Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
"You have compassed this mountain long enough"
As pilgrims and strangers on the earth, there are two dangers to which we are ever exposed, that of sitting at ease in our present comfortable condition, or of rushing impatiently into new spheres and circumstances. Commit your way unto the Lord, and He shall direct your paths. Consider—
I. The Arrest. "You have compassed this mountain long enough. " The mountain they had been compassing was not for them, "no, not a foot breadth" (v. 5). There were other possessions waiting on them.
It is a blessed thing to be saved from the wrath to come, but it is a miserable thing never to get beyond that. Are there not many of the Lord's people to whom it might be said with regard to their spiritual experience, "You have compassed this mountain long enough?" Press on toward the mark of your high calling in Christ Jesus.
II. The Command. "Turn northward. "The good land of promise lay stretched away northward. They were to set their faces toward all that had been freely given them by God. Christian pilgrim, remember the man with the muck rake in Bunyan's allegory. See that your neck is not allowed to stiffen looking only at the things of earth and sense. "Turn you northward. " Look up and expect the fulfillment of His exceeding great and precious promises in your daily experience. Instead of the muck of earth look for the crown of glory.
III. The Warning. "You are to pass through the coast of your brethren, the children of Esau; meddle not with them" (vv. 4, 5). Mount Seir had been given to Esau to possess it (Joshua 24:4). When God blesses His people He does it righteously, even in the presence of the ungodly. We have a just God and a Savior. In the face of an assembled universe this will be manifestly so. It was not the Lord, but one of Job's miserable comforters who declared that "The heavens are not clean in His sight."
IV. The Reminder. Just as we are the Lord's remembrancers so He is ours. In verse seven they are reminded of His—
1. Favor. "The Lord your God has blessed you in all the works of your hand." His favor always means blessing. The grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared. His favor is better than the best of a mere earthly life.
2. Wisdom. "He knows your walking through this great wilderness." He is mindful of us. He knows the way that we take. Our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, and is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. Yes, He knows your walking, where it is through great shadows of trial and suffering, or along the sunny path of painless prosperity. So that you may fearlessly say—
"Where He may lead I'll follow,
My trust in Him repose,
And every hour in perfect peace,
I'll sing, He knows, He knows."
3. Presence. "The Lord your God has been with you." Have we no evidence in the past that the Lord our God has been with us? Will His faithfulness fail toward us in the future? Be encouraged, O soul, if your heart seeks His honor and His Name's glory. He cannot deny Himself. He would be denying Himself and robbing His Word of its power and glory if His presence failed the humble, childlike, believing spirit. He has been with you; He will bless you still.
4. Sufficiency. "You have lacked nothing. " "When I sent you--did you lack anything?" And they answered, "Nothing" (Luke 22:35). Out of Heaven and from the flinty rock the God of all grace satisfied their needs. There may be many things we want, but we shall lack no good thing when He is with us. My God shall supply all your need. Many a time they murmured in the wilderness, but the Lord their God declares that they lacked nothing. We are rich indeed when we have what He wishes us to have, whatever that may be. "Be content with such things as you have, for He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
A SOLEMN CHARGE.
"O Israel, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (vv. 1, 2). This is a very clear evidence of inspiration. The statutes and judgments taught by Moses were the authoritative words of God. As Newberry points out, the I's of Moses here are emphatic in the Hebrew. He speaks in God's stead. This Paul declares in writing to the Hebrews (chapter 1:1). This solemn charge to keep the words of God comes loudly and urgently upon us today. Several reasons are given for this.
I. Because they are Powerful. They—
1. Bring Life. "Do them, that you may live" (v. 1). Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life, begotten by the incorruptible Word of God.
2. Secure an Inheritance. "That you may go in and possess. " It is by laying hold of His promise that the soul enters into the possession of the inheritance provided and offered. "Your Word was found, and I did eat it, and it became the joy and rejoicing of my heart. " The hungry one must eat to be satisfied.
II. Because they are Perfect (v. 2). Nothing is to be—
1. Added. "You shall not add unto the Word. " The Law (Word) of the Lord is perfect. It is finished. We can no more add to the revelation of God than we can add to the finished work of Christ or the work of Creation, although man in his pride makes many attempts. We presume to add to the grace of God when we go about seeking to establish our own righteousness. "Add you not unto His words, lest He reprove you, and you be found a liar, for every word of God is pure" (Proverbs 30:5, 6).
2. Diminished. "Neither shall you diminish anything from it. " "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life" (Rev. 22:19). The Scriptures of truth cannot be broken, so that no repair is ever needed. To add or to diminish is only to mar the perfect Man of our counsel.
III. Because they are Precious (vv. 4-9). Precious because they are—
1. Unfailing. "You that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day. " Joshua and Caleb did trust the Word of the Lord, and they were living witnesses to His unfailing faithfulness (Numbers 26:65). The living Christ is the eternal Word. He will not fail you; be not faithless.
2. Enlightening. "Keep them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations. " "The Word of the Lord makes wise the simple" (Psalm 19:7). Apart from it, Israel would sink down to the level of the heathen nations around them. If His Word does not abide in us we, too, will fall back into a savorless state, good for nothing, or like a fruitless branch.
3. Comforting. "What nation is there so great who has God so near unto them?" etc. (v. 7). Israel as a redeemed people were distinguished for the nearness to which God came to them. This nearness was only enjoyed when they walked in obedience to His Word (2 Samuel 7:23). "The Lord is near unto all that call upon Him in truth" (Psalm 145:18). All who have believed are made near through the blood of Christ. His nearness is the distinguishing mark of all who live in the power of the Spirit of truth. The more we are like Christ, the more near will He be.
4. Ennobling. "What nation is there so great that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law?" (v. 8). What soul is there so great that has the words of the living God dwelling richly within? His words are more to be desired than gold Moreover, in keeping of them there is great reward (Psalm 19:9-11). They do no iniquity that walk in His ways (Psalm 119:3). The incorruptible Word in the heart will beautify the whole character as the seed in the earth when it springs up beautifies the whole field with a loveliness not its own, yet not separate from it.
5. Enduring. "Take to yourself and teach them to your sons, and your sons' sons" (v. 9). The words of God are enduring for us, and will be as effectual to our believing children and our children's children. Timothy knew the Scripture from his youth, and we need not wonder at it, when love for the Word of God dwelt in Eunice his mother and in Lois his grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). The Word of the Lord endures forever. It has an enduring purity, suitability, influence, and faithfulness. "He who hears My Word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life" (John 5:24). Do you believe this?
BACKSLIDING: ITS CAUSE AND CURE.
Whatever occupies the chief place in our hearts and lives takes the place of God and becomes our God. We are constantly in danger, as Israel was, of allowing visible things to usurp the place of the Eternal One, whom we see not. When the Lord spoke out of the midst of the fire in Horeb no manner of similitude was seen (v. 15). One of the reasons given is, "For the Lord your God is a jealous God" (v. 24). Jealous of our faith, and the adoration of our hearts. Backsliding is always manifested by preferring some earthly thing to the Lord.
I. The Cause. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. They are here warned beforehand of how they may retrograde from a God-pleasing life. Circumstances may change, but in principle the causes are still the same.
1. Forgetfulness. "Take heed unto yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God" (v. 23). Forgetting God's Word and forsaking the secret place of prayer. It is so easy to forget our own spiritual need amidst the rush of everyday life. Take heed to yourselves. To forget His promise is to lean on a paralyzed arm of flesh.
2. False Worship. "Take heed lest you make you a likeness of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden" (v. 23). Forbidden images are sure to appear in the minds and thoughts of those who forget God, and the horror of it lies in this, that they are self-made; the deliberate work of a Christ-doubting soul.
3. Self-Corruption. "You shall corrupt yourselves" (v. 25). When we turn away from the light we turn into darkness. When we cease to live by faith on the Son of God we begin to corrupt like a member severed from the body.
II. The Effect. Backsliding in heart will soon show itself in the life. There will be—
1. Dispossession. "You shall soon utterly perish from off the land" (v. 26). Their days in the land and their enjoyment of it would not be prolonged if they turned from following the Lord. It is altogether impossible for any soul to enjoy the inheritance in Christ and to prolong their fellowship with Him who has departed from the Lord in their heart. As a matter of experience they shall soon be utterly cut off.
2. Division. "The Lord shall scatter you, " etc. (v. 27). They were to be scattered among the nations and left few in number. Individual backsliding is always accompanied with division and separation. When they are not of us they will go out from us. When the Lord is dethroned from His true place in the midst of His people schism takes place in the Body of Christ—His Church.
3. Weakness. "You shall be few among the heathen" (v. 27). Few in the midst of the heathen means terrible weakness and helplessness. Robbed of their aggressive power and distinguishing glory as the people of God, instead of a conquering army they become the slaves of their own lust and pride. What a picture of a backsliding Church, crying out about its fewness in number in the midst of an overwhelming and ever growing heathenism. This melancholy situation is doubtless the result of unfaithfulness to God.
III. The Cure. Thank God, that although we may have turned away from Him He has still left the door of restoration open.
1. Confess. "For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not forget the covenant which He swore" (v. 31). This declaration of His mercifulness and faithfulness in not forgetting His covenant is a powerful plea for those who have forgotten His covenant to confess their sins that they might be forgiven. If we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse.
2. Seek. "If from thence you shall seek the Lord your God, you shall find Him" (v. 29). But note that it is Himself that must be sought. It is Himself that we need. After our Lord rose from the dead He showed them Himself. What else could satisfy their troubled souls and meet all their need. Seek Him, and seek Him from thence, from just where you are, in all your false worship, divisions, and helpless weakness, and bondage. O backsliding Church, you have destroyed yourself, but in Me is your help. Return, O wanderer.
3. Obey. "You shall turn unto the Lord your God, and be obedient unto His voice" (v. 30). This is our security, to hold fast the Word of God. Giving heed to other voices can only lead into shame and hopeless failure. The mighty power of Jesus Christ lay in His obedience to the Father's voice and will, and shall it be otherwise with His disciples? To obey is better than sacrifice. This is My beloved Son. Hear you Him.
DELIVERANCE AND TESTIMONY.
This great groaning earth still needs deliverance as much as ever Israel did out of the furnace of affliction and the house of bondage (Romans 8:22, 23). Every Israelite was enjoined to bear testimony to his inquiring son of all that the Lord had done for them. From the statements here put into his mouth we learn much of what this great salvation was. We learn from it—
I. The Need of Deliverance. While in Egypt they were—
1. Exiles. They were at that time "afar off" from the holy city of divine fellowship. You who sometimes were afar off are now made near by the blood of Jesus. Exiled from the enjoyment of the grace of God implies bondage to the world and sin.
2. Slaves. "We were Pharaoh's bondmen in Egypt" (v. 21). Burdened and oppressed under a thankless and loveless master, ever striving in vain to please an irreconcilable enemy, Such were some of us, led captive by the devil at his will.
II. The Manner of Deliverance. It was—
1. Of the Lord. "The Lord brought us out of Egypt" (v. 21). It was not their own devising, neither was it after their own thoughts. It was a new thing, like the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Every saved one has to confess, like Jonah, that "salvation is of the Lord. "
2. Through a Man. Moses was called and ordained for this great work, away in the back part of the desert of Midian, while he stood by the burning bush. The Man, Christ Jesus, was also called of God, away in the back part of eternity, as He stood by the burning glory of the presence of the Holy One, when He laid help Upon One that was mighty.
3. By Almighty Power. "He brought us out with a mighty hand" (v. 21). When the Lord makes bare His holy arm to smite His enemies and set His people free, who shall be able to resist? The arm of His redeeming power has been made bare in Jesus Christ, who is mighty to save.
4. Wonderful. "The Lord showed signs and wonders" (v. 22). There were many wonders associated with the emancipation of Israel from Egypt. There were not only the signs in Egypt, but the great "Red Sea" wonder that separated them from the house of bondage. Every conversion from sin to God is a wonder. A supernatural deliverance.
5. Complete. "The Lord brought us out" (v. 21). They were not partly out of Egypt and partly in the wilderness. "Not a hoof was left behind. " The salvation of God implies the salvation of the whole man, spirit, soul, and body. When our head and heart have been taken out of the horrible pit our feel also will be lifted out of the miry clay (Psalm 40:2).
6. With Judgments. "Signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt and upon Pharaoh" (v. 22). In the salvation of Israel both Egypt and Pharaoh, its king, come under the judgments of God. In the crucifixion and death of Christ (which means the salvation of God) both the world and the prince of this world have been judged. All who obey not the call of God's sovereign grace will assuredly come under the terrible plagues of the righteous judgments of the Almighty.
7. Twofold. "He brought us out, that He might bring us in," etc. (v. 23). He brought them out of Egypt that He might bring them into Canaan. He brings us out of the kingdom of darkness that He might bring us into the kingdom of His dear Son. Out of bondage and poverty into the liberty and wealth of sonship. Out of the weakness of self-effort into the power of the Holy Spirit. To get in we must get out. But we may be out and yet not in.
III. The Responsibilities of the Delivered. To seek—
1. The Good that Comes Through Holy Fear. "Fear the Lord our God, for our good always" (v. 24). It is still true that spiritual riches and honor belong to those who humbly fear the Lord (Proverbs 22:4). Fearing to grieve the Spirit of God will secure the unceasing good of His comforting presence, and maintain a conscience void of offence.
2. The Righteousness that Comes Through Implicit Obedience. "It shall be our righteousness if we do all these commandments" (v. 24). "If you love Me, keep My commandments. " Our tightness with God in our daily life depends on our walking day by day in the light of His Word. As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in Him.
COMMANDMENTS FOR CANAAN.
The first three verses of this chapter give us the secret of a happy, fruitful, satisfied life. "He who does these sayings of Mine shall be likened unto a wise man" (Matthew 7:24). We have here then—
I. A Solemn Declaration. "The Lord our God is one Lord" (v. 4). This is His glorious and fearful Name (chapter 28:58). "I and My Father are one" (John 14:9).
II. An Absorbing Attitude. "You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might" (v. 5). If the Lord absorbs the affections there will be no more room for self or the world. No provision for the flesh (Philippians 1:21).
III. A Gracious Responsibility (vv. 6-9). When the Lord is loved His words will be treasured, thought of, talked, written, lived (Psalm 1:2; Job 23:12).
IV. An Unmerited Possession (vv. 10, 11). The inheritance of the saints, present or future, is not the fruit of their own labor, but the outcome of infinite grace (Ephesians 3:16-19).
V. A Needful Reminder. "Beware lest you forget the Lord which brought you out of bondage" (v. 12). It will preserve our sympathies for the unsaved to remember that "such were some of us" (1 Corinthians 6:11).
VI. A Conditional Promise. "Do that which is right in the sight of the Lord that it may be well with you" (v. 18). "Walk before God" (Genesis 17:1). Behave as in the presence of God (Matthew 23:8).
VII. An Expected Testimony (vv. 21-25). "You shall say," etc. Their testimony, like ours, consisted of—
1. A Confession of their past condition. "Bondmen in Egypt" (v. 21).
2. An Acknowledgment of the Lord's righteous judgments against sin (v. 22).
3. A Declaration of His power to save "from thence" (v. 23).
4. An Assurance of His faithfulness to His Word "that He might bring us in" (v. 23).
5. A Warning against the sin of unbelief (v. 24).
6. An Encouragement to implicit obedience (v. 25).
PRIVILEGES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
In this chapter we have, as it were, the pomegranates of promise and the bells of warning hanging from the robe of our great High-Priest. Let us note—
I. The Privileges of the Lord's People. They are—
1. Chosen. "The Lord your God has chosen you" (v. 6). Chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4). According to God's purpose (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 1:2-9).
2. Redeemed. "The Lord redeemed you out of Egypt" (v. 8). Redeemed by blood (1 Peter 1:18, 19). From the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). To God (Rev. 5:9).
3. Assured. "Know that your God is the faithful God" (v. 9). He is faithful that has promised. "These things have I written that you may know" (John 5:13).
4. Favored. "Blessed above all people" (v. 14). They have light in their dwelling (Exod. 10:23). All the wheels of providence work together for their good (Romans 8:28).
5. Preserved. "The Lord will put none of the diseases of Egypt upon you" (v. 15). The diseases of Egypt were the fruits of unbelief (Exod. 9:14; Hebrews 12:6, 7).
6. Honored. "The Lord your God is among you" (v. 21). "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (2 Corinthians 6:16). And Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17).
7. Powerful. "No man shall be able to stand before you" (v. 24). Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, "they were not able to resist the Spirit by which he spoke" (Acts 6:10; Micah 3:8; Acts 1:8).
II. The Responsibilities of the Lord's People.
There must be—
1. No Compromising with the Enemy. "Make no covenant with them," etc. (vv. 2, 3). "Be not unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Beware of the modern Gibeonites (Joshua 9:6; see Exod. 10:24-26).
2. No Connivance at False Worship. "You shall destroy their altars," etc. (v. 5). The Christian faith is iconoclastic. Earnestly contend for it. It was when the Ark was set by Dagon that Dagon fell (1 Samuel 5:2, 3; John 12:32).
3. No Swerving from the Divine Command. "You shall keep the commandments which I command you" (vv. 11, 12). Notice the connection between Christ's "commandments," "sayings," or "words," and love in John 14:21, 24, 31; 15:9-17.
4. No Fearing the Face of Man. "You shall not be afraid of them" (v. 18). The fear of man ensnares our liberty (Genesis 12:12) and grieves the Spirit. Have the boldness of Peter and John (Acts 4:19, 20).
5. No Coveting the Riches of the World. "You shall not desire their silver or gold" (vv. 25, 26). Paul coveted no man's silver (Acts 20:33). How many have erred from the faith through this? (1 Timothy 6:10). Covet earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31).
THE DIVINE PURPOSE IN TRIAL.
Although "trials make the promise sweet," yet to the people of God suffering has its mystery as well as sin. Abraham suffered, being sorely tried not because of his disobedience or unbelief, but because of his faith (Genesis 22). So the "afterwards" yielded peaceful fruits. If we cannot see the wisdom of His hand in affliction we can trust the love of His heart. While the Israelites were in the wilderness it was to them truly a time of trial.
I. The Nature of it. It was—
1. Long. "These forty years" (v. 2). Our Lord fasted forty days, and was tempted of the devil. "These forty years" remind us of the patience of God. He can afford to wait. The great wheels of the divine purpose move slowly but surely.
2. Severe. "Suffered you to hunger" (v. 3). God could easily have prevented this, but He suffered it. It is good for us at times to feel the pinch of need (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9).
3. The Result of Unbelief. "They could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19). Unbelief always disinherits from the enjoyment of the promise. The name of those who profess to be the followers of Christ and who, like these wanderers, live an aimless life is legion. Doubting the Word of God, they cease to be warriors for God.
4. Under His Leading. "The Lord your God led you" (v. 2). Blessed be His holy Name for this. Although we may fail to lay hold of all that He in His mercy has provided for us, yet will He not forsake those whom He has redeemed. He abides faithful.
II. The Blessings enjoyed while in it.
1. Bread from Heaven. "He fed you with manna" (v. 3). During the covenanting struggle, in what were called "the killing times," one woman declared that "she got more good out of one verse of the Bible now than she used to get out of a chapter before. "
2. Their Clothing Preserved. "Your clothing waxed not old upon you" (v. 4). It is wonderful how far a very little will go when the blessing of God is on it (Matthew 16:9). The robe of God's righteousness which adorns every blood-bought pilgrim never gets the worse for the wear. The clothes suggest the outward appearance of our daily life.
3. Their Feet Kept. "Neither did your foot swell these forty years" (v. 4). He is able also to preserve the feet of His saints in their going out and in their coming in (Psalm 121:8). This implies preserved ability to walk in His ways and to witness for Him. It is when we turn aside from the Lord's way that the feet of faith fail and we begin to limp.
4. His Presence with Them. "The Lord your God led you" (v. 2). It was while in the furnace of affliction that the three Hebrews proved the preserving presence of their God. If they were chastised, they are reminded that the rod was in the hand of their redeeming God (v. 5). "Why can you not trust God?" said a wife to her alarmed husband the other night when a terrific storm was shaking the house and making the tiles fly off the roof. "Lo, I am with you always" (Hebrews 12:5, 6).
III. The Purpose of it. God has a purpose (Romans 8:28), and that purpose is as big as the universe, and as definite as the light of truth. To Israel it was threefold—
1. To Humble You (v. 2). Those who walk humbly with their God will love mercy and do justly. The haughty head of pride is ever ready to lift itself up to the grieving of the gentle Spirit of God, who delights to dwell with the contrite and humble in heart. To be humbled is a great mercy, as it puts the soul in a better position for the enjoyment of hidden heavenly things.
2. To Prove You. "To know what is in your heart" (v. 2). The furnace of trial is intended to make manifest the real inner character. Did not the Lord say to Abraham, after he had been severely tested, "Now I know that you fear God?" (Genesis 22:12). We would never have heard of the "patience of Job" but for the fiery trials. Faint not, then, at the rebuke of the Lord. Whom He loves He "chastens" (v. 5).
3. To Teach You. "To make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (v. 3). What the manna was to the Israelites the Word of God should be to us—"bread from Heaven," "angels' food," "the living bread. " Evermore give us this bread. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. In closing His testimony regarding Himself as the "Bread" our Lord connects the bread with the words of truth, saying, "The words that I speak unto you are spirit and life" (John 6:63). If affliction and adversity make us realize our vital need of His Word it will be as the opening of a living fountain of water to a parched soul. This is the cup of the New Testament, drink you all of it.
If we were half as anxious to be saved from sin as we are to be kept from sorrow it would be a wholesome fear. This chapter is very rich in suggestive thought. The great cardinal blessings that should characterize every Christian life are here indicated.
There are four blessings mentioned in the first verse as the result of obedience. (1) Life: "You may live. " (2) Fruitfulness: "Multiply. " (3) Progress: "Go in. " (4) Possession: "Possess the land. "
The Christian life is—
I. A Life Under the Guidance of God. "The Lord your God led you" (v. 2). He led them in the pillar of cloud and fire. The fiery cloud was to them what the Word of God is to us—spirit and power. The Holy Spirit shall guide you into all truth (John 16:13). As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.
II. A Life of Humility before God. "Your God led you to humble you" (v. 2). We would never of ourselves choose the self-humbling path. To be humbled is just to be put into that position in which God Himself can find more room in our lives. The process of proving is always painful, but profitable. It is to bring out what is in our hearts that we may be in God's sight either approved or condemned (Genesis 22:12; 2 Chronicles 31, 32).
III. A Life Sustained from God. "He fed you with manna" (v. 3). "He brought you forth water out of the rock of flint" (v. 15). The sustenance of their life was as miraculous as their salvation. "The Bread of God is He which comes down from Heaven and gives life unto the world" (John 6). Christ not only saves but satisfies (Philippians 4:19). If any man eat this bread he shall live forever. The Word was God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
IV. A Life of Dependence on God. "By every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God does man live" (v. 3). Words are for the hearing of faith. We live by faith on the Son of God. "Your words were found, and I did cat them" (Jeremiah 15:16). There is in the Word of God that which exactly suits every spiritual constitution. "They did all eat the same spiritual meat. " Lord, to whom can we go? You only have the words of eternal life.
V. A Life of Hope in God. In verses 7-9 there is given a description of the good land that lay before them, so that they were to forget the things that were behind, and Dress on to the better things before. "Press on that you may obtain" (Philippians 3:12-14) and receive the end of your faith, even the salvation of souls (1 Peter 1:9) (Alford). We hope in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the hope of His coming that not only leads to the salvation of others, but also to the purification of ourselves (1 John 3:3).
VI. A Life of Praise to God. "When you are full, then shall you bless the Lord your God" (v. 10). The Lord would have us to praise Him with a full heart. The lean are sure to cry out about their leanness (Isaiah 24:16). They cannot glory in their infirmities. It is the satisfied that bless the Lord (Psalm 103:1-5). He who eats to the Lord will be sure to give thanks (Romans 14:6). The hungry soul cries: Lord bless me. The satisfied soul says: Lord, I bless You. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.
VII. A Life Empowered by God. "The Lord your God gives you power to get wealth" (v. 18). In saving His people out of the poverty of Egypt; in sustaining them in a waste, howling wilderness; in leading them into the land of promise and of plenty He was giving them power to get wealth. The power, then, was that which enabled them to lay hold on, and take possession of, the fuller gifts of His grace. This power we have in the Holy Spirit, who by His sustaining and guiding presence enables us to lay hold on and enter into the possession of the fullness of the blessing in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the gift of the Spirit God has given us power to get wealth—the wealth of Christ's unsearchable riches now, and the wealth of His unspeakable glory hereafter. This blessing of the Lord it makes rich. Why cry out about your leanness and poverty when God has given you power to get wealth? Buy of Me, that you may be rich (Rev. 3:18). Receive you the Holy Spirit.
THE LAND OF PROMISE.
Canaan may fitly represent the present inheritance of the believer, although many seem content to abide in the wilderness with the promise of "bread and water," instead of passing over into full deliverance and joyful abundance (Hebrews 3:17). From the above chapters we might learn the—
I. Character of this Possession. "It is a land watered and watched by the Lord from the beginning of the year to the end" (chapter 11:10-12). And may typify the grace and fullness given us of God in Jesus Christ (John 1:16, 17).
II. Difficulties to be Expected. "Nations greater and mightier than yourself" (chapter 9:1, 2). Paul tells us about these mightier ones in Romans 7, and also how to conquer in verse 25.
III. Condition to be Remembered. "Speak not in your heart, saying, For my righteousness the Lord has brought me in, " etc. (chapter 9:5, 6). The condition of receiving the greater blessing is not our righteousness but emptiness (Isaiah 40:29).
IV. Attitudes to be Maintained. In chapter 10:12 they are exhorted: (l). To fear; (2) to walk; (3) to love; (4) to serve; (5) to keep; and in chapter 11:22 (6) to cleave (see 2 Peter 1:8).
V. Faith to be Exercised. "Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours" (chapter 11:24). The moment the feet of faith rests on the promise the blessing is secure (Mark 11:24).
VI. Promise to be Trusted. "The Lord your God is He which goes before you" (chapter 9:3). I will dwell in them (2 Corinthians 6:16). It is God in us that does the works (John 14:10).
VII. Victory to be Gained. "None shall be able to stand before you, " and the fear of you shall be upon the land (chapter 11:25). How does the present-day Church answer to this? (Acts 6:10; Luke 21:15).
THE LORD'S REQUIREMENTS.
The secret of rest and victory lies in ceasing to struggle against the requirements of God. It was not until Jacob had yielded to the man from Heaven, at the brook Jabbok, that he became a prevailing prince. Here is a question that should come with searching power to the heart of every child of God: "What does the Lord your God require of you?" (v. 12). Surely such a question ought to constrain us honestly to make this inquiry: "Lord, what will You have me to do?"
I. The Lord has Requirements.
1. As our Creator. "The Heaven of heavens is the Lord's, the earth also, and all that therein is" (v. 14). As the creatures of His creative hand we live and move on and in the things which are God's (Psalm 24:1). What have we that we have not received? As our Maker He requires the thankful homage of our lives.
2. As our Redeemer. "He is your God, that has done for you these great and terrible things, which your eyes have seen" (v. 21). In redeeming them out of the house of Egyptian bondage it was by great things in mercy for them, and terrible things in judgment against their enemies. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. You are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are His. "Him only shall you serve" (Matthew 4:10).
II. What these Requirements are. "What does the Lord your God require of you?" The claim is based on the fact of His saving grace. Your God who has done such great things for you. He requires—
1. A Filial Fear. "Fear the Lord your God" (v. 12). Not as a slave who fears his master because of the lash, but as a loving, dutiful son fears to grieve or dishonor his father. God is our Father, but He is also Judge, and has power to cast both soul and body into Hell. "Yes, I say unto you, fear you Him. "
2. An Obedient Walk. "To walk in all His ways" (v. 12). If we would walk in His ways we must be willing to set the Lord continually before us, then our walk will be "worthy of the Lord in all well-pleasing" (Colossians 1:10). What does the Lord require of you but to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8).
3. An Affectionate Heart. "To love Him" (v. 12). He who looks upon the heart requires truth in the inward parts. What is more sickening and repulsive than feigned love? It is the most loathsome stage of the leprosy of sin. Mere words uttered in the ear of God will not meet the requirements of His heart concerning us. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.
4. A Whole-hearted Service. "To serve the Lord your God with all your heart" (v. 12). This is a divine requirement that needs to be specially urged in His Name. We are not saved merely to rejoice in salvation, but to glorify God by a life of consecrated service to Him. This service implies selling, giving, following (Mark 10:21). To the lame man Peter said, "Such as I have, I give. " Present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God. This is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).
5. A Submissive Will. "Be no more stiff necked" (v. 16). Having presented ourselves to God, as Isaac did to his father, let us be as silently submissive as he was (Genesis 22). "Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seems good unto him" (2 Samuel 15:26). The clay that remains stiff in the hands of the potter will not be fashioned into a vessel of great honor. "Not My will, but Your be done. "
6. A Charitable Spirit. "Love you therefore the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (v. 19). This is another most beneficial requirement of the Lord. It was while we were strangers and enemies that God loved us, and that His Son died for us, therefore if the love of God is in us we will have compassion on those who are out of the way. Such were some of you, but you are washed. Having been once a stranger yourself you should "know the heart of a stranger" (Exod. 23:9). Remember the words of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Luke 10:29-37.
7. A Tenacious Faith. "The Lord your God,... to Him shall you cleave" (v. 20) This is our life, cleaving to the Living One. Let our cleaving be as tenacious as the limp it on the rock, which clings the closer the more it is buffeted. "I will not let You go. " My heart is fixed. (Psalm 57:7). Cleaving to the Lord is the secret of strength, and such will always be brightened with His brightness. Lord to whom can we go?
THE BLESSED POSSESSION.
If the Lord cared for the land given to His people for a possession so much that His eyes were always upon it, "from the beginning of the year, even unto the end of the year," surely His care-taking eye will always be upon His own inheritance and "peculiar treasure," purchased by the blood of His own Son. Oh, how much this possession needs to "drink the rain from Heaven," and to be cleansed and purged by the power of His own presence. How often this holy land gets denied. Observe here—
I. A Wonderful Assurance. Concerning the inheritance reserved for them in Canaan they are assured that—
1. It is Not Like the Old. "The land is not like the land of Egypt, from whence you came out" (v. 10). A state of liberty and plenty is never like a state of bondage and poverty. "For you were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8, R. V. ). Once afar off, but now made near by the blood of Christ.
2. It is Not Watered by Works. "In the land of Egypt you watered it with your foot. But the land, where you go to possess it, drinks water of the rain of Heaven" (vv. 10, 11). "Watering with the foot" of course has reference to the laborious process of irrigation by which the waters of the Nile were led from place to place, or perhaps the working of a tread mill wheel for lifting up the water from the river into a cistern for watering purposes. It is a terrible task to get our inheritance refreshed while in the house of bondage; but in Christ our possession is continually refreshed by the rain of His Holy Spirit from Heaven. No self-effort is needed to make the "things freely given us of God" spring up in living beauty and reviving power before us and in us. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass.
3. It is Watched Over by the Lord. "The eyes of the Lord are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year" (v. 12). Even in midwinter, when no sign of life is visible, and when every living thing seems to have gone back to the stillness of death, and when king frost has imprisoned the earth as in iron bands. So also in the spiritual life He has not forsaken His own, although there be no outward tokens of abundance of fresh life within. "From the beginning of the year unto the end" surely teaches us that in every season of the Christian life His carefulness over us is the same. I am the Lord, I change not (Psalm 33:18).
II. A Simple Condition. God's terms are always easy. "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. " The condition of abiding in His possession and enjoying continual blessing is threefold—
1. Hear Him. "You shall hearken diligently" (v. 13). Hear, and your soul shall live. "Hearken diligently unto Him, and you shall eat that which is good, and your soul shall delight itself in fatness" (Isaiah 55:2).
2. Love Him. "You shall love the Lord your God" (v. 13). He not only seeks an opened ear, but also an opened heart. As His love for us gives us an entrance into His heart, so our love to Him gives Him an entrance into our hearts.
3. Serve Him. "To serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (v. 13). All the affections of the heart and all the life and energies of the soul must go into our service if it is not to be perfunctory, fruitless, and hypocritical.
III. A Solemn Warning.
1. Against Self-Deception. "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived" (v. 16). The heart is easily deceived, just because it is naturally deceitful. One of the chief devices of the devil is to make men believe that there is no devil. "Watch you therefore, lest you be secretly enticed" (Job 31:27).
2. Against False Worship. "Take heed lest you turn aside and serve other gods" (v. 16). No image was to be set up in the land (Leviticus 26:1). The hearts that become deceived and turn away from God will soon have other gods set up in their own imaginations whom they will secretly worship. When Jesus Christ is dethroned in the heart some self-made God will take His place.
3. Against Loosing the Inheritance. "Take heed lest you perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord your God gives you" (v. 17). This is a solemn truth. By allowing the heart to deceive us, by setting its affections on other than God Himself, we thereby perish from out of the practical enjoyment of the gifts of God's grace. The Lord your God is a jealous God. Your sin will shut up the dew of Heaven from you (1 Kings 8:35). The rain referred to in Amos 4:7 is most suggestive of the moving of the Holy Spirit. The attitude of the heart toward God determines where the refreshing power of His presence shall come. Where His reviving Spirit does not come everything is sure to wither, so there is experimentally a perishing from off the good land.
THE SECRET OF VICTORY.
The Lord Jesus Christ has left us an example, how a Victim to the will of God can become the Victor in the work of God. Learn here, O soul, that there is no other way into a life of triumph in His sight. We must be vanquished by the power of the Holy Spirit before we can be overcomers in this present evil world. The battle is the Lord's, and He conquers in us. In these Scriptures indicated above, we have again before us some old words that breathe the vita) breath of life for us.
I. The Conditions.
1. A Consecrated Life. The yielded up life is here detailed in the following pointed and all-comprehensive terms (v. 22). (1) "You shall diligently keep all these commandments. " (2) "You shall love the Lord your God. " (3) "You shall walk in all His ways. " (4) "You shall cleave unto Him. " The consecrated—filled up—life is one that is daily being consumed, or eaten up, of zeal for the Lord, yet a life that is also daily replenished by the indwelling Spirit of burning. This holy fire, burning on the altar of the heart, is never to go out. Yield yourselves unto God, that your members may be instruments of righteousness.
2. An Adventurous Faith. "Every place where the soles of your feet shall tread upon shall be yours" (v. 24). "Faith laughs at impossibilities, and says it shall be done. " Abraham's faith was adventurous when he went out, not knowing where he went. Every promise claimed is a promise possessed. Believe, and you shall see. Those who are afraid of the deep will not catch many fishes. Have the courage to "launch out. " We need pioneers in the realms of faith as well as in the dark places of the earth, and no other field of exploration can ever yield such reward, for "every place where the sole of your feet shall tread upon shall be yours.
II. The Promises. Every promise of God rings like a dinner bell to the hungry, believing heart. They are open doors into the superabundant fullness of God, covenant bows that stretch across the dark brow of every cloud of difficulty, crowning it with glory. They are—
1. As Great as our Need. "Then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you" (v. 23). "Then shall no man be able to stand before you," etc. (v. 25). Emphasis should be put on the first word, "then. " When they are in heart right with God, then He will magnify His Name in them by working miracles for them. This is a law in the kingdom of grace that is unalterable. Sanctify yourselves, and the Lord will do wonders. It is God's little children that are said to be overcomers (1 John 4:4). It does not matter how strong the man is who would rob us of our goods the Lord is stronger than he. Let your trust be in Him (Luke 11:21).
2. As Sure as His Word. "The Lord your God shall lay the fear of you upon all the land, as He has said unto you" (v. 25). "Prove Me, and see if I will not do it for you." "God is not a man that He should lie" (Numbers 23:19), as if no man is worthy of our trust. What are adverse circumstances in the face of His Word? (Genesis 17:15). Faith will always find it even as He has said (Mark 14:16). Has God not also pledged that He will not alter the thing that has gone out of His lips? (Psalm 89:34). All His promises are seasoned with the salt of eternal faithfulness. Yes, we have a sure word wherein we do well to take heed. The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and life. Believe you this?
THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD SHALL CHOOSE.
Deuteronomy 16:7, 15, 16.
"There is a sacred, hallowed spot.
Oft present to my eye,
By saints it never can be forgot,
'Tis much-loved Calvary. "
"There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all beside more sweet,
It is the blood-stained mercy-seat."
"The place which the Lord your God shall choose. " These words occur three times in this chapter and twelve times in this book. The place called Calvary was as much the appointment of God as the occasion. Abraham and Isaac came to the place of which God had told Abraham (Genesis 22:9). God as the offended one surely has the right to choose the place where He will meet with man. Did He not say to Moses, "You shall put the mercy-seat above the ark, and there I will meet with you?" (Exod. 25:21, 22). We shall look at the connections in which these words, "The place which the Lord your God shall choose" are used as so many fingerposts pointing to the Cross of Christ. Each time the God-chosen place is referred to there seems to be associated with it some fresh truth that reminds us of "the place called Calvary. " Holy Spirit lead us into all truth. That place is connected with—
I. His Name. "The place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His Name to dwell there" (chapter 12:11). Oh, how closely and how vitally the Name of God is associated with the Cross of Christ! God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. It is the glory of the place called Calvary that the blood shed there was the blood of God (Acts 20:28). His saving Name dwells there.
II. Burnt Offering. "In the place which the Lord shall choose, there you shall offer your burnt offerings" (chapter 12:14). Christ the great burnt offering was offered in the place chosen by God outside Jerusalem. He gave Himself an offering and a sacrifice to God. The burnt offering aspect of our Lord's death declares His perfectly accepted life and character by God in our stead.
III. Eating. "You must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God shall choose" (chapter 12:18). After the sacrifice comes the feasting. In this God-fixed place the offerer was also to be fed and strengthened. The shadow of the Cross falls on this place. "Except you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man you have no life in you. " "My flesh is meat indeed. " From the crucified One we may still hear these words: "Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat you that which is good. "
IV. Vowing. "Your vows you shall take, and go unto the place which the Lord shall choose" (chapter 12:26). If at the Cross we have found a sacrifice for our sins and food for our souls, surely the next thing is a yielding of ourselves in covenant promise unto God. Let the vows made in secret be paid openly in the presence of the people, paid in the coin of true-hearted adoration and active, self-denying service.
V. A Price. "If the way be too long for you, then you shall turn it (sacrifice) info money, and shall go into the place which the Lord your God shall choose" (chapter 14:25). This worshiper brought the price of his offering in his hand to the place where God was pleased to put His name. But God's own Son has appeared before Him for us with the price in His hand. "You are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). "You are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. "
VI. The Passover. "At the place which the Lord your God shall choose, there you shall sacrifice the Passover" (chapter 16:6, 7). This is another fingerpost pointing to Him who was "Christ our Passover sacrificed for us. " "When I see the blood I will pass over you. " God finds enough in the blood of His Son to enable Him righteously to pass over all who take shelter beneath it.
VII. Rejoicing. "You shall rejoice in your feast unto the Lord your God in the place which the Lord shall choose" (chapter 16:14, 15). This holy rejoicing is intimately associated with the awful Cross. We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ by whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:11). Bunyan's pilgrim leaped for joy in the presence of the Cross. It is through Christ's sufferings that His own joy is imparted. "My joy I give unto you. "
VIII. Personal Appearing Before God. "Three times a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose" (chapter 16:16). Those who would be made participants of His saving grace must present themselves personally before Him, and those who would keep themselves in the enjoyment of His favor must come often. The thought of personal consecration to God may also be here. Those saved by His grace are called upon to present themselves unto God a living sacrifice. They shall not appear before the Lord empty (see Romans 6:13).
IX. Teaching. "If there arise a matter too hard for you, then shall you arise and get you up into the place which the Lord your God shall choose" (chapter 17:8). Difficulties will arise, but light was to be found in the chosen place where His holy Name was recorded— the mercy-seat. This is a precious lesson for us. If you would be taught of God, arise, get you up to Him, who is the great Teacher come from God. Lord, to whom can we go? You only have the words of eternal life. He is made of God unto us wisdom. "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest. "
X. Service. "If a Levite shall come... with all the desire of his soul unto the place which the Lord shall choose, then he shall minister in the Name of the Lord his God" (chapter 18:6, 7, R. V. ). This reference is beautifully applicable to our Lord and Master. Coming to Him with all the desire of the soul as a Levite (separated one) will always lead into active and acceptable service. This is the door into the holy ministry. If Christ is desired with all the soul, then the ministry will be in the Name of the Lord.
11. The Gathering of all before the Lord. "When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He shall choose" (chapter 31:11). This is a general appearing of men, women, and children, of all within your gates, and forcibly reminds us of the judgment seat of Christ before which we must all appear. He will judge the world by that Man whom He has appointed. At this great and solemn assembly the book of the law was opened (v. 10). Now for instruction, but then for judgment (Rev. 20:12-15). "Be not deceived; God is not mocked" (Galatians 6:7).
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOD-RAISED PROPHET.
Every true prophet of God is a seer. One whose eyes have been opened to see sin and redemption, God and Eternity in Eternity's own light. Such a faith vision is sure to revolutionize the life by bringing the grace of God and the glory of Heaven into it. From references in the New Testament it is very clear that the prophet spoken of here was—
The Lord Jesus Christ.
1. He was raised up by God (Matthew 17:5; John 1:45; John 6:14).
2. He was taken from among His brethren (Hebrews 2:14-17).
3. He was made like unto Moses (compare Numbers 12:3; Matthew 11:29).
4. He spoke the word of God (Hebrews 1:1, 2; John 8:24; 17:14).
5. His words will be required of by those who hear them (Hebrews 2:1-4; John 12:48).
6. His words come to pass (John 4:19).
Balaam was a man whose "eyes were opened," but whose heart was unchanged, for he "loved the wages of unrighteousness. " Every God-raised servant, every Spirit-ordained worker (Acts 13:2), will bear the marks of this true Prophet. He will—
I. Belong to the Brethren. "Raised up from among their brethren" (v. 18). All God's prophets were taken out from among His own people. It is so still. We must be brought into the family of God, into the holy brotherhood, before we are in a position to serve. First sons, then servants.
II. Resemble the Great Prototype. "Like unto You" (v. 18). As a prophet Jesus Christ was made like unto Moses in His lowly birth, in His princely character, and in His work as a Deliverer. So are the servants of Christ raised up like unto their Master, born of God, partakers of the divine nature, and co-workers together. He has left us an example, that we should follow His steps (John 17:18).
III. Be Possessed by the Word of God. "I will put My words in his mouth" (v. 18). His words are put in as treasure in an earthen vessel. They are put in because there is on the part of the servant a real hunger for the truth of God, and an open mouth to receive it. The words of God are living words, and burn as a fire in the bones. To receive His words is to receive His thoughts, and to know what the will of the Lord is (Isaiah 55:8-11).
IV. Fearlessly Speak the Truth. "He shall speak unto them all that I command him" (v. 18). He declares the whole counsel of God, keeping back nothing. The received word has such a breaking forth power that "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). Nothing can be more straight than rays of light. Nothing so dogmatic as truth. It is little faith that wavers; the strong in faith glorify God.
V. Speak in the Name of God. "He shall speak in My Name" (v. 19). God's words and thoughts must be uttered in the Name of God. No servant is responsible for the words of his master. "It is not you that speak, but the Spirit of the Father which is in you. " When the thoughts of Christ are declared in His Name He takes the responsibility of making them effectual to the purpose whereunto they were sent; He is sufficiently jealous of His own Name to relieve the servant of any anxiety. "It shall not return unto Me void. "
VI. Be Known by his Fruits. The question is put: "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?" (v. 21) so that they may distinguish between self-ordained and God-sent prophets. The answer is: "It the thing spoken in the Name of the Lord follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken" (v. 22). There is a heart-piercing principle underneath this. We may speak in the Name of the Lord, but if the Lord has not spoken that thing to us it will come to naught. If the message falls fruitlessly on the ears of the hearers it is an evidence that the Lord has not spoken it. The proof of a prophet speaking in his own name was that there were no results from his testimony; the thing came not to pass. How does this apply to our work in the Name of the Lord? A prophet must needs hear before he could speak in power. The Lord give us the open ear (see John 15:15, 16).
UNFIT FOR THE BATTLE.
Forbid that I in Your Church be
Barren as that roadside fig tree
Forever useless. What a doom!
Lord, let it not upon me come,
But graff'd in You, the living Vine,
To bear 'much fruit' each day be mine."
"The thought of being unfit for work is like to break his heart. " So said a woman lately when speaking of her aged father. What a blessing it would be if unfitness for the Lord's work created such distress of soul! Why should it not? If a man has a withered hand and not able to work we pity and help, but if he has a withered soul, and incapable of serving Christ, how few are in any way concerned. Let us learn from this portion that—
I. There is a Battle to be Fought. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Consider the—
1. Power of the Enemy. "Horses and chariots, a people more than you" (v. 1). The forces of evil are both numerous and formidable, they are marshaled in three great companies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. In times past we fought under the banner of the prince of darkness (Ephesians 2:2).
2. Secret of Strength. "The Lord your God is with you" (vv. 1, 4). In this battle without the presence of the living Christ we can do nothing. The battle is not yours, but the Lord's in you. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Some trust in the chariots and horses of their own strength and energy; but we will remember the Name of the Lord (Psalm 20:7; see Isaiah 31:1).
3. Word of Encouragement. "Let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble" (vv. 3, 4). "Fear not, I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God. " "We shall be more than conquerors through Him" (Romans 8:37). "Now is the prince of this world to be cast out" (John 12:31). "Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. "
II. There are Some who are Unfit for the Battle. Who are they?
1. Those whose work of Dedication has not been Complete. "What man is there that has built a new house, and has not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house" (v. 5). The Lord knew that although such were coerced into the army their hearts would be in their houses. Every undedicated thing on which the heart is set will unfit for the whole-hearted service He requires. Consecrating all our possessions to God is the way to be delivered from all anxiety about them, so that they may not in any way hinder from doing the work of the Lord
2. Those who have not Tasted the Fruit of their Labor. "What man is he who has planted a vineyard, and has not yet eaten of it? let him go and return unto his house" (v. 6). The man who had not yet reaped any fruit from his work was also disqualified. This to us is a severe test. Christians whose lives have not been fruitful at home are not likely to be fruitful abroad. The missionaries who have been most blessed in the foreign field are those who have been most successful in the home field. If as preachers we have not reaped from the planting in our own vineyards we need not expect to reap when we sow in the vineyards of others. The way to be made fit for the great aggressive work of God is to begin at home. Let him return to his house and eat the fruit of his labor there, then let him fight the battles of the Lord abroad.
3. Those who have Obligations to others Unfulfilled. "What man is there that has betrothed a wife, and has not taken her? let him go and return unto his house" (v. 7. ) The man whose whole affections are set on another, while he may be outwardly in the service of Christ, is just as guilty as the man who said "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come," his heart is absent. Any unfulfilled promise to a fellow-creature, or any uncharitable feeling to such, is enough in the sight of God to disqualify for service. Some debt, however small, may act as a fly in the ointment. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift of service (Matthew 5:23, 24).
4. Those who are Fearful and Faint-hearted. "What man is there that is fearful and faint-hearted? let him go and return unto his house" (v. 8). The language in each case is very decided, "let him go. " It will be better for him and for the cause that he should go. The fearful and the faint-hearted in the great work of God are very numerous. As it was in the days of Gideon, so is it still (Judges 7:3). But the cause of Christ does not suffer through their going. The purging of the ranks is the strengthening of the force. Three hundred consecrated souls are of more value in this battle than twenty-nine thousand seven hundred self-important doubters. The battle is the Lord's, only those who are His and for Him can fight it.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE OBEDIENT.
The words of Robert Blair on "Friendship" are beautifully applicable to Him who is the Friend of sinners:
"You have deserved of me Far, far beyond whatever I can pay; Oft have I proved the labors of your love, And the warm efforts of your gentle heart."
We are blessed with all spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. The blessings recorded in this chapter are but figures of the true—shadows of better things to come for all those who are obedient to the will of God. Obedience is always connected with blessing, as disobedience is with the curse (chapter 27:26). Luther said that "he had rather obey than work miracles. " But the obedient will work miracles—miracles of grace by the power of Him who works within. To obey is better than sacrifice. The obedient life will be blessed with—
I. Material Comforts. "Blessed shall be your basket and your store" (vv. 2-5). A blessed basket, like the widow's cruse, is one that is never entirely empty. Your bread and water shall be sure. "The little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked" (Romans 8:28).
II. Unfailing Protection. "The Lord shall cause your enemies to be smitten before your face," etc. (v. 7). The Lord your God, He it is that fights for you, as He has promised (Joshua 23:10). It is a true father's delight to exercise his wisdom and power in behalf of his child. How much more will your heavenly Father? The enemies of the Church, like those of the soul, are many, subtle, and mighty, but greater is He who is for us. When He works who shall hinder?
III. Prosperous Work. "The Lord shall command the blessing upon all that you set your hand unto" (v. 8). "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, " etc. (1 Timothy 4:8). The Christian's life is like a tree planted by rivers of water, the roots of his being lie buried in God Himself as the source of his all sufficiency, so there is unwithering prosperity (Psalm 1:3).
IV. Abiding Fellowship. "The Lord shall establish you a holy people unto Himself" (v. 9). Called by His sovereign grace, separated by His cleansing blood, established in His risen Son, reconciled unto Himself, and transformed into His own image. Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. "Built up in Him and established in the faith" (Colossians 2:7). He who has established us in Christ is God (2 Corinthians 1:21). Every soul so established belongs to the established Church of God. Abide in Him. The gates (authorities) of Hell shall not prevail against such.
V. Powerful Testimony. "All the people shall see that you are called by the Name of the Lord" (v. 10). Those called by His Name are to be ruled over by Him (Isaiah 63:19). If the Lord rules over us and in us, then the savor of His Name, as ointment, will be poured forth. The Name of the Lord upon us implies His life and character begotten in us. This is the life which is the light that lightens the path of sorrowing sinners in their search of salvation. Let your light so shine before men.
VI. Abundant Supply. "The Lord shall open unto you His good treasure" (v. 12). What a privilege to have the treasures of His infinite grace opened to us! This He has done in the gift of His Son, and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The things which are freely given us of God, in Christ, are abundantly plentiful, and unspeakably precious. Who shall ever be able to exhaust the unsearchable riches of Christ? When the Lord opened for us this treasure He opened our supply for time and eternity.
"When all created streams are dried,
His fullness is the same;
I will with this be satisfied,
And glory In His Name. "
VII. Special Honor. "The Lord shall make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall be above only, and you shall not be beneath" (v. 13). This will of course be fulfilled in the latter days, when Israel, as God's ancient people, shall be restored (Isaiah 9:15; Romans 11:26), and when the peoples of the earth shall be blessed through them. But surely these words have a message to present-day believers. "You shall be above only. " Your life is hid with Christ in God—"above only"—therefore set your affections on things above, and not on things which are on the earth. They are from beneath, but you are from above. Born from above, and one with Him who is now set in the heavenlies "far above all" (Ephesians 1:20, 21). This honor have all the saints.
To forsake God is to forsake the Fountain of Living Water, and to choose the broken cisterns of unfailing disappointment. We have no choice between the ocean fullness of God's infinite grace and the dry and barren wastes of man's vain imaginations. In these verses there are seven promises given to those who return unto the Lord and obey His voice (vv. 1, 2). This of course implies the conversion of the soul and the consecration of the life. Two unalterable conditions by which the promises of God are received and enjoyed. They will be—
I. Delivered. "Then the Lord your God will turn your captivity" (v. 3). He will loose your bands of iniquity and recover your soul out of the snare of the devil (2 Timothy 2:26). He delivers from the power of darkness those who were sold under sin (Romans 7:14; 2 Corinthians 1:10; Isaiah 55:7).
II. Restored. "From thence will the Lord your God gather you" (v. 4). He not only delivers from the dominion of Satan, and the fascinations of sin and the world, but brings home to the bosom of His own great heart of love that we might have fellowship with Himself. The prodigal in Luke 15 was delivered when he left the far country, but he was not restored until he fell into the arms of his gracious father. The love of Christ constrains us.
III. Supplied. "The Lord your God will bring you into the land, and He will do you good" (v. 5). These promises were of course given primarily to the children of Israel; but all Scripture, Spirit breathed, is profitable for the man of God (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). All who have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son are made heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). What may be only a barren rock to the carnal eye will yield honey and oil to the believing heart.
IV. Chastised. "The Lord your God will circumcise your heart," etc. (v. 6). A circumcised heart is one chastened and subdued, so that the whole affection of the soul is weaned from the world and self, and centered on the Lord. Chastisement is the sorrowful sign of sonship (Hebrews 12:8). It is also a positive necessity to fruit-bearing (compare Hebrews 12:10, 11 with John 15:2). The stony heart must be taken away to make room for the heart of flesh that can feel the gentle touch of God (Ezekiel 36:26).
V. Defended. "The Lord your God will put curses upon your enemies" (v. 7). What a difference there is between chastisement and condemnation (Exod. 11:7). We are not to curse our enemies, but pray for them. Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord. Hand all your enemies over to Him. Take no thought for your life. This was how the early apostles acted. "Grant unto Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your Word" (Acts 4:29). You are as the apple of His eye.
VI. Fruitful. "The Lord your God will make you plenteous in every work of your hand" (v. 9). The trees of the Lord's planting and watering are never fruitless. They nourish like the palm tree (Psalm 92:12). They take root downward and bear fruit upward, "and the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward" (2 Kings 19:30). "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone" (John 12:24). The downward (dying) process of the self-life is the strengthening of the new Christ-life upward. The best fruits are those ripened in the sunshine.
VII. Rejoiced Over. "The Lord will rejoice over you for good" (v. 9). A wise son makes a glad father. "He will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17). Surely happy are the people who are in such a case. See how the father rejoiced over his long lost son when he returned (Luke 15:24). Oh, what a joy to know that we are a joy to Him, whose soul was exceedingly sorrowful for us. Thus His joy may remain in us, and so our joy may be full (John 15:11).
LIFE AND DEATH.
It was Douglas Jerrold who said: "I am convinced the world will get tired, at least I hope so, of this eternal guffaw about all things. " There is no apparent sign of this tiredness yet. The most sacred and solemn things are so frequently turned off with an empty giggle. But there are awful realities in life, and only madmen can afford to treat them lightly. One of the most stern facts that can assail an immortal soul is that our present choice determines our future and irrevocable weal or woe. Observe here—
I. A Solemn Alternative.
1. What is it? "Life and good, death and evil" (v. 15). Life or death, and their accompaniments good and evil. This good and evil must be eternally associated with life and death. This spiritual life is the everlasting favor of God, as spiritual death is the everlasting absence of such.
2. How does it come? "See I have set before you this day," etc. (v. 15). God in His infinite mercy has been pleased to set this privilege of life before us. It is set before us in the Gospel. It is brought very near: "The Word is very near unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart" (v. 14). "Your Word has quickened me" (Psalm 119:50). "This is the Word of faith which we preach" (Romans 10:17, 18).
II. A Merciful Counsel. "I call Heaven and earth to reckon this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life" (v. 19). This is the entreaty of Moses, the man of God, who had personally proved the value and blessedness of such a choice (Hebrews 11:24-26).
1. Where is this Life? "The Lord your God, He is your life" (v. 20). "I am come that you might have life. " This life is in His Son. "He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:12). "When Christ who is our life shall appear, " etc. (Colossians 3:3, 4). This life which yields eternal good is not in us by nature, it is the gift of God (Romans 6:23).
2. How is this Life to be Had? "Choose life" (v. 19). It is not by the works of the law, but by a deliberate whole-hearted consent of the will. Mary chose the better part, a part that would not be taken from her. It is not enough to hope and desire this life, the choice must be made, and life must be chosen as the one thing needful. "Choose you this day whom you will serve. "
III. The Blessed Results. There will be—
1. Love. "That you may love the Lord," etc. (v. 20). It is vain to expect that you will be able to love the Lord until you have made Him the choice of your heart. The more He is trusted the better will He be loved.
2. Obedience. "That you may obey His voice. " Here again loyal-hearted obedience is the outcome of making the Lord Himself the sole object of our choice. We cannot lash ourselves into acceptable obedience. The love of Christ constrains us.
3. Adherence. "That you may cleave unto Him. " Our clinging to Him or our abiding in Him will be determined largely by the measure in which our hearts have really chosen Him as the source and strength of our lives.
4. Restfulness. "That you may dwell in the land. " In Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Our sufficiency is of God. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). Make Christ your all, and you will find your all in Him.
"My heart is fixed, Eternal God,
Fixed on Thee;
And ray eternal choice is made,
Christ for me. "
THE SONG OF THE ROCK; Or, What Christ Is To His People.
There are two rocks mentioned here. One represents the gods of the heathen, or the false foundations on which sin-blinded men build their vain hopes (v. 37). The other speaks of Christ as our strong, unchanging Savior. So "that their rock is not as our Rock" (v. 31). "Their rock sold them" (v. 30). "Our Rock saves us" (v. 15). Christ, our Rock, is here represented as the—
I. Giver of Life. "The Rock begat you" (v. 18). With other religions it is only a being converted to a system. With the Christian it is a being born of God (1 John 5:1). Nothing less will suffice (John 3:3). He must quicken (Ephesians 2:1)
II. Savior of Men. "The Rock of his salvation" (v. 15). Christ's Name, works, death, resurrection, all proclaim Him a Savior, and that to the exclusion of every one and everything else (Acts 4:12). Those who build without this Rock will be confounded (Luke 6:48, 49). Their rock is only the treacherous sands of their own imaginations.
III. Source of Supply. "He made him suck honey and oil from the Rock" (v. 13). The honey and the oil may speak of sweetness and refreshing, of strength and anointing, or of the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. See the connection between Christ's death and the gift of the Spirit in Galatians 3:13, 14; 4:4-6.
IV. Perfect Worker. "He is the Rock, His work is perfect" (v. 4). What He begins He finishes (Philippians 1:6). The believer's wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption begun in Christ are perfected in Him (Colossians 2:10; Ecclesiastes 3:4). The work He had perfected for us, He wishes to perfect in us (Philippians 2:13).
V. Incomparable Master. "Their rock is not as our Rock" (v. 31). The rocks of the ungodly fail them in the day of trial (v. 30; 1 Kings 18:26). You serve the Lord Christ, the chief among ten thousand. He will never forsake you (Hebrews 13:5, 6). Our Rock is immutable, all the storms of earth and time cannot move it, nor will all the ages of a coming eternity change it. A young woman lay a-dying whose father was an infidel, but whose mother was a Christian. "Now that I am dying," said the girl to her father, "shall I believe you or mother?" He answered, "Believe your mother. " Truly their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
THE BLESSED PEOPLE.
"Lord we would not always bring You
Plaints, and wails, and sobs, and sighs;
We would eager sing before You
Of our Cross-drawn ecstasies."
To "count your many blessings" is an excellent thing for driving away the clouds of dull care. This chapter begins with "This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel. " But what is the blessing with which Jesus the Son of God blesses the children of faith? The blessing then divided among the tribes may now, in a spiritual sense, be inherited by each individual believer in Christ. Surely there is enough here to make your "cup run over. " All His saints are loved by Him, they are in His hand, they sit at His feet and receive His words (v. 3). Loved, secured, rested, taught. Viewing these blessings as patterns of spiritual things, as figures of the true, and shadows of things to come, we would point out that the people of God are blessed because they are—
I. A Living People. "Let Reuben live and not die" (v. 6). What Abraham prayed for Ishmael is true of every heaven-born soul, they "live before God. " They have been "quickened by the Spirit," and "raised from among the dead," and made "alive unto God. " "Because I live you shall live also. "
II. A Praying People. "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah, and be You an help to him" (v. 7). So we read that Judah prevailed above his brethren (1 Chronicles 5:2). They always prevail who have God for their help. Has He not said, "Call upon Me, and I will deliver you?"
III. An Enlightened People. "Let your Thummim and your Urim be with your holy one (Levi), and they shall teach," etc. (vv. 8-10). It was with Levi as it is with the saints of God now. They teach the difference between the holy and the profane (Ezekiel 44:23). Those possessed with the lights and perfections (Urim and Thummim) that come through the gift of the Holy Spirit will be witnesses unto Him (Acts 1:8). We may have here in type what is taught in 1 John 2:17.
IV. A Protected People. "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him, and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders" (v. 12). The beloved of the Lord are: (1) By Him for fellowship. (2) Under Hint for safety. (3) On Him for rest. He has loved us with an everlasting love. Beloved for the Savior's sake (Matthew 3:17).
V. A Fruitful People (vv. 13-17). The blessing of Joseph is full of the precious things of Heaven—the dew, the sun, and the moon—but the crowning blessing of all is "the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush. " No wonder that Joseph was a fruitful bough, and that his branches ran over the wall. If we have the "good will of Him" who dwelt in Christ, then the "precious things of Heaven" will also be ours (1 Corinthians 3:22, 23).
VI. A Sacrificing People. "They shall offer sacrifices of righteousness" (v. 19). To offer to God the sacrifices that are right is to crucify the flesh with its lusts. The unrenewed heart is incapable of such offerings. The first sacrifice of righteousness we are called upon to offer is ourselves (Romans 12:1). Let the next be thanksgiving (Psalm 116:17). The constraining motive is the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). In yielding ourselves unto God we yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto Him (Romans 6:13).
VII. A Courageous People. "Dan is a lion's whelp" (v. 22). The lion's whelp has begotten in it the lion's nature, and will grow up into the lion's image. We have been created after the image of Him who is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah. " May we go in the fearlessness of His strength.
VIII. A Satisfied People. "O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord" (v. 23). What an inheritance! To be filled with the blessing of the Lord is indeed to be satisfied with favor. This favor, which is the grace of God, is abundantly able to do this (Philippians 4:19). We will never be satisfied until we are full with His blessing. This grace that fills and satisfies and makes to abound to every good work is within the reach of all (see 2 Corinthians 9:8).
IX. A Happy People. "Happy are you, O Israel" (v. 29). They ought to be a happy people whom God went forth to redeem that they might be a people to Himself, and to make Him a Name that He might do for them great things and terrible (2 Samuel 7:23). Sought, redeemed, separated, used. Happy is that people that is in such a case, yes, happy is that people whose God is the Lord (Psalm 144:15)
THE DEATH OF MOSES.
When Moses stood on the top of Pisgah it was not as "a trembling candidate for God's compassion," but as a servant who had found great favor with Him, as one whose work was finished before his strength and vigor were exhausted Like the law which he represented, he was set aside before his natural force was abated. There are some things about this unique departure of Moses that suggest characteristics which belong to the death of every saint. It was—
I. A Going Up. "And Moses went up to the top of Pisgah" (v. 1). Going up to die. What a thought! Mounting up in spirit to the gate of Heaven that we might depart and be with Christ. "Like Enoch, he was not, for God took him. " In dying the body departs to the earth, but the spirit to God, who made it and saved it. Those who live on the hill top of communion with the Father have not far to go when the home-call comes.
II. Lonely. Moses was alone with God on the mount (v. 6). With regard to the friendships of earth, every man is alone when he meets God. Over this Jordan no human hand can guide. But the dying servant of God does not feel any loss at the absence of the kinsman according to the flesh; they are so filled with the glory of His presence that they forget the things which are behind. Alone, but without any feeling of loneliness. At home with God.
III. Full of a Satisfying Vision. "The Lord showed him all the land" (v. 1). This vision of the land of promise had been before him for many years, but now the Lord caused him to see it (v. 4). If he did not enter into it, he did in spirit enter into the rest that comes through trusting in a faithful God. Moses is not alone in his seeming failure here. Are there not many spiritual privileges into which we have failed to enter because of our unbelief? Yet, blessed be the God of all grace, the vision of His mercy and faithfulness in Christ will satisfy the soul while in its last pantings on earth. "I shall be satisfied when I awake in His likeness. "
IV. In the Presence of the Lord. "The Lord said unto him," etc. (chapter 10:4). To die in His presence is to die into His presence, and to be forever with the Lord. "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. Yes, says the Spirit" (Rev. 14:13).
"It is not death to die when He is near. "
No, it is only entering into a fuller possession of the life of God. "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me" (Psalm 23).
V. According to His Word. "So Moses the servant of the Lord died, according to the word of the Lord" (v. 5). It is still so with the saints of God, His Word is, "He who believes in Me shall never die. " Be it unto me according to Your Word. "O death, where is your sting; O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. " In His victory death is swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
VI. While His Faculties were Unimpaired. "When he died his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" (v. 7). We have no reason to expect that physically it shall be so with us when the hour of our departure comes (Psalm 90:10). But the new man created after Christ Jesus, his eye shall not be dim, nor his force abated. "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall exchange strength, and mount up with wings as eagles" (Isaiah 40:30, 31). Those who die in the Lord die in His strength. In Him the eye of our hope need never grow dim, nor the natural force of our faith ever abate.
VII. Followed by a Unique Funeral. "He buried him, but no man knows of his sepulcher unto this day" (v. 6). It is no real loss although no man may know where a servant of God lies buried, God knows. He superintends the funeral of every servant of His. In the resurrection not a member will be left behind. The devil contended with Michael about the body of Moses (Jude 9). Did he wish to claim it because Moses had killed an Egyptian, or because he had failed to sanctify the Lord in the wilderness of Zion? (Numbers 20:10-13). The body is the Lord's as well as the spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Is the Lord not contending for our bodies even now? (Romans 12:1), and is not the devil still disputing this?