Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,
I. Although God be not far from every one of us, yet many of us have no consciousness of His presence; for a large portion of our lives we do not think of Him, and when we do it is rather an uncertain feeling after Him amidst thick darkness than the seeing Him in the clear light revealed in and by His Son Jesus Christ. And these two states, the seeing God constantly in Christ and the not so seeing Him, are the great and eternal differences which will divide all of us from one another, the differences which will make and do make our lives holy or unholy, which will make our deaths blessed or cursed.
II. It is quite true that many who live without thinking of God do yet intend to keep, and do keep actually, many of God's laws. It is precisely because there can be, and is up to a certain point, good without God, because men feel that even without a lively sense of God Himself they can love His moral works, as they can love His natural works, that therefore they are blind themselves, and we too often are blind for them, to their infinite danger; they speak peace to themselves, and we echo the word till the true peace is hidden from them for ever.
III. What strength amidst weakness, what decision amidst endless wavering, what joy in life, what hope in death, are to be found in this consciousness of God in Christ! It is the life of Christ's people, the life of the children of God.
T. Arnold, Christian Life: Sermons, vol. v., p. 305.
References: Deuteronomy 9:1.—Parker, vol. v., p. 7. Deuteronomy 9:4, Deuteronomy 9:5.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 222.
Deuteronomy 9:6I. 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.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 78.
References: Deuteronomy 9:18, Deuteronomy 9:19.—J. D. Coleridge, Sermons for Sundays: Festivals and Fasts, edited by A. Watson, 1st Series, p. 40; Parker, vol. v., p. 8.
Deuteronomy 9:26-29This prayer brings out in its greatest strength a contrast which goes through the Book of Deuteronomy, and through the whole Bible. The Israelites are the people of God, His inheritance redeemed by His mighty hand. They are stubborn, stiff-necked, wicked. We become so familiar with passages which contain both these descriptions of them, that we attach little meaning to either.
In seeking for a resolution of this difficulty we notice:
I. That the Scriptures do not set forth the history of a man seeking for God, but of God seeking for men. To separate Moses the righteous man from Moses the deliverer of the Israelites is impossible. He could not have been righteous if he had not fulfilled that task; he could not have been righteous if he had not testified in all his acts and words that God, not he, was the Deliverer. If we once see upon what ground the holiness of Moses stood, we must admit that the nation of which he was a member was holy in precisely the same sense and for precisely the same reason as he was; nay, that it had a title prior to his, a title from which his own was derived. It was a holy nation because God had called it out, had chosen it to be His; He had put His name upon it.
II. See then how reasonable was the prayer of the text. Because Moses regarded the Israelites as a holy and chosen people, redeemed by God's own hand, because he believed that this description belonged to the whole covenant people at all time, therefore he felt with intense anguish their stubbornness, their wickedness, and their sin. It was the forgetfulness of their holy state which he confessed with such shame and sorrow before God; it was because they had gone out of the right way, each man preferring a selfish way of his own, that they needed his intercession and God's renewing and restoring mercy.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 53.
References: Deuteronomy 9:29.—Bishop Lightfoot, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 63. Deut 9—Parker, vol. iv., p. 195. Deuteronomy 10:14-16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 303. Deuteronomy 10:16.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times" vol. v., p. 9 (see also Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Christmas and Epiphany, p. 193); Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 12; Parker, vol. v., p. 8. Deut 10, Deut 11—Parker, vol. iv., p. 204. Deuteronomy 11:10-12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 58.
A people great and tall, the children of the Anakims, whom thou knowest, and of whom thou hast heard say, Who can stand before the children of Anak!
Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.
Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee.
Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.
Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.
Also in Horeb ye provoked the LORD to wrath, so that the LORD was angry with you to have destroyed you.
When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water:
And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly.
And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they.
So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands.
And I looked, and, behold, ye had sinned against the LORD your God, and had made you a molten calf: ye had turned aside quickly out of the way which the LORD had commanded you.
And I took the two tables, and cast them out of my two hands, and brake them before your eyes.
And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.
And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and I prayed for Aaron also the same time.
And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount.
And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibrothhattaavah, ye provoked the LORD to wrath.
Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice.
Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.
I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin:
Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.
Yet they are thy people and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest out by thy mighty power and by thy stretched out arm.