When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam…
What this verse asserts is that in the providential distribution of the nations, and assignment to them of their special territories, respect was had from the beginning to the provision of a suitable dwelling-place for the chosen race. Our subject is - The government of the world conducted with a view to the interests of the Church.
I. A TRUTH FREQUENTLY TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE. Both by facts of history, and by express statement. Israel's position brought it into contact, not only with petty neighboring states, but with the mightiest empires of East and West. These appear in Scripture only as they affect the chosen race, but it is then made manifest how entirely their movements are directed and controlled by Divine providence. And the center of God's purposes is always Israel. "For your sake," says God, "I have sent to Babylonia, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships" (Isaiah 43:14; cf. vers. 3, 4). Is Egypt visited with famines - with scarce years and good years? The design is the working out of a certain plan in the chain of God's appointments for Israel. Is a Cyrus raised up in Persia? God saith of him, "He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure," etc. (Isaiah 44:28). So is it throughout. Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, appear in all their relations with Israel as ministers of the Divine will, as simple executors of the Divine purposes, and their power is strictly limited by their commission. In harmony with this prophetic teaching are the express testimonies of the Epistles (e.g. Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:20-23; Ephesians 3:9-11).
(2) history, are ruled for the benefit Of the Church.
II. A TRUTH IN ITSELF REASONABLE. Once admit the goal of history to be the establishment on earth of a universal spiritual kingdom - a gathering together in one of all things with Christ as Head (Ephesians 1:10), and it is certain that herein must lie the key to all historical developments, the explanation of all arrangements and movements of Divine providence. The center of interest must always be that portion of the race with which for the time being the kingdom of God is identified. "Just as, in tracing the course of a stream, not the huge morasses nor the vast stagnant pools on either side would delay us: we should not, because of their extent, count them the river, but recognize that as such, though it were the slenderest thread, in which an onward movement might be discerned; so is it here. Egypt and Assyria and Babylon were but the vast stagnant morasses on either side of the river; the Man in whose seed the whole earth should be blessed, he and his family were the little stream in which the life and onward movement of the world were to be traced They belong not to history, least of all to sacred history, those Babels, those cities of confusion, those huge pens into which by force and fraud the early hunters of men, the Nimrods and Sesostrises, drove and compelled their fellows... where no faith existed but in the blind powers of nature and the brute forces of the natural man" (Archbishop Trench).
III. A TRUTH FRAUGHT TO THE CHURCH WITH COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT.
1. When the powers of the world are threatening.
2. In times of internal decay.
3. Under long-continued trials. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.