Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,Deuteronomy 30
'The word is very nigh unto thee.' In one of his poems Lowell tells the story of an ancient prophet who made a pilgrimage into the wilderness until he reached Mount Sinai. God's presence had deserted him, and he thought that there, if anywhere, he should find it again. As he engaged in prayer on Sinai, expecting some strange and startling answer, the moss at his feet unfolded, and a violet showed itself through the moss. Then he remembered that just before he left home his little daughter had come running to him, offering him a nosegay of these very flowers. They grew at his own door; he saw them day by day; he had travelled all that distance for a message that had been very nigh unto him all the time.
Love and Obedience (v. 15-20). A poor, half-witted girl suffering from arrested brain-development, was taken into a school opened by a group of benevolent ladies. The leader of the enterprise was known as Mistress Mary, and the forlorn girl loved her dearly. One day in San Francisco the half-witted scholar was in one of the upper storeys of a cheap clothing factory when fire broke out. To come back down the staircase was impossible. The crowd shouted to her to leap into a blanket that they held out. But she looked down and was petrified by fright, for she knew not the voice of strangers. At length Mistress Mary appeared. She cried in a clear, sweet voice, 'Leap, darling, leap!' And the half-paralysed child, recognizing the voice she loved, obeyed. She leaped, swooning as she fell through the air, but was saved.
Christ's Nearness to His People (a Christmas Sermon)
Our Lord was known by many titles—The Christ or Messiah, Jesus or Joshua the Saviour, the Lamb of God, the Vine, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Son of Man, and many others. Perhaps no title is more fitting than the 'Word,' for He came to reveal God to man, to reveal the will and mind of the Father, just as a word spoken reveals the thought which gave it birth and being. And the Word is very nigh. In other language, Christ is very near.
I. His Nearness to those whose Love and Desire is Set upon Him.—The idea of an actual and real presence of the Lord Jesus is a stumbling-block to some men. These men cannot receive such a doctrine, neither can they realize it. Now the presence of Christ to the Christian is no fancy of the imagination and no mere uncertainty, but it is a real and personal presence, with power to help and power to guide, and a presence to Whom we may speak with a reasonable certainty of being heard and helped and blessed.
II. A Christmastide Nearness.—In very deed the Word is nigh unto us on this day. A great opportunity is at hand. Loving hearts must open on Christmas Day with all the affection of which they are capable to receive Him; and stony hearts, ana sinful hearts, and indifferent hearts, and selfish hearts, and hearts of all kinds, for there will be a blessing for them all. The Word is very nigh with life and hope and promise, and fair prospect, and the offer of a great future.
III. His Sacramental Presence.—Jesus is never nearer to us, perhaps, than when we are met together, with true hearts, at His holy table. And in no sense can we hold nearer or sweeter communion with Him than when we are at His Eucharist, filled with the sense of His presence. And we shall not begin our Christmas quite in the right way if we fail to come and partake in the Holy Ordinance. He will not be to us as nigh as He might. If we draw nigh to Him, He will draw nigh to us.
IV. His Nearness in His Second Advent.—It is nigh, even at the doors. But of this it is difficult to speak much. As to when it will be we know not. And is this to be wondered at? Hath not He Himself told us that of that hour knoweth no man, nor yet indeed the angels, nor the Son Himself, but the Father only? The thought of His Second Coming is an awesome and terrible one. But our terrors are mitigated by a reflection that He Who shall come is none other than the Word, Christ Jesus our Lord.
—J. A. Craigie, The Country Pulpit, p. 40.
'That Thou Mayest Do It'
Human religions have prided themselves upon their profundity and mystery. The Divine religion professes to be intelligible to all men and adapted to all. Rightly regarded, this characteristic of religion, set forth in the text, is an evidence of its divinity. A little mind makes a mystery even of a trifle; a great mind brings down a mystery to its simplest form; the Divine Mind makes the most glorious truths accessible to the plainest understanding.
I. The Plainness of Religion.—
(a) The fact that God's communication with men is by means of the Word is itself an element in its simplicity.
(b) The Word is intelligible to the human understanding. The language in which God speaks is human language, and His commandments are such as can scarcely be misunderstood.
(c) The Word is impressive to the human heart. The sentiments appealed to are common to all mankind, such as faith and gratitude and love.
(d) There are providential circumstances which render the blessings of the Gospel peculiarly accessible. The Scriptures are circulated in our own language, the Gospel is preached at our very doors, etc.
II. The Purpose for which Religion is made so very Plain and Accessible.—This is not simply that we may understand the Word. As the text expresses it, it is that 'thou mayest do it'.
(a) Obedience is thus rendered more easy.
(b) Disobedience is thus rendered more culpable and inexcusable.
Be it remembered that however plain the Word, this will not avail unless the heart be receptive, and in cordial sympathy with Divine truth and law, with Divine Gospel and promise.
References.—XXX. 15-22.—A. K. H. Boyd, Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson (3rd Series), p. 177. XXX. 19.—J. Vaughan, Sermons (15th Series), p. 157. F. D. Maurice, The Patriarchs and Lawgivers of the Old Testament, p. 289. H. Alford, Sermons, p. 1. XXX. 19, 20.—C. Kingsley, Good News of God, p. 80; Westminster Sermons, p. 271. XXXI. 14.—F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p. 44. XXXI. 23.—I. Williams, Characters of the Old Testament, p. 138.
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee.
And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.
And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:
If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.