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Saturday, September 13, 2014

DEUTERONOMY+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).
Deuteronomy 1:32-33 "The Lord your God ...went before you on the way to seek out a place for you to pitch your tent." The book of Deuteronomy is didactic rather than historical. Its actual history covers a very brief period, probably not more than several days before Moses' death. It consists of a series of helpful summaries from Moses of all he and the Israelites had been through and learned together in the very presence of God. He divided their wanderings into three geographical segments: from Horeb (Mount Sinai) to Kadesh Barnea (where the people were judged with 40 years of wandering before reaching the promised land), from Kadesh to Heshbon (where they encountered armed resistance), and from Heshbon to Beth Peor (near the promised land across from Jericho). In the first stage he reminded them of the divine call to leave Mount Sinai after receiving instructions there for a year, and recalled their rebellion in the matter of the spies. The purpose of this review was setting all the facts of their experience in the light of God's government. Their wilderness experience was trying, but they had not been left to grope their way through it alone. In this connection the words quoted above were used, and they are full of revealing beauty.  Through them we learn that in the will of God, nothing is haphazard. How often life is a wilderness way! As we journey, there seems to be no map, no plan, no timetable. The truth is that our God is not only accompanying us on the march, but also going before us, selecting where we will pause. Wherever at night we pitch our tents, the place is chosen by God. That is all we need to know.

Deuteronomy 2:3 "You have circled this mountain long enough." After the failure of faith at Kadesh, the people turned back into the wilderness and tarried long in the area of Mount Seir. Now the command came to march back northward toward the promised land. All that Moses told the people they already knew about the actual facts of the long and tedious wilderness judgment, but what he wanted to impress upon them before passing off the scene was how even amid such sorrowful discipline, they still had been remembered, guided, and provided for by God. The rule of God over us is a fact that breaks upon our consciousness in many ways. When we have reached a place of comparative quietness, He may upset all our plans and purposes, and we find ourselves commanded to new journeys—often not by ways we would have chosen for ourselves. He is constantly disturbing us, but these disturbances are never capricious. He is always leading us toward the fulfillment of His own purposes, and for those of us who love Him that means He is leading us toward realizing our highest good (Romans 8:28). It is equally true that He leads us by no unnecessary pathways (1 Peter 1:6). There is meaning and value in every stretch of the road, however rough and tortuous it may be. We learn lessons in the area of Mount Seir that can be learned nowhere else; we discover God in Moab as we could do in no other region.

Deuteronomy 3:22 "You shall not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you." To these people fearlessness was a duty. Over and over again this command was laid upon them since they had no right to be afraid. In Numbers 3 Moses makes that point by reminding them how in the cases where they had been at war, they had been victorious. The supreme note in his argument for living without fear is that the Lord God was fighting for them. We must be careful to recognize this doesn't mean that God was on their side but that they were on God's side. He fought for them in their warfare because they were carrying out His will. This is an important distinction of perpetual application. When Abraham Lincoln was asked if he thought God was on his side, he replied it never occurred to him to ask such a question, but that he was persistently eager to discover whether he was on God's side. In no conflict have we any right to ask or expect God to fight for us, unless we know we are with Him. When we do know that, we equally have no right to be afraid. Such fear is disloyalty since it questions the supremacy of God's righteousness and power. Fear is paralysis: it cuts us off from contact with the forces of righteousness, for it cuts us off from fellowship with God.

Deuteronomy 4:9 "So that you do not forget." Having surveyed their history of divine guidance and rule, Moses now exhorts the people to obedience based on the greatness of God and the perfection of His law. He challenged them to compare their God and His commandments with all others. He reminded them that their existence and history as a nation were centered in a spiritual ideal, in that no visible form of God had been granted to them, even amid the majestic manifestations of Mount Sinai. In the course of this high discussion, Moses warned the people not to forget. What a necessary warning that always is! We as men and women are prone to forgetting even what is most important. While some things can never be actually forgotten, they nevertheless are practically forgotten in the sense of being of any value to us. We will forget the law of God, the disciplines of God, deliverances by God, and even the very love of God unless memory serves as an inspiration to trust, true conduct, and to the very loyalty that love demands. Such forgetfulness is not a mere aberration of intellect, but a wrong done to God—a sin against Him. Memory is a non-moral function of the soul. If it is either to help or to hinder us, it must be trained and used. When our memory is employed to keep certain great facts in the mind so they influence the will, it is one of the greatest forces for good.

Deuteronomy 5:28-29 "They have done well in all they have spoken. Oh, that they had such a heart in them!" These were the words of God to Moses concerning what the nation asserted after the giving of the Ten Commandments. The people had confessed their sense that these were indeed laws from God, had expressed their fear of God, and had asked Moses to mediate between them and God. If only they really believed those fine things! This is a persistent difficulty in human experience. The mind of man recognizes the beauty of the divine ideal, realizes human weakness, and understands the necessity for a Mediator, yet the heart of man breaks down. What drives us most deeply is the desires of our heart. A man becomes what he really desires (Proverbs 23:7). That is the significance of the declaration "with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness" (Romans 10:10). A man may be intellectually convinced that righteousness is good, but he only arrives at righteousness when his desires put confidence in the Lord of righteousness. Christ comes to the human heart and says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20).

Deuteronomy 6:7 "You shall teach them diligently to your children." God's care for children is evidenced throughout His law and principles of worship. A careful study of both shows how constantly arrangements were made that would appeal to the natural curiosity of children, inspiring them to ask questions. It was the business of their parents to answer such questions, and to be diligent in teaching their children everything God said: commandments, statutes, history, prophecies"the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:28). God holds both fathers and mothers principally responsible for the giving of religious instruction.  There is a tendency to trust the religious teaching of our children to teachers, preachers, and others who specialize in that work in one form or another. While we cannot be too thankful for such people who do their jobs well, the first responsibility belongs to those to whom those precious children are entrusted as the most sacred and blessed gift of God. The teaching of the things of God by fathers and mothers has a value and a virtue that can be supplied by no other. This chapter, in fact, contains two of the most important teachings about God in the entire Bible: "The Lord our God ... is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Deuteronomy 7:7 "The Lord did not set His love upon you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples." Here at the entrance to the land of their possession, the people were warned against that most persistent peril of a passion for statistics and pride in numbers. By this time they were comparatively a great nation, having an army of over 600,000. They would be tempted to fall into the gross error of imagining that God had chosen them because of their strength, believing as Napoleon said that God is on the side of big battalions. Moses guarded them from that utterly false idea by reminding them of their origins as "the fewest of all peoples" who multiplied under God's guardian care. God is never seeking for numbers for the sake of numbers, but for "those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Deuteronomy 7:9). Jesus said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him" (John 4:23). God can certainly use great companies, but quality is more than quantity with Him. If God were in need of big battalions, He could create them. That fact John the Baptist declared with a fine touch of satire when he said, "From these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham!" (Matthew 3:9). Our annual reports are always in danger of giving the impression that our work is successful only to the degree it can be expressed in impressive figures. Figures are only really impressive as they stand for people who are true, loyal, and devoted. With two or three such God can do great things anywhere.

Deuteronomy 8:3 "That He might make you understand." The one question we should always be asking is what God is intending to teach us by the circumstances we are passing through at any given time. God humbled the Israelites by allowing them to become hungry, and then fed them for the same purpose: so they would know by experience that life depends not on bread but on God Himself. They were to learn not only through hunger but also through bread. This is important because we are strangely prone to think God speaks to us only through limitation and suffering. It is not so. He speaks through prosperity and joy as well, but there is a danger of saying, "My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth." Instead, "it is the Lord who gives you power to get wealth" (verses 17-18) . Nevertheless, in the day of adversity He certainly speaks, and we generally listen. But let us listen at all times. To the person who realizes this, all life becomes sacred; every experience is a lesson. How often we have eyes but do not see so we pass through days learning nothing, while all the time our Father is working in our circumstances to help us gain a fuller and more profound knowledge of Himself and His ways.

Deuteronomy 9:6 "Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess." In these words another peril, constantly threatening the people of God is revealed: interpreting His goodness to them as resulting from their own righteousness. In the case of these very people, over time this was the particular sin that wrought their undoing. Their leaders came to look with contempt upon others, a sure sign of self-righteous pride. The result was a national exclusivity that prevented their fulfillment of purpose and brought judgment from God. Perhaps this matter may be stated most powerfully when applying it personally. When this life is over and we face God, our right of entrance to His home will be that of His abounding grace alone (Romans 5:1-11). Our Lord teaches us to have no pride in our service: "When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:10). Pride in our own righteousness, satisfaction with our own goodness, trust in our own holiness are alike foolish and reprehensible. To the soul that truly knows itself, it is a growing wonder that God should love us at all. That He does so is our only confidence.

Deuteronomy 10:4 "The Lord wrote on these tablets what He had written before, the Ten Commandments." Moses told the people how God gave him the Ten Commandments a second time, and distinctly affirmed that this second copy was also written by the finger of God. In the previous chapter Moses reminded them how he smashed the first copy in front of them when he saw the calf idol they had fashioned. What an experience that must have been for him! Imagine what it was like for Moses to bring it before His people's minds and hearts as he prepared to leave them for the last time. The smashing of the first tablets was a natural response and perhaps unintentionally symbolic, for it's what man is always doing with the law of God. Here then is the impressive fact about that second set of tablets: they show what God is always doing. The whole Bible is full of the truth that He finds a way for His banished ones to return, gives failing men and women a second chance, writes again the broken law, restores the years that the locusts have eaten, remakes the marred vessel, and seeks and saves the lost. Upon the basis of that grace, we may hope and start anew. In a passage of great beauty and earnestness, Moses summarized the requirements of God in view of His grace. Let us consider each with care: the people were to fear Him, that is reverence; to walk in His ways, that is obedience; to love Him, that is worship; to serve Him, that is cooperation; to keep His commandments, that is fidelity.

Deuteronomy 11:12 "A land that the Lord your God cares for." This is an arresting description of the Holy Land, which is remarkable especially for its geography and history. It would be better suited than any other place on earth for the seat of a worldwide government because of its central location. Its climate varies from Alpine cold on Mount Hermon to tropical heat in the region of the Dead Sea. It is a land of abounding water. Its soil is fertile, especially in Bashan and Sharon, and is capable of supporting a large population if properly cultivated. It is the land that God cares for in a special way. He makes it fruitful or barren in proportion to the spiritual condition of its inhabitants. That is its story in the past, but it will yet be the earthly center of the Kingdom of God. On the slopes of Mount Olivet the feet of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, will actually stand when He returns (Acts 1:6-12, Zechariah 14:3-4). From the City of the Great King, His law will go forth, in obedience to which man shall realize the highest life has to offer.

Deuteronomy 12:7 "You shall rejoice in all you have put your hand to, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you." These words occur amid urgent instructions about worship that the people were to  obey carefully when they came into the land. All the false places of worship they would find there were to be utterly destroyed. In that land, God would appoint them a place to worship, and they were not to worship anywhere else. The particular value of the words quoted above is they reflect God's heart about worship. It is to be an exercise of rejoicing that results from blessedness: God blesses men and women, and in that blessedness they rejoice before Him. Solemnity, reverence, and awe there must ever be when approaching God, but solemnity is not sadness, reverence is not cringing fear, and awe is not dullness. All our worship should have that note of joy and gladness. It should be full of song, of such a glad nature that our households, children, neighbors, co-workers, employees, and friends should find happiness therein. When we worship in spirit and truth, we do come into the presence of God in a special sense, so let us remember that in His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). There is a place for sadness and contrition before God, but that is in preparing for worship. When whatever is on our hearts is dealt with then, worship becomes a joy.

Deuteronomy 13:6 "If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly." This whole chapter consists of express warnings against idolatry. It is very practical because it reveals the ways men and women may be seduced from pure worship to false worship. The first way is curiosity. The people were therefore told not to indulge such curiosity by inquiring about false methods of worship. The second way is being influenced by signs and wonders wrought by false prophets. No such sign or wonder must draw the soul away from true worship as revealed in Scripture. God sometimes permits these kinds of signs, as He did with Pharaoh's magicians in Exodus 8:19, to test "you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:3). The third way is the enticement of human affection. It is always a powerful temptation, but is to be sternly guarded against. However near to the heart another human being may be, the place God occupies must be supreme, and all human affection refused when it threatens loyalty to Him. Finally there is a peril that arises from looseness of discipline. Therefore the people were charged to take drastic measures against seducers and seduced. The necessity for this severity is that worship determines character and conduct. To us also comes the emphatic word that closes the apostle John's first letter: "Little children, guard yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).

Deuteronomy 14:1 "You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead." This was a command not to conform to pagan customs in the presence of death. Notice it was based upon the declaration that these people were the sons of the Lord their God. Not much was revealed to them in the Scriptures up to this point about life after death, but it was given them to know that their attitude toward death and  sorrow must not be that of people whose gods were not real. They were children of the living God. Therefore there must be nothing of hopelessness or despair in the presence of death or in the sorrow arising from it. For Christian men and women this is far more urgent. "Our Savior Christ Jesus...abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). Therefore we can never think of death as final or "grieve as those who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). All the heavy, somber, desolation-suggesting trappings of mourning are entirely pagan. They should never be used by Christians. We have become children of God (John 1:10-12) and as our Master said, "He is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Matthew 22:32).

Deuteronomy 15:9 "Beware that there is no base, unworthy thought in your heart." Those words flash like a light into the inner places of the soul.  We are warned against entertaining base, low, or unworthy thoughts in the region of desire. To read these words apart from their context is to realize what God is always seeking in us. It is not enough that we abstain from base deeds. The heart must be free from baseness in thought. But these words become far more searching when they are interpreted by their context. Considering them alone, we might limit their application to things commonly considered especially low, such as murder, immorality, and fraud. The base thought referred to in Deuteronomy 15, however, is of a man who would refuse to help a fellow Hebrew in need because the time was near at hand when the law of God (Exodus 21:5-6) would release that needy person from his debts. How perpetually prone we all are to this kind of baseness! The need is clear, we do not deny it, but relief will some sooner or later so we feel no urgency to help when really, deep down, we know that we should. To the people of God, immediate need calls for immediate help when we know a task has been appointed to us. We are to give at once and without grief in our hearts. Reluctance in giving sterilizes the gift. God is always calling us to such vital fellowship with Himself that we give gladly, generously, and immediately of what He's blessed us with to be a blessing to others.

Deuteronomy 16:16 "They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed." This command had application to the three great feasts of the year: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. All three recognized what the people owed to God. At Passover they were reminded that their national existence was the result of being delivered by God from slavery in Egypt. At Pentecost they recognized that their perpetual sustenance depended upon His blessing their toil. At Tabernacles they recalled all the ways He led them, especially in the wilderness, and confessed that their possession of the land was the result of His gift. Nevertheless, in every one of them, they were called upon to bring gifts to God. This is an ever-increasing wonder to the truly devout heart. It seems incredible that any man or woman can offer anything to God that can possibly be worth His acceptance. Truly He needs nothing, but He does value the spirit of devotion and love that prompts the gift. Where the full hands of worshipers are the results of hearts full of love, however poor intrinsically our gifts may be, they are very precious to Him. Our eternal, almighty, infinite God is no cold, impassive Deity but a God whose heart is a very real fact.

Deuteronomy 17:18 "He shall write for himself a copy of this law." This chapter and the next deals with the threefold medium through which the will of God would be interpreted to the people in the promised land: the king, the priest, and the prophet. Moses spoke about the king with prophetic foresight. He realized that the people would clamor for a king so they could copy other nations, and that God would grant them their request to teach them ultimately the folly of their desire. In light of this, the principles of the appointment were declared. The king must be chosen by God and be of their own nation. He was forbidden to multiply horses, wives, silver, and gold. Perhaps the most striking requirement was that he should write by hand his own copy of God's law. It emphasizes that the king was to be a student of His law. One wonders how many of the kings carried out this wise instruction. This whole section is a remarkable revelation of God's ideal king. Imagine placing the kings of all time by the side of it for measurement. First, we should surely discover that the measure by which kings have approximated this ideal is the measure by which they have contributed to national strength. Second, we should as surely find that one King only fulfills the conditions, as we see hinted in the next chapter.

Deuteronomy 18:15 "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him." The last chapter talks about the king; this chapter discusses both priest and prophet. Restated here were the stipulations that the priest was to have no inheritance in the land and that his material needs were to be supplied by the people through the sacrificial system. In discussing the prophet, Moses first warned the people to beware of the false and to know the true. He described the false prophets as those who deal in dark arts with spiritual forces of evil in a professed attempt to discover the will of God. The true prophet was then described briefly but graphically. Many times it was said of the Lord Jesus Christ (which means Messiah), "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world" (John 6:14, for example). Moses was guided to set forth the true ideals of king, priest, and prophet, and how completely they were realized in the Lord Christ! He was the true King, from the kingly line of Judah ("from your countrymen"), appointed by God, knowing, doing, and teaching God's law. He was the true Priest, without inheritance in His own land, abiding in the service of God, ministered to by the people of God. He was the true Prophet, uttering the Word of God in purity and in fullness. A prophet proclaims God's Word; He Himself "was the Word" (John 1).

Deuteronomy 19:15 "A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime.... Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be established." This chapter deals with the sacredness of life, the necessity for truth, and the obligation of justice in all human relationships. The words highlighted here set up a principle that has been recognized and acted upon wherever there is a passion for justice. They provide that no man or woman can be condemned upon the testimony of one witness. There must be corroboration from the mouth of another. Moreover, every witness must be questioned carefully by the judges. If in the course of that investigation, a person was found guilty of bearing false witness, he or she was to be severely punished. This spirit of strict and impartial justice breathes through all God's laws and help us understand God's ways of dealing with men. In spite of all precautions, justice does miscarry at times because there are things the eye cannot see or the ear hear. It is only upon those evidences that man can bear witness. Our final judgments are with Him who judges not by the seeing of the eye or the hearing of the ear, but with righteous judgment based upon perfect knowledge of all the facts. That truth should both comfort and warn us. By man we may be punished, or we may escape punishment, because all the facts are not known. It is never so with God.

Deuteronomy 20:5 "The officers shall speak to the people, saying...." In this chapter Moses gave specific instructions to guide the people in the wars they must inevitably be engaged in. They were being led not only to find a land for their own possession, but as a scourge of God against a corrupt and corrupting people. In the day of battle they must keep before them the vision of God, for that  alone would free them from fear in the presence of the foe. Before actual conflict, a priest was to authoritatively announce the fact of the presence, authority, and power of God. Then the officers were to speak to the people about the grounds upon which men were to be exempt from military service. First, men who had duties and obligations necessary to the home life of the nation were not to go to war. Among the Israelites, these would be those who had unfinished houses, ungathered vineyards, and men newly married. They were to remain at home, at least until they had discharged their obligations. Second, men who lacked courage were to remain behind because fear is contagious. Armies thus sifted would have a quality that is lacking entirely when they are made up of all sorts and conditions.

Deuteronomy 21:23 "He that is hanged is accursed of God." This reference is to a man who for great sin had been put to death and whose body had been impaled on a tree or stake as a warning to other evildoers. The command was that this exposure not outlast the day. By night the body was to be buried and the whole fact of the man's sin, now expiated as far as human society could lawfully go, be put away. "He that is hanged is accursed of God" is a parenthetical statement explaining the reason for the burial. The man was not accursed of God because he was hung on a tree, but was hung on a tree because he was accursed of God. The hanging was the outward sign of the curse upon him: the curse of death for sin. When that curse was accomplished and witnessed, the sign was to cease. Then let the man be buried as a sign that the curse was sufficient. Understanding this helps when the mind travels to the One who hung upon a tree at Calvary. He was there because He was "made sin" and accursed by God: "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). Such a blunt statement gives the soul a shock, but it is the very shock we need if we are ever to apprehend truly the only way of salvation from sin and death. Christ did not remain on the Tree through the night. The curse on sin was borne and witnessed, the sins He bore completely expiated before God because the One who suffered its penalty was sinless. His burial was the sign that those sins were put away. His resurrection was the beginning of a new life for Himself as Redeemer, and for us who trust in Him as the redeemed.

Deuteronomy 22:1 "You shall not see your countryman's ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them." This is an element of responsibility that outruns ordinary standards of righteousness: we are responsible not only to keep from harming others, but also to prevent harm from being done to them and their belongings when it is in our power to do so. If I should see an animal belonging to my neighbor straying away, it would be in perfect keeping with human ideas of justice if I should say it was no business of mine. Indeed, I might even argue that if he should lose that animal, it would be just punishment for his carelessness. He certainly would have no claim on me that could be enforced in a court of law. But in the court of Eternal Justice, I am counted as violating justice when I claim exemption from such responsibility. Because we are made in the image of God, we are to reflect His compassion and concern for absolute right. My neighbor may suffer significant loss by the straying of a valuable animal, whether through his fault or not, so I must intervene to spare him the loss if I can. Another insight about God's character in chapter 22 is this: "A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's clothing, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord" (verse 5). The same word translated "abomination" is used to describe homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. God cares greatly about gender: "male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27).

Deuteronomy 23:7 "Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country." Here again we are brought face to face with this same element of compassion and mercy in the righteousness of God. How constantly it emerges in His laws! Sometimes we are in danger of thinking God's laws are characterized by a cold negative justice that fills the heart with fear, but that is far from the truth. Here are two illustrations that show otherwise. The first is the command not to despise the Edomites, who descended from Esau, brother of Jacob, from whom the Israelites descended. There were good reasons for these peoples to remain separate, but there was to be no hatred or contempt. The second concerns the Egyptians, with whom the Israelites shared no race relationship, but they had resided in Egypt as foreigners for centuries and had at one time been given real hospitality there. That was never to be forgotten. There were cogent reasons for not making political ties with the Egyptians, but the Israelites were not to harbor any malice toward them. In these commandments to His people, God reveals Himself in lasting ways to us. There are evils with which He will make no compromise, there are peoples with whom He will have no communion, yet in His heart there is no base hatred or contempt but holy wrath instead. To be like Him is to be devoid of all bitterness, which is the outcome of selfishness.

Deuteronomy 24:22 "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this." Moses is giving the people a reason for remembering the orphan, the widow, and the sojourner among them. When they went into the promised land and reaped their corn, beat their olive trees, and gathered their grapes, they were to remember those less privileged than themselves and relax their rights by leaving something behind for others to gather. Why? Because the Israelites themselves were once slaves in Egypt. It is a strange fact that people easily forget their adversity in days of prosperity. Over and over again one sees a man or woman who in early life knew the pinch of poverty, but having come into ease and comfort, become callous toward the trials of others. It is not always so, but it should never be so. To those who live according to the principle behind this law, it never will be so. Here we see an unveiling of God Himself. In all His unsearchable riches, He thinks of the poor, and not only arranges that they may glean from the harvest, but also places all His wealth at their disposal. When we then yield up some gleanings of our own possessions for the relief of the needy, we have nothing to be proud of. It is poor action compared with the divine. Truly there is room only for humility in the life of those who are getting to know God.

Deuteronomy 25:4 "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Twice the apostle Paul quotes those words, both about caring for the material needs of those who minister (1 Corinthians 9:9-10, 1 Timothy 5:18). In the first he asks rhetorically if God is saying here He cares only for oxen or if this is written also for our sake as human beings. He answers, "Yes, for our sake also," and undoubtedly is right. The principle is that God cares for animals but because that is so, His care for people is necessarily greater. Jesus states this directly: "Your heavenly Father feeds them [birds]. Are you not of much more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26). In God, love acts toward all. Nothing He has made is outside that love. His children are to be like Him in this. We do not minimize the application of this command to human beings when we insist upon its application to animals. King Solomon wrote, "The righteous man cares for the life of his animal" (Proverbs 12:10). If I see a man ill-treat a dog or a horse, I know he is capable of being brutal to a person. I would trust no child to a man or woman who showed cruelty to an animal. Another significant point in this chapter is how highly God values open, honest dealings between people. In the context of something as common as just weights and measures, verse 16 says, "Everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord." (King Solomon repeats the same point Moses makes here in Proverbs 11:1.) It is generally known that the Hebrew word translated "abomination" (toebah) refers to idolatry and a variety of sexual sins, but we do well to note it refers here and elsewhere in Holy Scripture to deviousness and hypocrisy. Part of sincerely loving God is avoiding everything He hates, not picking and choosing based on personal preference or social pressure.

Deuteronomy 26:10 "I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord have given me." In this chapter Moses discusses a celebration of worship in the promised land with the people giving thanks from their literal first-fruits as land owners. They were to bring their gifts in a basket to the appointed place of worship, hand the basket to the priest, and recite a simple confession of their nation's humble origins and God's great blessings upon them. Then the people would celebrate together with something like a picnic before the Lord. This highlights that the true method of giving to God is giving Him our first-fruits. We are always in danger of thinking of Him last. When we are planning how to manage our income, how often we arrange for things perfectly necessary, but purely personal, and only when our list is completed do we consider what we have left to offer for our Lord's service! If such lists are to be made, the first expenditure should be our giving to Him for His glory because He is so worthy. Every part, in fact, belongs to Him and should be expended for His glory, but the first gift should be specifically devoted to His work.

Deuteronomy 27:9 "Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the Lord your God." Moses and the elders of Israel announced to the people that after entering the promised land, they were to erect two structures: an altar on Mount Ebal and near it a pile of great stones, coated so they could be inscribed with God's law. The law thus inscribed and clearly exhibited indicates the necessity for obedience, while the altar speaks of the graciously provided method of approach to God because of disobedience. Then there was to be a formal pronouncement of blessing and cursing. The blessings were to be pronounced from across the valley on Mount Gerazim and the cursings on Mount Ebal. The twelve tribes would be split into two groups of six each on the mountaintops with the priests making the pronouncements, perhaps from the valley floor. After describing this solemn, unforgettable ceremony that would take place after he died (recorded in Joshua 8:30-35), Moses called the people to be silent and listen because they had become the people of God with their own law and altar. Their cursing or blessing would result from their attitude toward that law and altar. The law can only curse when there is disobedience, but the altar can bless when there is obedience. Thus the people of God always live between their own failures and divine grace. Grace is no excuse for failure, but in failure there is no reason for despair.

Deuteronomy 28:1 "The Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth." That was the purpose of God for His people. Its fulfillment was conditional upon their obedience, as the first part of this verse makes clear: "If you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments." Having made this general declaration, Moses proceeded to describe the blessings that would follow obedience, and then to declare the evils that would overtake the Israelites if they disregarded God's law. The history that followed over the next several centuries shows how literally all these things were fulfilled. It has plenty of application to us today. In Christ the law as given to Moses is done away because He has given us a higher law that far transcends the former in its standards of purity. In Christ the sacrificial altar has been superseded by the heavenly altar where men and women may draw near to God, and appropriate all the resources of His grace for keeping this higher law (Hebrews 4:14-16). Disobedience still issues in disaster and obedience in realization of divine purpose. We blaspheme the name of God and desecrate that final altar when we become careless about the will of God as it has been revealed to us in the perfections of the Son of Man. It is only when we listen carefully to the Word of God and obey it that we are set above the nations of the earth. With the church as it was with Israel, the divine intention of our exaltation is not that we should tyrannize the nations of the earth and hold them in contempt, but that we should serve them and lead them into blessedness.

Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." In this chapter and those that follow, Moses was concerned with the covenant God made with His people on Mount Sinai and renewed it here, urging the nation to be true to it. Moses based his appeal on God's deliverances: from slavery in Egypt, in days of battle, and through the wilderness (here and in chapter 8 we are told in passing that the Lord miraculously provided not only food and water, but also kept the people's sandals and clothing from wearing out). This appeal and covenant renewal was made to all classes in the community: to the rulers and the people; to men, women, and children; and also to servants. In graphic and burning words he again described the results of breaking the covenant. Then, recognizing the limitations of the people and their inability to understand all the ways of God, he enunciated this great principle of life in verse 29. It is of far-reaching application and perpetual importance. There are secret things in life, things veiled that cannot be explained. These things are not veiled to God. He knows them.  There are also things revealed by God. If man will obey them, he will be brought into right relation with the secret things, progressively passing to apprehension of them as God wills, while all the time those secret things cooperate with him for his perfecting. In the apprehension and practice of this law of life, man finds his way into spiritual strength.

Deuteronomy 30:11 "This commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach." Continuing to emphasize the covenant, Moses uttered words filled with tenderness and urgent in their appeal. In the first ten verses of this chapter we have the long look ahead of love. He seems to have seen the people in the conditions he told them would come from their disobedience, one day scattered and far away from the land they were about to enter. Yet he saw them returning to God as the result of the sore discipline through which they would pass. Best of all, he saw God ready to receive and pardon them. It was a great prophetic vision, the value of which Israel has not yet learned but is still true today. Then, renewing his appeal, Moses uttered the words highlighted. They emphasize the reasonableness of God's commandments. His law is never too hard for man. It is based upon God's perfect knowledge of human nature. Every word of the divine law is a true expression of how human life is meant to be. When a man breaks the law of God, he is not sinning against a requirement superimposed upon him, the doing of which he is not fitted; he is sinning against his own life. Man is not left to grope in the dark mysteries of his own being, for God has made the light of His revealed will to shine. As a man walks in that light, he is walking according to his deepest powers and possibilities.

Deuteronomy 31:19 "Write this song." For forty years Moses led the people. Writing this song was one of the last things God asked him to do. The purpose of it was clearly stated: that this great song, once embodied in the life of the people, would remain from generation to generation. In days of disaster it would be a haunting memory testifying to truth about God. In days of difficulty it would be a source of new courage. In days of victory it would be an outlet for emotional expression. Songs often remain after commandments are forgotten. The song itself is found in the next chapter. It reminds us of the value of poetic expression as a gift of God. Some people assume anything in poetic form must be speculative, imaginative, and probably untrue. As a matter of fact, however, poetry is one of the highest forms of human language, expressing as prose never can the deepest and truest things of the soul. The church is enriched by her songs as by her theology, for both promote unity and truth. The Wesleys did more for Christianity in their hymns than in all their printed explanations. A great song is a great possession, and not for Israel only but also for the church is the song of Moses among the most beautiful and strong.

Deuteronomy 32:47 "It is no empty thing for you, but your very life." This is what Moses said to the people after he finished his song. He was referring to the law as interpreted by the song. It begins in chapter 32 with a call to attention and a statement concerning its nature: that it proclaims the name of the Lord (verses 1-3). Then the song sets forth the glories of that name as it celebrates the greatness, perfection, justice, and faithfulness of God (verses 3-4). In sudden contrast and short, sharp fashion, it next describes the corruption of the people (verse 5). The song then becomes an appeal, calling the Israelites to remember the tender government of God. It is a wonderful revelation of the fact that love is the inspiration of law (verses 6-14). In strange contrast again the song becomes a wail as the unfaithful people are compared to an over-fed ox: "But Jeshurun [a poetic name for Israel] grew fat and kicked" (verses 15-18), which inevitably brought tragic consequences (verses 19-28). Then it breaks out into a cry of longing, "Oh, that they were wise!" and describes the blessings that follow obedience (verses 29-43). That is merely an analysis. Let this song be studied by its simple aid, and it will be found how carefully it was calculated to teach men and women that the will of God for them is "no empty thing," but their very life.

Deuteronomy 33:29 "Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?" Moses' last words to the people were words of blessing. In stately and majestic language Moses first affirmed anew the majesty of God and declared His love for the tribes of Israel as a whole. He then pronounced specific words of blessing upon each tribe, Simeon only being omitted (why we do not know for sure). Reuben and Judah are referred to in terms that suggest they were saved so as by fire, and Judah as a praying people. Levi, having lost all earthly possession for the special honor of bearing the Word of the Lord, would receive the reward of such sacrifice. The reference to Benjamin shows the safety of frailty within the divine government. Perhaps the choicest things of all are said of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). His were all "precious things...and the good will of Him who dwelt in the [burning] bush" (Deuteronomy 33:16). Issachar and Zebulun are seen triumphing over disability. Gad, overcoming at last, would be appointed a judge. Dan becomes typical of conquest. Naphtali would be satisfied and Asher  sustained. Thus in his final benediction Moses revealed all these various blessings as demonstrating the all-sufficiency of God. His concluding words again celebrate the greatness of God as finally manifested by His tenderness and strength toward His people. Indeed, happy are the people who are saved by the Lord!

Deuteronomy 34:10 "Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." In this last chapter of Deuteronomy we have the writing of another hand. It contains the story of the death of Moses, the equipping of Joshua for his work, and a last tender reference to the great leader and law-giver, beginning with the words highlighted here. For the scribe who wrote them they were true words, and they remained true through all the history of this wonderful people until One was born of the seed of David who was far greater than Moses. Moses himself foretold his coming when he wrote, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him" (Deuteronomy 18:15). Long centuries elapsed, but at last He came, and in His coming fulfilled all Moses had initiated under the divine government. He absorbed and abolished the law that came through him in the grace and truth that He brought to men. All this does not detract from but rather enhances our sense of the greatness of Moses. His passing was full of beauty: his exclusion from the promised land was a punishment, but like all the chastisements of God, it was wonderfully tempered with mercy in that there had been no weakening of his force. Although Moses was 120 years old when he died, "his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated" (Deuteronomy 34:7). Everything ended in full strength. He climbed up Mount Nebo across the Jordan River from Jericho, where God gave a vision of the promised land. Moses then died there and God Himself saw to his burial in an unknown grave. It was an august and glorious ending to a great and dignified life.  Thus ends the last book of the Pentateuch (5 books of Moses), the final section of the law. Its supreme value is its revelation of the need for the Priest and the Gospel (Hebrews 10:1-25).

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