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DISSUASIVES FROM SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Israel might acknowledge that it was of God's free gift that they possessed the land of Canaan, and yet might flatter themselves by thinking it was because of their righteousness and goodness that the gift was bestowed. To guard against this, Moses tells them that not because of their righteousness would God go before them and drive out the mighty peoples that then occupied the land, but because of the wickedness of these peoples themselves were they to be extirpated (Deuteronomy 9:1-6). He further reminds them of their transgressions in the past, and how they thereby came under the Divine displeasure, and were saved from destruction only through his earnest intercession (Deuteronomy 9:7-24).
This day; at this time, very soon. Nations, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1). Cities (cf. Deuteronomy 1:28).
Anakim (cf. Deuteronomy 1:28). It was a common saying, Who can stand before the sons of Anak? But even these gigantic foes should be unable to stand before Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 7:24):
Understand therefore this day; rather, And thou knowest today or now. The expression corresponds to Deuteronomy 9:1, "Thou art to pass … and thou knowest." In the victory they had obtained over Sihon and Og, they had already had experience of the Lord's going before them, and leading them on in triumph. The repetition of the He in this verse is very emphatic. Consuming fire (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24). Quickly, or suddenly. There is no contradiction here of what is said in Deuteronomy 7:22; for there the reference is to the possession of the land by Israel, here it is to the destruction which was to come on the Canaanites—the former was to be by degrees, the latter was to come suddenly and overwhelmingly. As Jehovah hath said unto thee (cf. Exodus 23:23, Exodus 23:27, etc.; Deuteronomy 2:24, etc.).
Deuteronomy 9:4, Deuteronomy 9:5
Speak not thou in thine heart (cf. Deuteronomy 8:17). The distinction between righteousness and uprightness (straightness) of heart, is that the former (צֶדֶך) has reference to rectitude of conduct, the latter (ישֶׁר) to rectitude of motive and purpose. "By naming justice [righteousness], he excludeth all merit of works, and by righteousness [uprightness] of heart, all inward affections and purposes. which men might plead, notwithstanding that they fail in action. Yet these two are the chief things which God respecteth in men (Psalms 15:1, Psalms 15:2; 1 Chronicles 29:17)" (Ainsworth).
Stiffnecked, hard of neck; stubborn, obstinate, rebellious.
Moses reminds them of many instances of their rebelliousness by which they had provoked the Lord, from the time of their escape out of Egypt until their arrival in the plains of Moab. Their rebellion began even before they had wholly escaped from their oppressors, before they had passed through the Bed Sea (Exodus 14:11). Even at Horeb, where, amid the most affecting manifestations alike of the Divine majesty and the Divine grace, just after the Lord had spoken to them directly out of the fire, and whilst Moses had gone up to receive the tables of the Law, on which the covenant of God with Israel was based, and whilst that covenant was being struck, they had sinned so grievously as to make to themselves a molten image, which they worshipped with idolatrous rites (Exo 31:18 -32, Exodus 31:6; cf. Deuteronomy 24:12, etc.).
The clause, Then I abode … water, is a parenthesis; the sentence runs on from. When I was gone, etc; to Then [not And] the Lord delivered unto me, etc.
The day of the assembly; the day when the people, called out by Moses, were gathered together in the plain at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:17).
(Cf. Exodus 32:7-10.) Let me alone; literally, Desist from me, i.e. Do not by pleadings and entreaties attempt to prevent me; in Exodus 32:10 the expression used is, "Let me rest; leave me in quiet (הַנָּיחָה לִי); cease to urge me."
Moses cast from him the two tables of stone on which God had inscribed the words of the Law, and broke them in pieces in the view of the people, when he came down from the mount and saw how they had turned aside from the right way, and were become idolaters. This was not the effect of a burst of indignation on his part; it was a solemn declaration that the covenant of God with his people had been nullified and broken by their sinful apostasy.
Moses interceded with God for the people before he came down from the mount (Exodus 22:11, etc.); but this he passes over here, merely referring to it in the words, "as at the first," and makes special mention only of a subsequent intercession, that mentioned in Exodus 34:28. In the account in Exodus nothing is said of Moses interceding for Aaron specially, as well as for the people generally; but prominence is given to this here, "not only that he might make the people thoroughly aware that at that time Israel could not boast even of the righteousness of its eminent men (cf. Isaiah 43:27), but also to bring out the fact, which is described still more fully in Deuteronomy 10:6, sqq; that Aaron's investiture with the priesthood and the maintenance of this institution was purely a work of Divine grace" (Keil). That Aaron, however, was regarded as especially to be blamed in this matter is clearly intimated in Exodus 32:21, Exodus 32:22.
Not only at Horeb, but at other places and on other occasions, had Israel provoked the Lord to wrath by their contumacy. At Taberah, by their complaining and discontent (Numbers 11:1-3); at Massah, by their murmuring because of the want of water (Exodus 17:1-16. l, etc.); at Kibroth-hattaavah, by despising the manna, and lusting for flesh to eat (Numbers 11:4, etc.); and at Kadesh-barnea, when on the confines of the Promised Land, they distrusted God, reproached him for having brought them there to be destroyed, and sought to return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1, etc.; Deuteronomy 1:26). "The list is not arranged chronologically, but advances from the smaller to the morn serious forms of guilt: For Moses was seeking to sharpen the consciences of the people, and to impress upon them the fact that they had been rebellious against the Lord (see at Deuteronomy 9:7) from the very beginning, 'from the day that I knew you'" (Keil).
Having enumerated these instances of the rebelliousness of the people, Moses reverts to the apostasy at Sinai, in order still more to impress on the minds of the people the conviction that not for any righteousness or merit of theirs, but solely of his own grace, was God fulfilling to them his covenant with their fathers.
Thus I fell down before the Lord forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; rather, the forty days and forty nights in which I fell down. The reference is to the intercession before Moses came down from the mount, described in Exodus 32:11-13. (For the form of the expression, cf. Deuteronomy 1:46.)
In these verses the substance of Moses' intercession is given, and it is substantially in agreement with the account in Exodus. Moses pleaded with God not to destroy that people which was his own, which he had redeemed for himself and brought out of Egypt; besought him to remember their pious ancestors, and not to look on the stubbornness and sin of the people; and urged that the Divine honor was concerned in their being conducted to Canaan, and not let perish in the wilderness.
The land, that is, the people of the land, as in Genesis 41:36—the Egyptians; the verb, accordingly, is in the plural. Were the Israelites to perish in the wilderness, the Egyptians might say that God had destroyed them, either because he was unable to obtain for them the land he had promised them, or because he had ceased to regard them with favor, and had become their enemy. Neither of these could be, for were they not the people of his inheritance, and had he not showed his power already in delivering them out of Egypt?
"As Moses in this chapter recalls to the remembrance of Israel this and that place, time, and occasion of their sinning, so should each one often seriously reflect on his past life. This conduces to humility, to watchfulness, and to effort at improvement" (Herxheimer).
(See Homily on Deuteronomy 4:23, Deuteronomy 4:24.)
Deuteronomy 9:4, Deuteronomy 9:5
(See Homilies on Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 7:1-11.)
A six-weeks' religion; or, emotional religiousness not vital godliness.
The homiletic treatment of the incidents referred to in Deuteronomy 9:1-5, will require a careful comparison of these chapters with the fuller account in Exodus 32-34. The special object, however, which Moses has here in view, is to show how entirely God's mercy to Israel was a self-moved one, and that it was not due to any virtue on the part of the people, So far from that, they had been wayward from the first. Even in Horeb (for such is rather the force of the particle rendered "also" in Exodus 34:8), "Even in Horeb, ye provoked the Lord to wrath." Here is suggested our first study of this sad incident in Israel's history. Its occurrence was on this wise—
About fifty days after leaving Egypt, they were gathered beneath fount Sinai, to receive the Law from the Great Supreme. They reverently watched when Moses went up; they saw the bounds put, beyond which they must not pass; they trembled at the majesty which was before and above them, and awaited the words which should be spoken. The words of the vow went up from their lips, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Having received the Law, Moses went down and rehearsed it to them. A second time they responded, "All that," etc. This was not enough. The Law was to be written, and read over to them, that their vow might be neither blind nor rash. And a third time the same response was returned. Whereupon the covenant was ratified with blood, which was sprinkled on the book and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant, etc. (see Exodus 24:3-8). It seemed as if a fair start had been made. Egypt had been conquered, the people had thankfully accepted the new state of things on which they had entered, and nothing was wanting but the carrying out of that allegiance they had so repeatedly vowed. Moses, however, has yet to be a while in solitude with God, to receive further instructions; hence, having made arrangements for the conduct of affairs in his absence, he again ascends the mount, and is there for forty days. Unable to understand the reasons for so long a delay, the people think that Moses has disappointed them, or that he is lost on the mountain, or has perished in the flame! The thought, once conceived, gathers strength, and the very people who a few weeks before had seemed so impressible for good, are now as inflammable for evil! They rush upon Aaron, saying, "Up," etc. They wish for something to strike the senses. The pure conception of an unseen God they were not cultured enough to retain. Aaron was far too easily wrought upon by them. If it be thought that he expected the people's love of finery to be stronger than their idolatrous propensity, and that they would withdraw their demand when he made his for their ear-rings, etc; we save Aaron's principle, but at the expense of his judgment. Anyway, the calf is made. It is not the calf, however, that they worship, for they proclaim a feast to Jehovah; it is the second commandment they are breaking, not the first. Alas! alas! their triple vow, ratified with blood, they break, and in less than six weeks they are openly and riotously setting at naught the very Law they had sworn to obey! How can such a fearfully rapid retrogression be accounted for? If we regard it as a mere piece of history, with which we have no concern, we shall miss the intent of the writer (for see 1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Here are men who at one moment bid so fair, yet so shortly after upsetting all! The theme thus opened up to the preacher is surely this—"Emotional religiousness not vital godliness." No one with much knowledge of human nature, and certainly few pastors of any lengthened experience, can have failed to observe cases far too nearly resembling that before us, of a merely transient emotion in religion, raising the hopes of anxious observers one day, only to disappoint them ere many days are over, and compelling the plaintive words, "Your goodness is like the morning cloud and the early dew, it goeth away!" And, maybe, the change is as inexplicable to themselves as it is disheartening to others. It may be helpful if we try to remove the perplexity by a study of several inquiries which such cases suggest.
I. HOW FAR DOES THIS EMOTIONAL RELIGIOUSNESS GO? There may be a" receiving the Word with joy;" giving to it, not only a respectful attention, but even mental credence, gladsome admiration, and a profound conviction that the gospel message exactly meets the need of guilty, sinful man. And when the beauty, purity, and triumphant issue of a genuine Christian life are set forth, there may be an eager desire awakened to know its blessedness, and an inward resolution formed to serve the Lord. The young inquirer seems, perhaps, at such a stage to have been wafted, as by a Divine breath, to a region of halcyon calm, and with the sincerity and dash of a Peter says, "Now I am saved; though all men should deny Christ, yet I never will!" And such a case is looked at with tender, glad, yet anxious hopefulness, by some that are watching for souls more than they that watch for the morning. And yet, notwithstanding all, there is a grievous defect, not yet apparent to human eye, but destined ere long to reveal itself to the bitter disappointment of many a thoughtful friend!
II. WHAT IS THERE DEFECTIVE IN THIS CASE? There is:
1. Defective knowledge of self.
2. Defective knowledge of what the Christian life is, as one of "patient continuance in well-doing."
3. Defective knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.
4. A non-apprehension of the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole Source of life, energy, and power.
5. Emotion is mistaken for principle, and feelings about religion for a real surrender of heart and life to God.
III. SEVERE TESTS AWAIT SUCH A ONE. (cf. Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:21; Luke 14:27, Luke 14:28.) Days in which all things run smoothly are not those which test of what stuff men are made. No one's life, however, is made up of smooth days only. There are occasions which put every part of a man on the rack. And there are testing times in store for the young emotionalist.
1. Affliction for the Word's sake will come.
2. Persecution may come.
3. Skepticism, or cross-currents of public sentiment may disturb.
4. Or abounding worldliness may bring a chill or even a blight.
Some trial or other will surely come to test each and all. It may come suddenly as a storm of wind on a lake, or may act slowly yet surely as the waters wear away the stones. Somehow or other, come it will; and where there is profession without possession, sad will be the end, for—
IV. SUCH TESTS WILL BE FATAL. Only forty days after their vow, Israel broke down. The terrors of Sinai could not maintain Israel's loyalty. Nor will even the pathos of Calvary, of itself, avail now. The following results will follow, sooner or later, if beneath the outward vow there has been no surrender of heart and life to God.
1. Emotion will die out. Men cannot live at fever heat; it is not desirable that they should. If beneath the emotion there is living principle, though the emotion lessen, that will strengthen. But if there is no such living principle, the emotion will leave naught behind it but sadder lack of it than ever.
2. External membership will come to be rested in, as if it "covered a multitude of sins."
3. There will be a growing indifference to the higher and more spiritual work of the Christian life—both in private, social, and Church duties.
4. There may even be a collapse into a state of more thorough worldliness than before any profession whatever was made; and "the last state of that man is worse than the first." Of all the members of Christian congregations, those are the hardest to move who made a profession in a swell of emotion, without quickening of conscience or the renewal of the heart!
V. WHAT IS NEEDED IN SUCH CASES?
1. Deep and genuine conviction of sin and repentance before God; a quickening unto righteousness, which is born of the Spirit.
2. Heart-surrender to God; this cannot be brought about through being borne along in a crowd as on a wave of religious ecstasy, any more than the patients in a hospital can be cured en masse.
3. New life towards God, created, sustained, perpetually increased by the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, renewed by faith, and aided by communion with God.
CONCLUSION. Let all beware of trusting to "frames and feelings." Emotion is not devotion. And on the other hand, let us take care not to fall into the opposite error. "Ah," say some, "see what comes of religious excitement. It is time there was a protest against it!" But we make no protest whatever against excitement, but against mere excitement, which is a very different thing. Because a blaze cannot be kept up without fuel, that is no reason why, with plenty of fuel constantly supplied, a fire should not be kept ablaze! It is true that if there is naught but emotion, it must die out and be followed by a collapse; but that is no reason for letting real life be attended with so little emotion, that others see scarcely any signs of the life at all. Ah! what we all want, and always want, is a fullness of life, direct from him, which only he can give, and which, through the cross, and by the power of the Spirit, can alone be maintained, perfected, and glorified!
Deuteronomy 9:13-21, Deuteronomy 9:25-29
True greatness manifested in a great emergency, by self-sacrifice and intercession.
As were marked in the previous Homily, these incidents can only be rightly arranged by a preacher, for the purpose of preaching thereon, so far as the entire narrative is before his view. Hence a junction of this paragraph with Exodus 32:1-35, is imperative, and will here be taken for granted. There would seem to have been a compilation of several documents. It is not easy to gather therefrom, with exact precision, the order of events, though there is no difficulty in setting the whole with sufficient consecutiveness for all the purposes of practical teaching, Note—
I. HERE IS A GREAT CRISIS. Israel was making a feast unto Jehovah, letting the calf represent to them the God who had brought them out of Egypt. The people were observing the customs of the very nation from which they had been redeemed—dancing before the idol, polluting themselves with unclean and unhallowed rites, and making the hills to re-echo with their boisterous revelry and song! And all this beneath that very mount where they had sworn, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do!"
1. In the first instance, the lamentable defection of the people was made known to Moses, either by a silent suggestion from the Great Invisible, with whom he was in adoring fellowship, or by one of the angel bands with whom he was surrounded (Exodus 32:7, Exodus 32:8).
2. God bids Moses "go down"—not merely, as might at first seem, "go down and see," but "Continue the fellowship no more; leave me alone; I will make of thee a great nation. Let my wrath wax hot against them, that I may consume them!" Awful words (Exodus 32:13, Exodus 32:14)] 'Tis a terrible crisis in the great leader's experience. With agonizing heart, he comes down to see—not without pleading with God for Israel (see below)—and he reaches Joshua, where, though even yet too far off to see, he is near enough to hear the shouts wildly ringing through the air.
3. At length Moses gets near enough to see (verse 16). There they are—the calf, the dancing, the impure orgies as of a heathen feast! Oh, how bitter must have been the anguish of Moses at such a sight!
4. And what an alarming possibility he had to face—even that of the entire rupture of the whole covenant between the people and Jehovah! Hear how the Voice on the mount spake, "Thy people have broken the covenant; let me alone," etc. In what stronger way, ah! in what other way, could the people at such a time have been taught that, as they were now actually breaking the very covenant God was confirming with Moses for them, if God now dealt with them after their sins, he would have cast them off completely? They were not necessary to the fulfillment of the covenant made with their fathers. Moses was of Abraham's seed, and God might have begun afresh with him, and have made of him a nation greater, mightier, more loyal than they! Was there ever such a crisis? With all the responsibility Moses had resting on him, he must have been crushed had he not been divinely sustained. But great crises bring out the greatness of great men. Moses was a man "slow of speech," and probably slow to act, but he had strong convictions of truth and duty, and when wrought up to a white heat, he would show the true nobility of his character.
II. THE GREATNESS OF THE CRISIS OCCASIONS A REMARKABLE SERIES OF ACTS ON THE PART OF MOSES.
1. He is angry (Exodus 32:19). This was a holy anger; the sight roused the meekest of men, and well it might. It would have been wicked in Moses if he had not been angry! There is a wide difference between a passionate feeling of personal resentment, and indignation at witnessing an outrage on right. The holier a man is, the more will he suppress the one, the more will he develop the other!
2. He breaks the tables (verse 18). This is a symbolic act, reminding the people that by their apostasy they had violated their covenant vows.
3. He grinds the calf to powder, etc. (verse 21). Another symbolic act, meaning, "This sin will come back to them again; it will mar their joy for long to come."
4. He calls Aaron to account (Exodus 32:21-24). "There came out this calf." Aaron! you, the eloquent man, making a silly speech like that! Oh, the wonderful touches of nature in the Old Book! Moses, the truly brave man, though slow of speech, can speak to purpose at such a time as this; but Aaron, eloquent as he is, when his conscience is ill at ease, makes the lamest and tamest excuse.
5. He ascertains how far the contagion has spread (Exodus 32:25-29). Was it a revolt of all the people, or had many been drawn away at suggestion of the few? "Who is on the Lord's side?" 'Tis not enough for people to be on the Lord's side, specially in days of abounding iniquity; they must say on which side they are. The sons of Levi come forward, and are entrusted with the awful task of stamping out the evil. Better for 3000 to die than for 2,000,000 to be infected with a mortal poison! That was a holy defensive war. And it speaks volumes for the grandeur of the moral power of Moses, that he could so inspire the men of his own tribe to chastise the revolt and save the people.
6. But the most striking feature of the spiritual heroism of Israel's leader is, that he pleads with God. In this he reveals a force of character and an unselfishness of spirit which are far too rare even in these "advanced" times. Let us watch this pleader.
(1) He acknowledges the greatness of the sin. At first, before he was near enough to see, he asks, "Lord, why doth thy wrath?" etc. But afterwards, he puts no such question. "Oh! this people have sinned a great sin." He cannot palliate it.
(2) He entreats the Lord not to consume them, but to turn from his fierce wrath, and to bring them yet into the Promised Land.
(3) He uses arguments in prayer.
(a) The honor of God's Name among the nations. Joshua, David, Jeremiah, did the same.
(b) He pleads the Divine acts already put forth on behalf of the people, as if he would say, "Didst thou not know from the first what they were?"
(c) He pleads the Divine promises; "remember Abraham," etc.
(4) Moses prays for Aaron (verse 20)! Aaron "can speak well," but he acted ill. He broke down when put in charge. Though appointed by God as special helper to Moses, he proved himself unreliable. Yet not. a word of complaint appears to have been uttered to him, only a prayer offered for him by the very brother who had relied on him in vain!
(5) There is a more wonderful feature still in his prayer, viz. this: a conception which to self-seekers would have been most captivating, has for him no charm whatever—"I will make of thee a great nation;" "let me alone, that I may destroy them," and I will begin afresh with you, and make you the head of a less unworthy race! Would not that have fired his ambition, if he had had any? But no! see the lot which he preferred (Exodus 32:32, Exodus 32:33): "No! I cannot accept any position, however elevated, if they perish! Oh, forgive them! If not, let us all perish together." Noble captain he! if the ship sinks, he will go down with it. He would rather not live if vessel and passengers are beneath the waves!
(6) This intercession was long continued (verse 25): "forty days and forty nights!" All this while the cry was ever and anon going up from his heart? "Forgive them! Forgive! Forgive!"
Have we not here, in Moses, a model of intercessory prayer? Men who can thus plead with God are the greatest heroes of the Church. We can imagine that some may object, and may seek to turn the edge of the truth, so that it makes no impression, by saving, "Ah! but see what a great occasion that was! give us an occasion like that, and maybe we should pray like that! It is folly to bring the acts of a man at a period of such intense excitement, and tell us that we ought to pray like that. We are told that we cannot live at boiling point; then, why adduce Moses, on such an occasion, as a sample of what we should do on ordinary occasions?" No, we do not always want boiling water, but what sort of water would that be which no amount of heat ever could get to boil? We do not and cannot expect to be always in the midst of violent crises. But who are the men who are to be relied on when the crises come? Where was Aaron now? What of him? There is no indication that he ever caught a glimpse of the tremendous crisis he had helped to bring about! "There came out this calf!" How Moses could restrain himself at such words, we cannot imagine. But even if Aaron had not shown such utter inability to perceive the seriousness of the moment, how could he now take any active part in vindicating the injured rights of God before the people, or in craving mercy for the people from God? Complicity with evil means paralysis of power in speeding the right. If Aaron had not had a brother to plead for him with God, he would have been swept away with the besom of destruction! He can talk well rather than stand firm. There is a similar contrast here between Moses and Aaron, to that between Abraham and Lot. Abraham pleaded for the doomed city. Lot's aims in life had been too selfish for him to be a pleader. And we fear there are some who, if their own dear land were brought to a mighty crisis, would just read the daily papers to gratify curiosity, or to give them something to talk about, but as for taking the case of a nation on their hearts before God, they could do nothing of the kind! If they are succumbing to the evils of the day, they can have no strength in intercessory prayer, nor can they be of any use in national struggles. The Moses of Exodus 32:1-35, is the same self-forgetful Moses of Exodus 2:1-25. If men want to be the heroes of their age, let them try the power of intercessory prayer. Such heroism is of a kind the world cannot appreciate, but is recorded in God's book of remembrance; "And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels."
Deuteronomy 9:22, Deuteronomy 9:23
Taberah (see Homily on Numbers 11:1-35.). Massah (see Homily on Exodus 17:1-16.). Kibroth-hattaavah (see Homily on Numbers 11:1-35.). Kadesh-barnea (see Homily on Deuteronomy 1:19-40).
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Strange capacity of human nature for self-delusion! It was an extraordinary error to fall into, when the Jew began to fancy that by his own power and might he had conquered Palestine (Deuteronomy 8:17). Yet more extraordinary was the delusion that he had been brought into the land on account of righteousness. The two errors sprang from the same root. The worldly mind, which spurns at the acknowledgment of God's bestowal of what it has, has its counterpart in the self-righteous mind, which attributes God's dealings with it to its superior sanctity. Self-exaltation, pride, in both. In the one case, "my power," etc; in the other, "my righteousness."
I. THE NATURE OF THE ERROR. A magnified opinion of one's righteousness. The idea that it is our righteousness which is the meritorious ground of the bestowal of blessing. The Jews might not suppose that they were absolutely righteous—though some of the later Pharisees seem almost to have got this length (Luke 18:11). But they thought that they were so far righteous as to have established a claim on God's justice for what they had. This is a state of mind into which men glide half unconsciously. We often say it "in our hearts," when we would be ashamed to avow it with our lips. The self-complacency, e.g. which accepts prosperity as the reward of superior virtue; the self-satisfaction which esteems such reward due to it; the complaint of injustice which is raised when blessings are removed,—betray its presence. In the spiritual sphere, the tendency is evidenced in the denial of the need of salvation; in the self-justifying spirit which refuses to accept the position of one condemned, and justly exposed to wrath; in the reassertion in subtler or coarser forms of the principle of salvation by works. In whatever degree a man thinks himself entitled to acceptance with God, and to spiritual blessings, whether on the ground of obedience to prescribed rules, or on the ground of internal characteristics (faith, holiness, etc.), he is permitting himself to fall into this error.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE ERROR. The Israelites might fall into it:
1. By emphasizing their acts of obedience and forgetting their rebellions. This, as Moses shows, is practically what they did. It is not an uncommon fault. We forget our sins, and, thinking only of obediences, slide by easy stages into a self-satisfied and pleased view of ourselves.
2. By comparing themselves with the former generation. They had not been, as their fathers were, absolutely disobedient and recalcitrant. They were going up to possess the land. This comparing of ourselves with others is not wise. If a little in advance of our neighbors, it is extremely apt to inflate our consciousness of integrity (2 Corinthians 10:12).
3. By arguing from the fulfillment of promise. God had promised victory and possession on condition of obedience. Having got the blessings, they might argue that, in God's judgment, they must have been obedient. We, in like manner, may argue from God's kindness to us that we must have been peculiarly, pleasing to him. Hence that we are deserving of what we have received. The spring of all is the natural egoism of the heart. It is its own center. It wishes to exalt and glorify itself. It has no idea of glorying only in God. It is self-exalting, not God-exalting (1 Corinthians 1:29-31; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:7-10).
III. THE REFUTATION OF THE ERROR. Even perfect righteousness would not justify self-righteousness. The very indulgence of the self-glorying spirit refutes the contention of righteousness. Whoever is the righteous man, it is not he who boasts of righteousness!
"For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee."
1. We are not righteous. The only justifying righteousness is a perfect one, and that no man can plead. The legal ground is destroyed when we admit failure in even one point (James 2:10).
2. We are, in many ways, disobedient and rebellious. Past acts testify against us. Our daily life testifies against us. He knows little of self who does not read, in his disinclinations to duty, in his reluctant performances, in his rebellions at difficulties, in his secret impatience, in his frequent inclining to things forbidden, the signs of a wayward and rebellious disposition.
The true ground on which blessing is bestowed is wrapped up in that old oath sworn to the fathers (Deuteronomy 9:5), in the seed of Christ, in whom only we have acceptance.—J.O.
The sin at Horeb.
Moses dwells on this sin, alike as memorable in itself, and as illustrating the proposition that the people had again and again forfeited their covenant standing by their acts of disobedience.
I. THE ENORMITY OF THIS SIN.
1. It was a sin committed immediately after solemn covenant with God (Deuteronomy 9:9). The transactions recorded in Exodus 24:3-9 were not yet forty days old. The people had literally heard God speaking to them. They had acknowledged the solemnity of the situation by entreating Moses to act as mediator. They had formally, and under awful impressions of God's majesty, pledged themselves to life-long obedience. Yet within that brief space of time they broke through all restraints, and violated the main stipulation of their agreement, by setting up and worshipping the golden calf. A transgression showing greater levity, temerity, deadness to spiritual feeling, and perversity of disposition, it would be difficult to conceive. Perhaps the case is not a solitary one. Can none remember instances of solemn vows, of sacred engagements, of deep impressions, almost as soon forgotten, almost as recklessly followed up by acts of flagrant transgression?
2. It was a sin committed while Moses was in the mount, transacting for them (Exodus 24:9-12). Moses, for an obvious reason, rehearses the circumstances of his stay in the mount, and of his interview with God. He had gone to receive the tables of the Law. He recalls, as in striking contrast with the levity of the multitudes below, his rapt communion of forty days and nights. Sin needs a background to bring it out in its full enormity. That background is furnished in these details. The people are pointed to the tables as the rule of the obedience they had pledged themselves to render. They are reminded that their sin was perpetrated at a time when God was yet transacting with them, and when their minds ought to have been filled with very different thoughts. Do we reflect on the aggravation given to our own sins by the presence of our Mediator in the heavenly mount, and by the ceaseless and holy work he is there conducting on our behalf?
3. It was a sin of daring enormity in itself. The making of the golden calf, after what had happened, can only be characterized as an act of shocking impiety. The worship was doubtless accompanied by profane and lewd revelings. This under the eye of their God and King.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SIN.
1. It involved the forfeiture of covenant privilege, signified by the breaking of the tables of the Law (Exodus 24:17). This was the first light in which the Israelites had to view it. It refuted their idea that they got the land in virtue of their righteousness. True, the sin had been committed by the preceding generation, but the covenant being national, and laying obligations on all, involved them as well as their parents in the consequences of disobedience. If they stood still in covenant relation, it was of God's mercy which had restored them. For a time that covenant was actually broken. Nor, if that argument was necessary, had they failed in their own persons to renew the deed of apostasy (verse 22). Every believer feels that his standing before God is likewise of pure grace. Were sins imputed to him to his condemnation, he could not stand a single hour.
2. It provoked God to hot displeasure (verses 19, 20). As all daring and presumptuous sin does.
3. But for Moses' intercession, it would have involved them in destruction (Exodus 24:14, 19, 20). This was no mere drama acted between God and Moses, but a most real wrath, averted by the real and earnest intercession of a godly man. Had Moses not interceded, the people would have been destroyed. Not that we are to conceive God as swayed by human passions, or as requiring to be soothed down by human entreaty. But sin does awaken his displeasure. There burns in his nature a holy wrath against it, which, when he decrees to consume his adversaries, is not to be laid aside save on such ground as we have here. It is the existence of wrath in God which gives reality to propitiation and meaning to his mercy. Learn:
(1) How evil sin is in the sight of God.
(2) How fearful in its results to the transgressor.
(3) How mighty intercession is in procuring pardon.—J.O.
I. IN THE SPIRIT OF IT:
1. How absolutely disinterested (Deuteronomy 9:14)! He sets aside, without even taking notice of it, the most glorious offer ever made to mortal man—"I will make of thee a nation," etc.
2. How intensely earnest (Deuteronomy 9:18)! Moses feared greatly. He had a most overwhelming sense of the reality of the wrath he sought to avert. But his heart was agonizing to save his nation, and he seemed to clasp the feet of God in the spirit of one who would not, could not leave, tilt he obtained what he sought. A lesson in prayer.
3. How perseveringly prolonged (Deuteronomy 9:25)! He prayed by his silence as well as by his speech. The whole scene is a striking illustration of the intercession of the Savior.
II. IN THE MATTER OF IT. It is not much, as M. Henry remarks, that he can say for them. He appeals, however, to three principles in the Divine character which really govern the Divine action.
1. To God's regard for his own work (Deuteronomy 9:26). The finishing of work he had begun (Philippians 1:6).
2. To God's regard for his own servants (Deuteronomy 9:27). The love he bears to the fathers (Deu 4:1-49 :81; Deuteronomy 10:15).
3. To God's regard for his own honor (Deuteronomy 9:28). He cannot bear to think of God's action being misconstrued—of God's honor being compromised. Points in God's heart on which all intercession may lay hold.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
Against self-righteous conceit.
Sanguine expectation of success in war is a potential force of immeasurable value. If the expectation be ill-founded, it is worse than none. It will not stand as substitute for other equipment, but it serves as a final edge upon the well-tempered blade. Like the figure "naught," which increases the sign of value only when added to other figures, so sanguine anticipation of triumph is only forceful when based on solid qualities.
I. OBSERVE THE FORMIDABLE CONTEST. God has never encouraged his servants to underrate difficulties. Jesus Christ did not over color the advantages of his service.
1. The Amorites were superior in stature. This might, in itself, become an instrument of strength; it might prove a source of weakness. The larger the machinery, the greater motive power is demanded.
2. The Amorites excelled in martial courage. "They were mightier." The land had become divided into petty kingdoms, and it is evident that deadly wars between the tribes were frequent. Such practice had developed warlike skill.
3. They fought behind well-built ramparts. Their cities were fortresses, while the Hebrews, unskilled in war, had to fight in the open field. Defenders of bastioned homes have great advantage over foreign assailants.
4. The Amorites possessed a wide reputation. This would serve to brace to the highest pitch the courage of the inhabitants, while it would serve to dismay the besieging army. Every visible and material advantage was on the side of the Canaanites.
II. LEARN THE SECRET OF ISRAEL'S TRIUMPH.
1. God's alliance outmatches all martial opposition. The unseen power is always greater than the seen. God's arrows find their way through the best-jointed harness. The simple breath of Omnipotence withers all opposition. Whatever we omit to take to the battle-field, let us not omit to take God.
2. Occult forces often lead the van. In advance, even of their vanguard, unseen pioneers would sap the foeman's strength. As fire devours the stubble, so would the Canaanites' strength become as rottenness. Hornets, pestilence, lightning, hail—a thousand agencies God employs as the real army in advance of the human host.
3. God's work and man's reciprocally interlace: God will never do our part; we can never do God's part. There is scope everywhere for human agency, but it must never invade the Divine province. We are to work because God works with us—in us. God promised that he "would bring down the enemy;" Israel was "to drive them out."
III. MARK THE GROUNDS OF GOD'S AWARD. He fought on the side of Israel, and against the Canaanites, for specific reasons. Some of these are mentioned for the instruction of men. Strong inducements disposed the Hebrews to regard themselves as the favorites of Heaven, on the ground of their superior goodness. This was corrupt fruit from an evil tree. These were false flatteries, forged by Satan. Against these fortresses of self-righteousness Moses was directed to hurl the battering-ram of reproof.
1. Human righteousness not meritorious. It is not meritorious, because it is deficient. All true righteousness has some merit; but if the unrighteousness in a man's life exceed the righteousness, then blame must exceed approval. The Canaanites were evicted because of moral rottenness, the fruit of gross idolatry. Loyalty to God alone could entitle the Hebrews to replace them. In this they had been signally wanting.
2. Material possessions have often a vicarious origin. They are given to one for the sake of another. The faith of Abraham had borne a long succession of fruits. There is a principle of moral solidarity in the human race. We are not distinct units, but component parts—members one of another.
3. We see the inviolability of God's promise. To our purblind eyes that promise often seems to fail; yet failure is absolutely impossible. His time and man's time do not always correspond. God's words must be taken as expressive of God's conceptions. His words are expansive enough to contain an infinitude of meaning.—D.
Human memory a repository of guilt.
The memory of man is a book of God; and, though the entries may be temporarily obscured, yet the light of eternity will make them all legible. The present tendency of sin is to weaken memory; its effect, to obliterate recollection. Our profoundest gratitude is due to the man that reminds us of our falls.
I. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF ITS OBJECT, VIZ. OF GOD. Discourtesy to a king is a graver offence than discourtesy to an equal. Sacrilege is worse than common theft.
1. This was sin against a known God. The evidence of his existence had been made as clear to them as noonday. The main attributes of his character had been plainly revealed, especially power and justice and goodness. They could not wear a mask of pretended ignorance.
2. He had been to them a most generous God. For their release signal power had been displayed. The course of nature had apparently been interrupted. To deliver them hosts had been destroyed, and the majestic hand of God had supplied their daily meal.
3. He had been a much-suffering God. They had been like petulant, discontented children; and he had been to them a pitiful and indulgent Father. In the midst of needful supply they had been basely unthankful. They had wounded him in the tenderest parts of his nature, insulted his majesty, spurned his laws, and covered him with contempt. Yet he had spared them. He had imposed on himself strong restraints, so that righteous anger should not break forth. The noblest features of human love are but feeble reflections of his patient compassion; and against such a God their sin was hurled.
4. He had been a God in covenant with them—their God.
II. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. We perceive things best when placed in absolute contrast.
1. There was the sin of inattention. God had deigned to speak, but they "would not hear." The ear had been fashioned for this special end that they might hear God's voice; they had abused and injured the delicate faculty. They that will not hear shall not hear.
2. There was the sin of ingratitude. We can conceive of no baser sin than this. 'Tis a double crime—a violation of heart and conscience.
3. There was the sin of disbelief. The God of truth had promised, but they had treated his word as a lie. They had enjoyed ocular demonstration of his faithfulness, yet they trusted their own fears and fancies rather than their God.
4. There was the sin of overt rebellion. They professed to regard God as their Leader and King; yet, as soon as service was irksome to flesh and blood, they resented his authority. Once and again they chose human leaders in opposition to the Supreme King.
5. There was the sin of self-will. Their characteristic sin was "stiff-neckedness." "Our wills are our own," said they in substance; "who is Lord over us?"
III. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGE.
1. Theirs was sin against the light. While others had only the light that comes through nature, they had possessed the light of special revelation. They had not appreciated the light. In various measures they had preferred the darkness.
2. It was sin against the inner light of conscience—sin against personal convictions of duty. They had trifled with the regal voice of conscience, and bribed it to be silent. They had encouraged appetite and passion to speak, and their clamorous voices had prevailed.
3. Theirs was sin against faithful warning. The penalties of contumacy had been prominently set before them. The hints of nature and the dark presages of conscience had both supplemented by the clear announcements of Divine warning. For the fascinating fruit of present pleasure they risked expulsion from the garden—loss of the great inheritance.
4. It was sin against covenant engagements. They had made an overt treaty with God to serve him. When the Voice from heaven had spoken at Sinai, they had quaked and said, "All that the Lord our God shall speak unto us will we do." Every step in their deliverance had been taken on the understanding that they would be loyal servants of the heavenly King. Thus every element of wickedness was mingled in their conduct. And is it not in ours also?
5. It was sin in the very presence of God—sin at Sinai.
IV. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF EXPERIENCE.
1. They had seen the direful effects of disobedience in others. Their eyes had beheld what God did to the Egyptians for their impious arrogance. They had seen their own comrades die for their petulant murmurings. They had seen a host of people slain for idolatry. Poisonous serpents had slain a myriad. The earth had opened and swallowed the sons of Korah. Their own memories contained abundant records that the fruit of transgression was death. Yet they sinned still.
2. They had seen the rewards of obedience among themselves. So long as they had followed the precepts of Jehovah they had prospered. They had sprinkled their doorposts with the Paschal blood, and the angel of destruction had spared their firstborn. They had crossed the Red Sea by a perilous path, and had gained a mighty triumph. They had followed Moses into the wilderness, and had been daily fed by a miraculous hand. It was obvious that obedience secured blessing. They had seen Moses exalted to regal power by virtue of his unwavering faith in God.
3. They had felt the scourge of Divine anger for their own follies. For eight and thirty years they had sojourned in the wilderness beyond what was needful, because they would not believe God's promise. A thousand ills had afflicted them, every one of which was a chastisement for sin. Yet they dallied and coquetted with the accursed thing, as if it were a pleasant toy. And are we any better than they? If unpardoned, memory is preparing a scourge of scorpions with which to chastise us. "Son, remember!"—D.
The place of human mediation.
The best men have always desired to intercede for the bad. True holiness is benevolent.
I. MEDIATION CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE INTERESTS OF BOTH PARTIES. Moses had at heart the honor of God—the maintenance of his just rule, while he also identified himself with the well-being of the Hebrews. If there be, on the part of the mediator, a leaning to the interests of the one party rather than the other, his office will fail. One party or both will reject him. His mission proceeds on the ground that there is an advantage common to both to be obtained by reconciliation. There is a point where God's interests and man's touch and blend. The business is to find that point, and to persuade both parties there to meet.
II. MEDIATION IS ITSELF A FRUIT OF DIVINE MERCY. The disposition in the heart of Moses to intercede was a disposition implanted by God, and all the energy with which he pursued this mission was energy sustained from heaven. Further, the willingness, on the part of God, to allow any suit on behalf of rebels, was an act of pure mercy. It is no less absurd than profane to speak of man, the mediator, as showing more benevolence than God. The whole arrangement is one of purest kindness, and Moses was richly blest in his generous undertaking.
III. MEDIATION REQUIRES THE MOST COMPLETE SELF-SACRIFICE. For forty days and forty nights Moses was prostrate before the Lord. Personal needs, personal interests, personal honor, were all forgotten. Here was the completest devotion of himself to this cause. There is a profound mystery in this number of forty. It is not a natural cycle. Like the number seven, it is sacred to religion. For forty days and nights Moses waited before God, undergoing spiritual receptiveness for the revelation of his will. For forty years the Hebrews dwelt in the wilderness. For forty days Elijah tarried in Horeb. For forty days Jesus endured the temptations of the desert. For forty days he abode with men subsequent to his resurrection. All that human nature could endure, Moses endured to obtain pardon for Israel. For if pardon be too cheaply bought, it is not valued. Only in the lurid light of sin's curse do we see the glory of forgiveness.
IV. MEDIATION ACKNOWLEDGES SIN TO THE FULL. There is no extenuation of the deed, no paring down its dimensions, no cloaking any part of its baseness, no endeavors to put other colors on it than its own. It is because sin is so malignant and so ruinous that it is so desirable to rescue the sinner from its awful spell. It is because it is so dishonoring to God that it is worth while, at any price, to remove it from his universe. The anger of Jehovah is no mere passing or capricious feeling. It is sentiment arising out of the most righteous principle. Such anger against sin is essential to the Godhead. We need not be afraid of the introduction of anthropomorphic conceptions. The longer Moses remained prostrate before God, the clearer came into view Israel's sin in the light of the Divine purity.
V. MEDIATION INCLUDES THE LARGEST REPARATION. The mission of Moses as mediator had a part manward as well as Godward. The whole work was not done upon his knees. With both his hands he brake and burnt the graven image, dishonored the deity they had fashioned, reduced it to powdered dust. This would expose the impotence of the idol, the vanity of the idol system, and the insane folly of presenting to such a molten image Divine honors. Nor was this all. The fine dust that remained after the burning was cast into the brook, so that they were compelled to drink it in the exigency of their thirst. St. Paul tells us that the rock from which this stream flowed symbolized Christ; hence we see, in a figure, how the living stream from him, the Fount, bears away our sin into oblivion. Repentance upon our part is not thorough, nor sincere, unless we make whatever reparation is within our reach,
VI. MEDIATION EMBRACES VERBAL INTERCESSION. The final outcome of mediation is prayer. "Father, forgive them!" said the dying Savior. "He ever liveth to intercede."
1. Moses pleads God's proprietorship in this recreant people. "They are thine inheritance." "The Lord's portion is his people." From them he shall obtain more satisfaction than from planets and stars and suns.
2. God's self-consistency is an argument in prayer, he had already redeemed them from Egyptian bondage. He had taken great pains with them hitherto, and had expended great power on their behalf. And he had not done this in ignorance. The latent evil in their hearts he had perceived. The future of their lives he had foreseen. Hence it would be consistent with his past favors to dispense fresh mercy.
3. God's covenant and promises are proper arguments in prayer. He loves to be reminded of his engagements, because this remembrance deepens our sense of his faithfulness. He had engaged to bring this people to the land of promise, not for their sakes, however obedient they might be, but for their fathers' sakes. Hence their rebelliousness did not vitiate the original engagement; and although individuals might justly be destroyed—yea, that whole generation—still the posterity of Abraham must eventually enter the land.
4. The reputation and credit of God form also staple arguments in prayer for others. The natural effect produced on men's minds by God's dealings must be taken into account. Our God is not indifferent to the homage and praise of men. It is to him a great delight to receive the incense of heartfelt love. His reputation in his universe is a very precious thing, and it becomes us on all occasions to guard it well. He has formed us into a people for this very purpose, "that we should show forth his praise."
VII. HUMAN MEDIATION, IF EARNEST AND PERSEVERING, SUCCEEDS. "The Lord hearkened unto me at that time also." Here is great encouragement for our intercession now! Abraham did not cease to gain successes for Sodom until he ceased to pray; and had he continued, possibly the city might have been spared. What genuine and honest intercession has ever failed? "The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Every instance of successful intercession recorded in history is a cordial to revive our drooping faith. Is not God even now waiting to hear human intercession, that he may do great things for his Church? "Give him no rest, till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."—D.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The policy of reprobation.
Moses here indicates very clearly what lay at the foundation of the invasion. It is to be carried on successfully as a judgment upon Canaanitish sin. It is no merit in the victors, but the demerit of the vanquished, which determines the Divine dealings. In one word, it is a policy of reprobation. And here let us observe—
I. THAT REPROBATION IS THE OPPOSITE OF APPROBATION. Great confusion of thought exists upon this subject through losing sight of this. The conduct of the Canaanites had been going on from bad to worse, and it was impossible for God to approve of it. He had no alternative but to loathe them for their iniquities, and to arrange their fate accordingly. Reprobation in the last resort, in the case of those finally impenitent, is a necessity with God; he cannot but loathe those guilty of such conduct.
II. A VICTORY IS AT ALL EVENTS A JUDGMENT ON THE VANQUISHED. It has indeed been said that the next worst thing to a defeat is a victory, by which it is indicated that both sides suffer, but the vanquished more than the victors. In the invasion of Palestine, the Canaanites were to be vanquished because of their disobedience. It was judgment to them—God's judgment, and thoroughly deserved.
III. IT MATTERS NOT TO GOD, AND SHOULD NOT TO HIS SERVANTS, HOW GREAT HIS ENEMIES MAY BE. The Canaanites were men of gigantic size, with great cities, fenced up to heaven. They were outwardly much more than a match for Israel. And this was doubtless to try the faith of Israel, and to see if they would live by sight in this matter, or trust in their Almighty King. It is for the Lord's people to remember that "greater is he that is for them than all that be against them," and that with God they are sure of ultimate victory.
IV. SUCCESS IS INTENDED TO TEST THE PEOPLE OF THE Lorry. Israel is told expressly that they are a stiffnecked people. The conquest is not to be on account of any merit of theirs. But it will test their loyalty to God. It has been observed that conquest has generally exercised a retributive influence upon the conquerors. It was for Israel to determine whether their stiff-neckedness would continue or would succumb. If they interpreted their triumph properly, as the gift of free grace, they would settle down after it to grateful obedience.
V. THE INVASION IS A TYPE OF DIVINE GRACE MANIFESTED STILL. Sinners are like the Israelites, with nothing in the way of merit to recommend them. But God comes in his gospel and offers them a complete victory over sin, Satan, and the world, as a free gift.
These enemies seem gigantic like the Canaanites. We could not overcome them in our own strength; but greater is he that is for us than all that be against us. We find ourselves coming off more than conquerors through him that loved us. And every spiritual victory is meant to test and strengthen us. It should increase our gratitude and ensure increased obedience.
It is well, moreover, to remember that the triumphs now are granted as free gifts, not as rewards of merit. After we have as disciples done our very best, we should be ready to acknowledge that we are only unprofitable servants, we have only done what it was our duty to do.
God is able to give us the victory over our greatest enemies, but he will do so in such a way as to secure the heartfelt gratitude and homage of his believing people. He is a faithful Promiser; having made the promise to Abrabam, Isaac, and Jacob, he will not forsake their seed, but give the victory in his own time and way to all who trust him.—R.M.E.
Following up the idea of their waywardness, Moses proceeds to recall instances of it. The remembrance of sin is salutary, if it induces humiliation; but detrimental, if it induces a repetition of the sin. When assured of its forgiveness, we should forget it, so far as the remembrance would provoke repetition. Moses here recalls sin, that it may be salutary in the remembrance.
I. THEIR REBELLION HAD BEEN CONTINUAL. (Deuteronomy 9:7, Deuteronomy 9:24.) It would seem that the pilgrimage of the people had been one long rebellion—God manifesting his mercy, man manifesting his ingratitude. And may this not be said of all the Lord's people? They have been rebellious in the midst of manifold mercy.
II. THE SIN AT HOREB WAS A SPECIAL PROVOCATION. (Deuteronomy 9:8-12.) So grievous had it been that God threatened them with destruction. It took place while the media-tot was, through fasting and prayer, receiving the Law. The circumstances made it more aggravated. And it is well to remember our special provocations of God, if we are thereby strengthened against a repetition of them.
III. THE DANGER INCURRED BY ISRAEL WAS VERY GREAT. (Deuteronomy 9:13, Deuteronomy 9:14.) God proposed to consume them in a moment, and to make of Moses a nation greater and mightier than they. It was at once a testimony to the enormity of their sin and a test of the magnanimity of Moses. Instead of accepting the great opportunity, he set himself to intercede for the pardon of their sin.
IV. IT INVOLVED THE BREAKING OFF OF COVENANT RELATIONS. (Deuteronomy 9:15-17.) The two stone tables were the sign of the covenant existing between God and them. Moses had just been negotiating the settlement. But now one party had proved unfaithful, and so he had them broken before their eyes. Their idolatry had broken the commandments, and so the relations between God and them were meanwhile at an end.
V. THE INTERCESSION WAS PROLONGED AND SUCCESSFUL. (Deuteronomy 9:18-21, Deuteronomy 9:25-29.) The intercession of Moses was even more severe than the previous mediation. The second period of forty days and nights was a most severe ordeal through which to pass. It shows that intercession is most laborious duty, if adequately discharged. It shows, moreover, that the intercession of Christ, of which that of Moses was typical, is a most serious and severe service. It has been very properly called the prolongation of the atonement; just as the atonement is a most magnificent intercession. The two are complementary. The agony of Moses on the mount must have been most severe and trying—death under ordinary conditions is nothing to it.
VI. OTHER REBELLIONS OF A MINOR CHARACTER MUST ALSO BE NOTICED. (Deuteronomy 9:22, Deuteronomy 9:23.) Taberah, Massah, Kibroth-hattaavah, and Kadesh were all scenes of rebellion against the Lord. The history was a sad one, but the remembrance of it would humble them, and fit them for that complete reliance upon the Lord on which their triumph must rest.
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he will exalt you in due time." "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." This is the law for nations as well as for individuals. Salvation and victory are through paths of humiliation, which make all the sweeter the blessing when it comes. Sin is thus sanctified in the remembrance when it leads to humiliation and victory beyond it.—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27