These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.
Intense in their significance, fresh in their solemnity, as when Moses uttered them to the listening multitudes on the farther shores of Jordan, the echo of these warning words rolls to us across the centuries. They express the formative principle, the regulating conception, the inspiring influence, of every greatly Christian life. The very differentia of such a life—that is, its distinguishing feature—is this, that it is spent always and consciously in the presence of God.
From the fact that we stand before God we gather: (1) A lesson of warning. Surely there is a warning—for the forgetful a startling, for the guilty a terrible, even for the good man a very solemn warning—in the thought that not only our life in its every incident, but even our heart in its utmost secrets, lies naked and open before Him with whom we have to do. (2) The thought that we stand before God involves not only a sense of warning, but a sense of elevation, of ennoblement. It is a sweet and a lofty doctrine, the highest source of all the dignity and grandeur of life. (3) A third consequence of life spent consciously in God's presence is a firm, unflinching, unwavering sense of duty. A life regardful of duty is crowned with an object, directed by a purpose, inspired by an enthusiasm, till the very humblest routine carried out conscientiously for the sake of God is elevated into moral grandeur, and the very obscurest office becomes an imperial stage on which all the virtues play. (4) The fourth consequence is a sense of holiness. God requires not only duty, but holiness. He searcheth the spirits; He discerneth the very reins and heart. (5) This thought encourages us with a certainty of help and strength. The God before whom we stand is not only our Judge and our Creator, but also our Father and our Friend. He is revealed to us in Christ, our elder Brother in the great family of God.
F. W. Farrar, In the Days of thy Youth, p. 1.
Reference: Deuteronomy 29:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 723.
Deuteronomy 29:19Certain temptations assail us as powerfully through the imagination as if they assumed the most distinctly palpable and tangible form. Eve was assailed through her imagination when the devil said to her, "Ye shall be as gods;" and Jesus Christ was assailed through His imagination when the "kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" were offered to Him.
I. If temptation were to come to us in all its grossness, and force upon the calm, steady eyes of our reason its vilest aspect and purpose, it would have small chance with us. But it comes through an imagination which throws its hideousness into perspective and creates a halo around its immediate advantages. So we dupe our own hearts, and light our way with the lamp of fancy into the darkness where no lamp can burn.
II. It is imagination, too, that supplies a ready answer to the reproaches of conscience. Good is to come out of the evil. Imagination pleads that its purpose has in some way miscarried, or the evil would certainly have been less.
III. The sinful exercise of the imagination is not the less, but probably the more, aggravated because of its supposed secrecy.
The subject thus opened reminds us: (1) of the intense and awful spirituality of God and His judgment; (2) of the wonderful provision He has made for the cleansing and inspiration of our innermost thoughts.
Parker, The Ark of God, p. 296.
Deuteronomy 29:29I. There are certain domains of thought and government accessible to none but God.
II. Impenetrable secrecy is compatible with paternal benevolence.
III. Divine secrecy is no plea for human disobedience. In the words of our text we have: (1) an acknowledgment of a Divine revelation—"the things which are revealed." (2) A definition of the relationship in which God stands to humankind—"all the words of this law." Then God is our Lawgiver. (3) A distinct recognition of man's power to obey the law—"that we may do all the words."
IV. Inquisitiveness into secret things will necessarily produce great unrest.
Parker, Hidden Springs, p. 172 (see also The City Temple, vol. iii., p. 325).
The fact that there are some mysteries which are insoluble is attested: (1) by the long and painful experience of mankind; (2) by the teaching of the materialistic thinkers of the day. The text recognises alike the spirit of uninquiring reverence and of rational freedom.
I. Some men say, "We cannot accept revelation. We accept the excellent moral teachings of the Bible, because they commend themselves to our reason and to the reason of the race; but what we cannot accept are these mysteries which are revealed in the New Testament." In answer to this we reply, A mystery is not a revelation. It is the very opposite of a revelation. We freely admit that there are mysteries confronting us in the Old and New Testaments. Truths are intimated, suggested, pointed at, dimly outlined, like a mountain castle scarce seen through the mists of evening which fill the valley; but, inasmuch as they are not clear, to that extent they cannot be said to be revealed. These things are beyond us. They are Divine mysteries which it is reverent for us to place with the secret things which belong unto the Lord God.
II. There are those who say they cannot receive a revelation on the ground that it is supernatural, that they only know that which comes through the mind of man and is capable of justifying itself to the human reason. Now we affirm that the Bible revelations have come through the mind of man. They were convictions, certainties, in some man's mind, which he declared to his fellows. A truth of inspiration is no truer than a truth of induction or demonstration. Truth is simply truth wherever it may come from or however it may be demonstrated. Revelation is natural and at the same time supernatural. It comes from the mind of man; it comes according to the mind and demonstration of God.
III. The one ever-speaking revelation of the mind of God is the history of man. "If we miss the truth," says Jeremy Taylor, "it is because we will not find it, for certain it is that all the truth which God hath made necessary He hath also made legible and plain; and if we will open our eyes, we shall see the sun, and if we will walk in the light, we shall rejoice in the light."
W. Page Roberts, Liberalism in Religion, pp. 28, 38.
References: Deuteronomy 29:29.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 193; R. Macellar, Memorials of a Ministry on the Clyde, p. 81; Parker, vol. iv., p. 324. Deuteronomy 30:6.—Sermons for the Christian Seasons, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 73. Deuteronomy 30:11-14.—S. Cox, Expositions, 2nd series, p. 350. Deuteronomy 30:14.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 1st series, p. 10.
And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;
The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.
Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.
And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:
And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.
Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,
Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:
That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:
That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:
(For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;
And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;
And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:
The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.
And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:
So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it;
And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:
Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.
The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.