Hear, O Israel.I. HE REPRESENTS TO THEM THE FORMIDABLE STRENGTH OF THE ENEMIES WHICH THEY WERE NOW TO ENCOUNTER (vers. 1, 2). This representation is much the same with that which the evil spies had made (Numbers 13:28, 29, 31-33), but made with a very different intention: that was designed to drive them from God, and to discourage their hope in Him; this, to drive them to God, and engage their hope in Him, since no power less than that which is almighty could secure and succeed them.
II. HE ASSURES THEM OF VICTORY, BY THE PRESENCE OF GOD WITH THEM, NOTWITHSTANDING THE STRENGTH OF THE ENEMY (ver. 3). Observe, "He shall destroy them," and then, "thou shalt drive them out." Thou canst not drive them out unless He destroy them, and bring them down; but He will not destroy them, and bring them down, unless thou set thyself in good earnest to drive them out. We must do our endeavour in dependence upon God's grace; and we shall have that grace, if we do our endeavour.
III. HE CAUTIONS THEM NOT TO ENTERTAIN THE LEAST THOUGHT OF THEIR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS, AS IF THAT HAD PROCURED THEM THIS FAVOUR AT GOD'S HAND (vers. 4-6). In Christ we have both righteousness and strength; in Him, therefore, we must glory, and not in ourselves, or any sufficiency of our own.
IV. HE INTIMATES TO THEM THE TRUE REASONS WHY GOD WOULD TAKE THIS GOOD LAND OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE CANAANITES AND SETTLE IT UPON ISRAEL.
1. He will be honoured in the destruction of idolaters (vers. 4, 5).
2. He will be honoured in the performance of His promise to those that are in covenant with Him (ver. 5).
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
Thou art to pass over Jordan this day
(E. Smith, B. A.)
Not for thy righteousness.I. MEN ARE VERY PRONE TO MAKE THE OUTWARD PROSPERITY AND INCREASE WHICH GOD GIVETH THEM AN ARGUMENT OF THEIR RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND SO OF GOD'S LOVE TO THEM, TO SAVE THEM. They think it impossible that, seeing God hath so blessed them here, He should damn them hereafter. For the discovery of the weakness of this prop take notice first of these particulars.
1. Prosperity, wealth, and success are in themselves blessings, mercies, and so good things to be desired. Hence we read of the people of God praying for these earthly mercies, and we have a direction for it in the Lord's Prayer, when we pray for daily bread. It is true, indeed, the very petition doth much limit our desires, for it is after the great things that belong to God's glory; and it is but one petition, whereas there are divers for spiritual things, so that our Saviour would have us to be above these earthly things, as those fowls of the heaven are which on a sudden fall on the ground for their food, but presently fly up to heaven again; and then it is daily food, or as the most learned expound it, food convenient, and decent for our place and calling, not superfluity.
2. Although these are blessings and mercies, and so good things, yet they are not sanctifying of those that have them. Dives said he had good things laid up in store, but how were they good which made him bad? How were they good which could not keep him out of hell? Riches, therefore, are neither good nor bad, but indifferent in their nature. Those are good things which make us good.
3. As outward wealth and increase are blessings, so they do belong by promise unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). I do not say with some divines that wicked men have no right to their goods, that they are usurpers, and shall answer for every bit of bread they eat, as robbers and thieves. No, it is a dangerous position to hold civil dominion and right to be placed upon godliness. The earth hath He given to the children of men, saith the Psalmist, to all men as well as to the godly; but as there is a lawful, civil right, so there is a sanctified use, and this only the godly have.
4. Although we cannot conclude grace by outward mercies, yet thus far we must by Scripture say, that God out of a general love in a providential way doth give many a man outward prosperity and wealth for his diligence, industry, upright and honest dealing in the world. Thus Solomon saith, "The hand of the diligent maketh rich," and truth and justice in our day is blessed by God to increase.
5. Some go into another extremity, and conclude of their good estate and holy condition because they are in a poor, needy, and miserable estate, and destitute of all earthly comforts. But every poor man is not a Lazarus, nay, there are many times none more wicked, cursed, profane, and enemies to all goodness, than those that are in a low and miserable condition. A woeful thing it is, indeed, to have nothing but misery here, and nothing but torments hereafter.
II. WHY OUTWARD PROSPERITY AND BLESSINGS DO NOT ARGUE A MAN'S GOOD ESTATE.
1. It may be demonstrated from the original, or fountain, whence they flow. It is not only from God's love, but His anger also. Sometimes God giveth men the outward comforts of this life in His hot displeasure.
2. Therefore may not outward plenty and mercies be made a sign of our good estate, because they have always in corrupt hearts corrupt and sinful operations. As —(1) Outward comforts in the plenty of them are apt to beget pride and loftiness of heart, so as to despise and contemn those that are under them.(2) If these outward mercies deaden thy heart to the things of God, or the exercise of those means of grace God hath appointed, oh, thou hast cause then to tremble in the increase of them.(3) Then can outward abundance be no comfortable sign, when the means to get it and the way to preserve it are unlawful, and such as the Scripture condemneth.
3. Therefore may we not trust in outward prosperity, because God many times giveth a man all the good things he shall have in this life only, and afterwards there is nothing but everlasting woe and misery.
4. Therefore may we not trust in these, because we many times abuse them to a contrary end for which God gave them; He gave them to be instruments of much glory to God and good to others. Rich men are the greatest men in debt of all others; they owe much to God, much to the public, much to others' necessities; now what comfort canst thou take if God bless thee with these things if thou dost not also find Him making thee thereby instrumental to His glory? If thou keepest all the good mercies God vouchsafeth to thee, as the ants and pismires do their grain and corn, which they hide in their little hills, and, as they say, bite it that it may not grow.
5. They are not to be relied on, because though all power to get wealth and prosper in the world argue God is with thee, yet He may be only with thee providentially and powerfully, not graciously; as when Nebuchadnezzar conquered and prevailed, when Alexander became great, Augustus happy. God was with these in a mighty, providential way, but not graciously.Use — 1. Of reproof to those who desire these outward good things more than inward and spiritual.Use — 2. Of instruction to those who meet with much prosperity and outward encouragements in this world. Take heed of thinking that God doth this to thee for thy righteousness, for thy piety.Use — 3. Of consolation to the godly, who, it may be, want many of those outward mercies the wicked have. Let them know they are no arguments of true godliness, or of God's dear love in Christ.
I. PRINCIPLES OF GOD'S GOVERNMENT.
1. Mark the assertion that God governs mankind.
2. That God governs by law in the moral as in the material world.
II. THEY POINT OUT A NATIONAL DANGER — SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. A subtlety in self-righteousness. It is so multiform.
(1) (2) (3) (4) 2. And its danger is — (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 2. Use David's prayer (Psalm 139:23). 3. Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). (H. W. Dearden, M. A.)
(2) (3) (4) 2. And its danger is — (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 2. Use David's prayer (Psalm 139:23). 3. Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). (H. W. Dearden, M. A.)
(3) (4) 2. And its danger is — (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 2. Use David's prayer (Psalm 139:23). 3. Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). (H. W. Dearden, M. A.)
2. And its danger is — 2. Use David's prayer (Psalm 139:23). 3. Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). (H. W. Dearden, M. A.)
2. And its danger is —
2. Use David's prayer (Psalm 139:23).
3. Work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).
(H. W. Dearden, M. A.)
I. The address of Moses IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE ADDRESSES OF MOST CAPTAINS OF ARMIES UNDER SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. He makes no attempt to underrate the power of the enemies with whom the Israelites had to contend. He begins his address by telling the people that they are that day to pass over Jordan, to go in and possess nations greater and mightier than themselves. The reason for his giving such information was that the design of God was not merely to conquer the Canaanites, but to educate Israel, to teach them that by God's power weakness may be made strength and the mighty vanquished by the feeble.
2. Moses assures the people in plain language that no righteousness of theirs had gained them the land. They might be ready enough to admit that it was not their own courage or their own bodily strength, but they might still be disposed to think that they had deserved God's favour, that if they had not been deserving of the victory, God would not have given it to them. Self-flattery is easy, and therefore Moses very wisely and decidedly protested once for all against such a view of God's doings.
II. THE PRINCIPLE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE WITH OURSELVES IS PRECISELY THAT WHICH MOSES LAID DOWN AS THE PRINCIPLE OF NATIONAL LIFE FOR THE ISRAELITES. God gives us the land of promise for no righteousness of our own. Everything depends on God's mercy, God's will, God's purpose; the certainty of victory depends, not upon any feelings or experiences or conflicts of ours, but upon the ever-present help of the Almighty God.
(Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)
I. Let us inquire TO WHAT SUBJECTS THIS PRINCIPLE MAY BE APPLIED.
1. To our lot in life, and to our temporal affairs. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." He may do what He will with His own. In the independence and infinite sovereignty of His government He sends small means and penury, or He dispenses riches and honours, according to His own good pleasure, and to accomplish the inscrutable purposes of His heavenly providence.
2. To our religious condition and privileges.
3. To success in the ministry.
4. To the rest and glory of the heavenly world. Eternal life is the gift of God.
II. WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR WHICH WE SHALL POSSESS THE LAND?
1. The choice and will, the purpose and pleasure of the Almighty.
2. God's justice on the one hand, and His goodness on the other.
3. The faithfulness of God to His promises.
III. WHAT IS THE USE OF THIS DOCTRINE?
1. It is taught us that we may understand it. Acknowledge your own poverty and God's riches. Submit to His method and plan of justification and acceptance by Christ. Do not go about to establish your own righteousness.
2. I cannot conclude without one caution. A farthing is a farthing, and a sixpence is a sixpence; so of an ingot of gold or a banknote. And a farthing will only purchase what it is worth. A sixpence will not buy what is worth a hundred pounds. But let it buy what it will. If you want an estate you must give the ingots and the banknotes. So let the work of Christ alone, the costly and prodigious sum, secure for you the glory and the heritage of heaven. But let your own righteousness and your small virtues do what they will. You cannot purchase glory with them, but they will do much for the welfare of men and the honour of God, and they will show forth your gratitude and love.
Homilist.Mercy, not merit, is the cause of all the blessings of our being.
I. This is true of our SECULAR POSSESSIONS. If we say that our comfortable homes, our freedom from temporal anxiety, and our possession of a competency, have come to us as the result of industrious efforts and economical habits, that they are our reward for honest labour: the reply is —
1. That to such a reward we have no right. We are sinners, and justly deserve not only destitution but destruction.
2. That both the materials of labour, and the power to labour, which have brought us these comforts, are to be ascribed to God's mercy.
II. This is true of OUR RELIGIOUS ADVANTAGES. Bibles, sanctuaries, religious literature. "The tender mercies of our God have visited us."
III. This is true of OUR CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.
IV. This is true of OUR SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS. "Not by might, nor by power," etc.
V. This is true of OUR HEAVENLY INHERITANCE.
Homilist.There are favoured peoples in all communities — persons specially favoured by their healthful constitutions, vigorous intellect, lofty genius, high culture, worldly wealth.
I. Whatever favours distinguish one class of men from another in society, they are the GIFTS OF GOD. This should teach us —
1. Not to be proud for our superiorities.
2. To thank God for our superiorities.
3. To bless men by our superiorities.
II. These distinguished gifts are bestowed, NOT ON THE GROUND OR ANY SPECIAL MORAL EXCELLENCE.
III. The fact that they are not bestowed on the ground of moral superiority SHOULD BE WELL UNDERSTOOD BY MEN.
1. Understand it, that you may not deceive yourself. Let no man conclude because he is prosperous that he is the favoured of heaven.
2. Understand it, that you may realise your responsibility.
Remember...how thou provokedst the Lord.I. The FACT asserted is this: we have provoked the Lord our God. Shall we call to mind the sins of our youth and the transgressions of our riper years? They are a long catalogue, and they testify strongly against us. But as professors of religion, what is the conviction of our minds? Have not our provocations, since we commenced this profession, been numerous and great? Pride: unbelief: unchristian tempers.
II. The EVIL implied in the text is our proneness to forget this fact. "Remember, and forget not." Why this injunction, if the evil were not real? But how is this proneness to forget to be accounted for?
2. Light thoughts of sin.
3. Love of self.
III. The DUTY enjoined is: that we remember our provocations. "Remember, and forget not." There is emphasis in this repetition; it implies not only a proneness to forget, but the importance of not forgetting, and having impressed on the heart our provocations against God. What is this importance and its utility?
1. To make us penitent.
2. To keep us humble.
3. To preserve us thankful for mercies.
4. To help our resignation under Divine corrections.
5. To endear the Saviour to us.
6. To convince us that salvation is entirely of grace.
Psalm 106:7): — To provoke is an expression setting forth a more than ordinary degree of misbehaviour, and seems to import an insolent resolution to offend. A resolution not contented with one single stroke of disobedience, but such as multiplies and repeats the action till the offence rises into an affront; and as it relates to God, so I conceive it aimed at Him in a three-fold respect.
1. It rises up against the power and prerogative of God. An assault upon God sitting upon the throne, snatching His sceptre, defiance of His royalty and supremacy. He that provokes God dares Him to strike to revenge the injury and invasion upon His honour — considers not the weight of His arm, but puffs at all, and looks the terrors of revenging justice in the face.
2. Provoking God imports an abuse of His goodness. God clothed with power is the object of fear; but as He displays goodness, of love. By one He commands, by the other He courts our obedience. An affront on His goodness and love as much exceeds an affront of His power as a wound at the heart transcends a blow on the hand. For when God works miracles of mercy to do good upon a people as He did upon the Israelites, was it not a provocation infinitely base, a degree of ingratitude higher than the heavens struck at, and deeper than the sea that they passed through?
3. Provoking God imports an affront upon His long-suffering and His patience. The musings of nature in the breast tell us how keenly every man resents the abuse of His love; how hardly any prince, but one, can put up an offence against His mercy; and how much more affrontive to despise majesty ruling by the golden sceptre of pardon, than by the iron rod of penal law. But patience is a further, a higher advance of mercy — mercy drawn out at length, wrestling with baseness, and striving, if possible even to weary and outdo ingratitude; therefore sin against this is the highest pitch of provocation. For when patience is tired let all the inventions of mankind find something further upon which to hope, or against which to sin. The Israelites sinned against God's patience, one offence following upon another, the last rising highest, until the treasures of grace and pardon were so far drained and exhausted that they provoked God to swear; and what is more, to swear in His wrath, and with a full purpose of revenge, that they should never enter into His rest.
(R. South, D. D.)
And at Taberah...ye provoked the Lord to wrath.
I. GOD DOES NOT ALWAYS LEAD PEOPLES AND INDIVIDUALS TO REPENTANCE BY VISITATIONS OF HIS GOODNESS. He sometimes uses the rod.
1. The more a people has been blessed, etc., so much the more certainly will God visit their sins with judgment.
2. But He does not overthrow at once and without warning. Signal fires which tell of coming danger are lighted afar, showing what is coming.
3. When the people repent, then His wrath against sin passes them by. This is seen in all the incidents mentioned here.
II. SUCH WARNING EXAMPLES ARE SEEN IN ALL THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD.
1. The Reformation was a time of blessing. The light of knowledge and of Divine truth shone throughout Christendom. The Gospel was set on its candlestick. A reformation in social, political, and domestic life occurred in conjunction with the religious movement.
2. But God's ways are ways of earnest effort and quiet waiting through endurance and self-sacrifice. Many would not wait. Progress was too slow for them. They would reform the world at one stroke. Discontent and murmuring broke out among some sections of the people. Then came the peasant war. Like a terrible conflagration, the flames of sedition burst out and threatened to destroy the stays of political and religious existence. Yet God had mercy, as on Israel in the wilderness. He permitted only the outermost defences to be destroyed; and there was left behind a fire-swept ruin to remind Christendom whither impatience, murmuring, discontent, and self-will lead.
3. See a hundred years later. Had the people realised with thankfulness the great blessings of freedom and the Gospel divinely given them? The prophets of the Reformation had warned men what the result of such ingratitude would be. What had been the result of a hundred years preaching of the Gospel among the peoples and their rulers? The judgment came. The Thirty Years' War, with its blind passions, sent a warning column of flame heavenward. But God again had mercy, although for years Germany was like a burnt-up house. Still, the holiest was preserved, and a new time began.
4. Look a hundred years later. Through the whole of Europe a spirit of apostasy had spread. It swept through England as Deism; as scoffing in France, with accompanying libertinage. In Germany, and indeed in all Europe, the bonds of Christian life and morality were unloosed. Like a shallow but broad stream, the spiritual revolution overflowed all lands. With it came the outer overturning. Uneasiness and discontent were over all. The flame of revolt broke out in France, and Europe was enveloped. But God again, in His mercy, gave space for repentance.
III. THE LESSONS TO OUR TIME OF THESE INCIDENTS.
1. We should have eyes to see what the signs of our time mean. If the spirit of discontent, rebellion, etc., be not repressed, whither shall it lead? Already the flames begin to appear — political incendiarism, audacity in speech, universal agitation. Men who look for no hereafter storm fully grasp at material good. How shall it be when the Divine patience ends?
2. At the beginning of Israel's history those warning fire columns were seen. Fifteen hundred years later the impenitent descendants of Israel saw the temple in flames, Jerusalem destroyed, the nation a ruin.
3. Will the New Testament Zion not understand those warnings? A people remained to God even after Jerusalem fell. So will it be although the present form of Christendom passes; and the New Testament foretells such perilous times.
4. Let the individual learn the need of watchfulness. Was not that dangerous sickness a warning signal? But in mercy He spared, and life and health are yours. Let those signs be like beacon lights on your life's voyage. Murmur not, cultivate contentment, learn to say: "I shall go as God leads me, without seeking to choose for myself."
Ye have been rebellious.
Family Churchman.I. THE SOURCE OF REBELLION. This is to be found in selfishness, in the preference by men of their own will over the way of God. When men choose another lord than the Eternal and Holy Ruler they set up a standard of rebellion, and are in revolt.
II. THE SIN AND GUILT OF REBELLION. This appears from considering the righteous character of God's government, the marvellous forbearance which He has displayed towards sinners, and the obligation of all men to Him who is the source of all blessing, of every mercy. God cannot and He will not treat obstinate rebels as if they were loyal and obedient subjects. He will maintain His honour and authority.
III. THE PARDON OF REBELLING.
1. On God's side this is provided for by the redemption which is by the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. On man's side this benefit is appropriated by faith, under the guidance and by the prompting of the Holy Spirit of God. The penitent who make a sincere submission, and accept forgiveness on God's own terms, are assured of being treated not as rebels, but as subjects returned to their allegiance, and admitted to all the privileges it involves.
I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not Thy people.
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
I. IN HIS ZEAL FOR THE DIVINE HONOUR.
1. Moses had been, forty days and nights on Sinai in the Divine presence, receiving revelations of God's mind and will The people had become impatient, had forgotten the near presence of God, and fell away from Him. When Moses came near the camp, on descending from the mount, the idolatrous Scene that met his gaze roused him to anger, and he broke the tables of the law which he had brought from the mount, and only at his intercession the people were saved.
2. God has given His people many proofs of His goodness, condescension, etc. But around are many evidences of languor, of lukewarmness, and even of apostasy. If not outwardly, then in heart many, have turned back from God. Should not a holy indignation fill the breasts of God's true servants; should not they, and all who belong to the Lord, strive against this defection, call those sins by their right names, etc.? There are situations in which such a zeal should characterise the office-bearers of the Church and all true members of the same.
II. IN HIS EARNEST ENTREATY FOR HIS PEOPLE.
1. "He fell down before the Lord," etc., in earnest prayer for the people, as he had often done. So earnest that he asked that he himself might be blotted out of the book God had written if their sins were not forgiven (Exodus 32:32). And his "effectual fervent prayer" was answered.
2. How like in spirit to the great apostle's prayers was the prayer of Moses! (Romans 9:3.) If we go through the books of holy writ we see what may be done through prayer. The prayers of a Samuel, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Daniel, and the prayers of our Lord (Hebrews 5:5-7) all encourage to earnest prayer. Oh, that we could pray as earnestly and believingly as a Monica, a Luther, etc., or as Moses here prayed for his people! that we could wrestle in prayer for the lost and erring, for every soul sunk in sin, and remind God of His gracious promises, etc.! In these days, where means and ways must be considered whereby the channels of a true spiritual and moral life may be laid among the people, prayer and supplication are chief means. Let us use them earnestly.
Yet they are Thy people and Thine inheritance.