The Divine Conditions of Nationality
Ezekiel 20:6
In the day that I lifted up my hand to them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them…

I. A COUNTRY WAS CHOSEN AND ASSIGNED TO THEM, AND THIS WAS THE VERY FIRST STEP IN THE PROCESS OF PREPARATION FOR THE NATIONAL EXISTENCE. It is very evident that the repeated references to the land in connection with the prophecies and promises of a national existence and mission made the impression upon the mind of the patriarchs that the possession and enjoyment of the country was essentially a condition of nationality. Accordingly the occupation of Canaan became the object of their highest hopes and the goal of their aims in labour and patience (Genesis 50:24-26). And the land was adapted to furnish all the needful conditions of support and unification of the nation.

1. It was described as a land flowing with milk and honey. It was able to afford not merely subsistence, but the means of wealth ample for the material and appliances of an advanced civilisation.

2. The means of communication were sufficient. For the land was not large, and although broken by ranges of hills, was permeated by valleys and torrent beds dry for a considerable portion of the year, and bordered by the sea, which was the highway of the ancient peoples.

3. The land was separated from the surrounding peoples by the sea and the deserts; passable for purposes of commerce, natural barriers in time of war.

II. AT THE TIME OF FOUNDING OF THE NATION A CODE OF LAWS WAS GIVEN AND PROMULGATED. The principles of government may be gathered by analysis of the statutes and synthesis of the results. There can be no doubt that there was an intention to provide for the greatest good and largest liberty of the individual compatible with association, at least in view of the state of the people in that early age, and in their rise from a servile condition. And in the first instance a popular form of government was contemplated rather than a monarchy. The latter was considered as dependent upon certain contingencies, and if it was foreseen as a necessity it was only because it was to be made a necessity by the people themselves. Provision was made for education and discipline in the knowledge of the law, and in habits of obedience. The first, the best, and the only really effective school of instruction and culture was secured and guarded, namely, the family. The infant child was marked with the sign and seal of his rights and duties in the commonwealth, and the household was ordained as a means of training and practice in obedience to righteous precepts. Besides this domestic education, provision was made for public teachers of the law. These were not merely instructors in specifically religious duties, but in social and civil duties also. It would be impossible to cite all the passages in the history which makes it manifest that the Lawgiver expected obedience to be secured through the moral judgment and sensibility. Indeed, the careful student of his teaching cannot fail to find abundant sources for the impression that he intended to secure his people a distinctively and intense ethical life. His aim was righteousness. The accomplishment of this was necessary in his view to the fulfilment of the mission of the nation in the earth. And, finally, to the moral motives to obedience he added the sanctions of religion. He taught that the law came from God Himself, that obedience to the law was loyalty to God, and disobedience was rebellion against God.

III. PROVISION WAS MADE FOR THE NURTURE OF PATRIOTISM AND FOR THE STRENGTHENING OF THE NATIONAL BOND. The people were attached to the soil by the law of the permanence of the tenure of it in the families and tribes to whom it was assigned after the conquest. The title to each estate was perpetual. And ample provision was made that the life of toil might be lightened and graced by the enjoyments and ceremonies of domestic, social, and national festivals. The seasons of the year of labour were marked by the gathering of the families, and common participation in the fruits of the earth and the more joyful services of religion. Three times each year the heads of families were summoned to the metropolis and the common altar, and in their journeyings to and from the Holy City, and their fellowship within its walls, its dwellings, and its temple courts, they were knit together in personal friendships and united in the common bond of citizenship.

IV. THE NATIONAL SPIRIT WAS ANIMATED AND NOURISHED BY THE CALL TO A MISSION FOR ALL THE PEOPLES ON THE EARTH. At the very beginning it was said to the father of the Hebrew people, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." And this was repeated again and again in ampler form by lawgiver, and teacher, and king, and prophet, and it became the matter of the highest reaches of patriotic eloquence and the burden of the loftiest inspirations of national song. The Messianic hope was the very life of the nation in its greatest days, send the anchor of its faith in the darkest days of humiliation and suffering. And by it the fainting national life was revived and reinvigorated after the deliverance from captivity, and sustained in the conflicts of the Maccabean age and the struggle of the Grecian conquest, and the endurance of the Roman domination.

(J. T. Duryea, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands:

WEB: in that day I swore to them, to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands.

The Memory of the Great Deliverance
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