Yet They Are Your People
James Smith, 1865
"Yet they are Your people, Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm." Deuteronomy 9:29
The imperfections of the Lord's people, are sometimes so numerous and so great — that it is difficult for them to recognize the likeness of Jesus in them. They are so worldly, so selfish, and indulge such unlovely tempers — that we are ready to say that they can never be the Lord's redeemed people.
But it is impossible for us to say, with how much imperfection — true grace may dwell.
Who would have thought that Jonah was a true prophet, one of God's own choice, an object of His infinite and endless love? But he was!
Who, that heard Peter curse and swear that he never knew Jesus, would have said, that he had love in his heart to Him? Yet so it was!
It is well for us, that God sees not as man sees; for man judges by the outward appearance — but the Lord judges by the heart. A sour temper — sometimes conceals the sweet grace of Jesus. A rough exterior — may hide a gentle loving heart. But the Lord's people are, they always have been — very imperfect. Moses admits this; but he closes by concluding after all, "Yet they are Your people, Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm." We will notice,
First, the Lord's conduct towards Israel.There is the stamp of His own nature, the impress of His own divinity, upon it. It is the conduct of a God, who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth. In Egypt, when smarting under a tyrant's rod — He looked upon them, He pitied them, He appeared for them, and exerted Himself on their behalf. Long did He bear with them, and was determined to deliver them. He treated and showed Himself to them — as God. He brought out His people from under Egyptian slavery — though haughty Pharaoh resisted, though the people complained, and though timid Moses was afraid. Having brought them out — He constituted them His own peculiar people, called them His children, treated them as such, and claimed them as His own inheritance!
Just so, has He acted towards us: we were in bondage under the elementary principles of the world, we were led captive by the devil at his will, we were serving divers lusts and pleasures, hateful and hating one another. He looked upon us, He pitied us, He determined to save us. He sent us His Word — His servants — His Spirit — and His grace. He crushed the power of our foe, He subdued the enmity of our hearts — and He brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light, translating us into the kingdom of His dear Son.
He constituted us His people — by the work of His Spirit; He made us His children — by adoption and grace, and claims us for His own inheritance.
We are His people — and He is our God;
we His sheep — and He is our shepherd;
we are His children — and He is our heavenly Father.
In acting towards us thus, He . . .
displays His sovereignty,
manifests His grace,
exalts His gratuitous mercy,
confounds our foes,
lays us under the deepest obligation, and
will secure to Himself everlasting glory!
Let us now consider,
Secondly, Israel's conduct toward God.What a contrast is here!
Look at them at Marah — murmuring against Moses and against God, saying, "What shall we drink?"
See them in the wilderness of Sin, murmuring and exclaiming, "If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt! There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death!"
See them Mount Horeb, where they make the golden calf, and worship it.
View them at Taberah, where they wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!"
See them at Massah, where they cried, "Why have You have brought us up out of Egypt — to kill us and our children, and our cattle with thirst?"
Look at them at Kibroth-Hattaavah, where they provoked the Lord to wrath.
See them at Kadesh-Barnea, where they indulged in unbelief, and were excluded from the land.
Their conduct from first to last was ungrateful, for God was their firm, fast, and faithful Friend.
It was unnatural — for He was their kind, tender, and indulgent Father.
It was treasonable — for He was their just, merciful and gracious Sovereign.
It was fearful — for it was against a present God, the symbol of whose presence was constantly before their eyes.
Well might Moses say of them, "You have been a stiff-necked people since the day I knew you!"
Well might God say of them, "I know how stubborn and obstinate you are. Your necks are as unbending as iron. Your heads are as hard as bronze. I know so well what traitors you are. You have been rebels from birth!"
What a fearful picture, what a catalogue of crimes! Still Moses says, "Yet they are Your people, Your inheritance!" Oh, wondrous grace! Can these be the Lord's people? Yes, of them it is written, "The Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure." Surely it could not be for their excellency; or on account of their good works! No, "for My own sake," says the Lord, "for My names sake." God had a reason — but it was hidden in His own heart; He has a cause for acting — but it is found in Himself — not in His people.
But as base as their conduct was — who of us
can cast a stone at them? Who has not done the same, really — if not
formally? Have we not . . .
murmured against His providence,
complained of His dealings,
idolized His gifts,
lusted after forbidden objects,
and disbelieved His Word?
Which of Israel's sins is it, of which we cannot find the counterpart in our own hearts or conduct?
Have we not been ungrateful — as ungrateful as they were?
Have we not been unnatural in our conduct toward God — as unnatural as they were?
Has not our conduct been treasonable — as treasonable as theirs was? Is not our sin fearful — more fearful than theirs, as it is committed in clearer light, against greater love, after deeper obligations?
Friend, however you may feel — the writer feels that he is truly guilty.
Whatever excuse you may have — he feels that he has none.
However you may extenuate your crimes — he cannot extenuate his.
Conscience seems at this moment, to whisper, the language once addressed to Job, "Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquities infinite?" Yes! I am vile! I loathe myself! I abhor myself! I desire forever to glorify God's most, free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace — which alone saves me from hell! But let us glance,
The Lord was
angry and threatened to destroy them. Moses falls down before Him, to plead
with Him. He admits every charge that was brought against them — but still
pleads, "Yet they are Your people, Your inheritance, whom You
brought out by Your great power and Your outstretched arm."
Thirdly, at the plea of Moses.
"Notwithstanding that they are base, unworthy, and guilty — yet they are Yours! They have been, they are rebellious — yet still, after all, as bad as they are — yet you have chosen them, wrought for them, acknowledged them, pledged yourself to them, and are engaged to deliver them!"
Just so, in reference to us, and the Lord's imperfect people with whom we are connected: they have naughty tempers, depraved hearts, inconsistent ways, and a host of infirmities, and imperfections — and yet they are the Lord's people.
He has chosen them — when perhaps none but the Lord would, knowing all about them, and the very worst of them.
He has wrought for them, and wrought in them, and does work by them — to our wonder and surprise.
He has acknowledged them at His throne, in His house, and by His providence — when none but a God would.
His Word is pledged to them, and He is engaged finally and eternally to deliver them.
Yes, poor, timid, tried reader; as bad as your heart is, as imperfect as your life is, as numerous as your faults are — yet you have not gone beyond Israel, nor beyond many of the Lord's people around you. Do not write bitter things against yourself. Do not try to blot your name out of the book of life. Do not lie not against your right. You may be one of the Lord's people — notwithstanding all you have done, all that you feel, and all that you fear; and if you really hate sin, rest on Jesus, and sigh and seek for holiness — you are one of them, too.
Observe: Grace, free grace — is the source of all our blessings. But for grace — we would have been left wretched, and miserable, and poor, and naked! Through free grace — we have a saving interest in Jesus, and in all new covenant blessings.
Poor are the returns which the Lord receives from us. What have we rendered to Him — for all His wondrous benefits to us? What are we now rendering? What has been the state of our hearts towards Him? How have we treated Him in the closet, in the family, in the house of prayer? He has spoken — and have we listened? He has wrought — and have we observed? He has commanded — and have we obeyed? He has prohibited — and have we avoided? He has exhorted — and have we attended? He has invited — and have we accepted? Have we?
But amidst all, our filial relationship still remains
with God — and may be pleaded. He is our God — and we are His people, and
the sheep of His pasture. He still . . .
speaks to us in His Word,
watches over us by His providence,
listens to us on His throne, and
promises to be very gracious at the voice of our cry.
God's grace — is wondrous grace. His mercy — is from everlasting to everlasting! Amidst all our changes — He never changes; and therefore we are not consumed.