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THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER AT THE PRESENTATION OF FIRSTFRUITS AND TITHES.
As Moses began his exposition of the laws and rights instituted for Israel by a reference to the sanctuary as the place which the Lord should choose, and the place where religious service was to be rendered (Deuteronomy 12:1-32.), so here he follows up his address by a reference to the same. Of the gifts which had to be presented at the sanctuary there were two specially connected with the social and domestic life of the people, viz. the firstfruits and the second tithe. To these, by a natural transition from the preceding discourse—occupied as that is with injunctions regarding their social and domestic relations—Moses here refers for the purpose of prescribing certain liturgical forms with which the presentation of the gift was to be accompanied by the offerer.
Of the firstfruits the Israelite was to take a portion, and placing it in a basket, to bring it to the place of the sanctuary, where it was to be received by the attendant priest. The offerer was to accompany his presentation with the declaration, "I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord swore unto our fathers for to give us;" and the priest having set the basket down before the altar, the offerer was to make confession and prayer, gratefully acknowledging the Divine favor showed to Israel in choosing them to be a great nation, in delivering them out of Egypt, and bringing them into a rich and fertile land; and along with this his bounty to the individual who now presented the firstfruits of his land unto the Lord.
The first of all the fruit of the earth. (On the law of the firstfruits, see Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 18:4.) A basket; טֶנֶא, a basket of wickerwork.
The priest that shall be in those clays; not the high priest, but the priests collectively, or the individual priest whose function it was to officiate on the occasion. The fruit presented was the sensible proof that the land was now in their possession, and the confession made along with the presentation was an acknowledgment of their unworthiness, and of the Divine favor as that to which alone they were indebted for the privileged position in which they were placed.
A Syrian ready to perish was my father. The reference is to Jacob, the stem-father of the twelve tribes, tie is here called a Syrian, or Aramaean, because of his long residence in Mesopotamia (Genesis 29-31.), whence Abraham had originally come (Genesis 11:31), and because there the family of which he was the head was founded. The translation "ready to perish" fairly represents the Hebrew; the verb אָבַד means not merely to stray or wander, but also to lose one's self, to perish, to be in danger of perishing (cf. Deuteronomy 4:26; Job 29:13; Proverbs 31:6, etc.). Different renderings of this clause have been given. The Targum, Vulgate, Luther, etc; have, "The Aramaean (i.e. Laban) oppressed my father;" The LXX; Συρίαν ἀπέλιπεν ὁ πατήρ μου ("My father left Syria"); others, "To the Aramaean my father wandered." But these either follow another reading than that of the received text, or they are expedients to soften down the apparent ignominy of the description. The probable allusion to the wandering, nomadic life of the patriarch, however, is not to be lost sight of. With a few; literally, in men of few; i.e. consisting of few men, as a small company; the father and head of the tribe is named for those belonging to him (cf. Genesis 34:30; Genesis 46:27). A great nation, etc. (cf. Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:9).
The Egyptians evil entreated us (cf. Exodus 1:11-22; Exodus 2:23, etc.).
(Cf. Deuteronomy 4:34.)
Thou shalt set it, etc.; either a general concluding remark, taking up the statement of Deuteronomy 26:4, or the offerer may have resumed hold of the basket, and after holding it in his hand while offering prayer, would solemnly deposit it before the altar.
And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing, etc.; i.e. with these bounties of God's providence make a feast for yourself and your household, and omit not to invite the Levite and the stranger to partake of it with you. As with the yearly tithe (Deuteronomy 14:23) and the firstlings (Deuteronomy 15:20), so with this portion of the firstfruits, a festive meal was to consummate the service. According to the Law, the firstfruits were the perquisite of the priest (Deuteronomy 18:4; Numbers 18:12, etc.); but of these a portion was to be taken for this special service, and of that a feast was to be made.
On the occasion of presenting the tithes, a special service was also to be made. The tithe here referred to is the vegetable or predial tithe, which, at the end of each third year, as here prescribed, was to be converted into a gift to the poor and needy. This, properly the second tithe (LXX; τὸ δεύτερον ἐπιδέκατον), but usually called the third tithe (Tobit 1:7, 8; Josephus, 'Antiq.,' 4.8, 22), is quite distinct from the Levitical tithe prescribed in Leviticus 27:30-33 and Numbers 18:21-32; and it is a mistake to suppose that the law here was designed to contravene or supersede that in the earlier books. As this tithe completed the triennial series of tithes which the Israelites had to offer, it was fitting that in presenting it a solemn declaration should be made by the offerer to the effect that he had honorably and conscientiously discharged all the obligations in this respect which the Law laid upon him.
The third year, which is the year of tithing. As each week ended with a Sabbath, so a sabbatical year ended each cycle or week of years; and as on it no tithes were levied, "the year of tithing" here specified would be the third and the sixth years in each septennial period.
Say before the Lord; i.e. address him as present and ready to hear. The expression, "before the Lord," does not necessarily imply that it was in the sanctuary that the prayer was to be offered. Isaac proposed to bless his son "before the Lord," i.e. within his own house or tent (Genesis 27:7); and so the Israelite here might in his own home make his prayer to the Omnipresent Jehovah. I have not transgressed thy commandments, etc. This is not a self-righteous boast; it is rather a solemn profession of attention to duties which might have been neglected, and refers, not to the keeping of every commandment, but to the having faithfully done all that the Law required in respect of tithes.
In my mourning; i.e. while ceremonially unclean (cf. Le Deuteronomy 7:20; Deuteronomy 21:1, etc.). Neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use; rather, Neither have I removed ought of it being unclean; i.e. he had not only not eaten of it, but he had not removed any part of it from his house (Deuteronomy 26:13) while he was ceremonially unclean, in which state it was unlawful to touch what was hallowed (Le Deuteronomy 22:23). Nor given ought thereof for the dead; i.e. on account of the dead; he had not sent any part of it to where there was one dead, according to the custom for friends and relations to send to a house of mourning provisions for the mourners (2 Samuel 3:35; Jeremiah 16:7; Hosea 9:4; Tobit 4:17). Or the reference may be here to the expenses incurred by the death of one for whose funeral the individual had to provide. This view is adopted by Dr. Thomson, who, remarking on this passage, says, "This was the strongest possible protestation that he had dealt faithfully in the matter of tithing and consecrated things and in charities to the poor. He had not allowed himself to divert anything to other uses, not even by the most pressing and unforeseen emergencies. It is here assumed, or rather implied, that times of mourning for the dead were expensive, and also that the stern law of custom obliged the bereaved to defray those expenses, however onerous … . The temptation, therefore, to devote a part of the tithes, hallowed things, and charities to defray these enormous, unforeseen, and providential expenses would be very urgent, and he who stood faithful at such times might safely be trusted on all other occasions" ('Land and the Book,' 1.149). The LXX. rendering, τῷ τεθνήκοτι, "to the dead," has led some to suppose that the reference here is to the placing of articles of food in the tomb along with the corpse; but though this custom prevailed among the Jews in later times, as well as among other peoples, there is no ground for supposing it to be referred to here. As all connected with a dead body was held to be unclean, as well as the body itself, a house of mourning with its inhabitants was held to he unclean, and into it, therefore, nothing that had been hallowed might be lawfully carried.
(Cf. Isaiah 63:15; Isaiah 66:1.)
Moses winds up his address by a solemn admonition to the people to keep and observe the laws and commandments which the Lord by him had laid upon them, reminding them that they had entered into covenant with God, and had thereby pledged themselves to obedience to all that he had enjoined, as he on his part had pledged himself to be their Benefactor, who would fulfill to them all his gracious promises, and would exalt them above all the nations of the earth.
This day. This refers generally to the time when this discourse was delivered.
Thou hast avouched, etc.; literally, Thou hast caused Jehovah this day to say to be a God unto thee; i.e. thou hast given occasion to him to declare himself to be thy God, and (as a consequence of this) that thou shouldest walk in his ways and keep his commandments. In declaring that he was their God, he virtually declared also that they were to be wholly obedient to him.
So, on the other hand, God had given Israel occasion to say that they were his special people, his treasured possession (cf. Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6), whose it was, as such, to keep all his commandments, and to whom he would be faithful to fulfill all that he had promised.
(Cf. Jeremiah 13:11; Jeremiah 33:9; Zephaniah 3:19, Zephaniah 3:20.) An holy people (cf. Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6). "The sanctification of Israel was the design and end of its election of God, and would be accomplished in the glory to which the people of God were to be exalted" (Keil).
Joy in the use of temporal mercies; or, sanctification of our possessions to God warrants a holy joy in the use of them.
The order of thought is this:
1. In due time Israel would be in possession of the land which the Lord promised to give them.
2. Of this comfortable possession the gathering of the fruits thereof would be the proof and sign.
3. In accordance with a well-understood law, the firstfruits were to be offered to God (see reference).
4. In thus offering the firstfruits, the offerers were to go up to the house of the Lord, and present them to the priest, who was to lay them before the altar as offerings to the Lord.
5. This being done, there was to be an oral avowal of Divine mercy in pitying "the perishing Aramaean" from whom they were descended, in watching over the growth of their nation, in delivering them from Egypt, in giving them the good land, and in permitting it to yield them its fruit.
6. This being done, they could then rejoice before the Lord their God in the sacrificial meal which followed, in the companionship of friends invited to share with them the joy of harvest, and in the after use of the bounties of God's providence. For they would be doubly blessed, as, over and above the temporal mercies themselves, they would share the benediction of him who gave them all things richly to enjoy. Good Bishop Wordsworth remarks that this passage exhorts to harvest thanksgivings in the Christian Church. Such services are undoubtedly fully in harmony with the spirit of the chapter. But it seems to us to contain principles of far wider scope, and of everyday application. They are four in number.
I. OUR GOD WOULD HAVE US RECOGNIZE HIM AS THE AUTHOR OF ALL OUR MERCIES. For such he is. Without him no land would yield its increase, nor would man have power or skill to cultivate the soil. Without him no sun would shine nor rain descend. It is easy to say that such and such a harvest came in the ordinary course of law. We at once press the questions, Who ordained these laws? Who causes forces to act according to them? For no law ever did or could make itself. "Law" is a purely mental conception. It is not an entity, save as mind ordains it, and it only operates as energy works by it. It is unsound in philosophy, as well as rotten in piety, if we fail to acknowledge God in all. Nor is it bare power that we have to recognize; but goodness, mercy, loving-kindness. And all these kindnesses of God he would have us acknowledge:
1. By a confession of our entire dependence upon him.
2. By grateful retrospect of the past; remembering and recalling through what scenes God has brought us year by year.
3. By grateful survey of the blessings which are around us now. Nor should we ever leave out of account that which is the substratum of this chapter (and indeed of all the chapters in this book), though not here specified in words, viz. that, as sinful beings, our natural claims on the Great Being as his dependent creatures have been forfeited by sin, and that the continuance to sinful beings of such heaps of mercy is due only to, and is indeed a part of, that redemptive grace which to Israel was disclosed in germ, but to us in its fullness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Such thanksgivings as we owe may well even now be offered in the house of the Lord; but they should daily be the promptings of grateful and devoted hearts. In private and in the family circle our song should be, "What shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits toward us?"
II. THE THANK OFFERING SHOULD NOT ONLY BE VERBAL BUT PRACTICAL. There was to be the offering of the firstfruits to the Lord (see Homily, Deuteronomy 14:22-29). When God gave all, what precept could be more appropriate? What can be more becoming than to let God have the first of everything? This is the principle which ran through these varied regulations as to firstfruits and tithe. Jacob spontaneously said, "Of all that thou givest me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee." Solomon urges, "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase." We have no distinctive proportion laid down in the New Testament as to our offerings to God. Yet the conscientious Christian should require no further hints than such as are found in 2 Corinthians 8:7-9; 1 Corinthians 16:2. Circumstances have changed. Details will vary. Yet the great and mighty cause of God, even that of righteousness, truth, and love, has to be maintained and spread in the world by the efforts and offerings of those "put in trust with the gospel." And it will not be possible to be faithful to the claims of God and the demands of the times without a conscientious, systematic, proportionate giving of our gains to the Lord. Christians should never suffer the absence of detail in New Testament precepts on the subject of giving to the Lord, to be taken advantage of to the weakening of his cause who trusts our spontaneity. Let us not abuse God's confidence. Let the love of Christ constrain us.
III. THE GIVING OF THE FIRSTFRUITS TO GOD IS A TOKEN OF THE SANCTIFICATION OF ALL WE HAVE TO RIGHT AND HOLY USES. There is no better guarantee of a wise and right use of our substance than the conscientious dedication of firstfruits to our God. He who is conscientious enough in this respect may be safely relied on to spend rightly the rest of his gains, because the same conscientiousness which marks his first spendings will mark all the others.
IV. WHEN OUR GAINS ARE THUS RECEIVED IN A RIGHT SPIRIT, AND SPENT IN A RIGHT WAY, WE MAY REJOICE THEREIN BEFORE THE LORD. God hath given us "all things richly to enjoy." And men who know nothing of the Christian consecration of all things to God do not know how to enjoy what they possess. If men rejoice in earthly good for its own sake, it will soon cease to yield delight. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof." But when regarded, received, and spent in the way we have already pointed out, it may yield a pure delight.
1. It will be enjoyed, as the gift of One who is our redeeming God, in covenant relation to us, and with whom we are at peace.
2. It will be enjoyed with a sense of rectitude which only those can have who have been severely right in the regulation of their gettings and givings.
3. It will be enjoyed, because gains so acquired and spent will be a means of grace to a man. Riches in such a case will expand the heart.
4. It will be enjoyed, because such a man will bear about with him the holy and blessed consciousness that he is fulfilling God's will and spreading God's cause in the right use of his gifts.
5. It will be enjoyed, because such a one knows that God's blessing is resting on him and on all he has, that, rich as may be his earthly good, though he enjoys it while it lasts, yet he can afford to hold it with a loose hand, for it is not his all, and that when he is called to part with it, he will find richer treasure still laid up for him in heaven, for when "flesh and heart fail, God will be the strength of his heart, and his portion forever."
Thus and thus alone is it possible to extract from earthly good the full delight it is calculated and intended to yield. If we make worldly possessions the food of our souls, they will turn to ashes in the mouth. They bring no blessing with them. They will disappoint, and if they take their flight, as they so often do, we shall be left miserably poor. But if through the grace and Spirit of our God we are led first to choose God as our all, and then to use our all for God, we shall enjoy the life that now is, and. enter on a fullness of joy in that which is to come.
Integrity in the will a condition of acceptable and successful prayer.
We do not recall any passage in this book, on which we have as yet touched, that conveys a more striking impression than this of the purity and heart-searchingness of the Law of God. For elucidation of the several points of detail, the reader may consult the expository section. For our purpose now it is enough to say that it is assumed that the people will faithfully carry out the precepts and ordinances of God with regard to the tithes, to the offerings, to the poor, the fatherless, and widow, and the specific injunctions with respect to ceremonial purity. When this is done, so that they can declare it before the Lord, (See Keil on this phrase in Deuteronomy 26:13) then they may also plead with God for a blessing. They, having, with a clear conscience and an upright will, fulfilled to the extent of their knowledge the requirements of their holy religion, may then come and entreat their God for his benediction and smile, according to his promise. Hence we have presented to us for homiletic teaching the all-important topic—Integrity in the fulfillment of Divine commands a condition of acceptable prayer. We propose to show how constantly this principle is recognized in the Word of God, by a comparison of Scripture with Scripture.
Prayer is an inestimable privilege. That weak and sinful man should be permitted to unburden his spirit to the Father of spirits is a mercy so great, that no words can adequately express it. It is only on the ground of the One Sacrifice of Christ, of which the Hebrew sacrifices were but foreshadowings, that such fellowship between God and sinful man is vouchsafed. We may pray, because we "are not under Law, but under grace." But though through the aboundings of mercy sinful men are permitted to pray, yet it is on the understanding that they repent of their sin. And true though it be that we are under grace and not under Law, yet grace brings with it its own law; it is no license to lawlessness. Throughout the Word of God this precious privilege is guarded from abuse. Prayer is not thrown open promiscuously. The shriek of a terrified man or the query of an inquisitive man is not prayer. "The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted." "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord; but the prayer of the upright is his delight." Let us trace the recognition of this chronologically.
I. JOB KNEW OF IT. He asks in Job 27:9, concerning a hypocrite, "Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?"
II. DAVID TEACHES IT LIKEWISE. In Psalms 66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." He expects no answer to his prayer if in his inmost soul there is any tolerance of sin.
III. SOLOMON INDICATES THIS TRUTH. In the prayer at the dedication of the temple, See Keil on this phrase in Psalms 66:13. 1 Kings 8:35, 1 Kings 8:36, "If they pray towards this place, and confess thy Name, and turn from their sin … then hear thou," etc. In the Book of Proverbs the same truth is repeatedly taught (Proverbs 11:20; Proverbs 15:8, Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 21:13, Proverbs 21:27). True penitence and integrity of will are necessary conditions of appropriate prayer.
IV. ISAIAH IS BIDDEN TO PROCLAIM IT. In Isaiah 1:18, there are words of priceless worth, which may well be a comfort to every penitent; but they are often quoted without sufficient prominence being given to the words which precede: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well," etc.; then follow the words, "Come now, and let us reason together," etc. Past sin is forgiven when it is forsaken, and only then.
V. EZEKIEL DECLARES THE SAME. There came to him certain of the elders of Israel, and stood before him to inquire of the Lord (see Ezekiel 14:1-11). Ezekiel is bidden to tell them that it is useless to inquire of God if they were cherishing any hidden sin; it would be a stumbling-block of iniquity, that would prevent any answer coming from God. How grievously the disheartened Saul found this out! (1 Samuel 28:6.)
VI. MALACHI DECLARES THE LIKE LAW. He tells the people that they have withholden the tithes from God, and that consequently God is withholding the blessing from them oil (1-12). Thus in the varied ages of the Jewish Church this truth is uniformly taught, that cherished sin will block up the way of an answer to prayer.
VII. NOR IS THIS PRINCIPLE REPEALED UNDER THE NEW ECONOMY. Our Lord taught it. See Matthew 5:23, Matthew 5:24, in which we are forbidden to present any offering to God while anger towards a brother is cherished in the heart. In Matthew 6:15, we are assured that he who forgives not is not forgiven. In John 15:7, John 15:16, our Lord shows his disciples that the condition of their freedom and success in prayer is fruitful obedience. The Apostle James also warns those to whom he is writing that the non-success of their prayer is owing to impurity in the will, and if they would that God should draw nigh to them, they must return unto him (James 4:3-8).
Possibly at this stage, or earlier, a difficulty may have suggested itself. It may be said (cf. Luke 18:11, Luke 18:12) in that passage the Pharisee, who had been most punctilious in his discharge of sundry obligations, and most austerely proper in his outward conduct, is yet rejected. How is this? The reply is threefold.
1. He did not pray at all. Not one petition did he offer.
2. He thanked God he was so good! As if there were any merit in simply doing one's duty, or any cause for self-gratulation.
3. He looked down with scorn on others. He "exalted himself." His spirit was wrong, though his observances might be right. Conscious rectitude of purpose, and self-complacency over-performances, need never be confounded, and only where they are so can this difficulty arise.
1. While we thank God for permission to pray, let us ever guard the dignity of prayer.
2. The mournful thought 'is suggested, How many there are who seem to be doing what they can to make it useless for them to pray! A man who tells lies over the counter cannot pray. A man who bribes or who accepts a bribe cannot pray. A man who forgives not, asks uselessly for forgiveness. The only advice to be given to such is to repeat the apostolic demand, "Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray."
3. How diligently should we, at times, search into our own hearts, to see if we are zealously putting away "the leaven of malice and wickedness!" The possibility that any secret sin may be shutting off any answer to our prayers should make us cry fervently, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
4. Let none rush to the opposite extreme. Let none be disheartened at the stringency of the demands of God's grace; rather let the heart be unreservedly opened to God in gratitude for his holiness, and for his desire for the absolute purity of his people; rather let us be supremely solicitous to be "upright in heart." It is not where there is a distressing consciousness of falling in execution below our desires and yearnings that prayer is blocked out. Far from this. But the desire to cherish sin, or the refusal to do the will of God, makes prayer itself useless and sinful, because the heart whole does not submit entirely to God.
The golden chain.
The end of the career of Moses was drawing nigh. Nothing could be more natural than that he should gather up all his powers to remind the people of their solemn vows, and to repeat in their hearing the sum and substance of that code which was to regulate their personal life, their religious service, and their judicial procedure. Having done this, he closes with a brief but very earnest appeal to the people's heart and conscience. In it there is much that has, primarily, an historical and local hearing, but the principles included therein have a far-reaching, a worldwide, a permanent significance. The phrases used here are reproduced by the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:1-25.), and are applied by him to Christians. What Israel then was, locally and theoretically, believers are now spiritually. The words here uttered by Moses form a golden chain, which we will examine link by link. We may thus come to see that, notwithstanding the lapse of ages and the advance of the world, this golden chain is as real and as complete as ever. With God the first link begins; with God is the last. The chain is on this wise: God sends a Law; this Law is accepted by the people; so accepting the Law they are received in covenant; people loyal to God are elevated among men; they are thus for a praise and honor and glory;—and all this is according to the word of the Lord, "as he hath spoken." Thus that which goeth forth from his lips as a declaration cometh back to him as a fulfillment.
First link: HERE ARE COMMANDMENTS, STATUTES, AND JUDGMENTS APPOINTED BY GOD. From beginning to end this is the distinct declaration of Moses and the postulate of the Hebrew faith. That the Law was received from Sinai is, historically, as indisputable as that the battle of Waterloo was fought. That this Law was of God was the proclamation from the first; while our homiletic studies in this book have, we trust, deepened our conviction that from none but God could aught so holy with such a claim have proceeded, and that this commandment, which is holy and just and good, does disclose the exceeding sinfulness of sin in a way which could only have been done through one taught of him who is the Lord of consciences and souls. This effort to educate the people in righteousness was the most startling stride in morals which the world had ever known. It was then, and remains still, the only attempt ever made to start into being a new nation with God alone for its acknowledged King, righteousness alone for the corner-stone of its polity, and a free and holy brotherhood alone for its citizenship. In reference to worship, there was the revealed law of sacrifice as the ground of acceptance. In regard to life, the rule was, "Love to God and love to man." It is precisely so now. Just as beneath the Law there lay unrepealed the Divine Abrahamic promise, so along with the gospel there is the rule unrepealed, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." There was a gospel with the Law; there is a law with the gospel.
Second link: THE PEOPLE HAD VOWED UNTO GOD THAT THEY WOULD OBEY HIS VOICE. (Deuteronomy 26:17.) It is not noted, perhaps, with sufficient frequency and force how often, even amid the terror, thunder, and smoke of Sinai, the Lord threw the decision of this question upon the people's free consent. Not even their response in the moment of glad freedom and terrible awe was sufficient. God would not take the people by surprise nor fasten them unawares to an engagement they did not understand. They gave their assent, first to an oral inquiry, then to the Law when written in a book and read in their hearing, then to the covenant sealed with blood. So now. While, in one sense, God is Sovereign over us by a right none may dispute, yet there is another sovereignty to which he asks our willing, loving consent (Romans 12:1). He stoops to ask of us therefore of our hearts.
Third link: THE COVENANT THUS ENTERED INTO BY LOVING CONSENT TO DIVINE SWAY IS DIVINELY RECIPROCATED. (Deuteronomy 26:18.) "And the Lord hath avouched thee," etc. We must be careful, however, how we set this, or we shall obscure the gospel in the act of endeavoring to set forth its most priceless relations. We must not put the matter thus: "God loves us because we love him;"—that would be an entire reversal of the revealed order of things. But rather thus: "God loves first." When we respond to his love and are saved by it, he rejoices over us. The love of compassion becomes a love of complacency, and the Lord avouches us to he his "peculiar people." The Apostle Peter applies precisely this phrase to all believers (1 Peter 2:1-25.). But, to an ordinary reader, the English phrase would not yield an approximation to its true meaning, which may be shown thus: the word pecus, cattle; peculium, property in cattle, private property, that which has been bought for one's self; and thus the phrase, "peculiar people," means a people whom God has secured as his own by purchase. Hence the New Testament phrases, "Ye are bought with a price," etc, God's satisfaction in man is complete only when man finds his home in God.
Fourth link: WHEN A MAN IS FOUND OF GOD, HE IS DESTINED FOR HONOR AMONG MAN. (Deuteronomy 26:18, Deuteronomy 26:19.) "Then," says David, "shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments." And whenever the citizens of a state are loyal and obedient to God, the state which is leavened by them will certainly rise to honor and renown.
Fifth link: SUCH A LIFE WILL BE FOR A PRAISE AND A NAME AND AN HONOR. For whose? Certainly God's (cf. Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:21). A holy man is the noblest work of God on earth. The life he lives among men is, in its way, a revelation of God, and reflects honor on him.
Sixth link: This glory, being thus brought to God through the power of holy lives, will be best confirmation of the origin, meaning, and power of the written Word. "As he hath spoken" (Deuteronomy 26:19). The Word regulates the life; the life confirms the Word.
Note—Christian people have the vindication of the faith in their own hands. Argument may do much, but holiness will do very far more.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
The presentation of the first fruits.
This interesting ceremony:
1. Reminded the individual that the land and its fruits were God's.
2. Required from him a devout acknowledgment of the fact, with a gift in which the acknowledgment was suitably embodied.
3. Threw him back on the recollection of God's former mercies to his nation.
4. Secured a confession and rehearsal of these from his own lips.
1. To create and deepen religious feeling.
2. To quicken gratitude.
3. To encourage free-will offerings. Two main points—
I. GOD'S MERCIES ARE TO BE GRATEFULLY REMEMBERED. These mercies are many and wonderful (Psalms 40:5). The points dwelt on in this declaration are God's fulfillments of his promises in the increase of the nation (Deuteronomy 26:5), the deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 26:6-8), and the bringing of the people into the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 26:9), part of the firstfruits of which the worshipper now presented (Deuteronomy 26:10).
We have here:
1. National mercies. Since in Israel Church and nation were one:
2. Church mercies.
3. Personal mercies.
A similar review befits every Christian. What causes of thankfulness has he, not only in the remembrance of God's loving-kindness to him personally (Psalms 40:1-4; Psalms 116:1-19), but in the review of God's dealings with his nation, and still more in the consideration of his mercies to the Church! On the one side, our noble constitution, our just laws, our civil and religious liberties, our immunity from war—the fruits of long centuries of struggle and progress. On the other side, the facts on which the Church's existence is founded—the Incarnation; Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ascension; the gift of the Spirit: and. the events of her extraordinary history—the progress she has made, God's goodness in preserving and protecting her, in raising up teachers and leaders, in purifying her by persecutions, in granting revivals, times of reformation, etc.; with the consideration of how in all promises have been fulfilled, prayers answered, deliverances vouchsafed, blessings bestowed, increase made.
II. GOD'S MERCIES ARE TO BE SUITABLY ACKNOWLEDGED.
1. By recital of them before God himself. Acknowledgment of mercies is as much a part of devotion as praise, confession, petition, or even adoration. The value of liturgical forms (within due limits) for purposes of prayer and acknowledgment, is not to be disputed. They
(1) aid memory,
(2) secure comprehensiveness,
(3) guide devotion,
(4) prevent irrelevancy,
(5) create a bond of unity.
Like hymns, they testify to the Church's catholicity amidst diversities of creed and polity. Their disadvantage, if preponderant in worship, is that they check too much the element of spontaneity. They discourage freedom and naturalness in the expression of the heart's feelings. The best form of Church order would probably be a combination of the liturgical with the free and spontaneous elements in worship-the latter decidedly predominating.
2. By free-will offerings. These are needed more than ever. The sphere of the Church's operations is yearly widening.
3. By hospitality and clarity (Deuteronomy 26:11). Underlying all there is, of course, to be personal consecration in heart and life. It is self God wants—the love, reverence, service, devotion of self; not a mere share in self's possessions. Confession (Deuteronomy 26:3), gifts (Deuteronomy 26:10), worship (Deuteronomy 26:10), joy (Deuteronomy 26:11), have their rightful place after that, and as the outcome of it.—J.O.
The year of tithing.
Why so called? A double tithe was taken each year—the ordinary Levitical tithe (Numbers 18:21-28), which Deuteronomy, without mention, takes for granted; and the festal tithe, ordained as a provision for the sanctuary feasts (Deuteronomy 14:21-27). On the third year a tithe was to be devoted to festivities at home (Deuteronomy 14:28, Deuteronomy 14:29). It is usually, but too hastily, assumed that this third tithe was but the second diversely applied. That in itself is unlikely, as the feasts at the sanctuary required to be held on the third and sixth years, as well as on the others, and the provision for these could not well be dispensed with. Neither does it explain the expression, "year of tithing;" for while, on this supposition, the tithe was differently applied, there was nothing unusual in the manner of taking it. Each year was a year of tithing (sabbatical years excepted), and this no more than the rest. The ordinary view, besides, is directly in the teeth of the testimony of Josephus, who may be supposed to have known the practice of his time. His statement distinctly is that one-tenth was to be given to the priests and Levites; one-tenth was to be applied to feasts at the sanctuary; and a tenth besides was, every third year, to be given to the poor. If this was so, we have a natural explanation of the phrase, "the year of tithing," and self-consistency is introduced into the laws. The tithe-laws in Deuteronomy are often represented as if in conflict with those in Leviticus and Numbers. Part of the plausibility of the objection lies in the use of the definite article in the English version—"all the tithe" (Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12)—which gives an impression of allusion to the ordinary, the well-known tithe. That impression is not created if we take the plain Hebrew—"a whole tithe"—which by its very nakedness suggests a new regulation. Deuteronomy legislates for its own purposes in connection with the centralizing of the worship at the sanctuary. The newer criticism seems to have abandoned the old ground, which made the Levitical laws the earliest. It assumes that the distinction of priests and Levites, with the body of legislation based on that distinction, took shape not earlier than the exile—a view hopelessly in conflict with the histories of the return. Indeed, so great was the disproportion in the numbers of priests and Levites returning with Zerubbabel—twelve or thirteen priests for every Levite—that the Levitical laws could only have been put in force with material alterations and modifications. They are in some respects singularly inapplicable to the very times in which they are supposed to have originated.—J.O.
A good conscience toward God.
This solemn avowal, ordained to be made at the completion of the round of tithe obligations, was a wise safeguard against unpunctuality and neglect. The subject suggested is—The importance of self-examination in respect of the fulfillment of duties of religion.
I. SELF-EXAMINATION A DUTY. The text suggests that we examine ourselves:
1. As to religious givings.
2. As to our fulfillment of the duties of hospitality and charity.
3. As to the condition in which these duties have been performed
—whether from the right motive (regard to God's commandment), and in a right state (the state of sanctification). Extend the principle to all duties of religion.
Self-examination, to be of service, should be:
2. Conscientious—as "before the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 26:13), who cannot be deceived.
3. Periodical, as:
(1) At the end of a year.
(2) The close of a financial year.
(4) Even the end of a week. A review of this kind not an unsuitable Sabbath day's employment.
II. SELF-EXAMINATION A SAFEGUARD.
1. Prevents neglect. Things which we ought to do—which, at bottom, we are willing to do—get frequently overlooked:
(1) From inadvertency.
(2) From unpunctuality.
(3) From habits of procrastination.
A review of the kind proposed would bring many of these forgotten duties to recollection, and would act as a check on the causes of forgetfulness.
2. Brings practice into comparison with the standard of obligation. When duty is known, it does not follow that it is always done, or that we are always aware of the extent of our shortcomings. We may be greatly deceiving ourselves in this very particular. There may grow upon us the vicious habit of comparing ourselves with others rather than with the standard of the Divine Law. And nowhere is self-deception more common than in the matter of religious and charitable givings. People will be heard expatiating on the vexatiousness of the calls of this kind made on them, who, were they to put their givings all together, would find that they did not amount to so much as they have often spent on the gratification of some whim, perhaps on a single dinner-party. Self-examination would counteract the tendency to take our performances of duty so readily for granted. It would e.g. require the rich man to measure his givings directly with his income, and with the proportion of that income which he felt to be due to God.
3. Reminds us of the obligations themselves. For, besides the shortcomings in practice referred to, there is often no little danger that the standard of duty itself may get to be lost sight of.
4. Makes hypocrisy more difficult. The withholder of the tithes would scarcely venture to stand before God and make this solemn declaration. His tongue might well cleave to the roof of his mouth if he attempted it. He would feel that he must either go and do what he ought or hold his peace. The hypocritical professor shuns self-examination.
Two thoughts in closing:
1. We cannot expect blessing, save as duties are honorably fulfilled (Deuteronomy 26:15).
2. Reflecting on fulfilled duties, we need to beware of Pharisaic pride (Luke 18:11, Luke 18:12).—J.O.
A wonderful sight! Israel and God exchanging pledges, plighting troth, "avouching" fidelity each to the other. The people, by the heed they had given to Moses' exposition of the Law, perhaps by signs made as he proceeded, had avouched their willingness to abide in the covenant. God, in turn, had renewed his promises and pledges towards them. The covenant thus renewed was the same in essentials as that made with believers.
I. COVENANT WITH GOD INVOLVES ENGAGEMENT TO OBEDIENCE. (Deuteronomy 26:17.) It did so under the Law. It does so under the gospel. The gospel exhibits grace, and involves at the outset the reception of that grace. Nevertheless, obedience is required of us. It is the end of our redemption. We die with Christ that we may rise with him to newness of life (Romans 6:4). "New obedience" is the proof of true discipleship. Every real believer will seek to render it. It is a condition of ultimate salvation (Romans 2:6-12).
II. COVENANT WITH GOD INVOLVES A RELATION OF PECULIAR NEARNESS. (Deuteronomy 26:18,) This is borne out by all Scripture. God chooses us, in Christ, to a relation of nearness so remarkable that it has no counterpart, save in the Son's relation to the Father (John 17:21). The saints are his peculiar treasure (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Peter 2:10). He is their "Shield," and their "exceeding Great Reward" (Genesis 15:1). They are nearer to him than the angels—
"Near, near, so near,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of his Son
I am as near as he."
III. COVENANT WITH GOD SECURES HIGH HONOR AND BLESSEDNESS. (Deuteronomy 26:19.) Great distinction was in store for Israel, should it prove obedient. God says he will make it high above all nations, "in praise, and in name, and in honor."
Its honor would consist:
1. In the proud distinction of being God's people (Deuteronomy 4:7).
2. In its high moral repute (Deuteronomy 4:6).
3. In the material pre-eminence to which obedience would be certain to raise it (Deuteronomy 7:12-16). Obedience, honor, blessedness, are three ideas ultimately inseparable. The "glory, honor, immortality" of heaven are for those who persevere in well-doing (Romans 2:7), for "an holy people." The honors in store for obedient Israel, great as they were, are not to be compared with the "exceeding and eternal weight of glory" now revealed as the inheritance of believers (2 Corinthians 4:17).—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Commemorations of national deliverance.
An instinct in man impels him to dwell with pleasure on his national beginnings and growth; and, in cases where that beginning sprang out from a specific event, that event has been the subject of public commemoration year by year. Of this Rome is a conspicuous instance. But the Jews were designed to be eminently a religious people; hence this commemoration was to be a simple act of piety—the presentation of firstfruits.
I. MAN IS THE OBJECT OF GOD'S LAVISH GENEROSITY. Everything round the Hebrew in his home reminded him of the exuberant kindness of his God. The land which he possessed was land which Jehovah had given him. The temple was the place which Jehovah had chosen "to place his Name there." The priest was God's gift. The corn and fruit of the land were produce "which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Each man was taught to look on himself as belonging unto God. Of everything the absolute Proprietor was God. Their history, their deliverance, their security, their renown, were all due to God. Behind every visible object, behind every visible event, they discerned God.
II. REMEMBRANCE OF GOD'S DELIVERANCES WAS TO BE PERPETUATED. It is vital to the interests of a man that he should know the "rock whence he was hewn, and the hole of the pit whence he was digged." Are we from above, or from beneath? Are we the creatures of fortuitous circumstance, or has our life been planned by a Divine Artificer? Are all the forces and energies of life within ourselves, or are we dependent upon the will and the resources of another?
1. It is salutary to remember our original. "A Syrian ready to perish was my father." It will serve to beget in us humility. It will make us hopeful; for if we have risen so much, may we not rise higher yet?
2. It is salutary to remember the oppressions of men. "The Egyptians evil entreated us." Poor, selfish, changeful man can never be relied upon, Friendly today, they turn to be bitterly hostile tomorrow. "Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils."
3. It is salutary to remember the efficacy of prayer. "We cried unto the Lord." His ear is always open to human solicitations. The affairs of this universe do not unfit him to attend to our need. True prayer is never in vain.
4. It is salutary to remember God's interpositions. "He looked. He brought us forth. He hath given us this land." The affliction was essential to fitness for Canaan. Winter is essential to the fruitfulness of spring. When God begins to bless us, what limit shall there be? What? Only that which our incapacity to receive may impose! Being redeemed, our expectations are infinite.
III. GRATITUDE FOR GOD'S GIFTS MUST BE PRACTICAL. Words of thankfulness are cheap, unless accompanied by deeds. Songs of praise are sweet minstrelsy in the ear of God, but they must spring from the heart; and if the heart is grateful, the hands will be full of offerings. The firstfruits of all our increase belong to God as a matter of right. But duty is delight. This requirement is representative. We may not be husbandmen; still our firstfruits are due. The firstfruits of our time belong to God—the fresh dewy hours of every day. The first of our gains belong to God. Say not, "They are mine," Nay! they are his. The firstfruits of mental strength—our youth; the best of all we have belong to him. To secularize these is sacrilege.
IV. THROUGH ALL GOD'S GIFTS HIS INTENTION IS HUMAN GLADNESS. This gladness is fostered and fed by proportionate offerings. For this habit of religious offering will serve to draw away our confidence from our material possessions, and place it in the living God. This will strengthen and establish joy. It is surely better to trust the Fount than the channel—the Source than the stream. If every man on earth is not brimful of joy, it is not God's fault. To rejoice in God is our duty and our privilege. And this joy is contagious. "Thou shalt rejoice … thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you." Joy makes men generous, and the recipients of our generosity will share our joy. There will be joyous action and reaction. We are to be the channels through which God will pour his joy into others' hearts. In return they will give us their prayers.—D.
Complete consecration a condition of continued blessing.
The system of social dependence is ordained of God. By a deliberate act of wisdom, God devoted the Levites to poverty, or rather to an equitable interest in the whole land. The necessities of some are created as the most fitting outlets for the charity of others.
I. MEN ARE APPOINTED TO BE GOD'S ALMONERS. Not more really does the sovereign of an empire employ persons of rank to be his stewards and almoners than God employs us. To expend upon ourselves the whole of our earthly possessions is sin—is the worst of sins—is sacrilege. We hold in our keeping God's property. We are not at liberty to use it as we please. Nor is the amount which appertains to God determined by the caprice of human inclination. A definite portion is God's, and becomes in the highest sense trust property. One-tenth of all our gains is the fixed proportion claimed by God. God identifies himself with the Levite, the widow, the fatherless. The Levites are his messengers. The poor are his friends. To deny them is to wrong him; and he will surely avenge the insult. On stated occasions, viz. triennially, each proprietor was required to render an account of his stewardship, and to make a solemn declaration that he had faithfully discharged his momentous trust. As often as we supplicate new favors we virtually protest our faithfulness.
II. SURRENDER TO GOD A CONDITION OF SUCCESSFUL PRAYER. In this passage the Hebrews were taught not to ask for God's blessing upon their land until they had confessed their complete surrender to God's revealed will. Pride bars the door which keeps out Divine favors. Pride chokes the channels so that the stream of God's bounty cannot flow. In like manner God acts in our earthly life. He will not give health except through the channel of food. He will not give strength except through the channel of exercise. He will not allow us to use steam or electricity except by surrender to his material laws. We do not really pray so long as any part of our nature is rebellious against his will. Lip-prayer is counterfeit. Genuine prayer is the up-going of the whole man.
III. GOD'S SOLEMN PLEDGES ARE CONDITIONED BY EARNEST PRAYER. God had sworn to the patriarchs to give this goodly land to their seed, yet his oath implied trust, surrender, prayer, upon their part. Indeed, if these things had been wanting in the Hebrews, no external possession would have been a blessing: Canaan would have been a curse. Material light is no boon unless there be an organ of human vision to enjoy it—unless the eye be open. Nothing really benefits a man until it actually enters his nature and becomes a part of himself. This is God's efficient act. "Ask, and ye shall receive." For all things promised of God, "he will yet be inquired of." Prayer gives the final fitness to receive.—D.
The spiritual creation.
In the creation of the material world, "God spake, and it was done." But in dealing with rebellious men, obedience does not spontaneously follow on command. God has called into existence a substance that cannot arbitrarily be controlled—a human will. Therefore, to gain loyal response from human nature, God makes known himself as infinitely worthy of man's regard, indicates his authority, and sets forth the high advantages of his friendship. The largest obedience is man's real interest. It is the only path to promotion.
I. WE HAVE HERE GOD'S REVELATION OF HIS KINGLY AUTHORITY. It is his part to command—man's to obey. We cannot reverse or disturb this order without introducing anarchy and sorrow.
1. This revelation of God is always new. "This day" thy God hath commanded thee afresh. New discoveries of the extent, the wisdom, the graciousness, of God's sovereignty may be made to us every day. Every morning the voice of heavenly authority speaks to us afresh.
2. The spirit of wise authority is very imperative. "Thou shalt keep and do." It would not be safe for God to abandon any part of his prerogative. It would not be safe to allow men to diminish his sovereignty. We are creatures: he is Creator; hence it is supremely fitting that he alone should rule.
3. His commands are irrevocable. They are well designated "statutes," i.e. things well established. In the material world men are discovering how fixed and uniform are all God's laws. No deviation is allowed. Nor is it tolerated in the spiritual realm, and every new-born man says, "I will keep thy statutes with my whole heart."
4. Obedience embraces the whole man. Outward and ostensible service does not satisfy God, because they will bring no blessing to his creature man. These commands are for man as a spiritual being; and mere external service is hypocrisy, No fragrance is in our obedience unless heart and soul go out in our deeds. Obedience, to have any worth with God, must be the efflorescence of our love.
II. WE HAVE HERE MAN'S WILLING ACCEPTANCE OF THE COVENANT. The Jews, as one man, chose God to be their King, and swore to be loyal subjects. "Thou hast avouched the Lord to be thy God." 1. It must be an act of personal choice. Whether we perceive it or not, our course in life is our own choice. We may never consciously have faced the question, nor put into words our decision; yet our life plainly shows that some decision has been made. Happy the man who, after due reflection, can calmly say, "The Lord is my God!"
2. The language indicates progressive obedience. The loyal servant "walks in God's ways." He is not content with standing still. In proportion as he obeys, he sees more clearly the wisdom of the command—he finds more pleasure in loyal service. At first he obeyed because it was a plain duty; now he responds because it is a delight. "He loves the Law."
3. And hearty obedience brings clearer knowledge of our Master's will. Having learnt the wisdom and the pleasure of obedience, he is more eager to hearken to the Divine voice. His ears have been opened. He can hear the soft whispers of a voice which is unheard by others. He loves to hearken. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him."
III. WE HAVE HERE GOD'S GENEROUS PLEDGE OF LARGER GOOD.
1. Here is adoption. He solemnly avers them to be "his peculiar people." He gives them a special place in his regards. Before the intelligent universe he espouses them as his own. "He is not ashamed to call them brethren." All his power is pledged for their protection. All his possessions become theirs.
2. He gives them an obedient disposition. His blessing can reach the interior will. If we have made a general surrender of ourselves to him, he imparts gracious strength to every energy of our souls. In response to our desire he makes us willing. "I will pour out my Spirit upon them, and cause them to walk in my statutes, and they shall keep my judgments, and do them." When men have embraced his external and written covenant, then "he makes a new covenant, and writes it upon their hearts." First there is what is natural, afterward that which is spiritual.
3. Here are eminence and honor secured. "To make thee high above all nations." Real glory is God's gift to his chosen. False honor and glitter Satan scatters abundantly among his votaries; but these are superficial and ephemeral. Satan cannot give what he does not possess. All honor belongs to God; and the dignities and eminence and glory which are God's, he has chosen to share with his saints. "Where I am, there ye shall be also."
4. Man's crown of beauty is promised: "that thou mayest be holy." Purity is the perfection of humanity. For this our spirits thirst. No external honor or greatness will satisfy us if we are not internally holy. And the purpose of God in our redemption is "that we may be conformed unto the image of his Son." "Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness."—D.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The dedication of the firstfruits.
A beautiful religious service is here associated with the dedication of the firstfruits. It was to be an act of worship. There was to be the appearance before the priest, the acknowledgment of God's great bounty to the forefathers as well as to the worshipper himself, the presentation of the firstfruits as a return of God's gifts to him, the setting of the basket before God, and the rejoicing in the Divine presence. All this is surely typical.
I. JESUS CHRIST IS THE PRIEST TO WHOM WE SHOULD BRING THE FIRSTFRUITS OF ALL OUR INCREASE. In other words, we should bring our systematic beneficence before Christ, and prayerfully deal with it before him. He is the Mediator for our liberality, as well as for every other blessing.
II. WE NEED CHRIST'S MERITS TO RENDER OUR LIBERALITY, AS WELL AS EVERY OTHER GRACE, FRAGRANT BEFORE GOD. For we should never forget that no single grace is really fit in its naked imperfection to be presented to God. It requires to be performed with the merits of our adorable High Priest. There should be no boasting about it, as if it could stand alone.
III. OUR LIBERALITY SHOULD BE THE OUTCOME OF OUR GRATITUDE FOR FAVOR SHOWN TO THE FATHERS AS WELL AS TO OURSELVES. The Jew reviewed gratefully the national history, the Syrian origin, the Egyptian bondage, the Exodus, the entrance into Canaan, and the fruitfulness of the land of promise. All this history of God's goodness made the firstfruits simply the expression of gratitude.
It is on this grace that systematic beneficence is to be built. Nowhere else can a fitting foundation be found.
IV. OUR LIBERALITY SHOULD BE ASSOCIATED WITH AN ACT OF JOYFUL WORSHIP. In no other way can liberality be sustained. "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" (1 Corinthians 16:2). Why on the first day of the week? Manifestly to associate the grace with the religious services of the resurrection day. No week-day liberality will last long—it requires a Lord's day, with all its holy associations and sanctions, to sustain the liberality of the people.
And this saves the spirit of liberality from the grudging that is so vexatious and so worldly. "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver," and so he draws the giver into his own presence, and makes him joyful there, that he may offer in his liberality a "sacrifice of joyfulness."
V. THE JOY REACHED THROUGH LIBERALITY IS TO BE CARRIED INTO THE SOCIAL CIRCLE, TO MAKE HOME TRULY HAPPY. The Jew, after presenting his firstfruits, was to rejoice in every good gift of God, along with the Levite and stranger who formed part of his household. A cheerful giver is the secret of a happy home. His relations with his Lord being bright and beautiful, he brings the fragrance home.—R.M.E.
Looking up for the blessing.
The interests of the dependent classes, "the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow," being considered and secured by the tithing of the third year, the Jew was directed then to look up for the Divine blessing on the land. The tithe was first paid, and then the blessing sought.
I. SYSTEMATIC BENEFICENCE SHOULD BE THE PRELIMINARY OF SUPPLICATION FOR BLESSING, AND NOT CONDITIONED UPON IT. There is a temptation to make liberality a matter of speculation, to vow a certain portion if a certain blessing is conferred. Now, this may be all very well regarding what is beyond a tithe, but the tithe is a settled proportion to be promptly and gratefully paid, and the blessing can then be honestly asked when the debt to God has been discharged.
II. THE TRULY LIBERAL WILL LOOK FOR SPIRITUAL BLESSING FOR HIS COUNTRY, AND NOT BE CONTENT WITH TEMPORAL. In fact, it was revival, as we should now call it, that the Jew after his tithing sought. And systematic beneficence should be regarded as the indispensable preliminary of revival, if Malachi 3:10 has any meaning. It is manifest that illiberality may hinder spiritual blessing, and consequently liberality should be fostered as the manifest test of sincerity regarding blessing. If one is not willing to pay his share that every hindrance of blessing may be removed, he cannot be in earnest about it.
III. MOSES, AS THE MEDIATOR, GUARANTEES THE COVENANT BLESSINGS TO THE COVENANT-KEEPING PEOPLE. God had brought Israel out of Egypt, and was about to introduce them to the land of promise, that they might prove his "peculiar people," and be "high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor," and above all, be "an holy people." This was his covenant engagement. Hence Moses urges them to keep the commandments God has given them with all their heart and soul, and they shall find how faithful God is.
Obedience is consequently to be the manifestation of their faith in God as "Faithful Promiser." If he gave the blessings in all their fullness first, faith would have no room to grow, and his people would be able to live well enough by sight. But when they are asked to obey and be blessed in and through their obedience, faith has its beautiful sphere.—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 26". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent