertility to their own wit or wisdom; but no such self-laudation could well arise where all had been secured for them by a Power not their own.
4. Nevertheless, however richly Canaan might be blessed with the rain of heaven, that gift of God was by no means absolute or irrevocable, but would be so bestowed as to serve the purpose of a moral training. In 'Footnotes from the Page of Nature,' Dr. Macmillan clearly shows that there is a law of nature, by virtue of which each order of life exists for the sake of that which is above it. We have but to widen and generalize this principle, and we get exactly the same truth in the Word which is revealed in the world, viz. that the physical exists for the moral, and is so regulated as to be subservient thereto. All things are for man. "He giveth us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." And if thus God cares for the bodily wants, how should he but care the more for the moral growth of the creature—man?
5. From this general principle, two details naturally follow.
(1) That rain will be continued if the people are obedient.
(2) That if they disobey, and serve other gods, rainlessness and dearth will be the sad reminders of their sin (see Deuteronomy 28:23, Deuteronomy 28:24; 1Ki 8:35; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Chronicles 6:26, 2Ch 6:27; 2 Chronicles 7:12-14; Jeremiah 14:1-7, Jeremiah 14:17-22; Amos 4:6-8; Haggai 1:7-11; Hosea 1:8, Hosea 1:9). It is no valid objection to say that there is no nexus between the obedience or disobedience of a man, and the fall of rain. For, first of all, in such a statement there is a gross petitio principii. The whole thing in question is assumed; and secondly, according to the fourth principle named above, the Scripture theory is, not only that there is a nexus, but that it is a known and intelligible and a reasonable one: viz. God gives or withholds rain. He values his people's comfort, but their virtue more. He varies the course of nature so as to subserve the latter end. Hence there is a connection between human obedience to God, and a shower of rain. The obedience is to God, the rain is from him. But let us now pass on—
II. TO SHOW HOW THESE THINKINGS SHOULD GUIDE US IN REFERENCE TO SOME OF THE PRESENT PERPLEXITIES OF HUMAN THOUGHT. And perhaps we may meet these, and clear up the passage before us, most effectually, by at once putting the question, "Is it right to pray for rain?" We must again divide this question into two; and must first ask, "What do we mean by praying for rain?" or "What is that praying for rain for which alone any devout and intelligent believer would argue?"
1. It is not meant that those who never pray at all should pray but for rain, and selfishly beg a gift from a Being to whom, except when they are in trouble, they do not care to speak.
2. It is not meant that men should ask distrustfully, as if they thought their words would move the Most High to pity.
3. It is not meant that any request for rain should be absolute, or sent up in a spirit of querulousness or dictation.
4. It is not thought that any law of nature needs to be interfered with, or altered, or modified, in order to bring an answer to such a request. But:
(1) It is known and believed that all nature is perfectly plastic in the Creator's hands.
(2) It is contended that God can modify the course of nature without varying a law. Why, even man can do this: he can drain a morass, or carry off a lake, and change the climate and vegetation of a district forever afterwards; and if man can do this in part, surely God can do it infinitely.
(3) It is urged that those who in every thing by prayer and supplication make their requests known unto God, need not alter their course because the present trouble is a want of rain; but that they may lay this, in common with all other things, before God in prayer: reverently acknowledging his greatness, humbly acknowledging that their sins deserve his rebuke, and submitting thereto with lowliness and contrition of heart.
(4) It is asserted that any such devout souls, in any distress whatever, can, may, ought to entreat the Lord their God that he would have mercy upon them, remove his stroke, and grant them their request. This is that for which alone we contend.
Now, there are reasons for taking up such a position, which cannot be set aside, and when put together in cumulative force, they seem to us to leave no special difficulty on this point remaining.
(1) There is a God and Father of all.
(2) He loves to be approached in prayer (Psalms 50:15).
(3) Whatever is a care on his children's heart is a care on his (Isaiah 63:9; 1 Peter 5:7).
(4) God's great concern for the people is their moral training (Deuteronomy 8:2-5). He so distributes physical good that the higher end may be subserved.
(5) We are taught by our Lord himself to pray, "Give us day by day our daily bread;" and if so, it follows that we may pray for the continuance of the means on which the supply of daily bread depends. As rain is one of the very chief of these means, it follows that the children of God may pray for rain.
But it may be objected, 1: The laws of nature are fixed. Be it so. The course of nature is not (see remarks above). God may modify an order without altering a law. What man can do in limited measure, God can do in unlimited degree.
Objection 2: Prayer cannot change the mind of God. True. We neither seek nor desire to do this. We do not know what is the mind of God until he tells us. He has said, "Ask, and ye shall receive." If then it is the mind of God that his creatures should ask before receiving, it is of no use to think that the mind of God will change, and that they will receive without asking.
Objection 3: If, as is affirmed, sin is the reason for drought, then the only thing which meets such a case is putting away the sin, and not prayer! We reply, the Scriptural teaching is that there must be confession, repentance, and prayer (see 1 Kings 8:35). Not one alone, but all combined. Thus all the objections fail Finally, we would conclude with one earnest inquiry, the working out of which would demand a long discourse. We can but put it, and let it drop as a seed into some hearts. Given, man as a moral being, with indefinite possibilities of development for holiness or sin, which theory of the constitution of nature most accords with the constitution of man? That which represents physical force as controlled for the purposes of his moral culture, or that which represents the nobler aspirations as hopelessly baffled by a non-moral, bare physical force? Reader, "Consider what we say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things."
(See Homily on Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)
The moral power of national righteousness.
There was a definite territory assigned by God to Israel. They were promised it, but the prohibition against going beyond what God had allotted them, was as remarkable and strong as the assurance of their possessing such allotment. The bounds here specified are stated afresh in Joshua 1:3, Joshua 1:4. In the days of Solomon these boundaries were actually theirs. But, as is welt known, they were a people untrained for war; in regard to military skill and warlike appliances, other nations were vastly more than a match for them, leaving out of the question Israel's paucity in numbers. But (and it is not the least striking feature in the Mosaic legislation) they were to have power of another kind, even that which was moral, a power arising from their righteousness, and also dependent upon it. And in this passage:
1. Moses afresh reminds the people of their duty—to keep the commandments of the Lord their God.
2. He points out that their loyalty to God and assurance of his protection would give them irresistible strength.
3. The knowledge of this higher order of moral life, and of the promised guard of their covenant God, would so influence the other nations that they would be inspired with dread (see Joshua 2:9, Joshua 2:10, Joshua 2:11).
4. This dread of Israel which the nations round about would feel would clear their way, would ensure their conquest, and would be a security for them in retaining their possessions. From all this we get one of the most important lessons suggested which can possibly be taught on national affairs, viz. That the kind of power over other nations, which a people may well desire the most, is that which comes from the influence of its own righteousness.
I. NATIONAL POWER IS UNIVERSALLY COVETED. Nor, provided sundry conditions are fulfilled which will be presently named, is this wrong. No nation ought to consent to be a cipher among nations. Just as really as a man may well wish to be something amongst his fellows, so should a people wish to be something in the regard of neighboring states.
II. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT THAT THE POWER OF A NATION OVER OTHERS SHOULD BE THAT OF THE HIGHEST KIND. One nation may be chiefly great in its commercial enterprise, another in its culture of art, a third in the renown of its orators or poets, a fourth in its philosophic wisdom, a fifth in its military or naval fame; but there is a power, unlike all these, after which Israel was hidden to aspire.
III. THAT IS THE POWER MOST TO BE DESIRED WHICH WOULD MAKE IT WORTH WHILE TO PERPETUATE THE NATION POSSESSING IT, FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD'S GOOD. Moses, under Divine direction, is continually recognizing this, by putting Israel's continuance in the land as conditioned on their loyalty to Jehovah and his laws.
IV. THE ONLY POWER WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO THE WORLD'S GOOD IS THAT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. This unites a people. This gives clear heads, strong frames, valiant hearts. A nation whose heart is soundly righteous will not fight unless it must; but if it must, it will fight grandly and for a righteous aim.
V. THIS POWER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL HAVE A MANIFOLD EFFECT WITH REGARD TO OTHER NATIONS.
1. As a rule, it will ensure their good-will.
2. Appealing as it does to man's sense of justice, it will help to ward off attacks from without.
3. Where it fails to do this, and where an attack has to be resisted, if in the hour of their need they cry unto God, they will find that he shields them in the day of battle (see 2 Chronicles 20:1-29).
VI. THIS POWER MAY EVEN BE DEVELOPED AND STRENGTHENED BY REPEATED AND ARDUOUS CONFLICT. (See 2 Chronicles 20:29.) When a people are with one heart loyal to God, and do with one voice cry unto him, they will find out that Jehovah hears, and that God speeds the right. And may we not appeal fearlessly to every one of our readers, and say, Is not this power of righteousness pre-eminently that which the world wants? This being so, we may bring this series of remarks to a close by observing—
VII. THAT THE GREAT GOD OF NATIONS WILL SET HIS SEAL OF APPROVAL ON PEOPLES THAT SO CLEAVE TO THE RIGHT, BY GIVING AGAIN AND AGAIN THE VICTORY TO THAT WHICH, HUMANLY SPEAKING, IS THE WEAKER SIDE. Scripture cases of this abound: Israel and Pharaoh; Gideon and the Midianites; Hezekiah and Sennacherib; Jehoshaphat and the Ammonites; and (in another sense) Elijah and the priests and prophets of Baal. The Word of God is continually showing us that power is not always where it seems to be, but very often where it seems not to be: Joseph, Daniel, Peter, etc. From all these considerations, there may be drawn out an earnest appeal to men, even if they aim at naught higher than to be the true lovers and guardians of their country and nation, to seek for the sake of their own dear land, to love and to practice righteousness. Nor let it be supposed that this statement is at all affected by the fact that we are "not under the Law but under grace." Grace reigns through righteousness, and only through righteousness. Infinite grace has offered a Sacrifice which has done away with the need of continuing the sacrifices of the ceremonial law. But grace never has and never will abate one jot or tittle of the demands for righteousness which mark the moral law. Never! And if we are rescued from condemnation, if we are made sons of God, it is not that we may be absolved from the obligation to righteousness; but that "the righteousness of the Law may be fulfilled in us" from the spontaneity of personal choice, without the need of any command to enforce or pressure to constrain. And inasmuch as only in a perfectly righteous people can there be an absolute guarantee of permanence, it follows that only the people in the commonwealth of Israel will constitute "the eternal city." For there" the people shall be all righteous," and then "they shall inherit the land forever." Righteousness and permanence are thus linked together in the prophetic outlook of Isaiah, as really as in the legislation of Moses (see Isa 61:1-11 :21). In this new and nobler world, righteousness will come into being, not as a response to a Divine command, but as the product of a Divine creation. And then around it there shall be an eternal guard. No enemy from without shall dare to attack; no foe from within shall weaken. "Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks."
The dread alternative before every man.
Perhaps, strictly speaking, the final paragraph of this chapter includes Deuteronomy 11:26-32. The reader thereof will, however, observe that, while in its entirety it deals with the blessing and curse, yet the first three verses deal with them as resting on the people, the remaining verses regard them as pronounced by the people. The theme indicated by the latter half is treated on at Deuteronomy 27:1-26. We therefore confine our remarks to the former section of these words. They present to us the dread alternative which is before every man, as our theme for consideration. Lest any should seek to blunt the edge of our words by saying, "We don't like the word 'curse;' it belongs to an older dispensation," we would observe at the outset that the same alternative is presented to us, though it may be in other words, by the Lord Jesus Christ, in John 3:18-21. We do not say that there is no difference in meaning beyond the varied phraseology, but simply point out just now, that, under Christ, as under Moses, there is set forth the sharp contrast, in one case of blessing and curse, in the other case of acceptance and condemnation. One or other of these belongs to every man. Here is a mighty theme, in which the preacher has "by manifestation of the truth to commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
I. MAN HAS A MORAL NATURE. The denial of this by some, and the baseness of the lives of others, no more interfere with the general truth of this, than cases which are abnormal in the physical world do with well-ascertained truth in the physical departments. Man has a συνείδησις, a power of discerning moral distinctions. If he fails to give proof of that, he is a perishing man.
II. THE POSSESSION OF A MORAL NATURE INDICATES THE EXISTENCE OF MORAL LAW. This is, in fact, the objectivity which is before the moral sense, and perceived by it.
III. THE EXISTENCE OF A LAW IMPLIES THAT OF A LAWGIVER; the existence of a moral law, that of a moral Lawgiver, who is himself the Lord of right, the God, "with whom is our account." The moral sense of man postulates this; the all but universal conviction of mankind affirms it; the sense of sin is its constant demonstration. The experience of men like Enoch, who in the olden time "walked with God," is proof that at any rate some human spirits lean on the Eternal One, as really as the body depends on air and food.
IV. THE MORAL LAWGIVER REVEALS HIMSELF. Not only do previously mentioned facts show that he is, but we know also what he is. The Law given by Moses, and the proclamation of Jehovah's Name to him, disclose the greatness of the Divine being; the fuller word of prophet and psalmist likewise. The Incarnate Son revealed him. The Holy Ghost unveils him to the watchful eye and yearning heart. "The Lord your God."
V. THE GREAT LAWGIVER HAS GIVEN DEFINITE COMMANDS. Chiefly, as Lawgiver, in the Law. Chiefly, as also a great Benefactor, in the gospel. In the one aspect his Law is "do;" in the other his Law is "receive." In the former a course of life is marked out in detail; in the latter, a redemption by infinite grace is made known for "the obedience of faith" So that, as it speaks to us, Law says (for we are under Law to Christ), "Receive in loving faith the redemption, even the forgiveness of sins, and then, by the renewed energies of a God-inspired life, walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.'
VI. THE DIVINE LAWGIVER REGARDS MEN ACCORDING TO THEIR MEASURE OF LOYALTY TO THE RIGHT AND THE TRUE, i.e. as far as they have the opportunity of knowing what is right and true; for some nations may even as yet not have any written law. In such case Peter's words apply (Acts 10:34, Acts 10:35). We can suppose others who have the Law only. We have the revelation of God both in Law and in gospel; to us is the word of salvation sent (cf. John 6:29). According as we receive it or no, God approves or disapproves, accepts or disowns. Is it possible to suppose it otherwise? Can any one think that a holy Lawgiver should give forth a perfect Law, and then be unconcerned as to whether men obey it? Can it be imagined that he should send his only begotten Son into the world, and then leave it optional with men as to how they should treat him to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth? There is indeed (see Homily on Deuteronomy 10:17-1) no respect of persons as to rank, or caste, or color, or clime. The wide world over, right and equity are the Divine delight; but since right is right, and God is God, there must eternally remain the great gulf fixed between the loyalty of heart which he approves, and the disloyalty of soul which the Most High cannot but condemn. The throne of the Eternal is established in righteousness.
VII. THIS APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL OF GOD IS THE BLESSING OR CURSE. (cf. Psalms 1:6.) And it would be well could it be impressed on every conscience that, even if there were no certainty of any visitation or punishment from God in token of his displeasure, yet that displeasure itself is so awful a curse, that to be conscious of it is the germ of hell; while, quite apart from aught that he may send to us, the consciousness of having his approval is a sufficient, a heavenly, an "exceeding great" reward! The light in which God views us is of infinitely more moment than the gifts he sends or the chastisements he inflicts. Take an illustration from a lower sphere. Let it be supposed that a man whose life and writings are corrupting the morals and helping to blight the faith of his countrymen, is admitted, in course of events, to the assembly of British senators. He is there as one of its members. But he knows that the grandest, purest, most philanthropic and self-sacrificing of human-kind regard him and his views with unutterable loathing, not because of any vindictive feeling against him, but because of the solemn interests which in his hands are imperiled and shamed. Nothing is done to him; but he knows that this is how he and his views are regarded by those whose esteem is most worth having. Would not such a state of things be intolerable torture to him? Or supposing him "past feeling," would his case be the less pitiable? Or supposing him so puffed up with pride and conceit as to regard the rest of his fellows as kept virtuous by a superstition whose elevating power he does not desire to know, would not the disapproval of the mass of the people—too deep for any words to express—be as a blighting curse upon him, even though no other penalty were imposed; and would not that disownment be a heavier penalty than any outward punishment could be? But oh! what, what is the disapproval of man, or of men, compared with the frown of God?
VIII. THIS APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL WILL, SOONER OR LATER, BE MANIFEST. It is true, in more senses than one, "Thou art a God that hidest thyself" (cf. Psalms 50:21). But "though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished." The curse will show itself in nations, by their humiliation and destruction. So Egypt, Tyre, Chaldea, Jerusalem, etc. It will reveal itself in families by a "sword in the house" for many a long year (1 Samuel 3:13, 1 Samuel 3:14; 2 Samuel 7:14). It will be manifest in the individual. This κρίμα—yea, κατακρίμα—of God has three stages.
1. A present, though it may be a comparatively silent one, either in a stinging conscience, or one "seared as with a hot iron."
2. A further one, on the exchange of worlds, when earth and sense are thrown off, and the Great Invisible is near. "Now, Mr. T," said a departing sinner to the missionary who was by his bedside, "my judgment has just begun!"
3. A future one, at the day of judgment, when God shall judge the secrets of men (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). Disobedient hearts are but treasuring up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, to be disapproved, finally, by him from whose sentence there can be no appeal. Is not a heavy curse, indeed, involved in all that?
IX. HERE IS GROUND ENOUGH FOR SOLEMN APPEAL TO MEN. "I set before you this day a blessing and a curse." Oh! if men would but take the pains to quit a while in thought this busy scene in which they live and move almost in perpetual whirl; if they would but anticipate by earnest reflection that usherment into the presence of God which their departure hence must bring; if they would but set the judgment scene, as sketched by Christ, before their view, methinks they would see the deep and solemn reason why the preacher now—even now—says, "Flee from the wrath to come." For the wrath will come, i.e. it will manifest itself. It exists now. The eternal antagonism of a holy God to ill of every kind necessitates it. And as surely as God is ever on the side of right, so surely will he have it shown, ere long, that such is the case. Then let the sinner, condemned even now by his own conscience—how much more by God!—flee for refuge from the coming storm. There is a refuge; it is ours the moment that we flee to it. But if when the storm comes we are not found there, we must perish—perish with the double disapproval of Heaven on our heads: disapproved as breakers of law; disapproved as neglecters of grace.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Deuteronomy 11:2-10, Deuteronomy 11:18-22
Obligations arising from personal experience.
"Chastisement" (Deuteronomy 11:2) in its wide sense of discipline. The educative process by which God converted, or aimed at converting, the hordes who left Egypt into a nation of brave, free, God-fearing, self-respecting, obedient men and women. This education blended deliverance with judgment on their enemies; loving-kindness in the bestowal of mercies, with severe chastisements in cases of rebellion; attention to their necessities, with frequent exposure to adversity, and consequent trial of their faith and patience. They had been put to school with the Almighty as their Teacher; their lesson-book was the whole extraordinary series of occurrences in Egypt and the desert; the end of the training was to form them to obedience.
I. THREE PHASES OF GOD'S INSTRUCTION OF HIS CHURCH.
1. The shattering of worldly power hostile to the Church (Deuteronomy 11:3, Deuteronomy 11:4). Pharaoh, in his pride and obstinacy, is a type of world-power universally, in its opposition to God's kingdom (Romans 9:17). But though again and again the waves have thus roared, and the floods have lifted up their voice (Psalms 93:3, Psalms 93:4), the Lord on high has shown himself mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea (cf. Psalms 83:1-18.; Isaiah 37:1-38.; Isaiah 1:0 Macc. 4.; Acts 4:23-34; Revelations Acts 19:19; Acts 20:8, Acts 20:9).
2. The preservation and guidance of the Church itself (Deuteronomy 11:5). In securing the perpetuation of a godly remnant in times of greatest apostasy (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:5; Revelations Romans 3:5; Romans 11:3; Romans 12:17); in providing her with a succession of godly teachers (Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 4:11-14); in supplying her necessities, spiritual (John 6:32, Joh 6:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19) and temporal (Matthew 10:9, Matthew 10:10; Acts 4:34; 1 Corinthians 9:14; Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16); in opening up the path of duty (Acts 16:10; Romans 15:30, Romans 15:31; 2 Corinthians 10:13-17), in conducting her from one stage of attainment to another (Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 4:13).
3. The overthrow of antichristian rebellion within the Church (Deuteronomy 11:6). The insurrection of Korah and his company may be taken as representative of antichristian movements generally. These are bound to arise, but will infallibly be crushed (2 Thessalonians 2:3-13; 1 John 2:18; Revelation 17:1-18.).
II. OBLIGATIONS ARISING FROM EXPERIENCE OF GOD'S WONDERFUL WORKS. The older portion of that generation had personally witnessed the wonderful works referred to. This gave them a certain advantage, and made disobedience doubly culpable. These works of God had been:
(1) in origin, supernatural;
(2) in kind, of stupendous magnitude; and
(3) had extended over a long period of time.
Those who have lived through any period signalized by remarkable workings of God on behalf of his Church, or whose individual experiences have been remarkable, may learn a lesson. Apply to reformation times, times of religious revival, of deliverance from persecutions, of the forth-putting of God's power in missions, etc. (2Ch 31:1-21 :25, 26; Ezra 3:10-13; Ezra 6:22; Esther 9:27; Psalms 40:10; Psalms 116:6-9; Acts 15:12). Such experiences:
1. Furnish peculiar evidences of God's grace and power, of the reality of his working in salvation and judgment. These evidences, while not losing their value to later generations, are necessarily of greatest force to those who witness the events.
2. Create impressions of God's character and attributes not so readily created by report. It is much to hear of the wonderful works of God from credible witnesses, but hearing with the ear cannot equal, in impressiveness and force, seeing with the eye (Job 42:5).
3. Imply a personal discipline which others have not had the benefit of. The lessons of our experiences may be conveyed to posterity, but the results of them in personal character remain with ourselves. All this lays on those who have had such experiences very special responsibilities. These relate
(1) to personal obedience (Deuteronomy 11:8); and
(2) to the education of children (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
How are our children to know of God's mighty works in former days, or get the benefit of our own experiences; how are they to be convinced, moved, or instructed by these things, save as the result of diligent parental teaching?—J.O.
Canaan and Egypt.
I. ITS CONTRAST WITH EGYPT. (Deuteronomy 11:10, Deuteronomy 11:11.) Not, like Egypt, a land rainless and artificially watered. It had no Nile. It drank in water from the rains of heaven. It was thus in a peculiar way a land dependent upon God. Egypt's fertility depended on God also, but less directly. Its contrivances for irrigation gave it, or might seem to give it, a semi-independence. Palestine was a land, on the contrary, whose peculiar conditions made it dependent for fruitfulness on the direct gift to it of rains from heaven. It was a land requiring a providential adjustment of conditions—a daily care—to make it yield the utmost it was capable of (Deuteronomy 11:12). The truth here figured is that God wills the believer to put his life day by day under his immediate care. The worldly man may desire, and in a measure may be allowed to attain, a position of relative independence of God: he may get (within limits) the ordering of his own plans and ways, and by ingenious contrivances and manipulations of laws of nature, he may think to put himself beyond the power of God's interference with him. But the godly man will neither desire this nor be content with it. He wishes God's eyes to be upon his lot day by day, "from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year." There is, within the ordinary providence of God, a special providence to be recognized over God's people, over Christ's Church, and over nations that adhere to God's ways.
II. THE RESULTS OF THIS CONTRAST TO THE INHABITANTS. (Deuteronomy 11:13-18.) The directness of the dependence of Canaan on God's care made it, to a greater degree than Egypt could have been, suitable for the operation of a system so intimately bound up with temporal rewards and punishments. Should the people prove obedient, God engages to bless them with rains, and make the land fruitful (Deuteronomy 11:13-16). [But should they disobey, the peculiar conditions of the land put it in his power to scourge them, as he so often did, with drought and famine (1 Kings 17:1; Joel 1:1-20.; Haggai 1:10, Haggai 1:11). So he threatens (Deuteronomy 11:16, Deuteronomy 11:17). It is a blessed but a perilous position which God's people are called to occupy. It secures to them unwonted favors, but it exposes them also, if disobedient, to chastisements and punishments of a peculiarly direct and severe kind. The higher the position of nearness to God, the greater the responsibility which that position entails upon who enjoy it.—J.O.
The great alternative.
I. GOD SUMMONS US TO DECISION.
1. His revelations lay the ground for it. "Light is come into the world" (John 3:19).
2. They demand it. Men would trifle, but God says, "Now" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Men would put off, but God urges to decision (Joshua 24:15).
3. They shut men up to it. When light comes, decision is inevitable. We must settle what our attitude towards it will be. In decreeing not to choose, we in reality do choose.
II. THE DECISION TO WHICH GOD SUMMONS US TURNS ON A SINGLE POINT. The point is obedience. Will we obey or will we not (Deuteronomy 11:27)? It was so under the Law, and it is so under the gospel. What the gospel asks from us is" the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). This tests our disposition thoroughly. True faith carries with it the surrender of the will to God and Christ. It is the root and principle of all holy obedience. Men will not come to Christ; why? The reason is that they cannot bring themselves to yield up their wills to him as he requires. They "love the darkness rather than the light" (John 3:19-22). Refusal to decide for Christ is equivalent, for the time being, to deciding against him (Matthew 12:30).
III. THE DECISION TO WHICH GOD SUMMONS US INVOLVES THE ALTERNATIVE OF A BLESSING AND A CURSE. That was what it came to then, and it is the same still. Blessing or curse; life or death. Whether God is to be our God, blessing us, renewing our inward life, enriching us with his Spirit, bestowing on us grace here and glory hereafter; or whether we are to live beneath his frown, withering up under it in body and soul, and vanishing at last into outer darkness. It is an old question whether a man can voluntarily choose what is for his hurt. Possibly he cannot without first listening to the tempter who bids him believe that the course he pursues will not be for his hurt. But none the less is every sinner taking the path which ends in destruction (Matthew 7:13). His interest, did he but see it, or would he but believe it, is entirely in the line which God wishes him to follow. The terminus of the one road is death (Romans 6:21), of the other life everlasting (Romans 11:22).—J.O.
Vastness of promise.
An inspiring statement of what God would do for the obedient nation. Shining through it we see the promise to the Church. God promises—
I. VICTORY OVER ALL ENEMIES. (Deuteronomy 11:23.) The strongest spiritual foes will go down if we cleave to God. Though greater and mightier than we, they shall be overthrown.
II. ENLARGEMENT OF BOUNDS. (Deuteronomy 11:23.) They would grow numerous, fill the land, and spread beyond it. A wider prospect is held out to the Church. Her possession is the earth. If faithful, she has the means within herself to spread abroad her conquests, and occupy from sea to sea.
III. MORAL SUPREMACY. (Deuteronomy 11:25.) Israel's power would be acknowledged—her influence felt. Men would dread her hostility. The felt presence of God in a man, or in a Church, has a power to inspire fear. Its awing effect is felt often where it is not acknowledged.—J.O.
Deuteronomy 11:29, Deuteronomy 11:30
Gerizim and Ebal
(cf. Deuteronomy 27:1-26.). This putting of the blessing and the curse on Gerizim and Ebal had significance—
I. AS A SOLEMN TRANSFERENCE OF THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE TO THE LAND OF POSSESSION. Blessing and curse, representing the award of eternal righteousness, must follow us so long as disobedience is possible. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die" (Romans 8:13). "That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:8). In heaven there is "no more curse" (Revelation 22:3), but only because, confirmed in holiness, God's servants can no more fall away.
II. AS A SOLEMN REMINDER OF TEE TENURE ON WHICH THE LAND WAS HELD. We cannot render perfect obedience, but our duty is to aim at it. The condition of inheritance is that we are doers of the Father's will (Matthew 7:21).
III. As CONNECTED WITH A SOLEMN RENEWAL OF VOWS. Fitting on such occasions that both blessing and curse should be remembered.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Ocular demonstrations of God's nearness increase human responsibility.
Men disposed to skepticism often ask for clearer proof of the existence of God. But they deceive themselves. If they used well such evidence as they have, they would find it ample. We should not overlook the fact that the Hebrews, under Moses, and that the Jews in the days of Christ, had clearest demonstrations of God's presence. Yet they believed not; they were conspicuous examples of unbelief.
I. EXTERNAL EVIDENCES OF RELIGION HAVE BEEN SUPPLIED TO SOME PERSONS ABUNDANTLY.
1. The Hebrews had every possible demonstration of God's existence. The Most High deigned to reveal himself to the eye and to the ear, in forms adapted to produce complete conviction, and to overthrow all doubt. The people were more than content. They asked that such overpowering displays of the Godhead might be withdrawn.
2. They were convinced of the regal power of Jehovah. To resist him they plainly saw was an impossibility. Pharaoh was the personation of worldly power; yet Pharaoh and his captains and astrologers and host had been completely swept away by the breath of Jehovah's power. The irresistible might of Jehovah was as evident as their own existence.
3. They saw that the Omnipotent God was the Friend of men. That all the resources of Jehovah were employed on behalf of his friends, not one in the Hebrew camp could question. God had used every plan to persuade Pharaoh to yield compliance, and it was only after long waiting and repeated warning that vengeance was decreed.
4. They had plainest proof of the judicial faithfulness of God. For they had themselves suffered his chastisements. Resistance of Divine authority had been followed by judgment among the Hebrews, as among the Egyptians. Favoritism, exceptional treatment, escape from magisterial detection,—these things were out of question. The inviolable rectitude of God's administration was clear as noon-day.
II. EXTERNAL EVIDENCES SERVE AS A MEASURE OF RESPONSIBILITY.
1. They satisfy all the requirements of intellect. Responsibility depends on two things, viz.
(1) sufficient information;
(2) ability to obey.
If between opposing probabilities there is the smallest preponderance in favor of belief in God, such balance of probability must determine our conduct. Hereafter, hesitation is criminal. Every piece of additional evidence is additional responsibility. It relieves us from the weakness of recurring doubt. God makes due allowance for deficient knowledge. "The times of human ignorance God winked at," i.e. overlooked.
2. External demonstration does not ensure spiritual impression. The diligent inquirer will find a thousand evidences of duty where an indolent man will see none. So where within a man feeling is susceptible, a tithe of existing knowledge will suffice to produce glad obedience. It is incumbent on men to weigh well all the evidence of religion they possess, and to respond, in feeling and affection and active effort, to every claim which conscience recognizes.
3. It is a duty to ascertain our personal responsibility. We may find benefit in comparing our privileged position with the position of others. If, with the measure of knowledge we possess, we are still rebellious, what is likely to be the conduct of those less privileged? If we, to whom special revelation has been made, waste the possession, will not our own children pronounce our condemnation, because we have denied to them the help of our testimony?
III. EXTERNAL EVIDENCES MAY ONLY INJURE OUR SOULS.
1. Misuse of superior knowledge is a crime. If God has condescended to give us instruction respecting himself and his purposes of mercy, it is sheer ingratitude on our part to neglect it. Blindness has deprived us of the highest good.
2. Resistance of conscience does permanent injury to the soul. The abuse of any material instrument is an injury. The conscience is an instrument of the soul's life. To neglect its magisterial voice is to make ourselves deaf. To resist its instincts is to strangle them. Not to act according to our enlightened reason, is to injure reason as an instrument. If we recklessly nip the first buds of affection, we necessarily destroy its proper fruit. In thoughtless resistance of truth, men are preparing the elements of a direful doom. While obedience to God makes a man strong, rebellion effeminates all the nobler powers of the soul. It enervates, corrupts, destroys.
3. Unfaithfulness to convictions will necessitate severest retributions. It is an ascertained fact that punishment will be in proportion to desert. The servant ignorant of his Lord's special requirements is counted worthy of some stripes; but he who knew his Lord's will, and flagrantly neglected it, is awarded "many stripes." The mere possibility of Israel's unfaithfulness kindled the earnest anxiety of Moses.—D.
Deuteronomy 11:8, Deuteronomy 11:9
Obedience leads to prolonged possession.
We may learn here—
I. THAT COMMANDS MAY CARRY A SUPREME OBLIGATION, THOUGH SPOKEN BY MAN.
II. THAT OBEDIENCE IS VAIN, UNLESS IT COVERS THE WHOLE AREA OF DUTY.
III. THAT COMPLETE OBEDIENCE IMPARTS STRENGTH TO THE WHOLE MAN.
IV. THAT SUCH STRENGTH PRESSES INTO THE POSSESSION OF NEW KINGDOMS.
V. THAT THE OATH OF GOD, AND THE DEVOUT ACTIVITY OF MAN, CO-OPERATE FOR THE HIGHEST ACQUISITIONS.—D.
Valuable possessions reserved for the righteous.
The land of Palestine has always been a coveted prize by the surrounding nations. Compared with the territory south and east, it possesses qualities of excellence and beauty. But its fertility depends upon the rain supply, and rain supply was suspended on righteous loyalty.
I. A MORAL PURPOSE UNDERLIES THE GEOLOGICAL CONFIGURATION OF OUR GLOBE. God can never experience surprise in the beneficial coincidences of events. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world." If heaven has been undergoing a process of preparation from a period anterior to the formation of our globe, we need feel no surprise that, in arranging the strata of the earth, God should have been animated with motives of righteous benevolence towards men. And if the structure of hill and valley is the visible projection of a generous moral purpose—a part of the plan for the religions education of men—we may conclude that all the forces and phenomena of nature have vital connection with the religious development of our race. Israel was sent into Canaan because amongst its hills and valleys its history and fortunes could best be unfolded.
II. GOD'S PATERNAL CARE OF MEN EXTENDS TO THE WHOLE OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT. The sagacious love of God condescends to every minutiae of human life. Our God has infinite leisure for everything. His eyes are daily upon our farms and shops. He is our Bulwark and defends our coasts. He knoweth what we have need of.
III. THE RICHEST EARTHLY POSSESSION LEAVES MEN WHOLLY DEPENDENT ON GOD. Instead of our possessions liberating us from dependence on God, they increase our dependence; for now we need his protection for our property as well as for ourselves. Possessions (so called) are only channels through which true blessing flows, and our great business is to keep the channel clear. The hills of Canaan obtained their irrigation from the springs of heaven, and only obedient faith can unlock these springs.
IV. FILIAL OBEDIENCE SECURES MATERIAL PROSPERITY. Such prosperity is the picture and symbol of spiritual good. But material benefits were the only rewards which these Hebrews could appreciate. "Godliness is" still "profitable for al things." The source of all real prosperity is in heaven.
V. EVEN SECRET SIN SETS IN MOTION A SERIES OF GIGANTIC EVILS. The heart is easily taken by semblances and promises of good. The falsehoods of Satan are very plausible. A sentinel needs to be placed at every portal of the soul. Self-deception ends in total destruction. We do not sin alone, nor suffer alone.—D.
God's Word potent to dominate the whole life.
The Word of God, like light, is diffusive. It propagates itself. So long as its proper field of activity is unoccupied, it must spread. It radiates its magnetic influence on every side.
I. TRUTH, POSSESSING THE HEART, BECOMES THE FOUNT OF ALL RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLE. As the pulverized soil is the proper home of seed; as the housewife's dough is the proper home of leaven; so the heart of man is the proper abode of truth. On stony tablets, in books, or in speech, it is only in transit towards its proper destination. Received and welcomed into the soul, it begins a process of blessed activity; it vitalizes, ennobles, beautifies every part of human nature. It is the seed of all virtue and goodness—the root of immortal blessedness.
II. RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLE DOMINATES ALL OUR ACTIVE POWERS. The hand is the servant of the heart. What the mind plans, the hand executes. To bind God's precepts upon our hands is to remind ourselves that the hand, as the representative of active faculty, belongs to God. Embargo is laid upon it to do no violence to others' persons or to others' property. It must not strike nor steal, for it has become an instrument sacred to God. Nor must it be defiled with idleness, for it is the property of him who incessantly works, nor may the eye wantonly wander after forbidden objects. The eye led Eve into transgression. "Let thine eye look straight before thee." "Look not upon the wine when it sparkles in the cup." The eye is a potent instrument for evil or for good.
III. RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLE, SPRINGING OUT OF LOVE OF TRUTH, MAKES US WITNESSES FOR GOD. As on the high priest's forehead there was inscribed the motto, "Holiness unto the Lord;" so, in substance, the same truth is written on every servant of God. He is a consecrated man. His finely arched brow is his glory, and his glory is devoted to God. In every circumstance he desires to magnify his God. His house is God's house; hence on gate and lintel the precepts of God are conspicuous. Hospitality and contentment, peace and kindness, dwell there, for it is the home of God.
IV. RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLE MOLDS POSTERITY. What we are, in great measure our children will be. Moral qualities are entailed. In their tender years, their young nature is plastic and impressible. If our hearts are full of God's truth, it will rise and overflow our lips as water from a well. Far from being an irksome task to speak God's truth, it will be a pleasurable instinct. All time, from early morn till evening repose, will be too short to utter all God's truth. "Living epistles" describe the office of the godly.
V. RIGHTEOUS PRINCIPLE SECURES PERMANENT ENJOYMENT. Truth in the heart is translated into righteousness in the life, and righteousness makes heaven. No enjoyment can be perfect in which our children do not share; and in sharing our joys with our children, we multiply our joys beyond all arithmetical measure. Such days of consecrated service will be "days of heaven upon earth."—D.
He who best serves is most fit to rule.
Golden links of life unite our pious love with universal conquest. "All things become ours, if we are Christ's."
I. LOYAL OBEDIENCE GENERATES LOVE. It is quite true that love is the mother of obedience; it is also true that obedience fosters and intensifies love. The earth receives heat from the sun, but it gives out heat likewise. The sentiment of love in the breast will dwindle and die unless it have practical exercise. Diligent and thoughtful service will bring us nearer God, make God more precious to us, and bind us to him in tenderer bonds. There is an interlacement of affection. Our desires send deep their roots in God, and an indissoluble alliance is the result.
II. UNION WITH GOD SECURES HIS PRACTICAL AID. We are required" to cleave to him." The effect is that he will cleave to us, and prove a real Ally, an almighty Helper. He will drive out all our foes for us, however great and mighty they be. Our foes become his foes. He identifies himself with our cause; or, what is the same thing, we identify ourselves with his.
III. DIVINE ASSISTANCE MAKES US ALL-CONQUERING. "No man shall be able to stand before us." Good men will be drawn to us in sacred friendship; bad men will be held fast in the mysterious spell of awe. We shall be known as the friends and allies of God; and, in proportion as we are like him, men will feel for us the dread they feel for God.
IV. SUCH VALIANT STRENGTH WILL INTRODUCE US TO UNIVERSAL INHERITANCE. "Every place whereon the soles of our feet shall tread shall be ours." In such covenant alliance with God, we shall walk through his universe as "his heirs." Every element of material substance, every event in time, every circumstance and experience, shall conduce to our profit. The world shall be laid under tribute to our best life. We shall extract advantage and joy from adversity itself.—D.
Our life is hourly a choice of alternatives. We can go to the right or to the left. Choice is incessantly demanded, and the issues of our choice are momentous.
I. THE REVELATION OF GOD'S WILL MAY BE A SOURCE OF ABSOLUTE BLESSING. Such revelation is the disclosure of man's true paradise. It is the opening of the door of God's own palace; and, unworthy though we are, we may enter and find rest. To do God's will is to be Christ-like—is to be a true son, and to possess a son's joy. Every step we take along that way of obedience is a step nearer God, from whose smile we obtain exquisite pleasure, and in whose society we find our heaven.
II. WE CANNOT REMAIN THE SAME, AFTER OBTAINING THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S WILL, AS WE WERE BEFORE. Necessity requires that we should be either better or worse. You cannot dwell for an hour in the society of a good man, and continue in the former state of feeling. The fire that does not melt, hardens. To know God's will, and not to do it, inflicts unspeakable mischief upon the soul. Resistance of inward convictions begets callosity of heart, and blasts the budding life of conscience. Wanton treason against God is incipient hell. It is the darkening of the understanding, and the enslavement of the will. No blacker curse can enwrap a man than this.
III. MATERIAL NATURE FORECASTS THE ALTERNATIVES OF BLESSING OR WOE. The visible universe is a projection of God's thought, and all the forces of nature are the agents of God. We find upon this globe elements that minister to our development and strength and joy. We find also elements that are repulsive, menacing, and destructive. The cloud-capped peaks may draw around us the lightnings of vengeance, or may melt the laden cloud and distil showers of blessing. The twin mountains of Ebal and Gerizim were baptized as perpetual preachers of life and death. We may find "sermons in stones," lessons in leaves, counsels in running brooks.
IV. MATERIAL POSSESSIONS ARE NOT ABSOLUTE BLESSINGS. God here distinctly assures the Hebrews that they shall enter Canaan; but whether they should dwell under the frowning peaks of Ebal, or on the sunny slopes of Gerizim, was suspended on their loyal obedience. Even to the possessors of the Promised Land, there stood the dark possibility of the curse. Neither money nor learning makes a man; it is the power to use it.—D.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Divine judgments upon others, to ensure obedience in us.
Moses wishes to bring all possible motive to bear upon the people to secure their obedience in Canaan. He has just been speaking of their national development from a family of seventy to a multitude as numerous as the stars. Such a blessing should encourage them to love the Lord their God, and to "keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments; and his commandments, always." Obedience is thus founded upon gratitude, which is God's invariable plan. But in these verses before us, Moses takes what we may call the converse method. He calls up in succession the judgments with which God visited both the Egyptians and their own forefathers on account of disobedience. He calls upon them to recognize (וִידַעְתֶּם) the "chastisement" (מוּסַר) with which God had signalized the disobedience of the Egyptians and of the Israelites. The following lessons are in these verses suggested.
I. GRATITUDE IS THE FOUNDATION OF NEW OBEDIENCE. This is God's plan. He does not say, "Obey, and I will save you for your obedience," but "Take salvation as a free gift, and then obey me as a matter of gratitude." "If ye love me, keep my commandments." He secures the love by sovereign mercy, and receives obedience as his return upon his investment. Obedience is God's dividend upon his investment of love. Those who would make "good works" the root of salvation instead of the fruit of salvation, are reversing the whole procedure of God.
II. GRATITUDE MAY BE REINFORCED BY A STUDY OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF INGRATITUDE IN OTHERS. For what God strikes at is ingratitude. The Egyptians were ungrateful. They should have recognized God's mercy in their fertile land, in their civilization and advancement, in the mission of Moses, and in the character of the earlier plagues. God had visited Egypt with his love—love which was undeserved, love which remained unrequited. When he revealed "his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched out arm," it was against Egypt's ingratitude and consequent disobedience. The denouement at the Red Sea was judgment upon ingratitude and persevering impiety.
Now, the study of all this, here recommended by Moses, was well fitted to foster gratitude in the hearts of the Israelites. Here was unrequited love receiving its vindication in the series of disasters which culminated in the Red Sea. "We must be thankful," they might well say, "that our ingratitude in past years has not been similarly treated, and for the coming time we must cultivate gratitude and the obedience it secures."
III. GRATITUDE MAY ALSO BE REINFORCED BY A STUDY OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF SELF-CONFIDENCE. For this seems to be the idea of Moses in bringing forward the case of Dathan and Abiram. As descendants of Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, they imagined that they had the right to the primacy in Israel. Hence they disputed the rights of Moses and of the priestly line of Aaron. They insisted on their right of primogeniture as valid in the government of God.
But God recognizes no such personal claims, and he visited the presumption with swift destruction. The study of this "chastisement" would deliver Israel from all confidence in themselves. They would recognize that personal claims are not accepted by a sovereign God; that in consequence they must in humility approach him, thankful for spared lives and continued mercy, and anxious to testify by obedience to their genuine thankfulness.
IV. OBEDIENCE WILL BE FOUND TO BE THE SECRET OF STRENGTH AND SUCCESS IN THE INVASION. For while obedience rests on gratitude, it elicits gratitude from God. If God expects us to be grateful for his love, he shows us the example in being grateful for ours. "I love them that love me," he says (Proverbs 8:17); and again, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21; see also John 14:23). Now, this is what we do not hesitate to call Divine gratitude.
Hence Israel found that obedience rendered thankfully to God received a grateful reward from him in strength to invade and conquer the land of Canaan, and, secondly, in strength to prolong their days in it. A similar experience is realized by God's servants still. Obedience is rewarded graciously and gratefully. Strength is found equal to our day, as we make our pilgrimage to God. How important, then, to obey from a proper motive, and at the same time to receive with proper delight the gracious return which a grateful God bestows!—R.M.E.
The land of promise.
Moses now proceeds to indicate the characteristics of Canaan, and to contrast it with Egypt, which they had left. Egypt is not dependent upon the rains of heaven as Canaan is. The overflowing Nile has only to be guided along the water-courses in the proper season, and the fertility of the Nile valley is secured. The work of irrigation, the watering with the foot (Deuteronomy 11:10), is the one thing needful in Egypt. But Canaan depends upon the continual care of God, his eyes being on it from the beginning to the end of the year, dispensing "the first rain and the latter rain," in order to the harvest. In Egypt, the blessing is given "wholesale"—the Nile brings down from the interior the water the valley needs. In Canaan, the mountain ridge between the Nile valley and the valley of the Euphrates, there is constant dependence experienced upon the bounties of heaven. This suggests—
I. THAT CANAAN WAS A SPLENDID LAND IN WHICH TO TRAIN UP A SPIRITUAL PEOPLE. It was not naturally so fertile as either the valley of the Nile or the valley of the Euphrates. Hence famine touched it more quickly than either Egypt or Assyria. But it was fitted to foster dependence upon God and hope in him. If the inhabitants were obedient, then the land might flow with milk and honey; if disobedient, it might become brown and bare through the withholding of the rain.
Hence we find, in Egypt and in Assyria, a turning of the people to the worship of the inorganic and the organic forces of nature respectively. The valleys, being in some measure more independent of the changing seasons, seem to have nurtured independence of God; while the hills of Syria, like the Highlands of Scotland and of Switzerland, fostered more faith in the Supreme. "Those Syrian hills," says a living writer, "are the Spirit's throne, where, lifted above the deserts of earth, it sits nearest to heaven, while spread beneath it on either hand, resting on the desert's level as their home, are nature's twin provinces of matter and life, rich and green with the beauty and greenness of time, always imposing and often victorious in the region of sense; but doomed, like all things visible and temporal, to fall before the power which shall yet clothe itself with their glory, and which is itself unseen and eternal."
II. THE BLESSINGS WERE GUARANTEED ON CONDITION OF MAN LOYALLY CO-OPERATING WITH GOD. Canaan was no land for indolent lotus-eaters; it was not—
"A land where all things always seem'd the same!"
It was a land where man must co-operate with God in order to the blessing—s land where man realized the dignity of being a "fellow-worker with God." It would be a land of promise and of real blessing on no other condition.
If man were asked for no effort, if everything grew to please his taste and palate spontaneously, if daily bread came without even the trouble of asking, it would be a land of danger and of moral death. Better was it for Israel to have themselves bound by a wholesome destiny to dependence on God and co-operation with him, than if the land bore spontaneously all man's needs.
III. WE NEED LOOK FOR NO OTHER LAND OF PROMISE IN THIS WORLD OR THE NEXT. The idea of "independence" is the great danger of the human heart. We would be indebted to nobody, not even God, if we could. Alas, for our pride! Now, it so happens that we cannot become independent of God's bounty, no matter how hard we try. And it is best so. The land of promise is the land where we depend humbly upon God, and are thus most independent of persons and things around us) The land of promise is where we do our honest share of public work, and get our share of the fruits of industry.
And in the life beyond death we need not desire an inglorious idleness, which is some folk's notion of "everlasting rest," but we shall have there the privilege of serving God "day and night in his temple." A life of consecration is the true" land of promise." It is the only deep enjoyment, it is the only worthy inheritance.
Let us then resolve
(1) to trust God so lovingly as never to harbor even in thought the hope of independence of him; and
(2) to co-operate with him as life's highest privilege and honor. We have entered "the land of promise" when we have learned to trust God; and we are enjoying it when we have learned to be "fellow-workers with him."—R.M.E.
Family training an dement of success.
As in Deuteronomy 6:6-25, Moses again insists on the words of God being preserved among the people by faithful family instruction. The "home school" is, in fact, the great factor in national success. Education must give due prominence to the family institution, as the providential unit of mankind. And here let us notice—
I. GOD'S WORDS ARE TO BE RECEIVED FIRST OF ALL INTO THE HEART. It is when individuals, and especially parents, receive God's testimony into the heart, as Lydia did Cf. Sir Henry Taylor's 'Notes from Life,' Essay 2; 'Humility and Independence.' (Acts 16:14), that it is likely to bloom out in a fitting public profession. It is "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," and then "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). As the ark received the tables of the Law, so the heart of man is to be the depository of the Divine commandments.
II. GOD'S WORDS ARE TO BE KEPT BEFORE OUR OWN EYES AND THE EYES OF OTHERS. This seems to be the idea about the frontiers between the eyes—in this way others had the words displayed for their benefit; whereas the placing them upon the hand was for the individual's own memorial (cf. Isaiah 49:16). So the person heartily interested in God's Word will make arrangements to remind himself continually of it, and also to keep it before the minds of others. Religion thus becomes not only a constant personal experience, but a constant public profession.
III. GOD'S WORDS ARE TO BE THE STAPLE OF HOME TRAINING. The children are to be taught them at home, when the "home school" is gathered together. God's words are also to be the staple of conversation when parents and children are enjoying their saunters together. And the first thought of the morning and the last at night should be of God's commandments. In this way the indoctrination of the rising generation is to be secured. Well would it be for us still if these old Jewish rules were practiced.
IV. THE HOUSEHOLD IS TO MAKE PUBLIC PROFESSION OF RELIGION AS WELL AS THE INDIVIDUAL. Some individuals content themselves with a personal concern in religion, and are willing to be members of a household which does not collectively identify itself with God. But the Jew was to write God's commandments on the doorposts and on the gates of his house. The household was thus to be God's. The fact is that households need conversion just as individuals do. There is as much difference between a religious household and a worldly one as there is between a converted and an unconverted individual. The direction given consequently to the Jews covered the household as well as the person, and was thus perfect.
V. THE RESULT OF SUCH FAITHFULNESS WILL BE COMPLETE SUCCESS, The Lord engages to drive out the nations from before them, even though they be greater and mightier than Israel. He will make the obedient ones resistless. He will make the fear of them to fall like a nightmare on their enemies, and not one of them will be able to stand before them.
And surely all this is but a type of the success which still waits upon God's obedient people. Not, of course, that temporal success is the form of success desired or granted now. Many of God's people continue poor, but they succeed in life nevertheless. When they have grace to show a contented spirit amid their limited resources, they succeed in demonstrating that God is all-sufficient, and are the best testimony to the reality of religion before men. When the saints can sing with Habakkuk, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc; "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Hebrews 3:17, Hebrews 3:18), they have really prospered in all life's essentials. It is thus in various ways the Lord fulfils his covenant engagements, and. makes all that his people do to prosper (Psalms 1:3).
Obedience is consequently the charter of success. But we leave to our loving Father to determine what our success will be. We do not insist on its assuming the form of gold and silver, venison and champagne. The success of self-conquest, the success of being public benefactors, the success of serving our generation by the will of God ere we fall on sleep,—this is better far than the success of invading hosts with the laurels dipped in gore.
"Not fruitless is thy toil
If thou my cross wouldst bear;
I do but ask thy willing heart,
To grave my image there.
"For each net vainly cast,
Stronger thine arm will prove;
The trial of thy patient hope
Is witness of thy love.
"The time, the place, the way,
Are open to mine eye;
I sent them—not to gather spoil—
To labor patiently."£
Life's solemn alternative.
Moses here sums up his exhortation with the alternative of a blessing or a curse. Obedience secures the blessing; disobedience the curse. He also directs them to go through a solemn service when they reach Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, by pronouncing the blessings and the curses from these mountains respectively. By the law of association, the very landscape was to witness to the truth of God. We are here reminded of such lessons as these—
I. GOD'S MINISTERS, LIKE MOSES, ARE CONSTANTLY TO SET BEFORE THE PEOPLE THE SOLEMN ALTERNATIVE OF A BLESSING OR A CURSE. The gospel is the offer of a blessing to those who are willing to trust God as he asks them to do; while, on the other hand, it is of necessity backed up by a threatened curse, if men refuse to trust him, and will not humble themselves before him. Each one chooses for himself either the blessing or the curse, and there is no use in laying the blame on others.
II. THE REJECTION OF THE GOSPEL IS AFTER ALL A PREFERENCE OF OTHER GODS TO THE ONLY LIVING AND TRUE GOD. The idolatry which was the danger and temptation of Israel is reproduced in all who reject the mercy manifested in Christ. Some other object of worship has really been selected; the 'world, or wealth, or self, or power is expected to do for the unbelieving soul what God alone can. His attributes are made over to these creatures, and a false confidence takes the place which the true should occupy. Unbelief is really idolatry at bottom.
III. THE SOCIAL STUDY OF GOD'S PROMISES AND THREATENINGS IS MOST IMPORTANT. Moses, to impress the people more, directs them to assemble at Gerizim and Ebal, and there, dividing into two congregations, to go through the blessings and the curses publicly. The solemnities of that occasion would doubtless be greatly sanctified. In the very same way, the private study of God's Word is not sufficient. "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob" (Psalms 87:2). The solemn and leisurely study of God's Word in public is owned more than any private study of the Word can be. Both are needful, but our expectation should be highest in connection with the public preaching of God's Word. When a minister takes the people in an interesting manner through the truth contained in a paragraph, or even in a verse, there is much more realized than in the more hurried private reading. The sanctions of social worship are most important, and he is not in a safe way who despises them.
IV. NATURAL ASSOCIATIONS MAY OFTEN BE HELPFUL TO THE CAUSE OF TRUTH. Scenes of great historic deeds become in a measure sanctified. They are "holy places' to the human race. Battle-fields, birthplaces, senates, forums, as well as churches, become hallowed to the historic mind. The laws of association secure a perennial influence. The soul must be dead indeed who can visit such scenes unmoved.
It was this law of association which Moss brought, into play in connection with Gerizim and Ebal. Never afterwards would they be visited by the descendants of these Israelites without a solemn feeling, and a recall of some at least of the blessings and the curses uttered there. Without any sympathy, therefore, with the "consecration" of places as generally understood, which may savor largely of superstition, we cannot but admit that natural associations should not be disregarded. Indeed, it is in this way the world is becoming richer with the years. Places are becoming every year associated with noble deeds—Gerizims are being multiplied as scenes of blessing; on the other hand, Ebals are also increasing, like beacons, on the dangerous places of human experience; but both undoubtedly meant by Providence to influence for good, and, through the law of association, our race. And some souls have "the place of mercy" marked clearly in their experience, and can sing—
"Oh, sacred hour I oh, hallowed spot,
Where love Divine first found me!
Wherever falls my distant lot,
My heart will linger round thee.
And when from earth I rise to soar
Up to my home in heaven,
Down will I cast my eyes once morn
Where I was first forgiven."£
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20