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ENTIRE SEPARATION FROM IDOLATROUS NATIONS ENJOINED.
The Israelites were about to enter on a country occupied by idolaters, and they are commanded not to spare them or to allow them to continue in their proximity, or to have any friendly relations with them (cf. Leviticus 27:28). The Lord would cast out these nations, and deliver them, though greater and mightier than they, into their hands; and they were to smite them and place them under the ban; they were to make no covenant with them nor form any alliances with them (cf. Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12-16), lest they should thus be drawn into idolatry, and so the anger of the Lord be kindled against them, and his vengeance brought upon them.
(Cf. Genesis 15:19-21.) Of the ten nations named by God in his promise to Abraham, only six are mentioned here, those omitted being the Kenites, the Kennizites, the Kadmonites, and the Rephaim. The Rephaim were by this time extinct as a tribe, Og, "the last of the Rephaim," having been conquered, and he and his people destroyed by the Israelites. The three other tribes lay probably beyond the confines of Canaan, in that region promised to Abraham, but which was not included in the territory conquered by the people under Joshua. This may account for their not being mentioned here. One nation, the Hivites, appears here which is not in the enumeration in Genesis. This name seems to have been borne by more tribes than one, or by a tribe existing in divisions widely scattered, for we find the Hivite in the center of Palestine (Genesis 34:2), in the Shephelah (Joshua 9:7; Joshua 11:19), in the laud of Mizpeh under Hermon (Joshua 11:3), "in Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon to the entering in of Hamath" (Judges 3:3), and among tribes in the north of Canaan (Genesis 10:17; 1 Chronicles 1:15). Their principal settlement was probably in that part of the country where the Antilibanus range terminates in Mount Hermon.
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them. Brought into intimate relations with idolaters, they might be seduced into idolatry; and where marriage was contracted with an idolater, the children might be brought up in idolatry. Such unions were forbidden.
From following me; literally, from after me, i.e. from being my servant and worshipper. Suddenly; rather, speedily (מהֵר, infin; of מָהַר, to be quick, to hasten, used as an adverb).
They were not only to have no fellowship with the idolaters, but they were to root out their idolatry, everting their altars and destroying their idols; and this because they were a holy people, graciously chosen of God to be his special possession—a high privilege and honor which they were to be careful not to cast away.
Cut down their groves; rather, cut or hew in pieces their asherahs. These were, apparently, wooden pillars of considerable height, which were firmly planted in the ground (comp. Judges 6:25-27; Deuteronomy 16:21)? and were consecrated to the worship of a female deity, the companion of Baal; probably the same as that after-war, is known as Astarte, the Venus of the Syrians (see note on Deuteronomy 16:21).
An holy people; a people consecrated to God, to be holy as he is holy (cf. Leviticus 11:43-45; Deuteronomy 19:2; Deu 20:1-20 :26; Deuteronomy 21:6; Deuteronomy 23:14). A special people unto himself; literally, to be to him for a people of property (סְגֻלָּה), a people his own, his peculiar property (cf. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:18; and, for the meaning of the word, 1 Chronicles 29:3, "mine own proper good;" Ecclesiastes 2:8, "peculiar treasure of kings"); LXX; λαὸς περιούσιος, applied by St. Paul to Christians as the chosen and special property of Christ (Titus 2:14 :). Above all people; rather, out of or from among all the peoples.
Set his love upon you. The Hebrew verb meaning primarily to cleave to, to be attached to, is used to express ardent and loving affection (cf. Genesis 34:8; Deuteronomy 10:15; Isaiah 38:17). The fewest of all people. It might have been supposed that, in choosing a people to be his special treasure, the Almighty would have selected some one of the great nations of the world; but, instead of that, he had chosen one of the smallest. They had, indeed, grown till now they were as the stars for multitude; but it was not in prospect of this that they were chosen. The election of Israel was purely of grace.
Because the Lord loved you. Targum Onkelos, "Because he had complacency in you;" Vulgate, quia vobis junctus est. "Instead of saying, He hath chosen you out of love to your fathers, as in Deuteronomy 4:37, Moses brings out in this place love to the people of Israel as the Divine motive, not for choosing Israel, but for leading it out and delivering it from the slave-house of Egypt, by which God had practically carried out the election of the people, that he might thereby allure the Israelites to a reciprocity of love" (Keil).
To a thousand generations; rather, to the thousandth generation. As God is faithful to his covenant, and will show mercy and do good to those that love him, whilst on those who hate him he will bring terrible retribution, the people are warned by this to take heed against rebellion and apostasy from him (comp. Exodus 20:5).
And repayeth them that hate him to their face. The phrase, "to their face "(אל פָנָיו, to their faces), has been variously explained. It has been taken as meaning, instantly, statim, hand cunctanter (Vulgate, Gesenius); openly, manifestly, palam (Grotius, Calvin, Michaelis); during life, in hac vita (Targum, Vatab.); in their presence, in their own sight (LXX; κατὰ πρόσωπον: Rosenmüller). The last seems the best. פָנֶהּ signifies properly, front, and אֶל פָנִים, to the front, before, in presence (cf. Le Deuteronomy 9:5; Exodus 23:17). The hater of God should be repaid, so that the man should himself see and feel that he had been smitten of God (cf. Isaiah 65:6; Job 34:11; Ps 62:13). And this retribution should come speedily: He will not be slack to him that hateth him; i.e. he will not delay to repay him.
As God would thus summarily avenge himself of his adversaries, the people are exhorted to keep all his commandments, statutes, and rights.
On the other hand, obedience would bring blessing. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken. The Hebrew conveys the idea of a reward as consequent on their hearkening; as there would be retribution for transgression, so would there be recompense for obedience. The Hebrew word represented by "wherefore" in the Authorized Version (עֵקֶב, from עָקֵב, the heel) denotes that which comes after, the end or last of anything (Psalms 119:33, Psalms 119:112), hence recompense, reward, wages, as the end or result of acting (Psalms 19:11; Psalms 40:15; Isaiah 5:23, etc.). The clause might, therefore, be translated, As a consequence or recompense of hearkening …. it shall be that, etc. Judgments, i.e. rights, rightful claims (מִשְׁפֻטִים). God, as the Great King, has his rights, and these are to be rendered to him by his subjects and servants. The mercy, i.e. the kindness, the favor (חֶסֶד), showed in the promises which God gave to their fathers, and engaged by covenant to fulfill.
This favor would take effect in a blessing on the fruit of the womb, the produce of the field, and the increase of their flocks and herds (comp. Exodus 23:25-27). Thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. These comprise the fruitful products of the soil, and in their combination express general fertility and abundance. By corn (דִנָן) is undoubtedly to be understood the cereal products generally used for food. It may be doubted if tirosh (תִרוֹשׂ), properly means wine. The word is often rendered in the Authorized Version by new wine, and this is the meaning generally given in the lexicons. As, however, it is almost constantly joined with corn and oil, the immediate products of the soil—at least as unchanged by any process or manufacture—it is rather to be regarded as designating ripe grapes than wine. That, moreover, which was to be gathered (Deuteronomy 11:14), which might be tithed (Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 14:23), which might be described as fruit (2 Chronicles 31:5), as being in the cluster (Isaiah 65:8), and as capable of being dried up or parched (Joel 1:10), and trodden (Micah 7:15), could not be a fluid like fermented nine. As the grape juice, however, was that from which wine was elicited, tirosh is sometimes used tropically for wine (Isaiah 62:8; Hosea 4:11), Just as corn is used for bread (Lamentations 2:12; Hosea 7:14). The oil here mentioned, and elsewhere joined with dagan and tirosh, is the pure fresh olive oil (יִצְהָר, from צָהַר, to shine), obtained by pressure from the berries of the olive, and used for food as well as for other purposes by the Jews (see notes on Deuteronomy 8:8). Flocks of thy sheep. The Hebrew is very peculiar here; the same expression occurs only in this book (Deuteronomy 28:4, Deuteronomy 28:18, Deuteronomy 28:51). Literally rendered, it is the Astartes (Ashtaroth) of thy sheep. Kimchi says it means "the females of the sheep" (נקבות הצאן), and this Gesenius adopts, rendering the phrase by "ewes." Astarte ('Ash-toreth, plu. 'Ashtaroth) was the Phoenician Venus, and it is supposed that the females of the flock were called Astartes orVenuses, as propagating the flock. There is, however, another way of explaining the word as here used, by referring it to a root ‛ashar (עָשַׁר), signifying to be multiplied, to be rich; whence the name given to the females as the multipliers of the flock, without any reference to Astarte.
The mercy of God should be showed to them also in preserving them from sickness, especially of a virulent and dangerous kind, such as they had seen in Egypt, where disease has in all ages readily assumed a malignant character ('Encyc. Brit.,' art. 'Egypt'), and where especially cutaneous diseases of the worst kind prevail (comp. Deuteronomy 38:27). Such diseases the Lord would rather cause to fall on their enemies.
The heathen they were utterly to extirpate from the land which God was about to give them; mighty as these nations were, they were not to be afraid of them, for God would be with his people, and would deliver these nations, with their kings, into their hands. Not all at once, however, should the former occupants of the country be driven out; this should be done by degrees, lest, the land being suddenly depopulated, the wild animals would increase too much, so as to be a source of danger and trouble to the settlers; but ultimately they should be utterly destroyed, and with them all the objects and implements of their idolatrous worship.
And thou shalt consume; literally, eat, devour (וְאָכַלְתָּ). Unless they consumed them as one consumes food, they would be a snare to them, by tempting them to join in their idolatry.
Deuteronomy 7:17, Deuteronomy 7:18
If thou shalt say in thine heart. The thought might rise in their minds, How can we ever compete with nations so much more powerful than we? But such thoughts they must repress, remembering what God had done for them to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and resting assured that the same would he do to the Canaanites.
Temptations, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22).
Hornet (cf. Exodus 23:28). Instances are on record of armies being obliged to give way before swarms of insects by which they were attacked; but it may be doubted if the statement here is to be understood literally, and not rather figuratively, as expressive of many and varied evils with which the fugitive Canaanites were to be visited until they were extirpated (cf. Joshua 24:12, compared with Joshua 10:22-27).
(Cf. Exodus 23:30.)
The kings also of these nations should they utterly destroy, so that their memory should perish from the earth.
Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 7:26
The idols of the Canaanites they were utterly to destroy by fire, not saving even the silver or gold with which the images were overlaid, lest, if that were coveted and retained, it might bring them under the ban which fell on all things connected with idolatry; as happened in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:1-26.).
Cursed thing; a thing devoted (הֵרֶם), either, as in this case, to destruction (comp. also 1 Kings 20:42; Zechariah 14:11; Mal 3:1-18 :24; [Malachi 4:6]) or, as elsewhere, to God (Le Deuteronomy 27:21; Numbers 18:14).
A holy people's policy of self-preservation.
We have in this paragraph a glance onward to the time when Israel's march through the wilderness would be completed, and when the people to whom God had given the land should be confronted with those who had it previously in possession. In our Homily on it let us observe—
I. WE HAVE HERE POINTED OUT THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH ISRAEL WOULD TAKE POSSESSION OF THE LAND.
1. There was a great covenant promise which had been handed down to them from preceding generations, and which involved results which would be far-reaching both as to time and place, touching every family of man, through every age of time. In a word, it was nothing less than the Divine covenant of human redemption, in the fulfilling of which a Great Mediator should come, while in Israel the purity of the line of his descent was to be guarded, and by and for it there was to be held in possession a tract of land on which the great work of the Mediator should have its earthly basis and historic ground.
2. With this far outlook in view, Israel was to be a people "unto the Lord their God." It was to hold a place among the nations which was unique. One of the smallest as to territory and numbers, it was to strike the deepest as to its worth and power!
3. Hence Israel was to be a holy people (Deuteronomy 7:6). It was to bear a specific character religiously, as it was to take a peculiar place historically. Hence its moral and spiritual elevation is the first thing to be secured. The revelation of God which the people possessed had no mean uplifting power. The eternal God was Israel's refuge, and underneath were the everlasting arms. The institutions of mediation, priesthood, sacrifice, were deep and solemn lessons in the evil of sin and the righteousness of God. And the moral law which Israel possessed was so pure, so complete, even in the infancy of the people, that to this day not the wisest men of the world can find a defect therein, nor can they suggest aught to supplement it.
4. Israel would, nevertheless, be in great danger (Deuteronomy 7:4). The land of Canaan, though beautiful, fruitful, and gay, was a nest of impurity. The foulest pollutions were debasing the people, and, apart from some special guard, they were far more likely to infect Israel with the virus of their idolatry than Israel was to cleanse them by the strength of counteracting virtue. And when we come to think of what vast importance to the world was the choice of one people who should serve as leverage for the rest, we discern the reason for the imperative injunctions which follow as to the policy which Israel was to pursue with reference to the peoples of Canaan.
II. HERE IS a THREEFOLD LINE OF POLICY ENJOINED.
1. A policy of separation. Thus does the Most High, in the early training of a people for himself, let them see how completely they are to be the Lord's; and that marriage, which from the worldling's point of view is so apt to sink into a mere union of bodies, is, from the point of view of one who would be holy to the Lord, to be at once regulated by God and elevated for him. Who cannot see the impossibility of married life being as blessed as it may be if husband and wife are dissevered on the very matter on which joint sympathies should be fondest and strongest? The principle here enjoined is carried over into the New Testament, in such words as these: "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." In this stern interdiction of mixed marriages under the Law, our God would teach us for all time that life's dearest bond is to be formed only in subjection to his will whose we are, and whom we should serve.
2. A policy of religious intolerance (Deuteronomy 7:5). As Israel was to possess the land for God, so it was to suffer his worship alone to be observed. Whatever was contrary thereto was to be taken out of the way. An external religion is virtually destroyed when its external observance is made impossible.
3. A policy of extermination in war. The Canaanites had had their day of grace (Genesis 15:16). And now, lest they continue to pollute the land, they are to be swept away "with the besom of destruction" (see Homily on Deuteronomy 1:1-8). If Israel had no Divine command to this effect, no one would pretend to justify this part of their policy. If they had, it needed no justification. God may sentence a people to ruin in any way he pleases. And when a nation has given way to such nameless and shameless wickedness that its land groans beneath the burden of its crimes, it is mercy to the world when the evil is "stamped out." And though such exterminative policy on the part of any nation can be justified only on the ground of a Divine warrant, yet the warrant having been given in this case, that policy does but illustrate a truth which the Most High has again and again declared, that no nation has any absolute right in itself or its land. It holds its existence subject to God's will, and to that will alone; and if it is good for the world that it should give place to others, he will cause it to pass away, and will bring another people on the soil.
III. ISRAEL'S POSITION AND POLICY, SO REGARDED, FURNISH US WITH PRINCIPLES OF ETERNAL AND UNIVERSAL APPLICATION. They are these:
1. The actual value of any nation or people in the worm depends on the degree to which they subserve God's purpose, and not on the extent to which they fulfill their own. Nations have but a passing loan of power from the Great Supreme, held in trust for his honor and the world's good; and when they lose sight of that, they are grievously forgetting the things which belong unto their peace.
2. If a nation is to preserve itself for God, corrupting influences are to be put away. We have seen (Homily on Deuteronomy 2:24) how much importance is attached by God to the training of the family. We see in this paragraph how much importance is also attached to those influences which go beforehand to make the family. How does the Most High set himself against all those corruptions that poison the social fabric and break up the sacredness of the home! And hew jealously does he guard his own worship from the defiling additions and commandments of men!
3. When a nation is loyal to its God, by putting away sin and nurturing righteousness, it will ensure the Divine blessing and its own permanence (Deuteronomy 7:9). God reserves the entry through the gates of honor to "the righteous nation which keepeth the truth."
4. The elevation ensured and given to nations which promote righteousness is the one which, if we see as God sees, we shall value most. Godless men may covet an ascendency backed by guns and swords, armies and fleets. The believer in God covets only an uplifting that comes of the Divine blessing on "a wise and understanding people."
5. If loyalty to God and truth is wanting, a nation ensures its own downfall (Deuteronomy 7:10; see Ezekiel 17:1-24.; Ezekiel 27:3; Ezekiel 28:2-10; Amos 2:9; Obadiah 1:3, Obadiah 1:4).
6. What Israel was designed to be among the nations, regenerated men are in their own nation—"a holy people unto the Lord their God." They are "the light of the world," "the salt of the earth." The earth is full of corruption, and is and must be rapidly decomposing unless some salt be thrown into it to check the decomposition. Christians are the "salt" of the earth. Their value is in their "savor," not in their name. And if they let the "savor" die out, no name of discipleship will be of any use to them. Christians may not separate their Christianity from their citizenship. They are to be Christian citizens; and do we not learn by abundant teachings in the Old and New Testament that God spares many a guilty city for the sake of the righteous that are therein? (See the history of Abraham's intercession for Sodom.) And can we forget the teaching of the prophet Ezekiel, that nations may become so corrupt that even the righteous element therein avails not to stay the ruin (Ezekiel 14:12-21)?
7. Hence the principles involved in this paragraph should convey, and should be made the basis of, an earnest warning and appeal to men to remember that the day of grace for the nation, as well as for themselves, has its limit. God is long-suffering. He bears long, but he will not bear always (cf. Isaiah 5:3-7; Isaiah 1:5-24; Luke 19:41-44; Luke 13:6-9; Matthew 21:38-44; Revelation 2:21-28). Oh, how earnestly should men turn to God while yet there is hope! For their own sakes, that they may be saved, and for the sake of others too, that they may become co-operators with God in purifying and saving men!
Temporal prosperity a result of obedience to Divine Law.
The aged lawgiver in this paragraph shows the people how largely their well-being depends on obedience to God, and also to what an extent that welt-being would be manifest even in temporal matters; in the healthfulness of body which would be enjoyed by them, and in the success with which they should tend their flocks and herds. They should be free from the sicknesses and diseases with which Egypt abounded; and should, in the enjoyment of such immunity, have the sign and token of the blessing of Heaven on an obedient people. Now, it has long been regarded as one mark of the old covenant, that, in condescension to the people, God spake so much of temporal blessings as the reward of obedience in the early messages which were delivered to our fathers. It is also looked on as one specific mark of New Testament teaching, that the promises of God now lie mainly in the direction of spiritual good; and so much has this aspect of things come in our days to be looked at, that it is by no means unlikely that we may be in danger of carrying our views thereon to such an extreme as to regard temporal comforts as no mark at all of Divine approval. It is well worth our while, therefore, to look into this matter, to see if we can so formulate the teaching of God's Word thereon as to show the harmony between it and the actual facts of life on this question: How far may abundance of temporal good and freedom from sickness be looked at as a proof of Divine favor? We shall regard the actual history before our eye as at once a basis for, and an illustration of, our remarks.
I. GOD HAD IN GREAT MERCY REMOVED ISRAEL FROM EGYPT, WHICH WAS NOT ONLY THE SEAT OF POLITICAL OPPRESSION, AND A REGION OF FOUL IDOLATRY, BUT ALSO A LOCUS AND FOCUS OF MANY PESTILENTIAL DISEASES. (See Mr. Lane's 'Modern Egyptians;' the art. 'Egypt ' in 'Encyc. Brit.;' and in Smith and Kitto's Dictionaries of the Bible.) Probably the land of Goshen might be a healthier district than the region of the city itself; still it is extremely questionable whether such a race as Israel was designed to be, could, even physically, have been with any certainty developed in Egypt itself. It is no mean mercy to have our earthly lot cast in a healthy locality. It is not possible, indeed, to escape temptations from without or from within, go where we may, but it is certain that (coet. par.) it is much easier to resist evil and to cultivate virtue where climate and atmosphere tend to promote bodily vigor. The history of the world affords proof enough that climatic influences will not do everything for man; but that is no reason for underrating their value, nor for losing sight of the mercy where "the lines are fallen to us in" healthful and health-giving places.
II. THOUGH FREE FROM LIABILITY TO EGYPTIAN DISEASE, ISRAEL'S HEALTHFULNESS AND WEALTH WOULD DEPEND ON OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S LAW. No land can give us any immunity from the consequences of breaking law, however life-giving its breezes. God's physical and moral laws are interlaced and intertwined. Obedience or disobedience to either may have its full effect in its own direction. Obedience or disobedience to both will have its complicated effects in both directions. Many speak of law as if it acted without God; and, maybe, some think of God as if he acted without law. We need not commit either mistake. Let us carefully avoid both. Let us reverence every law of God, physical or moral, because it is his; and let it be our study to understand them in every department in which they are presented to us. Mr. Binney once made the startling statement, that, "barring accidents, a man can live pretty much as long as he pleases!" By which he meant, of course, that there are certain Divine laws and rules, obedience to which tends to the preservation of health, and consequently to the prolongation of life. And, if these laws are neglected, we may create disease, affliction, and trouble for ourselves, and breed even death, however healthful the locality in which we dwell. Hence it is not surprising to find in this paragraph another principle indicated.
III. SUPPOSING THE PEOPLE TO BE OBEDIENT TO GOD'S LAW, HEALTH AND WEALTH WOULD FOLLOW BY WAY OF NATURAL CONSEQUENCE. The original (Deuteronomy 7:12), by a peculiar Hebrew idiom, shows this. "And (it) shall be (the) heel," i.e. the end, and so the consequence. Whatever may be the kind of weal desired, the laws of God in that direction should be studied, understood, and followed. Whether in the regulation of the production or sustentation of life; in agricultural pursuits; in the spheres of capital and labor, and their mutual relations; in the creation, distribution, increase, and expenditure of wealth; in the higher region of the cultivation of the national and social virtues of truth and goodness; in the still higher region of family piety; or in the highest region of all, even that of personal love and devotion to God, the old words will be proved true, "Them that honor me, I will honor." No doubt we are often meeting with cases which seem anomalous; they accord with no known rule whatever. But we shall find that we do not know the whole of such cases, nor even enough of them to enable us to judge concerning them. Till we know more we must suspend judgment. No perplexities of this sort give any warrant for disturbing first principles. In any region in which God has laws we may have duties; and it is a very partial and unhealthy piety which would underrate intelligent action in any department. In whatever department there is neglect, in such we may expect failure. And where there is obedience, there will be the reward.
IV. THOUGH THE REWARD MAY COME IN THE WAY OF NATURAL CONSEQUENCE, YET NONE THE LESS IS IT GOD'S BLESSING. The result is from him, because the Law is from him. Nor is it one whit the less from God, if we are able to trace every step of the coming of a blessing. A man's work is not less his because he does it somehow. Nor is it attributed the less to him because it is known how he did it. Why should men be less reasonable in recognizing God's work, when the laws of the working are manifest to us? "The hand of the diligent maketh rich," is one truth; "the blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich," is another. We may ignore neither, but should reverently admit and act on both.
V. ON WHAT A FRAIL CONDITION, HOWEVER, WAS ISRAEL'S NATIONAL WEALTH SUSPENDED! "If ye hearken to these judgments," etc. The laws were right, kind, benevolent. The land was beautiful, fertile, healthful All that was wanted was obedient people. Israel needed as much to be delivered from themselves as to be rescued from the Egyptians. And, in fact, there was among them a redeeming anti sanctifying work, carried on through God's Spirit, though it is not named in this paragraph; nor was it as fully revealed as now, how, in his infinite grace, our God created in his people the obedience which, in his Law, he commands. "The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The Law given to Israel was a child-guide with a view to Christ. The first covenant proved brittle in their hands, and so they learned the need of another, which should be forever safe in God's hands. The first says, "Do this, and live." The second, "Live, and you will do this." And even now, putting the matter generally, we may say God governs nations, as nations, by the first covenant. He governs his own believing people by the second. Hence, in dealing with men and nations, the Christian preacher has ever to expound and enforce the everlasting laws of righteousness, and by revealing men's failure therein to convict of sin; while in building up the Church he has to show the glory of the Holy Ghost as the Creator and Sustainer of spiritual power.
An anxious question, or dreading difficulties.
In this paragraph there are some verses which are in the main a repetition of the enforcement of the policy of separation and extrusion which Israel was to adopt towards the Canaanites. But there is one distinctive feature in it which presents several points altogether new, the historical side of which we may first look at, that we may there see how peculiarly full this passage is of bright and gladsome teaching for us.
Here is a question (Deuteronomy 7:18), which Israel would not be unlikely to ask, at least occasionally. Doubtless, just at the time when they were in the flush of joy at the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts, or when they had experienced some great deliverance from pressing want, their hearts would be brave and strong. But, like some others since have been, they were largely the creatures of circumstance. Now up, now down. Now so elated that they think they can get through anything, now so depressed that they dread everything: The time would come when in view of the possible struggles which the possession of Canaan might involve, many an Israelite would say, "These nations are mightier than I; how can I dispossess them?" and they must have been more than human if the heart did not now and then give way. For there were seven nations to supplant; and over and above the numerical force against which Israel would have to contend, there would be the fact that they were strangers to the land; they had been kept in serfdom; they were unskilled in the art and practice of war; so that, on the human side, the advantage was very greatly with the Canaanites, while Israel incurred a very serious risk. Now, though Jehovah was very wroth with the people when in their guilty unbelief they proposed to turn back at the evil report of the spies, he sees a great difference between a deeply rooted distrust, and an occasional cloud that may shade the spirit; and while in his holy wrath he condemns the first, in his tender compassion he anticipates and guards against the second. Hence, from Deuteronomy 7:18 to 24, we have the cheering voice of the great lawgiver, grandly uttering, in his hundred and twentieth year, words to empower the heart, and showing Israel, in the Name of the Lord of hosts, how much more there is to animate them than there can possibly be to discourage and depress. He
(1) reminds them no fewer than eight times of the Name of the Lord their God;
(2) bids them look back to past miracles and wonders, and to see in them pledges of future help;
(3) shows them how the providential action of God, which' was for them, would be against their foes;
(4) assures them that God would be among them as an ever-present Helper and Friend; and
(5) points out that, though the process of driving out the Canaanites might be slow, yet if it were done more rapidly, it would be attended with great peril from other and unexpected quarters; that both tribes of men and herds of beasts would be kept in abeyance for their sakes; so that though they were led by a tedious route, it would be the safest way! Now, surely we ought not to pass over a passage so full of interest and instruction for our everyday life as this, presenting to us, as it does, two distinct lines of thought.
I. THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE AS ANXIOUSLY DREADED BY US. "These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?" These Israelites were not the only people who have cast glances ahead, and who, foreseeing, as they thought, difficulties in the distance, have exclaimed, "How shall we get through them?" We do not refer now to such as have no living faith in God, and who are perpetually giving way to dark and sinful unbelief; nor have we mainly in view those who have never yet been led out of "the house of bondage." But, keeping as closely as we can to the cases suggested by the paragraph, we refer to those who, through mercy, know what a great deliverance has been wrought for man in Christ; to whom that redemption has become a living power through the energy of the Holy Ghost; and who yet, notwithstanding all, have their moments of despondency, when looking or trying to look far ahead,—they see innumerable obstructions confronting them, and ask in anxious sadness, "How can we meet them all?' This main inquiry may take one or more of the following forms:
1. The special ends and aims even of my earthly life; how can I accomplish them?
2. The difficulties in the way of my much-loved work for Christ; how can I overcome them?
3. The hardships to be met in running the Christian race; how can I encounter them?
4. The many hindrances which oppose themselves to the advance of the cause of God; how can the Church overcome them?
5. All the foes, without and within, which threaten the possession of Canaan; how can we vanquish them? Say, is there to be found any believer in whose spirit such questions as these do not now and then arise, and who does not occasionally shiver from the chili of a doubting forecast? Therefore let us see in this passage—
II. THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE GRACIOUSLY ANTICIPATED AND PROVIDED FOR BY GOD. The following points will be found, explicitly or implicitly, in the paragraph:
1. "The Lord thy God." That Name is a guarantee of all you want by the way. "Greater is he that is for you than all they which can be against you." There is more meaning in that one Name than in all other names besides. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
2. God will go before you to clear the way (Deuteronomy 7:20). All nature waits on him. Fire, thunder, lightning, hail; flies, worms, locusts, hornets; ay, men, devils, angels, must do his work when he calls.
3. God will be with you, to empower you in the way (Deuteronomy 7:21). If God is not on our side, there is but weakness, whatever the seeming power. If God is on our side, there is power, whatever the seeming weakness.
4. God will choose his own best methods of helping you in the way (Deuteronomy 7:22). "Little by little." A more rapid clearance would have brought other dangers. God "gently clears our way."
5. God's past deliverances are pledges that he will not forsake you by the way (Deuteronomy 7:18, Deuteronomy 7:19; see Psalms 63:7; Romans 8:32; Romans 5:10).
6. It is one of "the secrets of the Lord," to cause us to meet and grapple with things and beings mightier than we are, that we may cease to rely on ourselves, and be flung upon him, the Almighty One, for strength. The tendency to self-trust and self-laudation is very strong (see Deuteronomy 8:17, Deuteronomy 8:18). Study the history of Gideon, and his band of three hundred men. This education in trust is also an education in holiness. We have, by meeting difficulties which are beyond us, to learn how much we want God. And yet God will not be with us except as we are loyal to him (see Joshua 7:1-26.). Ah! it is by these difficulties in life, by our manner of meeting them, and by God's dealing with us under them, that we are to be educated for eternity! Oh! if all were smooth, if we had no complications to meet, no trials to bear, how might we go on drifting down the stream, slumberously calm, dangerously secure, till we awoke, perhaps, too late, to find ourselves a wreck and a ruin! It is by these breaks in our peace, by these cares and hard struggles, which fling us on our God, that we are taught how much we want him, and how ill we could do without him! On the journey of life we have all entered, and the supreme question for us is not, "Will it be smooth or rough?" but "How will it end?"
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Israel's iconoclastic mission.
Material idolatry is the great peril of humanity. To what corruption and misery such idolatry leads, we in Christianized England can scarcely conceive. What the history of our world would have been if that hotbed of Canaanite corruption had continued, it would be difficult to imagine. Many methods were open to God by which he might arrest that plague of vice; out of them all, his wisdom selected this, viz. to employ the Hebrews as his ministers of destruction.
I. CONSIDER MEN AS ELECTED BY GOD TO OFFICE AND TO SERVICE. We may safely suppose that every nation fulfils some propose foreseen by God—perhaps appointed thereto by him. Possibly every man, though he may not rise to the realization of God's highest ideal, yet may fulfill some inferior purpose of God. The Hebrews had a very special honor conferred on them. They were chosen unto holiness, chosen to be the ministers of God's righteousness. The glory was eminent, and the Jews failed to reach it. The Most High God condescended to enter into closest alliance with Israel, deigned to be called their God, and took their interests into his care. So long as they kept his commandments, lie kept his covenant. His faithfulness was an infinite quantity, but it was conditioned by Israel's obedience. No evidence was lacking to Israel touching the friendly protection and help of Jehovah. Their loyalty as subjects was met cordially by his favor as Sovereign. Their admitted weakness was met by the Divine strength, Their poor, shallow love was met and recompensed by his rich affection.
II. THE GROUNDS OF GOD'S CHOICE.
1. This is declared negatively. It was not on the ground of their numbers or their strength. That strength and magnitude of the nation were the effect of God's choice, not its cause. They were not chosen because of superior holiness, but with a view to make them holy, some reason there is for God's choice, but that reason is not often revealed. Possibly it is too recondite for man's understanding, or the further pursuit of the inquiry might divert him from practical obedience.
2. It is stated positively that this choice was the outcome of love. There must have been the potency, perhaps the promise, of good in the Hebrews, in order to attract the love of God. If there was no positive wickedness, God would delight in them as the product of his own skill. His gracious dealings hitherto had been in respect of the oath made to their fathers. God's great love to Abraham had perpetuated itself in his seed. Who can measure what a life of blessing each one of us may communicate to generations yet unborn? Divine grace in us is not terminal.
III. THE DESIGN OF GOD'S CHOICE—GENERAL AND SPECIAL. The general design was Holy character. Choice to office and to honor depended on attainment of character. Holiness is the highest perfection of man, therefore the highest design of God. Holiness is a far higher acquisition than wisdom or strength. The seven nations of Canaan were greater and mightier than Israel, yet those nations fell before the holy people. Purity shall eventually displace power. Right is genuine might. Holiness has, by Divine appointment, an everlasting tenure. The design of God's choice of Israel was also special, viz. to overturn idolatry. The general vocation included the special. To be holy would necessitate conflict with sin. Light must contend with darkness. Opposite principles must contend for the mastery. The holier we become, the more resolute will be our battle with idolatry. We shall feel towards it, and act towards it, as God does. For us to live (if we be God's consecrated sons), and for us to oppose idolatry, is identical. "No peace with sin" is our loyal motto.
IV. THE REALIZED RESULTS OF THE DIVINE CHOICE. Already the Hebrews had obtained a signal triumph over the Egyptians, as the proof of God's gracious intentions towards them. That triumph was singular, surprising, and complete, he, who could secure such a triumph for Israel, could give them easy conquest over any adversary. They knew how to touch the secret springs of success. The pathway to renown was open. There was scarcely room for a doubtful issue, for from a greater foe God had already delivered them.
V. THE HONOR CONVEYED IN THIS CHOICE, VIZ. TO BE CO-WORKERS WITH GOD. God would cast out the seven nations of Canaanites, therefore the Hebrews must smite them. God would deliver them up, therefore Israel was to destroy them. In every step they were to be coadjutors with God. We are not to suppose that the Canaanites were passively slaughtered. In every case they provoked severity of treatment. So completely had the idolaters identified themselves with idolatry, that, to destroy the latter, Israel had to destroy the former. When God, the Great Proprietor of all, imposes a command upon us, however repulsive to our own feeling, it would be flagrant disloyalty on our part, yea, gross sin, to disobey. Punishment by the sword cannot be a more unrighteous act than punishment by cholera or by plague; and if men admit the justice of the one, they should also of the other. Human pity must sometimes be kept in abeyance.
VI. GOD'S DESIGNS, IF NOT FOLLOWED, VISIT MEN WITH DESTRUCTION. The alternative of not executing God's high commission was appalling. If any false sentiments of pity diverted them from the plain path of duty, the Hebrews would have become partakers of idolaters' sins. Any concession or compromise with the Canaanites would be (and in fact was) fatal to themselves. Can one touch pitch and not be defiled? The slightest connivance with the abomination would be a moral poison. They too would be accursed. For God will not endure to be trifled with. To his friends he is infinitely gracious, and blesses, for their sakes, their posterity; but his foes he repayeth to their face. We have to make our choice between complete devotement to God's cause and complete destruction.—D.
Reward in proportion to arduous service.
The enterprise upon which the Jews were entering was one of prodigious difficulty. They had to contend at the same time with stalwart human foes, and with the internal foes of evil lust. Here was a splendid field for eternal renown. In proportion to the difficulty of the enterprise would be the glory of success.
I. OBSERVE THE DISCOURAGING ASPECTS OF THE UNDERTAKING.
1. Their adversaries were more numerous than they. The adhesion of numbers to a particular side naturally excites enthusiasm. Yet, in war, unless order and discipline be maintained, mere numbers have contributed to defeat.
2. The Canaanites were actually in possession. They could, therefore, choose their military positions, and felt that they were fighting for their altars and their homes.
3. The Hebrews were the subjects of internal fears. Their fathers had actually refused to fight with the giant races of Canaan, and had turned back again into the desert. The habit of fearless courage was not suddenly engendered: it was a growth.
4. The Hebrews had also a lingering lust for the costly things devoted to idolatry. To suppress their own concupiscence was as arduous as to withstand the Amorites. Hence, on many occasions, their hearts counseled compromise and alliance.
5. They could anticipate only tardy results. If there had been the prospect of swift progress of triumph—the rapid march from victory to victory—they could have braced themselves up for a brief campaign. But they knew that slow processes of siege, with its privations and exposures, were essential. God had forewarned them that he would not drive out the heathen suddenly, lest other evils should ensue. They had to contend with their own impatience.
6. The necessity for extermination added to the difficulty of the war. If, when the Canaanites had suffered defeat in two or three pitched battles, the Hebrews had been permitted to accept a surrender and make them tributaries, their task had been comparatively easy. But the command of Jehovah was unmistakable: Israel was bound to destroy their foes, "with a mighty destruction," till they were consumed. So neither can we have peace until every sin within us is completely annihilated.
II. OBSERVE THE ENCOURAGING ASPECTS OF THEIR WORK.
1. God's immeasurable might. The visible features of the undertaking were depressing enough; but faith could discover an invisible Ally, who was more than a match for all opposition. If we can only realize that God is on our side, we shall be confident of victory.
2. God's past deliverances should assure us for the future. What an unchanging God has done for us, he can and will do again. Omnipotence is never exhausted. It is impossible for God to be inconsistent with himself.
3. God's plain promises of help. If we can only be absolutely sure of a promise from God, we may set at defiance every fear, and calmly face every foe. "He is not a man, that he should lie."
4. Proofs that God is even now present. "The Lord thy God is among you." If we would only rub off from our eyes the drowsiness of unbelief, we might see the tokens of God's presence on every side—the footprints of his feet, as he leads our way. The Good Shepherd always goes before his sheep.
5. In God's service the meaner forms of life often become efficient allies. The locusts have been commissioned to do service for God. In Egypt, flies and lice formed a brigade in his army. So now also wasps and hornets were sent out as sappers and miners to prepare Jehovah's way. Let no insignificant helper be despised!
III. THE LARGE REWARDS OF FAITHFUL SERVICE.
1. The rewards were based on Divine equity. If we keep his precepts, he will keep his covenant. A singular thread of equity runs through all God's dealings. History supplies a thousand examples. We may find fresh ones daily in our own observation.
2. The rewards are various and ample. They embrace the present and the future. To be the conscious object of God's love is a rich reward; and the smile of God will make all our ways to prosper. Large and rapid increase has been, from the Creation, a mark of Jehovah's favor. "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth."
3. The rewards are distinctive. Not only do they impart a large measure of personal enjoyment, but they are known and recognized by others as the rewards conferred by God. They make men conspicuous among their fellows. "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." As our work and warfare are spiritual, so are our rewards spiritual also. Our reward, as conquerors over sin, is manifold, generous, enduring, satisfying. God will surely distinguish between the righteous and the wicked—between him that serveth him well, and him that serveth him not. In honor, they shall be as the antipodes asunder.—D.
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Judgment without mercy.
This decree is to be viewed—
I. AS A JUST JUDGMENT ON PEOPLES WHOSE INIQUITIES CRIED FOR VENGEANCE. The doomed nations had been long borne with (Genesis 15:16). Their iniquities were of a kind and degree of enormity which imperatively called for a Divine interposition (Leviticus 18:27, Leviticus 18:28; Deuteronomy 9:4). This was the true ground of God's dealings with them, and furnishes a sufficient answer to all cavils. The destruction of the comparatively innocent with the guilty may be explained in part by the existence in the offspring of the hereditary evil of their race. How often, under the Divine government, do we see illustrations of the same principle—the temporal consequences of transgression overflowing on those related to the transgressor! The lesson taught is God's inflexible determination to punish evil. There can be no ultimate toleration of sin in God's universe. It must be judged, rooted out, and the sinner who identifies himself with it destroyed.
II. AS A CLEARING FROM IDOLATRY OF THE LAND OF GOD'S ABODE. Not only could the practice of idolatry not be endured, but even its unhallowed monuments must not be permitted to remain, polluting with their presence the land of God's habitation—the peculiar seat of his majesty, the place of his holiness. Every trace of these impure worships must be swept away (Deuteronomy 7:5). The lesson taught is God's hatred of idolatry. It is a secondary matter that the gods are of wood and stone, and the worship one of altars, groves, and pillars. There is the formal idolatry of heathenism, and there is the less-avowed, but not less real, idolatry of hearts which have set up rival objects to God in their secret places-which have substituted the creature, in some form of it, for the Creator. The forms are as numerous as ever were the idols of heathen temples. A man may be an idolater of reason; he may worship art; he may bow at the shrine of mammon (Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 5:5); his god may be the praise of men; he may fling himself to be crushed before the worse than Juggernaut car of fashion; he may be a votary of lewdness. The worship may be avowed, or hidden away in secret desires and imaginings. It may be rendered in the most diverse places—in the laboratory, at the desk, in the art studio, in home circles, on the broad stage of public affairs, in the saloons of gay society. The real point of importance is that it is of the nature of idolatry, and that God abhors it and declares it to be incompatible with his residence in the heart. "The idols he shall utterly abolish" (Isaiah 2:18).
III. AS A PROTECTION TO THE ISRAELITES THEMSELVES. The tolerated presence of idolatry in Canaan would have been to the Israelites an irresistible temptation (Deuteronomy 7:4). We are taught:
1. To seek our friendships and alliances elsewhere than among the ungodly.
2. That it is our duty, not only to avoid occasions of sin, and to keep as far out of harm's way as possible, but to labor for the entire removal from our midst of what experience shows to be a deadly snare (Isaiah 57:14).
Finally, severe as these commands are, we see reflected in them the three principles which, under widely different forms of manifestation, are to this hour to regulate the relation of God's servants to the evil of the world.
1. No toleration of it (Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30).
2. No communion with it (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
3. Unceasing war against it (2 Corinthians 10:4; Colossians 3:5).—J.O.
Deuteronomy 7:3, Deuteronomy 7:4
Marriage in the Lord.
This law, forbidding marriages with the ungodly, is one for all time. The apostle revives it in 1 Corinthians 7:39. That marriage should be only in the Lord is evident—
I. FROM THE TRUE IDEA OF MARRIAGE. Two individuals unite their lives, and enter into a fellowship the most intimate possible—to what end? Surely that their natures may be raised to greater perfection, and that they may be better enabled to attain the ends of their existence. This implies a certain harmony of disposition, an essential accordance in the views taken of life and its duties. It is a union, as One has said, not merely between two creatures, but also between two spirits. But what communion, it may be asked, can exist in spiritual respects between two persons severed from each other in the deepest principles of their lives?
II. FROM A REGARD TO THE DIVINE BLESSING. Where one partner is irreligious, the blessing cannot rest upon the home in the same degree as where both are "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). Believers are to "agree" as touching what things they shall ask (Matthew 18:19). Variances even in godly households result in prayers being "hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). How much sadder the case of a home, so-called, where husband and wife stand so far apart that they cannot unite in prayer at all! And who that values God's blessing would willingly enter into a relation which inevitably stints and limits it?
III. FROM THE DANGER ACCRUING TO SPIRITUAL LIFE. The danger is not imaginary (1 Kings 11:3). Where spiritual life is not destroyed, as we may hope that often it is not, yet nothing but harm can come from an association in every respect adverse to it. How intolerable to a spiritual mind to endure "the blight of all sympathy, to be dragged down to earth, and forced to become frivolous and commonplace; to lose all zest and earnestness in life; to have heart and life degraded by mean and perpetually recurring sources of disagreement" (F. W. Robertson)! This is the species of living death to which unequal yoking not infrequently leads. The effects on offspring are also to be considered. Yet such marriages are rushed into, and, in the prevalent anxiety to make marriage the stepping-stone to wealth and social position, seem likely to become increasingly numerous. Would that men were wise, that they understood these things l—J.O.
Reasons for non-conformity to the world, and for aggression on its evil.
I. THE HOLINESS OF OUR CALLING. (Deuteronomy 7:6.) The believer stands to God in the relation described in this verse. He is one chosen from the unholy mass to be peculiarly God's property. He belongs to God in body, soul, and spirit. He is a vessel for the Master's use. His every power is to be consecrated. What higher dignity could a human being sustain than that? But the obligations are coextensive with the honor. This man is, in virtue of his holiness, summoned to take up an attitude of non-conformity to the world (Romans 12:2). In virtue of the same holiness, he is bound to unite with others in a sacred crusade against its evil.
II. THE GRACE OF OUR ELECTION. (Deuteronomy 7:7.) This puts another powerful weight into the scale. Standing in so close and honorable a relation to God, the believer is bid look to the rock whence he is hewn, and the hole of the pit whence he is digged. Who made him to differ? Whence this mercy shown peculiarly to him? We need not press texts on election in favor of any special theory. Sufficient that every believer is willing to confess, as regards his own salvation, that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Romans 9:16). An elective purpose comes to light in his spiritual history (Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:5). When tracing his salvation to its source, he is constrained to say, "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 2:5). All this implies special obligation to God's service.
III. THE NIGHT OF OUR REDEMPTION. (Deuteronomy 7:8.) The redemption from Egypt, with its tragic accompaniments and mighty signs and wonders, was but a faint type of the greater deliverance which God has now wrought for his Israel in Christ. We are entitled to put the greater for the less, and to plead the stronger claimers which the redemption from sin and wrath establishes on the redeemed soul. The cost of our salvation is Christ's blood. What return can we conceivably make exhaustive of our obligations to Father and Son for so great a sacrifice?—J.O.
Deuteronomy 7:9, Deuteronomy 7:10
Lessons from history.
I. A LESSON IN GOD'S GOODNESS. In putting Israel into possession of the land of promise after so long a period of waiting, and at the cost of so much miracle, God gave the nation an irrefragable proof of his covenant-keeping faithfulness. How many difficulties, to the human eye, stood in the way of the fulfillment of that promise! And by what nice adjustments of providence, and what a subtly linked succession of events, was the fulfillment at length brought about! Israel had to be taken down to Egypt, there preserved till it grew and multiplied, passed through the iron furnace of affliction, brought up again with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm, conducted and provided for in the wilderness, legislated for and organized, strengthened to overcome its enemies. At what an expenditure of wisdom and power was all this accomplished! And how much forbearance and tenderness had to be shown to the people themselves in the course of their rebellious history! Faithfulness was thus emblazoned on every part of God's dealings with them. Another and greater promise, which hung still longer in suspension, has been fulfilled in the coming of that "Seed" in whom already all families of the earth are beginning to be blessed (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16). This fulfillment, above all, demonstrates that Jehovah, he is God, the faithful God, keeping covenant with them that love him.
II. A LESSON IN GOD'S SEVERITY. (Deuteronomy 7:10.) That had been taught to Israel by many passages in their own history. They had seen God's judgments upon Pharaoh. They had experienced his severity in the plagues, etc; which had swept their own camp in punishment of disobedience. They had witnessed a whole generation turned back to perish in the wilderness. The lesson was now to be taught them by the destruction of these wicked nations. And as if to burn it more deeply, and forever, into their minds and consciences, the sword of execution was put into their own hands. The two lessons need to be read together. God's severity, divorced from the discoveries of his grace, might appear to the on-looker harsh and cruel, whereas, as Bible history shows, judgment is "his strange work" (Isaiah 28:21). On the other hand, the remembrance of his severity is needed to prevent the abuse of his goodness (Romans 11:22).—J.O.
The rewards of obedience.
If Israel fulfilled its vocation, in keeping itself separate from the idolatries of the heathen, and in destroying them from the land; if further, in possession of the land, it adhered to God's commands, God would make his blessing rest on it in every sphere and department of existence.
I. TEMPORAL PROSPERITY IS A LEGITIMATE OBJECT OF DESIRE. Otherwise it could not be named as part of the blessing, nor could the hope of it be held out as an encouragement to the obedient. We naturally desire to see our affairs prospering. We justly rejoice in the prosperity of our nation. We are glad when trade is brisk, wages good, the comforts of life diffused through the different orders of society. But:
1. Prosperity is to be desired only in subordination to higher ends (Matthew 5:33).
2. Only in so far as it is good for us (3 John 1:2).
3. Not in excess (Proverbs 30:8, Proverbs 30:9). If God, in the exercise of his higher wisdom, withhold prosperity from us, the loss will be compensated by better blessings.
II. TEMPORAL PROSPERITY, IN SUCH MODES AND DEGREES AS GOD SEES BEST, IS AN EFFECT OF THE DIVINE BLESSING. Godliness has promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:10). It naturally tends to prosperity. Religion teaches men to be sober, righteous, and godly (Titus 2:12). It condemns idleness, waste, dishonesty, and the whole series of vices which wreck health, squander property, and destroy confidence. Where religion prevails, men will be industrious, conscientious, orderly, and reliable. But, in addition to this natural tendency of religion to prosperity, there rests on the good man's lot what is distinctively spoken of as the Divine blessing. This will mingle itself with all he has and with all he does. It gives him favor in the eyes of men (Genesis 39:21). It opens up his way for him (Psalms 37:5). It protects him from injury (Psalms 37:33, Psalms 37:39). It overrules all events and influences, so that they work for his good. This is forcibly illustrated in the text, where blessing is represented as descending on the home, on the products of the land, on flocks and herds, on the bodily life, etc. The counterpart of the blessing is the curse (Deuteronomy 7:15). The wicked often prosper, but it is prosperity unblessed and unenduring.—J.O.
God for us.
The numbers, strength, and fortified security of the seven nations made the conquest of Palestine a task of difficulty, and might naturally produce a disheartening effect on the invaders.
I. A NATURAL FEAR. (Deuteronomy 7:17.) Like disheartening feelings may assail ourselves in presence of the strong spiritual opposition to be encountered in seeking to win the world for Christ. Our enemies are neither weak nor few; we will do well not to underrate them. The larger part of the globe is yet unoccupied by Christianity. Heathen systems are in possession, supported by the combined influences of tradition, custom, prejudice, and superstition, and presenting an apparently impregnable front to the thin ranks of their assailants. At home, how much of the Christianity is merely nominal! and how much of it is corrupted! We live in days of intense worldliness. The skeptical spirit, likewise, is pronounced and active. Brain and pen power of the highest order is enlisted in its service. Unbelieving science, infidel philosophy, rationalism in the Church. The press is a tower of strength to anti-Christian views of life and duty. While, at the other end of the social scale, the multitudes are sunk in indifference and vice. How are all these enemies to be overcome? May we not fear that, work as we will, we cannot succeed? The fears are groundless; but they are not without their use, if they make us feel that the conquest of the world is not to be achieved without much hard fighting.
II. A GROUND OF ENCOURAGEMENT. (Deuteronomy 7:18-22.) This encouragement resolves itself into the simple truth that God is for us. He is mightier than our enemies, and will work on our behalf to secure their overthrow.
1. With supernatural power. In the past he had shown "signs and wonders," and had brought forth his people with a mighty hand (Deuteronomy 7:18, Deuteronomy 7:19). The same power would help them still. It is encouraging to recall the supernatural strength for conquest which the gospel has already displayed. Think of our own land penetrated by a faith which sprang up 1800 years ago in remote, despised Judaea, with churches for Christ's worship dotting almost every street of every city, town, village, hamlet, throughout its length and breadth! How Utopian would such a work of conquest have seemed at the beginning—a dream of insanity! And this Divine energy for conquest inheres in the gospel today as truly as it did of old.
2. With providential aids (Deuteronomy 7:20). "Hornets"—types of secret, providential allies working under God's direction. The forces of providence are on the side of those who are working for the advancement of his kingdom. There are such secret allies in men's own hearts. We may compare to the hornets the secret thoughts and feelings—the stings of conscience, guilty fears, feelings of dissatisfaction, etc.—which, operating within, drive men out to join issue with the Spirit in his truth. God has his "hornets" also for arousing his own children out of their sloth and self-indulgence and forgetfulness of duty—sharp trials, vexations, griefs, etc.
III. A METHOD OF CONQUEST. "Little by little" (Deuteronomy 7:22). A law of providence and grace. Little by little God gives a man conquest over the evil in self, and his nature is sanctified. Little by little the world is conquered for Christ. The reason of the law is obvious. There is no advantage in having more than can be rightly used; e.g. a man who has more money than he can turn to good account, who has a larger estate than he can manage, who reads more books than he can mentally digest. The best method is "little by little"—mastering, consolidating, using what we have, before hasting to get more.—J.O.
Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 7:26
The cursed thing.
The Israelites were not to desire the silver and gold on the graven images. They were not to take it. They were not to bring it into God's house. They were to detest and abhor it, to count it an abomination, a cursed thing, and to beware lest, by lusting after it, they became accursed like unto it. We are taught a lesson—
I. OF DISINTERESTEDNESS IN GOD'S SERVICE. No motive of gain was to be allowed to mingle with their work. Their service was to be disinterested. Under the cloak of religious zeal there was to be no gratification of covetousness.
II. OF AVOIDING OCCASIONS OF SIN. The gold and silver of the idols tended to ensnare. There would be a temptation to a superstitious and idolatrous use of it (Judges 8:27).
III. OF REFUSING GAIN DERIVED FROM IMMORAL SOURCES. The Church is not profited by an influx of the money of the worldling. Still less are the gains of sin to be coveted by her: money derived from gambling, immoral speculation, bubble companies, gin-palaces, sale of irreligious and immoral books, etc.
IV. OF HEARTY DETESTATION OF EVIL. The gildings of vice have an attraction for many who dislike the thing itself. But vice is to be abhorred in its gilded forms, as in every other. "Looking begets liking."—J.O.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Extermination with a moral purpose.
When the Israelites were to cross into Canaan, they were directed to exterminate the seven nations they would find there. This is their commission. The invasion is to be conducted upon this principle. And here let us notice—
I. NATIONS, LIKE INDIVIDUALS, MAY BECOME INCORRIGIBLE. There can be no doubt that sin tends to a final and incorrigible condition if the Divine mercy is not accepted and allowed to exercise its undermining power. These nations of Canaan were manifestly in this hopeless, utterly ruined state. God regarded them as beyond redemption, and their continuance would only prove pestilential. It is well for individuals, as well as nations, to realize this sad possibility.
II. GOD HAS EVERY RIGHT TO REMOVE INCORRIGIBLES FROM THE EARTH, AS Creator, he has given them every advantage and chance. But the deceitful heart has spurned admonition and mercy. The result is that there is nothing left for them but to be cut off righteously, and that without remedy.
But the propriety of extermination should be determined by the Lord himself (cf. Dr. Mozley's ' Old Testament Lectures,' No. IV; on 'Exterminating Wars').
III. THE ISRAELITES WERE SENT INTO CANAAN TO ESTABLISH THE TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD. They were not to be ashamed of their religion, but to establish it, and to allow nothing to interfere with it. As Abraham had entered Canaan centuries before as the promulgator of a new religion, so his descendants were to enter into the Promised Land with the view of establishing the religion of Abraham in spite of all possible opposition. They were not ordinary but religious emigrants.
IV. THE SPARING OF THE CANAANITES WOULD ONLY ENDANGER THEIR RELIGIOUS FAITH. Some people think they may associate with irreligious people, and even marry them, in the hope of bringing them to a better way of thinking. The plea is generally one got up in the interests of self-pleasing instead of duty. But such hopes are generally disappointed; and the Apostle Paul warns us distinctly against the temptation (2 Corinthians 6:14). Now, the Israelites were warned against making any covenant with the Canaanites or showing any mercy towards them. Association would only lead to apostasy on the part of Israel. It would be allowing the pestilence to propagate itself. The alternative for Israel was "Exterminate these incorrigible sinners, or by their seductions they will lead you on to your destruction at the hands of a just God" (Deuteronomy 7:4).
V. EXTERMINATION MAY CONSEQUENTLY, IN SOME OASES, BE THE ONLY COURSE CONSISTENT WITH THE DIVINE HONOR AND THE INTERESTS OF HIS KINGDOM. If people have a right to preserve themselves from a physical pestilence, have they not an equal right in the case of moral pollutions? Besides, the clear direction of God vindicates the whole procedure as right as well as wise.—R.M.E.
On the election of rations.
We are here introduced to remarkable words touching the election of, or we might say, selection of the Jews. The leading principles of the Divine administration are here set before us. The following points may be noticed:—
I. THE JEWS WERE SELECTED NOT ON ACCOUNT OF ANY NATIONAL SUPERIORITY. Moses tells them that, numerically, they were the fewest of all people. It was not numerical strength, nor national advantages of any kind, which induced God to select them.
II. THEY WERE SELECTED BECAUSE GOD CHOSE TO SET HIS LOVE UPON THEM. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people … but because the Lord loved you." It was sovereign love which is its own reason. And, in the last resort, it is to this we must come. We can give no better account of the matter than that God chose to do it.
III. THE DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT WAS THE PROOF OF HIS SOVEREIGN LOVE. Hereby he kept his promise made to their fathers, and fulfilled his own gracious purpose. The series of judgments, the outcome of his mighty hand, which proved how infinitely stronger it was than the hand of Pharaoh, while severe to Egypt, were love-tokens to Israel.
IV. THE CHOICE OF ISRAEL WAS WITH A VIEW TO THEIR BEING A HOLY PEOPLE AND A SPECIAL PEOPLE UNTO THE LORD. Electing love extended to a nation or a people is really a Divine investment. The result is the holiness and consecration of the people. It is this holiness, this sense of consecration, which proves the electing love of God. And this is all the more intense when it is seen clearly that God's love is manifested, not on the ground of national or personal merit, but as a matter of free grace.
And, doubtless, the Jews proved themselves a special people, although far from a perfect people. They were the custodians of the holy oracles for ages. They showed, and they still show, wonderful linguistic and other qualifications. All this, let us believe, is due to that grace and Divine development through which, as a nation, they were permitted to pass.
The practical application of this subject is surely this:
1. To receive God's mercy under an abiding sense that it is undeserved.
2. To cultivate the sense of obligation to God for his undeserved mercy, which it is intended to foster.
3. And to realize the consecration of spirit through which all that is noble in human life comes. God saves us that we may serve him. He shows us his loving-kindness that we may become through it "a peculiar people, zealous of good works."—R.M.E.
The Divine veracity.
Moses here speaks of the Divine faithfulness to those that love him, and also to those that hate him. Those who love him will have his mercy unto a thousand generations; those who hate him will have their hatred returned. He will repay such to their face.
Let us look at the Divine veracity in the two aspects of blessing and of judgment.
I. GOD'S GRATITUDE FOR MAN'S LOVE. God has a love of sovereignty, as we have just seen, which has no reason but itself; and he has also a love of gratitude for love shown to him. It is of this Moses here speaks. It is thus expressed elsewhere: "I love them that love me." And here notice—
1. When we love God we try to keep his commandments. This is exactly what Christ, incarnate Love, claimed. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Love is the spirit in which Law should be kept, and through which Law becomes blessedness.
2. Obedience secures blessing. God promised Israel certain temporal blessings: increase of the nation and fertility of soil and increase of their flocks and herds. And, in the rude age in which they lived, it was needful to encourage them by such very sensible signs.
This is not so needful now. The blessing comes now in more spiritual ways, but still it comes in the wake of obedience. Answers to prayer are still doubted by men who doubt God's existence and reign, but they are most thoroughly believed in by believers. The blessing comes to those who look for it.
3. It is expected to characterize generations. For this is the greatest blessing of all when the succeeding generation grows up true to God. It is this form of the Divine faithfulness which is most sought—that even to a "thousand generations" they may remain true to him.
II. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS WRATH AT MAN'S HATRED. Under a righteous government, hatred should have its retribution just as well as love its reward. So is it with God. Men may hate him, and when he repays them to their face they are getting only their due. God is as faithful in his threatenings as in his promises. Why should he not be so? And his hatred can have but one issue-destruction! How needful, then, to lay down the arms of our rebellion l If our hard hearts cherish any hatred towards him, the sooner we repent of this the better, and take refuge in his love. He waits to be gracious; but, should we despise his mercy and still do him the injustice to hate him, we must prepare for encountering his righteous wrath.—R.M.E.
Canaan gradually won.
The winning of the whole land seemed a great task—too great for sense and sight. But the Divine programs, though comprehensive, are taken in detail. The Israelites are to win the country little by little, and remove the people gradually. In this patient work they may expect the co-operation of God.
I. THE WORK BEFORE US SEEMS OF OVERPOWERING DIMENSIONS. MUST we win a victory over all the evil within us? and then contemplate a victory over all the evil around us? Both problems are vast. The more we know our own hearts, the greater seems the extent to be won. The more we know of the world around us, the more appalling seems the proposal of God. It is a great work we are asked to do certainly.
II. BUT BY PAST DELIVERANCES OF GOD ARE INTENDED TO REINFORCE OUR FAITH. Just as the mighty deliverance from Egypt was set before the Israelites to encourage them in their invasion, so our individual conversion should reinforce our faith in the power of God. The God who can conquer such hearts as ours can surely help us in further conquests. We hope for victory because of victory already won.
III. VICTORY IN DETAIL IS BETTER THAN VICTORY WHOLESALE. We imagine that victory at once over all internal and external enemies would be better than victory covering long years and entering into vast details. But, if Israel had been able to smite all the Canaanites dead at a blow, the beasts of the field would have so overrun the land that it would have been reduced to wilderness, instead of being a land of promise. It is better, therefore, to overcome the Canaanites gradually. They will protect the inheritance from the wild beasts till the heirs arrive. In like manner, it is better—
1. To beat our sins in detail. We are better acquainted with our own nature and God's grace when we have to deal with our sins in detail. We get gradually better and purer and more humble. This is better than a leap into perfection out of sin.
2. It is better to win the world in detail. God is not going to give the earth to his people some fine morning, and save us the trouble of winning it. It is better for us to plod on, winning country after country, and individual after individual, and the whole world at last.
3. The Promised Land is to be made a holy land. The Israelites were to remove, the Canaanites and their abominable modes of life and worship, to make of Palestine a holy land. Jerusalem—Elkoods—the holy city, is to be the expression of the Divine idea.
Let us conform our hopes to God's magnificent designs, believing that the gradual is generally the best, the microscopic work the most beautiful in the end.—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany