Searchlights from the Word by G. Campbell Morgan: Deuteronomy

Helpful outline sermon suggestion from every chapter from the Book of Deuteronomy

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The Book of Deuteronomy - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.

Chapter 1

... the Lord your God, Who went before you in the way, to seek you out a place to pitch your tents in.
Deuteronomy 1:32-33

This Book of Deuteronomy is didactic rather than historical. Its actual history covers a very brief period, probably not many days. It consists of a collection of the final discourses of Moses. The first of these (1:6 – 4:43) is retrospective. In it, Moses dealt with the three stages of their wanderings - from Horeb to Kadesh-Barnea (1:6-46); from Kadesh-Barnea to Heshbon (2); and from Heshbon to Beth-peor (3) - and then exhorted them to obedience (4:1-43). In dealing with the first stage, he reminded them of the Divine call which caused them to leave Horeb, and recalled their rebellion in the matter of the spies. The purpose of the review was that of setting all the facts of their experience in the light of God's government. Their disturbance at Horeb was that of the direct command of God. The way of the wilderness was a terrible one, but they had not been left to grope their way through it alone. In this connection the words quoted above were used, and they are very full of revealing beauty. Through them we learn that in the government of God nothing is haphazard. How often life is a wilderness way! As we journey, there seems no map, no plan, no time-table. The truth is that our God is not only accompanying us on the march; He is ever going before us, selecting the places of our pausing. Wherever at night we pitch our tents, the place is chosen by God. That is all we need to know.

Chapter 2

Ye have compassed this mountain long enough.
Deuteronomy 2:3

After the failure of faith at Kadesh-Barnea, the people had turned back into the wilderness, and had tarried long in the neighbourhood of Mount Seir. Then again the command came to them to move north-ward. All that Moses told this people, they already knew - as to the actual facts of the long and tedious processes of these forty years. The great burden of his message was that of reminding them how, even amid such sorrowful and suffering discipline they had still been remembered and guided by God. This government of God is a fact which breaks in upon our consciousness in many ways. Over and over again, when we have reached some place of comparative quietness, He upsets all our plans and purposes, and we find ourselves commanded to new journeyings, and those often not by ways we would have chosen for ourselves. He is constantly disturbing us. These disturbances are never capricious. He is always leading us toward the fulfilment of His own purposes, and that means that He is leading us toward the realization of our highest good. And yet again, it is not only true that the end to which He leads us is good; it is equally true that He leads us by no unnecessary pathways. There are a meaning and a value in every stretch of the road, however rough and tortuous it may be. We learn lessons in the region of Mount Seir which can be learned nowhere else; we discover God in the country of Moab as we could do in no other region. Let us, then, ever rejoice in His commands, however much they disturb us. His will is always "good and acceptable and perfect."

Chapter 3

Ye shall not fear them: for the Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you.
Deuteronomy 3:22

To these people fearlessness was a duty. Over and over again this command was laid upon them. They had no right to be afraid. Moses now argued for this by reminding them of how in the cases where already they had been at war, they had been victorious. But the supreme note in his argument was that contained in these words. The reason for these victories, and the reason therefore why they should be without fear, was that it was Jehovah their God Who fought for them. This needs to be understood. We must be careful to recognize that it does not so much mean that God was on their side, as that they were on the side of God. God would not have fought for them, if their cause had been unrighteous. It was because in their warfare they were carrying out His will, that He fought for them. This is an important distinction of perpetual application. Lincoln was once asked if he thought God was on his side, to which he replied that it had never occurred to him to ask such a question, but that he was persistently anxious to discover whether he were on the side of God. In no conflict have we any right to ask or, expect that God will fight for us, save as we know we are with Him. When we do know that, we have equally no right to be afraid. Fear is disloyalty; it questions the supremacy of righteousness and the power of God. Fear is paralysis; it cuts us off from contact with the forces of righteousness, for it cuts us off from fellowship with God.

Chapter 4

Lest thou forget.
Deuteronomy 4:9

Having surveyed the history of the Divine guidance and governance of the people from Horeb to Beth-peor, Moses exhorted them to obedience. He based his appeal upon the greatness of their God, and the perfection of His law. He challenged them to put their God and His commandments into comparison with all others. He reminded them that their existence and history as a nation were centred in a spiritual ideal. No visible form of God had been granted to them, even amid the solemn and majestic manifestations of Sinai. In the midst of this discourse he warned them, as indeed he did upon more than one occasion, not to forget. What a necessary warning this ever is! It is most strange how prone man is to forget. It is true that, while some things can never be actually forgotten, they nevertheless are constantly forgotten in the sense of being of any value. We forget the law of God, we forget the deliverances of God, we forget the disciplines of God, we forget the very love of God, in so far as memory serves us as an inspiration to true conduct, to trust, to amended life, to the loyalty which love demands. Such forgetfulness is not an aberration of intellect; it is a definite wrong done to God, a sin against Him. Memory is a non-moral function of the soul. If it is either to help or hinder it must be trained and used. When it is employed to keep certain great facts in the mind, so that they may influence the will, it is one of the greatest forces for good.

Chapter 5

They have well said all that they have spoken. Oh, that there were such an heart in them!
Deuteronomy 5. 28:29

These were the words of God to Moses, concerning what the nation had said, through the heads of the tribes and the elders, in answer to the giving of the Law; and Moses reminded the people of them as he began his second discourse, which consisted of a résumé of the laws already given. They had confessed their sense that these were indeed laws from God, had expressed their fear of God, and had asked that Moses would mediate between them and God. Of all this God said that they had spoken well, but He added: "Oh, that there were such an heart in them!" In these words we have the recognition of a persistent difficulty in human experience. The mind of man recognizes the beauty of the Divine ideal, realizes human weakness, understands the necessity for intermediation; and yet the heart of man breaks down. This touches a very deep note in human nature. The deepest fact therein, and the one most powerful in producing results, is not that of the intelligence or the mind; it is that of the desire or heart. A man becomes what he really desires. That also is the significance of the declaration: "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." A man may be intellectually convinced that righteousness is good, but he only arrives at righteousness when his desires put confidence in the Lord of righteousness. All this shows how supremely right the great evangelists have always been, when they have represented Christ as asking for the human heart.

Chapter 6

Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.
Deuteronomy 6:7

God's thought of the children, and care for them, is evidenced throughout all the enactments of the Law, and indeed in all the ceremonies of worship. A careful study of these writings from that viewpoint will show how constantly arrangements were made which would appeal to the natural curiosity of a child, inspiring it to ask questions. It was the business of parents to answer such questions, and so to instruct each successive generation in the matter of the national history in its relationship to the Divine government. So with the Law. It was the duty of parents to teach "the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments" to their children. Moreover, it is well that we remember that the fathers were principally responsible for the giving of this religious instruction. Sometimes it seems as though Christian people have lost something of this ideal, and especially Christian fathers. There is a great tendency to trust the religious teaching of our children to others than ourselves, such as preachers, Sunday-school teachers, and those who specialize in that work in one form or another. For the work of all such we cannot be too thankful; but we ought to remember that the first responsibility for the diligent teaching of the children belongs to those to whom they are entrusted as the most sacred and blessed gift of God. The teaching of the things of God by fathers and mothers has a value and a virtue which can be supplied by none other.

Chapter 7

The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people. - Dent. 7:7

Here at the entrance to the land of their possession, the people were warned against that most persistent peril of a passion for statistics and pride of numbers. By this time they were comparatively a great nation, having an army of over six hundred thousand. They would be tempted to trust in numbers, and to fall into the gross error of imagining that God had chosen them because of their numerical strength; in other words - as Napoleon said - that God is on the side of the big battalions. Let them guard against this utterly false idea by remembering that from which they had sprung, that they "were the fewest of all peoples," and that they had multiplied under His guardian care. God is never seeking for numbers, for the sake of numbers. He is always seeking for such as "love Him, and keep His commandments." It would be entirely false to say that God cannot use great companies, but it is certainly true that quality is more than quantity with Him. If God were in need of big battalions, He could create them. That fact John the Baptist declared with a fine touch of satire when he said: "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham!" And yet how the false idea persists! Our annual reports are always in danger of giving the impression that our work is only successful in the measure in which it is capable of being expressed in impressive figures, and by "impressive" we generally mean big. Figures are only really impressive as they stand for those who are true, loyal, devoted. With two or three of such God can do great things anywhere.

Chapter 8

That He might make thee know. - Dent. 8:3

The methods of God with His own are always those which have as their object the bringing of them to knowledge of the deepest facts of life. If we once grasp that truth, we shall have discovered a secret which will guide us continuously and rightly. The one question we should ever be asking is, what God is intending to teach us by the circumstances through which we are passing at any given time. God humbled these people, suffered them to hunger, and fed them, all for the same purpose; that they might know that their life depended, not upon position, or bread, or hunger, but upon Himself. Note carefully that they were not to learn through hunger only, but also through bread. This is very important. We are sometimes strangely prone to think that God only speaks to us through limitation and suffering. It is not so. He speaks through prosperity and through joy. In the day of adversity He certainly speaks, and we generally listen. But He also is intending to teach us in the day of abounding gladness. Let us listen then also. To the soul who realizes this, all life becomes sacramental. Every experience through which He leads us, is a sign. How often we have eyes and See not, ears and hear not; and therefore we pass through the days learning nothing; while all the time our Father is overruling all the details of them, so that we may come to fuller knowledge of life in all its deepest meaning, because we gain profounder and fuller knowledge of Himself.

Chapter 9

Know, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness. - Dent. 9:6

In these words another peril, constantly threatening the people of God, is revealed, that, namely, of interpreting His goodness to them as resulting from their own righteousness. In the case of these very people, in process of time this was the peculiar sin that wrought their undoing. They came to look with contempt upon others, a sure sign of self-righteous pride. The result was that national exclusivism which prevented their fulfilment of purpose and ensured their downfall. The matter may be stated most powerfully perhaps by a personal application. It is well, therefore, that we constantly remind ourselves that when at last life's probationary experiences are done, and we pass on to the Father's home and the greater things beyond, our right of entrance there will be that of His abounding grace alone. As to service, we must never forget our Lord's words, that having done everything, we have but done our duty, and remain unprofitable servants. As to life itself, no long triumph over temptation, or realization of the character of holiness, can be thought of as creating our claim on God. Pride in our own righteousness, satisfaction with our own goodness, trust in our own holiness, are alike foolish and reprehensible. To the soul that knows itself, it is a growing wonder that God should love us at all. That He does so, is our only confidence.

Chapter 10

He wrote on the tables, according to the first writing.
Deuteronomy 10:4

Moses now told the people again the story of how God gave him the writing of the great words of the Law a second time, and distinctly affirmed that the second tables were also written by the finger of God. In the previous chapter we read how he told them that he had broken the first two tables in the hour of his consternation in the presence of their sin in making the golden calf. What an experience this must have been to Moses! We can understand with what fullness of heart he would remember it, and refer to it in these last discourses ere he left the people. That breaking of the first tables was natural; and unintentionally, it was symbolic. That is what man has ever done with the law of God. Here then is the impressive fact about the writing of the second tables. That is what God is ever doing. The whole Bible is full of the troth that He finds away for His banished ones to return, gives to failing man his second chance; writes again the broken law, restores the years the canker-worm has eaten, makes the marred vessel over anew, seeks and saves the lost. Upon the basis of that grace, men may hope, and start anew. In a passage of great beauty, thrilling with earnestness, Moses summarized the requirements of God in view of His grace. Let these be considered with care. The people were to fear Him, that is reverence; to walk in His ways, that is obedience; to love Him, that is worship; to serve Him, that is co-operation; to keep His commandments, that is fidelity.

Chapter 11

A land which the Lord thy God careth for.
Deuteronomy 11:12

This is an arresting description of the Holy Land, and the place it occupies in the world geographically and historically is equally remarkable. As to location, it is central. Granted the realization of completed civilization in all the other lands, with accompanying perfected means of inter-communication, it would be better suited than any other place on earth for the seat of world-wide government. Under such conditions, thither would the tribes go up easily; and in the intellectual and spiritual light of its capital city, all the nations of the earth might walk; and into it, send their glory and their honour. Its history is covered by the naming of three names. Abraham, Moses, Jesus; these three forming a sequence in the Divine movements therein. Its climate varies from Alpine cold on Hermon, to tropical heats in the region of the Dead Sea. It is a land of abounding water. Its soil is fertile, especially in Bashan and Sharon, and is capable of supporting a large population if properly cultivated. The vicissitudes of its conditions have been very varied, and have had distinct relationships with the spiritual condition of its inhabitants. In the light of Biblical reference, and of its own history interpreted by such reference, it is impossible to think of it without reverence. It is the land for which God careth. He makes it fruitful or barren. That is its story in the past. There can be no doubt in the mind of the student of these Holy Writings that it will yet be the earthly centre of the Kingdom of God. On the slopes of Olivet the feet of the King shall yet actually stand, and from the City of the great King, the law shall yet go forth, in obedience to which man shall realize the highest of life.

Chapter 12

Ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your house-holds, wherein the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.
Deuteronomy 12:7

These words occur amid the most careful and urgent instructions on the matter of worship, as it was to be observed by these people when they came into the land. All the false places of worship which they would find in the land, were to be utterly destroyed. In that land, God would appoint them a place of worship; attendance at which was to be obligatory. That is to say, that they must go and worship at this place; and that they must not set up any other place of worship. The particular value of these words is that they reveal the Divine thought of worship. It is an exercise of rejoicing, resulting from blessedness. God blesses men, and in that blessedness they rejoice before Him. It is well that we remember this. Solemnity, reverence, awe, there must ever be, when men draw near to God in worship; but solemnity is not sadness, reverence is not cringing fear, awe is not dullness. All our worship should have the note of joy, of gladness. It should be full of song. It should be of such a glad nature that all our households, children and servants, should find happiness therein. If when we worship, we do, in special sense, come into the presence of God, then let us remember that in His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore. There is a place for sadness, for contrition, for penitence before God; but that is the place of preparation for worship. When that preparation is fulfilled, worship becomes a joy and a gladness.

Chapter 13

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly …
Deuteronomy 13:6

The section of this discourse of Moses in which these words are found begins in the previous chapter at verse twenty-nine, and runs through this whole chapter. It consists of express warnings against idolatry. It is a very valuable chapter, because it reveals the ways by which men may be seduced from the pure worship of God to the false worship of idols. The first is that of curiosity. The people were charged not to indulge such curiosity by inquiring after false methods of worship (12:29-32). The second is that of being influenced by signs and wonders wrought by false prophets. No such sign or wonder must draw the soul away from the worship of God. Moreover, all working such signs are pronounced worthy of death (13:1-5). The third temptation is that referred to in the words which we have chosen for our emphasis. It is that of the enticement of human affection. It is always a powerful temptation, but it is to be sternly guarded against. However near to the heart another human being may be, the place which God occupies must be supreme, and all human affection refused when it threatens loyalty to Him (13:6-11). Finally there is a peril which arises from looseness of discipline. Therefore the people were charged to take drastic measures against seducers and seduced. The necessity for this severe note is recognized when we remember that worship determines character and conduct. To us also comes the emphatic word: "Little children, guard yourselves from idols."

Chapter 14

Ye are the children of the Lord your God; ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead.
Deuteronomy 14:1

This was a command not to conform to pagan customs in the presence of death. Notice that it was based upon the declaration that these people were the children of Jehovah their God. Whereas it is most probable that the Hebrew people never came to any clear certainty about personal immortality, it was given them to know that their attitude toward death, and so toward sorrow, could not be that of people whose gods were not real. They were children of the living God. Therefore there must be nothing of hopelessness or despair, in the presence of death, or in the sorrow arising from it. For Christian men and women this is far more urgent. Christ has brought life and immortality to light. Therefore we can never think of death as final, and we can never sorrow as those who have no hope. Is there not a very practical application of this, which we do well to consider? In the reflected light of Christianity, even worldly people no longer cut themselves, or mutilate themselves, in their sorrow in the presence of death. But all the heavy, sombre, desolation-suggesting trappings of mourning are entirely pagan. They should never be employed by Christians. For them the sackcloth is transfigured; the departed are not lost, but gone before. They will know sorrow; but upon all of their tears there will rest the glory that creates the rainbow. Let there be flowers and brightness in the death-chamber. We are children of God, and as our Master said, He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Chapter 15

Beware that there be not a base thought in thine heart.
Deuteronomy 15:9

The words flash like a light into the inner places of the life. We are warned against entertaining a base conception in the region of desire. To read them apart from their context is to realize what God is ever seeking in us. It is not enough that we abstain from base deeds. The heart must be free from baseness in thought. But the words become far more searching when they are interpreted by the context. Considering them alone, we might limit their application to things counted vulgar by men - to thoughts of murder, of impurity, of fraud. Examining them in their setting, we discover that the base thought referred to is that of a man who would refuse to help a fellow-man in immediate need, because the legal year of release was near at hand. That is a word, not of light alone, but also of fire. How perpetually prone we all are to this very kind of baseness! The need is patent, we do not deny it, but relief will come presently of necessity; therefore there is no urgency laid upon us to help. That is a base thought. To the people of God, immediate need calls for immediate help. We have no right to take refuge in our selfishness, under the plea of relief which will come presently. We are to give at once, and that not with grief in our hearts. Reluctance in giving sterilizes the gift. God is ever calling us to such vital fellowship with Himself that we give gladly, generously, immediately. Happy shall we be, if this world of light and fire from the old economy shall in us:

Chapter 16

They shall not appear before the Lord empty.
Deuteronomy 16:16

This command had application to the three great feasts of the year, those, namely, of Passover, with which it opened; of Pentecost, connected with harvest; and of Tabernacles, the great feast of remembrance and of joy. The observance of each of these feasts was a recognition of what the people owed to God. At Passover, they were reminded that their national existence was the result of their deliverance by God out of Egypt's bondage. At Pentecost, they recognized that not only their existence as a nation, but their perpetual sustenance also, was dependent upon His crowning of their toil. At Tabernacles, they recalled all the way in which He had led them, especially in the wilderness, and confessed that their possession of the land was the result of His gift. Nevertheless, in every one of them, they were called upon to bring gifts to God. This is an ever-increasing wonder to the truly devout heart. It seems incredible that man can offer anything to God that can possibly be worth His acceptance. And there is a sense in which it is true that He needs nothing. But He does value the spirit of devotion and love which prompts the gift. Where the full hands of worshippers are the results of hearts full of love, however poor intrinsically our gifts may be, they are very precious to. Him. It is all very wonderful in its revelation of the fact that our eternal, almighty, infinite God, is no cold impassive Deity, but a God Whose heart is a very real fact.

Chapter 17

He shall write him a copy of this law in a book.
Deuteronomy 17:18

In this chapter, at verse fourteen, we commence a section which ends at the close of the next chapter. It deals with the threefold medium through which the will of God would be interpreted to the people, that of the king, the priest, the prophet. In this chapter the subject is that of the king. In dealing with it, Moses was speaking in the light of prophetic foresight. He foresaw what would happen after they came into the land. He knew how they would clamour for a king, and how God would grant them their request, and so teach them, ultimately, the folly of their desire. In the light of this, the principles of the appointment were declared. The king must be chosen of God, and be of their own nation. He was forbidden to multiply horses, wives, silver and gold. Perhaps the most striking requirement was this, that he, the king, should write a copy of the law in a book. Necessarily the purpose was that he should be a student of the law, but this requirement gave special emphasis to that requirement. One wonders how many of the kings carried out this wise instruction. This whole paragraph is a remarkable revelation of God's ideal of a king. It would be an interesting exercise to place the kings of all time by the side of it for measurement. Such a procedure would inevitably result in a twofold consciousness. First, we should surely discover that the measure in which kings have approximated to this ideal, is the measure in which they have contributed to national strength. Second, we should as surely find that one King only fulfils the conditions.

Chapter 18

The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.
Deuteronomy 18:15

In this chapter priest and prophet are dealt with. The priest was already among the people by the appointment of God. The provisions that he was to have no inheritance in the land, and that his material needs must be supplied by the people, were restated. Special provision was now made for any priest whose heart prompted him to special service. In dealing with the prophet, Moses enjoined the people to beware of the false, and to know the true. He described the methods of false prophets. They are those of the dark arts, of dealing with the spiritual forces of evil, in a professed attempt to discover the will of God. The true prophet was then described briefly, but graphically. It is impossible to read this description without realizing that it was a prophecy which only found its fulfilment in One, and that the One Who was Himself the Word of God. All the true prophets approximated to the ideal; but in Him it was filled to the full. This section in our readings is of special interest as we realize how perfectly Moses was guided to set forth the true ideals of king, priest, and prophet; and how completely they were realized in our Lord! He was the true King; of His brethren, appointed by God, knowing, doing, and administering the law. He was the true Priest; of His brethren, without inheritance in His own land, abiding in the service of God, ministered to by the people of God. He was the true Prophet; of His brethren, uttering the Word of God in purity and in fullness.

Chapter 19

One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity.
Deuteronomy 19:15

This chapter contains certain applications of laws already given. It deals with the sacredness of life, the importance of the land, the necessity for truth, the obligation of justice in all human inter-relationships. The particular words which we have taken set up a principle which has been recognized and acted upon wherever laws have been based upon a passion for justice. They provided that no man could be condemned upon the testimony of one witness. There must be corroboration at the mouth of another. Moreover, every witness must be put to inquisition by the judges. If in the course of that investigation a man was found guilty of bearing false witness, he was to be severely punished. This spirit of strict and impartial justice breathes through all these laws, and helps us to understand God's ways of dealing with men. Only, we are safer in the hands of God than we can ever be in the hands of man. In spite of all precautions, justice does miscarry at times, in the best human courts; and that because there are things which the eye cannot see, or the ear hear, and it is only upon these evidences that man can bear witness. Our final judgments are with Him Who judgeth, not by the seeing of the eye, or the hearing of the ear, but with righteous judgment, which is based upon perfect knowledge of all the facts. That is a truth which comforts and warns us. With men we may be punished, or we may escape punishment, because all the facts are not known. It is never so with God.

Chapter 20

The officers shall speak unto the people saying …
Deuteronomy 20:5

These words introduce a paragraph, and they are chosen to draw attention to it. Let us first note the whole chapter. It contains that section of this discourse of Moses in which most particular instructions were given for the guidance of the people in the wars which they must inevitably be engaged in. They were being, led, not merely to find a land for their own possession, but as a scourge of God against a corrupt and corrupting people. They were charged, first, that in the day of battle they must keep before them the vision of God, for that alone would free them from fear in the presence of the foe. Before actual conflict the priest was authoritatively to announce the fact of the presence, and authority, and power of God. Then we read our words, and the connected paragraph. It has to do with the grounds upon which men were to be exempt from military service. First, men who had duties and obligations, the fulfilment of which were necessary to the home-life of the nation were not to go to war. Men who had unfinished houses, ungathered vineyards, and men newly married, were to remain at home, at least until such times as they had discharged their obligations. Then also, men who lacked courage were to remain behind, because fear is contagious. It is impossible to read all this in view of much modern history without furious thinking! At least, we are driven to the conclusion that armies thus sifted would have a quality that is lacking entirely when they are made up of all sorts and conditions.

Chapter 21

He that is hanged is accursed of God.
Deuteronomy 21:23

The reference was to a man who for sin had been put to death, and whose body had been impaled on a tree or a stake, and thus exposed as a warning to other evil-doers. The command was that such exposure was not to outlast the day. By night the body must be buried, and so the whole fact of his sin, now expiated as to human society, put completely away. This parenthetical statement - for such it is - gives the reason for the burial. The man was not accursed of God because he was hanged on a tree. He was hanged on the tree because he was accursed of God. The hanging was the outward sign of the curse upon him, the curse of death for sin. When that curse was accomplished and witnessed, the sign was to cease; then let the man be buried, and that burial be the sign that the curse was sufficient. The understanding of this helps us when the mind travels on in solemn thought to the One Who hung upon the Tree or Calvary. He was there because He was "made sin," and so accursed of God. Such blunt statement gives the soul a shock; but it is the very shock we need, if we are ever to come to anything like a true apprehension of the way of our saving. In His case this law was fulfilled. He did not remain on the Tree through the night. The curse on sin was borne, and witnessed; the sin was expiated before God, because the One Who suffered its penalty was sinless. His burial was the sign that sin was put away. His resurrection was the beginning of a new life for Himself, as Redeemer; and for us, as redeemed.

Chapter 22

Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them.
Deuteronomy 22:1

In these words we discover an element of responsibility which outruns all ordinary standards of righteousness. According to it, we are not only responsible that we do no harm to our fellow-men; we are also responsible to prevent harm being done to them when it is in our power to do so. The very simplicity of the illustration makes it all the more powerful. If I should see an animal belonging to my neighbour straying away, it would be in perfect keeping with human ideas of justice if I should say that it was no business of mine. Indeed, I might even argue that if he should lose that animal, it would be a just punishment for his carelessness concerning his own property. He certainly would have no claim on me that could be enforced in any human court of law. But in the court of Eternal Justice, I am counted as violating justice when I claim exemption from responsibility on such grounds. The reason for this is that, in the righteousness of God, there is always the element of compassion, and such concern for absolute right, that it must be maintained at all costs:- Because my neighbour is impoverished by the straying of his animal, whether through his own fault or no, I must intervene to save him from such impoverishment if it be in my power to do so. What a wonderful world this will be when that is the law of life! And it will come, because God has anointed as King the One Who, to fulfil all righteousness, took the sinner's place in the baptism of death.

Chapter 23

Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother; thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian; because thou wast a stranger in his land.
Deuteronomy 23:7

Here, again we are brought face to face with this same element of compassion and mercy in the righteousness of God. It is wonderful how constantly it emerges in these laws. We are sometimes in danger of thinking of them as characterized by a cold negative justice, which fills the soul with fear. Nothing can be further from the truth. Here are two illustrations of the one principle. The first is that of the command that these people were not to abhor an Edomite. The Edomite was the descendant of Esau, as the Israelite was of Jacob. There were reasons why there should be separation from them, but there was to be no hatred, no contempt. The second is that of the Egyptian, with whom the Israelite had no race relationship. But Israel had been a stranger in the land of Egypt, and at one time had been given real hospitality there. This was never to be forgotten. Again, there were the most cogent reasons why Israel should make no political affinity with Egypt, but she was not to harbour abhorrence in her heart against the Egyptian people. Again, in these commandments to His people, what a revelation we have of God! There are evils with which He will make no compromise, there are peoples with whom He can have no communion; but in His heart there is nothing of hatred or contempt, even though there may be holy wrath. To be like Him is to be devoid of all bitterness, which is the outcome of selfishness.

Chapter 24

And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing.
Deuteronomy 24:22

The thing immediately commanded was that at harvest-time the people should remember the stranger, the fatherless, the widow. In their reaping of their corn, their beating of their olive-trees, their gathering of their grapes, they were to remember those less privileged than themselves; and remembering, they were to relax the strict measure of their own rights, as they left something behind them for others. The argument used was that they were to remember the days of their own adversity. That such an argument should be necessary, seems at first to be strange, and yet a stranger fact is that people do so easily forget their own adversity in days of prosperity. Over and over again one sees a man, who in early life knew the pinch of poverty, having come to ease and comfort of circumstance, hard and callous in the presence of the trials of others. It is not always so, but it should never be so; and to those who live according to this law of God, it will never be so. Again, through this law of God for man, we have an unveiling of God Himself. In all His unsearchable riches, He thinks of the poor, and not only arranges that they may glean, but places all His wealth at their disposal. When then we yield up some gleanings of our possession for the relief of the needy, we have nothing of which to be proud. It is poor action as compared with the Divine. Verily there is only room for humility in the life of those who know God.

Chapter 25

Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.
Deuteronomy 25:4

Twice Paul quoted these words in his letters; once to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 9:9-10), and once to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:18); and in both cases with reference to the duty of those who receive ministry in spiritual things to care for the material needs of those who minister. In the former case, he asked: "Is it for the oxen that God careth, or saith He it assuredly for our sake?" To his question, he replied: "Yea, for our sake it was written." Undoubtedly he was right. When this command was laid upon the people of God, it was in order that in all their life there might be the recognition of a principle. That, however, does not mean that God does not care for oxen. It does mean that if He cares for oxen, His care for men is necessarily greater. The principle had clear statement in the words of Jesus when He said of the birds: "Your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they?" (Matt. 6:26). In God, love acts toward all. Nothing He has made is outside that love. His provisions for all are perfect. His children are to be like Him in this. We do not minimize the application of this command to men, when we insist upon its application to animals. The Wise Man uttered a great truth when he said: "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast" (Prov. 12:10). If I see a man ill-treat a horse or a dog, I know he is capable of being brutal to a man. I would trust no child to a human being who showed cruelty to any dumb animal. If that is recognized, the applications in higher realms is patent.

Chapter 26

I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground, which Thou, O Lord, hast given me.
Deuteronomy 26:10

In this chapter we read the end of the second discourse of Moses. The great leader lifts his eyes, and looks out over the land to be possessed; and he proceeds to charge the people as to their worship therein, as it will have special regard to that fact of possession. The first act of worship is to be that of a recognition of their rights as vested in God. The people were to go up to the appointed place of worship, and there a formal confession was to be made. This was to be threefold: first, the fact of possession was to be stated; second, the origin of the nation was to be remembered, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father"; and finally, the fact that their possession was due to the act of Jehovah was to be acknowledged. With such confessions, offerings were to be presented to Jehovah, and then the people were to rejoice together. The true method of giving is that of bringing Him the first-fruits. We are ever in danger of thinking of Him last. When we are planning the expenditure of income, how often we arrange for things, perfectly proper and necessary, but purely personal, first; and then, when our list is completed, we begin to consider what we have left to offer to our Lord! If such lists are to be made, the first expenditure should be our giving to Him. The true principle of life for the Christian should be that of first recognizing that, not a tenth, but ten-tenths of our incomes belong to Him. Then every part should be expended for His glory. Even in that case, the first gifts should be His, specifically devoted to His work.

Chapter 27

Keep silence, and hearken, 0 Israel; this day thou art become the people of the Lord thy God.
Deuteronomy 27:9

This chapter consists of a historic interlude, and the commencement of Moses' third discourse. Immediately upon the conclusion of the second discourse, Moses and the elders of the people commanded them concerning the erection of great stones and an altar on Mount Ebal. On the stones were to be inscribed the words of the Law. The action was to be suggestive. The law thus inscribed and exhibited indicated the necessity for obedience, while the altar spoke of the provided method of approach to God because of disobedience. Upon entrance to the land there was to be a formal pronouncement of blessing and cursing. The blessings were to be pronounced from Mount Gerizim by the children of Leah and Rachel; Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, Benjamin; the cursings from Mount Ebal by two sons of Leah, Reuben and Zebulun, and the children of the bond-women, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali. These arrangements having been made, Moses uttered his third discourse, the dominant note of which was that of warning. It consisted of the cursings and the blessings, together with appeal. He first called upon them to keep silence and hearken because they had become the people of Jehovah. The people of Jehovah have a law and an altar. Their cursing or their blessing results from their attitude to that law and that altar. Because of disobedience, the law can only curse. Because of the altar, there may be obedience. Thus the people of Jehovah ever live between their own failure and the Divine Grace. Grace is no excuse for failure, but in failure there is no reason for despair.

Chapter 28

The Lord thy God will set thee on high above all the nations of the earth.
Deuteronomy 28:1

That was the purpose of God for His people. Its fulfilment was conditional upon their obedience. They were to act above the nations of the earth; "If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of Jehovah thy God, to observe to do all His commandments." Having made this general declaration. Moses proceeded to describe the blessings which would follow obedience; and then to declare the evils which would overtake them, if the law of God should be disregarded. In the light of the subsequent history of these people we see how literally all these things were fulfilled. How solemn and searching all this old-time story is for us. In Christ the law as given to Moses is done away, because He has given us a higher law, which far transcends the former in its standards of purity. In Christ the prophetic altar has been superseded by the one altar, by which men may draw near to God, and appropriate all the resources of His grace for the keeping of this higher law. The principles abide. Disobedience still issues in disaster; and obedience, in realization of Divine purpose. We blaspheme the name of God, and desecrate the final altar, when we become careless about the will of God as it has been revealed to us in the perfections of the Son of Man. It is still when we hearken diligently unto the voice of God, to observe to do His commandments, that we are set above the nations of the earth. With us, also, as with the people of Israel, the Divine intention of our exaltation is not that we should tyrannize over the nations of the earth, and hold them in contempt; but that we should serve them, and lead them into blessedness.

Chapter 29

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

The fourth discourse of Moses was concerned with the covenant, and urged the nation to be true to it. Here we should notice that the first verse of chapter 29 in our version is the last verse of chapter 28 in the Hebrew Bible. The statement "These are the words of the covenant," refers to what has already been uttered. Moses based his appeal on Jehovah's deliverances, from Egypt, through the wilderness, and in the day of battle. The appeal was made to all classes of the community; to the rulers, and the people; to men, women, and children; and also to servants. In graphic and burning words he again described the results of breaking the covenant. Then, recognizing the limitations of the people, and their inability to understand all the ways of God, he enunciated this great principle of life. It is of far-reaching application and of perpetual importance. To the mind of man, in all life there are secret things, things veiled, things which cannot be explained. These things are not veiled to God. He knows them. To the mind of man there are things revealed, that is unveiled, things which are known. If man will obey them, he will be brought into right relation with the secret things, and progressively pass to apprehension of them, while all the time they, the secret things, co-operate with him for his perfecting. In the apprehension and practice of this law of life, man finds his way into strength.

Chapter 30

This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
Deuteronomy 30:11

Continuing his discourse concerning the covenant, Moses uttered words thrilling with tenderness, and urgent in their appeal. In the first ten verses of this chapter we have the long look ahead of love. He seems to have seen the people in the conditions which he had told them would result from their disobedience. He looked on, and saw them scattered, far off from the land which they were then about to enter. Yet he saw them returning to God as the result of the sore discipline through which they would pass. But, best of all, he saw God ready to receive and pardon them. It was a great prophetic evangel, the value of which Israel has even yet not learned, but the message of which is true for her today. Then, renewing his appeal, he uttered these particular words. They constitute a statement of the reasonableness of the commandments of God. His law is never too hard for man. It is based upon God's knowledge of human nature. He asks of man nothing other than the true realization of his own nature. Every word of the Divine law is an interpretation of human life. When a man breaks the law of God, he is not sinning against a requirement superimposed upon him, and for the doing of which he is not fitted. He is sinning against his own life. Moreover, the law of God is easy because it is made known. Man is not left to grope in the dark mysteries of his own being, seeking for it. Over against those mysteries, God has made the light of His revealed will to shine. As a man walks in that light, he is walking according to his deepest powers and possibilities.

Chapter 31

Write ye this song
Deuteronomy 31:19

For forty years Moses had led the people. During that time he had constantly communed with God, and in the course of that communion had received many changes. This was one of the last things he was told to do. He was to write a song, and the purpose of it was distinctly stated. A great song once embodied in the life of a people will remain from generation to generation. In days of disaster it will be a haunting memory testifying to truth concerning God. In days of difficulty it will be a messenger of new courage. In days of victory it will be a means of expression. Songs often remain after commandments are forgotten. Therefore Moses was commanded to write a song and teach it to the people. The song itself is found in our next chanter. This is a very suggestive story, bringing to our hearts anew a sense of the value of poetic expression, and showing that it is also a gift of God. There are people who seem to imagine that, if we speak of poetry, we are referring to something speculative, imaginative, probably untrue. As a matter of fact, poetry is the highest method of human language, giving expression, as prose never can, to the deepest and truest things of the soul. The Church is more enriched in her catholic songs, than in all her systematic theologies. In the former she realizes her unity, whereas in the latter she too often creates her divisions. The Wesleys did more for experimental Christianity in their hymns, than in all their printed explanations. A great song is a great possession, and not for Israel only, but for us also this song of Moses is among the most beautiful and most strong.

Chapter 32

It is no vain thing for you: because it is your life
Deuteronomy 32:47

These words were addressed by Moses to the people after he had repeated the song to them. He referred to the law as it was interpreted by the song. Let us then glance at the song. It opens with a call to attention and a statement concerning its nature. It is a song concerning the name of Jehovah (verses 1-3a). Then, in brief but pregnant sentences, the song sets forth the glories of the name as it celebrates the greatness, the perfection, the justice, the faithfulness of. God (3b-4). Then in sudden contrast, and in short, sharp fashion, it describes the people in their unworthiness (5). It then becomes an appeal, calling upon the people to remember, and merges into a description, full of beauty, of the tender government of God. It is a wonderful revelation of the fact that love is the inspiration of law (6–14). In strange contrast again the song becomes a wail as the unfaithfulness of the people is described, beginning with the words, "But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked" (15-18). Such unfaithfulness had resulted in discipline which the song describes (19-28). Then it breaks out into lament. "Oh, that they were wise," and describes the blessings which follow obedience (29-43). That is merely an analysis. Let the song be studied by its simple aid, and it will be found how wonderfully it was calculated to teach men that the will of God for them is indeed no vain thing, but their very life.

Chapter 33

Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, a people saved by the Lord.
Deuteronomy 33:29

These sentences are taken from the last discourse of Moses. This also was a poem. It is described as a blessing. Often he had set before the people cursing and blessing. His last words to them were of blessing only. In stately and majestic language he first affirmed anew the majesty of Jehovah, and declared His love for the peoples, that is for the tribes of Israel. He then pronounced the words of blessing upon these tribes, Simeon only being omitted (why, we do not know). Reuben and Judah are referred to in terms which suggest that they were saved so as by fire. Levi, having lost all earthly possessions for the special honour of bearing the Word of Jehovah, receives the reward of such sacrifice. The reference to Benjamin shows the safety of frailty in the Divine government. The choicest things of all are said of Joseph. His are all "precious things and the good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush." His, therefore, is the portion of government. Issachar and Zebulun are seen triumphing over disability. Gad, overcoming at last, is appointed a judge. Dan becomes typical of conquest. Naphtali is satisfied. Asher is sustained. Thus in his final benediction Moses makes the varied realization of blessing by the tribes unfold the all-sufficiency of God. The concluding words again celebrate the greatness of God as finally manifested in His tenderness and strength toward His people. Verily, happy are the people who are saved by Jehovah.

Chapter 34

There hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.
Deuteronomy 34:10

In this last chapter of Deuteronomy we have the writing of another hand. It contains the story of the death of Moses, the equipment of Joshua for his work, and a last tender reference to the great leader and law-giver, beginning with these particular words. For the man who wrote them, they were true words; and they remained true through all the history of that wonderful people until One was born of the seed of David, Who was greater far than Moses. In his second discourse Moses had foretold his coming in the words: "I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren like unto thee." Long centuries elapsed, but at last He came, and in His coming fulfilled all Moses had initiated under the Divine government; absorbed and abolished the law which came through him, in the grace and truth which He brought to men. All this does not detract from, but rather enhances our sense of the greatness of this servant of God. His passing was full of beauty. In the fact of his exclusion from the land toward which he had led the people, it was a punishment; but, like all the chastisements of God, it was wonderfully tempered with mercy. There had been no weakening of his force. Everything ended in full strength. He went up to die. Jehovah gave him a vision of the land, and then buried him in that unknown grave. It was an august and glorious ending to a great and dignified life. Thus ends the last book of the Pentateuch, the final section of the Law. Its supreme value is its revelation of the need for the Priest and the Gospel.