Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.
In the business of life there are three parties concerned, three parties of whose existence it behoves us to be equally and intensely conscious. These three are God on the one hand, and our own individual souls on the other, and the one Mediator, Jesus Christ; who alone can join the two into one.
I. There is all the difference in the world between saying, Bear yourselves in mind, and saying, Bear in mind always the three, God and Christ and yourselves, whom Christ unites to God. For then there is no risk of selfishness, nor of idolatry, whether of ourselves or of anything else; we do but desire to keep alive and vigorous, not any false or evil life in us, but our true and most precious life, the life of God in and through His Son. But what we see happen very often is just the opposite to this. The life in ourselves, of which we are keenly conscious, never for an instant forgetting it, is but the life of our appetites and passions, and this life is quite distinct from God and from Christ. But while this life is very vigorous, our better life slumbers; we have our own desires, and they are evil, but we take our neighbour's knowledge and faith and call them our own, and we live and believe according to our neighbour's notions; so our nobler life shrinks up to nothing, and our sense of truth perishes from want of exercise.
II. In combining a keen sense of our own soul's life with the sense of God and of Christ, there is no room for pride or presumption, but the very contrary. We hold our knowledge and our faith but as God's gifts, and are sure of them only so far as His power, and wisdom, and goodness are our warrant. Our knowledge, in fact, is but faith; we have no grounds for knowing as of ourselves, but great grounds for believing that God's appointed evidence is true, and that in believing it we are trusting Him.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 297.
References: Deuteronomy 4:12, Deuteronomy 4:13.—S. Leathes, Foundations of Morality, p. 26. Deuteronomy 4:20.—Parker, vol. v., p. 4.
Deuteronomy 4:21-22We cannot consider this solemn, mysterious close of the great prophet's life without feeling that there are lessons of instruction the most manifold which are presented by it.
I. A life may appear in some leading point of it to have been a failure, to have been defeated of that crowning success which in our short-sighted vision it had almost a right to claim, and may for all this have been a life most acceptable to God, and consummated with a death very precious in His sight. The lives of few men are rounded and complete; there is something wanting, something fragmentary, in almost all, and this quite as much in the lives of God's saints as in the lives of other men. God writes His sentence of vanity upon all things here.
II. We see here an example of the strictness with which God will call even His own to account, and while His judgments are in all the world, will cause them to begin at His own house. Moses' sin seems to us to have been a comparatively small one, a momentary outbreak of impatience or unbelief, and yet it entailed this penalty upon him, this baffling of the dearest hopes of his life.
III. We are wont to regard the death of Moses as something unlike the deaths of other men, and so in a sense it was. Yet look at it in another point of view, and what was it but the solitude of every deathbed? "Je mourrai seul," said the great Pascal, and the words are true of every man. We may live with others, but we must die by ourselves.
IV. Observe and admire the way in which God so often overrules the lives of the saints of the elder covenant that by them He may, in type and shadow, set forth to us the eternal verities of the Gospel. Think not of Moses that he can ever be more than a schoolmaster to Christ; that he can bring thee a foot further than to the borders of the land of thine inheritance. Another must lead thee in if ever that good land shall be thine. Jesus, our Joshua, our Saviour—He must do this.
R. C. Trench, Sermons Preached in Ireland, p. 238 (see also Sermons New and Old, p. 152).
References: Deuteronomy 4:21, Deuteronomy 4:22.—J. A. Sellar, Church Doctrine and Practice, p. 287. Deuteronomy 4:22.—Parker, vol. v., p. 5. Deuteronomy 4:29.—Old Testament Outlines, p. 43; Parker, Christian Chronicle, May 7th, 1885. Deuteronomy 4:29-31.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1283. Deuteronomy 4:36.—Parker, Fountain, March 8th, 1877.
Deuteronomy 4:39-40Moses promised the Jews that if they trusted in God, they would be a strong, happy, and prosperous people. On the other hand, he warned them that if they forgot the Lord their God, poverty, misery, and ruin would surely fall upon them.
That this last was no empty threat is proved by the plain facts of the sacred history. For they did forget God, and worshipped Baalim, the sun, moon, and stars; and ruin of every kind did come upon them, till they were carried away captive to Babylon.
I. The thought that the God whom they worshipped was the one true God must have made His worship a very different, a much holier and deeper, matter to the Jews than the miserable, selfish thing which is miscalled religion by too many people nowadays, by which a man hopes to creep out of this world into heaven all by himself, without any real care or love for his fellow-creatures or those he leaves behind him.
An old Jew's faith in God and obedience to God was part of his family life, part of his politics, part of his patriotism. The duty he owed to God was not merely a duty which he owed his own conscience or his own soul; it was a duty which he owed to his family, to his kindred, to his country. It was not merely an opinion that there was one God, and not two; it was a belief that the one and only true God was protecting him, teaching him, inspiring him and all his nation.
II. God's purpose has come to pass. The little nation of the Jews, without seaport towns and commerce, without colonies or conquests, has taught the whole civilised world, has influenced all the good and all the wise unto this day so enormously, that the world has actually gone beyond them and become Christian by fully understanding their teaching and their Bible, while they have remained mere Jews by not understanding it. God's revelation to the Jews was His boundless message, and not any narrow message of man's invention.
C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 184.
References: Deuteronomy 4:32-40.—Parker, vol. iv., p. 118. Deuteronomy 4:39.—Ibid., p. 126; C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 222. Deuteronomy 4:40.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 220. Deuteronomy 4:41, Deuteronomy 4:42.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons, 2nd series, p. 305. Deut 4—Parker, vol. iv., pp. 97, 104. Deuteronomy 5:1-21.—J. Hamilton, Works, vol. v., p. 214. Deuteronomy 5:3.—Parker, vol. v., p. 5. Deuteronomy 5:6, Deuteronomy 5:7.—J. Oswald Dykes, The Law of the Ten Words, p. 19. Deuteronomy 5:8-10.—Ibid., p. 53. Deuteronomy 5:11.—Ibid., p. 71. Deuteronomy 5:12.—Ibid.: Old Testament Outlines, p. 45. Deuteronomy 5:12-15.—R. Lee, Sermons, pp. 399, 411, 421; J. Oswald Dykes, The Law of the Ten Words, p. 87; S. Leathes, Foundations of Morality, p. 128. Deuteronomy 5:13, Deuteronomy 5:14.—A. C. Tait, Lessons for School Life, p. 258.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you.
But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day.
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:
And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.
Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:
But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.
Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you.
And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?
Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?
Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.
Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he shewed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire.
And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt;
To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.
Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.
Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever.
Then Moses severed three cities on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live:
Namely, Bezer in the wilderness, in the plain country, of the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, of the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, of the Manassites.
And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel:
These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt,
On this side Jordan, in the valley over against Bethpeor, in the land of Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon, whom Moses and the children of Israel smote, after they were come forth out of Egypt:
And they possessed his land, and the land of Og king of Bashan, two kings of the Amorites, which were on this side Jordan toward the sunrising;
From Aroer, which is by the bank of the river Arnon, even unto mount Sion, which is Hermon,
And all the plain on this side Jordan eastward, even unto the sea of the plain, under the springs of Pisgah.