and you are to declare before the LORD your God, "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt few in number and lived there and became a great nation, mighty and numerous.
1. Reminded the individual that the land and its fruits were God's.
2. Required from him a devout acknowledgment of the fact, with a gift in which the acknowledgment was suitably embodied.
3. Threw him back on the recollection of God's former mercies to his nation.
4. Secured a confession and rehearsal of these from his own lips. It served:
1. To create and deepen religious feeling.
2. To quicken gratitude.
3. To encourage free-will offerings. Two main points -
I. GOD'S MERCIES ARE TO BE GRATEFULLY REMEMBERED. These mercies are many and wonderful (Psalm 40:5). The points dwelt on in this declaration are God's fulfillments of his promises in the increase of the nation (ver. 5), the deliverance from Egypt (vers. 6-8), and the bringing of the people into the land of Canaan (ver. 9), part of the firstfruits of which the worshipper now presented (ver. 10). We have here:
1. National mercies. Since in Israel Church and nation were one:
2. Church mercies.
3. Personal mercies.
A similar review befits every Christian. What causes of thankfulness has he, not only in the remembrance of God's loving-kindness to him personally (Psalm 40:1-4; Psalm 116:1-19), but in the review of God's dealings with his nation, and still more in the consideration of his mercies to the Church! On the one side, our noble constitution, our just laws, our civil and religious liberties, our immunity from war - the fruits of long centuries of struggle and progress. On the other side, the facts on which the Church's existence is founded - the Incarnation; Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ascension; the gift of the Spirit: and. the events of her extraordinary history - the progress she has made, God's goodness in preserving and protecting her, in raising up teachers and leaders, in purifying her by persecutions, in granting revivals, times of reformation, etc.; with the consideration of how in all promises have been fulfilled, prayers answered, deliverances vouchsafed, blessings bestowed, increase made.
II. GOD'S MERCIES ARE TO BE SUITABLY ACKNOWLEDGED.
1. By recital of them before God himself. Acknowledgment of mercies is as much a part of devotion as praise, confession, petition, or even adoration. The value of liturgical forms (within due limits) for purposes of prayer and acknowledgment, is not to be disputed. They
(1) aid memory,
(2) secure comprehensiveness,
(3) guide devotion,
(4) prevent irrelevancy,
(5) create a bond of unity.
Like hymns, they testify to the Church's catholicity amidst diversities of creed and polity. Their disadvantage, if preponderant in worship, is that they check too much the element of spontaneity. They discourage freedom and naturalness in the expression of the heart's feelings. The best form of Church order would probably be a combination of the liturgical with the free and spontaneous elements in worship-the latter decidedly predominating.
2. By free-will offerings. These are needed more than ever. The sphere of the Church's operations is yearly widening.
3. By hospitality and clarity (ver. 11). Underlying all there is, of course, to be personal consecration in heart and life. It is self God wants - the love, reverence, service, devotion of self; not a mere share in self's possessions. Confession (ver. 3), gifts (ver. 10), worship (ver. 10), joy (ver. 11), have their rightful place after that, and as the outcome of it. - J.O.
A Syrian ready to perish was my father.Isaiah 51:1). The connection between acceptable thanksgiving and profound humiliation is a fact which none but a Pharisee would dare to disregard, and which it behoves the Christian to bear in mind in all his devout meditations and religious exercises. Should pride ever rise within his bosom — "Who maketh thee to differ?" is a consideration which may suffice to put it down: nor will he, if walking in the fear of God, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, when, by virtue of his "royal priesthood," he has "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus," forget to say there — "A Syrian ready to perish was my father." The natural philosopher may rejoice that he is not a brute, and a pagan may glory in the attributes peculiar to man, but the devout student learns some very humbling facts concerning the position of our race. Among the rest is this, that, of intelligent beings, man is probably the lowest in the scale. That angels excel us in strength is obvious from everything we know concerning them; and that devils have far greater intellectual power than belongs to man, none acquainted with their devices will be disposed to question. To boast of our mental superiority, then, is but to mingle ignorance with pride. The humiliation which these considerations may be supposed to engender is deepened by the recollection, that our case is not one of poverty alone, but of degradation. Whatever may have been man's original glory, that glory has long since departed. His boast of heraldry is vain; traced back to its earliest antiquity, it bespeaks his ruin. His crest is an inverted crown. And this is his motto — "Man that was in honour abode not." The grace of God works wonders. It copes with depravity, and subdues it. It rescues the sinner from his degradation, and renders him meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. But it also teaches him never to forget, even amidst the splendours of the heavenly temple, to which it ultimately introduces him, the ancient acknowledgment of the adoring Israelite — "A Syrian ready to perish was my father."
(D. E. Ford.)
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