FURTHER EXHORTATION TO OBEDIENCE, ENFORCED BY A REVIEW OF GOD'S DEALINGS WITH ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS.
That they might be induced the more faithfully to observe all the commandments which had been enjoined upon them so as to go on and prosper, they are called to remember the experiences of the forty years in the wilderness, when God guided them and disciplined them for their good. He humbled them that he might test the state of their heart and affections towards him, using the distress and privations to which they were subjected as means of bringing out what was in them, and of leading them to feel their entire dependence on him for help, sustenance, and guidance. Not only by commands difficult to be obeyed laid on men, and by mighty works done in their view, does God prove men (cf. Genesis 22:1, etc.; Exodus 15:25; Exodus 20:20); but also by afflictions and calamities ( 2:22; 3:4; Psalms 17:3; Psalms 81:7, etc.), as well as by benefits (Exodus 16:4). Humbled so as to see his own weakness, chastised out of all self-conceit by affliction, man is brought to submit to God, to hear and obey him; and along with this the experience of God's goodness tends to draw men, in grateful acknowledgment of his mercy and bounty, to yield themselves to him and sincerely and lovingly to serve him (cf. Romans 2:4).
Deuteronomy 8:1, Deuteronomy 8:2
God's dealings with the Israelites were disciplinary. Both by the afflictions and privations to which they were subjected, and by the provision they received anti the protection afforded to them, God sought to bring them into and keep them in a right state of mind towards him—a state of humble dependence, submissive obedience, and hopeful trust. But that this effect should be produced, it was needful that they should mark and remember all his ways towards them.
God humbled the Israelites by leaving them to suffer hunger from the want of food, and then supplying them with food in a miraculous manner. They were thus taught that their life depended wholly on God, who could, by his own creative power, without any of the ordinary means, provide for the sustaining of their life. And fed thee with manna (cf. Exodus 16:15). It is in vain to seek to identify this with any natural product. It was something entirely new to the Israelites—a thing which neither they nor their fathers knew; truly bread from heaven, and which got from them the name of manna or man, because, in their wondering ignorance, they knew not what to call it, and so they said one to another, Man hoo? ( מָן הוּא), What is it? and thenceforward called it man. That he might make thee know, etc. "Bread," which the Jews regarded as "the staff of life," stands here, as in other places, for food generally; and the lesson taught the Israelites was that not in one way or by. one kind of means alone could life be sustained, but in the absence of these God could, by his own fiat, provide for the sustenance of his children. Every word—literally, all, everything whatever—that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, i.e. all means which God has by his word provided, or by his word can provide, for the sustenance of life. So our Lord cites this passage in replying to the tempter, who had suggested that if he was the Son of God he might relieve himself from the pangs of hunger by commanding the stones which lay around to become bread. Our Lord's reply to this is virtually." I have this power, and could use it, but I will not; for this would imply impatience and distrust of God, who has engaged to sustain the life of his servants, and who can, by the mere word of his mouth, by his creative will, provide in an extraordinary way for the sustenance of life when the ordinary means of life are wanting." "Jesus means to say, ' I leave it with God to care for the sustaining of my life, and I will not arbitrarily and for selfish ends help myself by a miracle'" (De Wette, note on Matthew 4:4; see also Meyer on the place).
As the manna furnished by God's creative power saved them from hunger, so by God's providence and care their raiment was marvelously kept from decay, and they had not to go barefoot from their sandals being worn out. Waxed not old upon thee; literally, did not fall away, waste away from upon thee. This cannot mean that such was the abundant supply of raiment to the Israelites in the Arabian desert, that there was no need for them to wear garments rent and tattered from long use, as they had large flocks and herds whence a sufficient supply of wool and leather could be obtained, and there were among them skilled artificers, by whom these could be made into articles of clothing (Rosenmüller, J. D. Michaelis, etc.). For, as Knobel observes, "This were something too insignificant beside the miraculous manna; and besides, this does not lie in the expression, which rather intimates that the clothes upon them were not worn out nor fell from them in rags, because God gave them a marvelous durability." At the same time, there is no reason to suppose that the Israelites did not make use of such supplies as were within their reach for purposes of clothing, any more than that they lived only on manna during the forty years of their wandering. Still less need we resort to such fanciful suppositions as that the garments of the Israelitish children expanded as they grew up, like the shells of snails—which is the notion of some of the Jewish rabbins, and adopted by some of the Christian Fathers. Neither did thy foot swell. The verb here is found in only one other passage (Nehemiah 9:21), where this passage is repeated; and the meaning is doubtful. The LXX. render here by ἐτυλώθησαν, became callous; but in Nehemiah the rendering they give is διερράγησαν, were torn, the object torn being, according to the Cod. Vat; πόδες abbey, their feet, according to the Cod. Alex; τὰ ὑποδήματα affray, their sandals. In Deuteronomy 29:5, the shoe or sandal is specially mentioned in the same connection as here. The verb, however, cannot mean tear or torn, neither does it mean swell; the idea involved is rather that of softening, or , melting or flowing; and the meaning here seems to be, "Thy foot did not get into a bruised and wounded state"—which would have been the case had their sandals not been preserved from breaking or being worn out.
Thus God educated, disciplined, and trained his people as a father does his child. Chasteneth. The idea is not so much that of punishment or chastisement, properly so called, as that of severe discipline and training. God made them feel his hand upon them, but ever for their good; the end of the discipline to which they were subjected was that they might keep his commandments and walk in his ways, so as to enjoy his favor (cf. Hebrews 12:5, etc.).
The land on which they were about to enter is described as a good laud, fertile and well watered, and yielding abundant produce to its cultivators; and they are cautioned against forgetting, in their enjoyment of the gift, the bounty of the Giver, or congratulating themselves on having achieved the conquest of such a land, instead of gratefully acknowledging the grace which had sustained them during their protracted wandering in the wilderness, and by which alone they had been enabled to take possession of that favored land.
Deuteronomy 8:7, Deuteronomy 8:8
Brooks of water, running streams, mountain torrents, and watercourses in the narrow valleys or wadys; fountains, perennial springs; depths, "the fathomless pools from which such streams as the Abana (now Barada), near Damascus, spring up full-grown rivers, almost as broad at their sources as at their mouths", or this may include also the inland seas or lakes, such as the sea of Galileo and Lake Haleh. Palestine is in the present day, on the whole, well supplied with water, though the distribution is very unequal, many parts being almost wholly destitute of supply, except from what may be collected from rain in tanks or cisterns; and there is no reason to suppose it was different in the ancient times. As compared, however, with the desert to which the Israelites had been so long accustomed, and even with Egypt from which they had escaped, the country on which they were about to enter was well watered.
"Palestine has been celebrated in all ages for three products: corn, wine, and oil, which still continue to be its most valuable crops". The principal corn crops were wheat and barley. The vine was largely and carefully cultivated; the olive required little cultivation, being almost a spontaneous growth, and forming one of the most valuable productions of the country; the fig was also indigenous in Palestine, and still grows there, both wild and cultivated, in abundance; that the pomegranate (firemen) also was very abundant may be inferred from the number of places named from this (cf. Joshua 15:32; Joshua 19:7, Joshua 19:13; 20:45, 20:47; 21:13; 1 Chronicles 4:32, etc.). Honey. The word so rendered (d'bash) is used both of the honey of bees (Le Deuteronomy 2:11; Deuteronomy 32:11; 1 Samuel 14:26, etc.; Ps 81:17; Proverbs 16:24, etc.), and of the honey of grapes, a syrup obtained by boiling down the newly expressed juice of the grape to a half or third part of its bulk, and still known among the Arabs by the name of dibs. In the wilderness, the people had murmured that they had been brought into an evil place, no place of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; and where there was no water to drink (Numbers 20:5). Moses here tells them that the land they were about to occupy was not such a place, but one abounding in all those things of which they had found the wilderness so destitute.
A land whose stones are iron. Minerals do not abound in Palestine; the hills are for the most part calcareous; but by the side of the limestone in the north of Canaan ferruginous basalt appears in largo masses, and on Lebanon ironstone abounds. Near Tiberius are springs largely impregnated with iron, as are also those at Has-beija, on the Hermon range, as well as the soil around that place. Traces of extinct copper works are also to be found on Lebanon (cf. art. 'Metals,' in Kitto and Smith; Ritter, 'Geography of Palestine,' 1.248). The Israelites, however, do not seem to have carried on mining operations themselves, but to have been content to obtain supplies of the useful metals from their neighbors (2 Samuel 8:8; 1 Chronicles 18:8; 1 Chronicles 22:3, 1 Chronicles 22:14).
When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God. "From this place the Jews have made it a general rule, or, as they call it, an affirmative precept, that every one bless God at their meals, that is, give him thanks for his benefits; for he blesses us when he bestows good things on us, and we bless him when we thankfully acknowledge his goodness therein" (Patrick).
Wealth is apt to engender in the possessor of it a spirit of self-gratulation and pride, and abundance of good things to induce men to be luxurious, "to trust in uncertain riches," and to be forgetful of the bounteous hand from which all that they enjoy has come. Against this the people are hero cautioned and warned.
Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, etc. "The fiery serpent" and "the scorpion" (sing.) are in apposition to the "wilderness," and illustrate its terribleness. Fiery serpents— ὔφεις τοὺς θανατοῦνσας LXX.—or burning serpents, so called from the burning pain caused by their bite; probably the cerastes, or one of the naja species (cf. Numbers 21:6).
The grand end of all God's dealings with the Israelites in the desert, both the trials to which they were subjected and the benefits they received, was that he might do them good ultimately. Thy latter end; not the end of life, as in Numbers 23:10, but the state ensuing on the termination of their period of discipline and probation in the desert (cf. Job 8:7; Job 42:12; 2 Peter 2:20). God thus dealt with the Israelites as he still deals with his people; he afflicts them not for his pleasure but for their profit (Hebrews 11:12); he subjects them to trial and varied discipline that he may fit them for the rest and joy that in the end are to be theirs.
Deuteronomy 8:17, Deuteronomy 8:18
The blessing in store for them was God's free gift to them; and when they came to enjoy it they were not to allow themselves to say in their heart, i.e. to think or imagine, that the prosperous condition in which they were placed was the result of their own exertions; they were to ascribe all to God's gracious bounty, for from him had come the power by which prosperity had been gained, and this he had given, not on account of any merit in them, but that he might fulfill his covenant engagements to their fathers. Get wealth עָשָׂה חַיִל, to make strength, to gather substance (Genesis 12:5), to procure wealth. As it is this day. "As was quite evident then, when the establishment of the covenant had already commenced, and Israel had come through the desert to the border of Canaan (see Deuteronomy 4:20)" (Keil).
Deuteronomy 8:19, Deuteronomy 8:20
Moses enforces his counsel by reminding them again that only destruction awaited them should they forget the Lord their God and apostatize from him (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25, etc.; Deuteronomy 6:14).
Life's meaning discerned by the retrospect of it.
The remark has not infrequently been made that incidents closely connected cannot be rightly understood till the time has come for them to be reviewed in their entirety as matters of history. What is true of events generally, applies in all its force to the wonders included in the rescue and wanderings of the people of Israel. And that which may be said of them, holds good, in this respect, of the life-story of God's children now. Two words would sum up the pith of their experience—"redemption," "training." Redeemed first, trained afterwards. Redeemed, that they might be trained; trained, that they might become worthy of the redemption. Both the redemption and the training had in Israel's case a depth of meaning of which the people knew little at the time, but which Israel's God intended from the first. Afterwards, their varied experiences, when reviewed as a piece of history, became matter for grateful record and adoring praise. The paragraph before us now is "the aged lawgiver reviewing the experiences of Israel in their wanderings." Four lines of meditation open up—
I. THERE ARE MANY LESSONS WHICH GOD'S CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN.
1. "To humble thee" (Deuteronomy 8:2), i.e. to bring them to feel their dependence on God. This, indeed, seems such an obvious truth, that men ought not to need to be taught it. But we must remember that, before we are redeemed, our training for eternity has never begun at all, and that when redemption is with us a realized fact, we then present ourselves to God only in the rough, relying on his love to make us what we should be. And one of the lessons we have thoroughly to learn is that "without Christ we can do nothing."
2. "To prove thee" (Deuteronomy 8:2). A double proof is indicated.
There is no subject on which the young convert is so ignorant as—himself; and he never can become what a Christian should be till he sees his own conceit. He must become a sadder man ere he can be a wiser one.
3. "That he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone." It has been remarked that, as Moses in this clause refers to the manna, the meaning is:
Doubtless this is true. But it is not the whole truth, nor do we deem it the truth here intended. We know that with these words our Savior repelled one assault of the tempter. This being so, we are set somewhat on a different track for their interpretation (cf. Matthew 4:3, Matthew 4:4). Our Savior's reply is, in effect, "Man has a double life, not only that of the body, but also that of the spirit; you ask me to nourish the lower at the expense of the higher—to get food for the body by a negation of the self-sacrifice for which I came. It is not bread alone which sustains the man. He has a higher self, which lives on higher food, and I cannot pamper the lower at the cost of the prostration of the higher." Now, with such light thrown on the passage by our Lord, we are led to regard the words of Moses as referring not only to the supply of food, but rather to the entire discipline in the wilderness, as intended by God to bring out to the people the reality and worth of the nobler part of man. Our God cares more for growth of soul than for comfort of body. His aim is not only to find us food, but to train us for himself. Nor was it that they only might learn these lessons, but that others in after time might see on what rough and raw material the Great Educator will condescend to work, and with what care he will work upon it.
II. GOD ADOPTS VARIED METHODS OF TEACHING THESE NEEDED LESSONS. The clauses in the paragraph indicate these.
1. There was "the way" by which they were led. It was not given to Israel to choose it. It was not the shortest way. It was "the right" way annointed by God.
2 The method of sending supplies: "Day by day the manna fell." They were thus taught to live by the day.
3. The disappointments they met: "These forty years." If they had been told, when they set out from Egypt, that so long a period intervened between them and Canaan, they would scarcely have set out. And if God were to unveil to us the incidents of coming years, we could not bear the sight.
4. The wants they felt: "He suffered thee to hunger." God sometimes lets his people feel how completely they are shut up to him.
5. Yet there were constant proofs of thoughtful care (Deuteronomy 8:4). We do not understand any miracle involved here, still less so odd a one as the rabbis suggested, that the children's clothes grew upon their backs; The meaning of Moses surely is, "God so provided for their wants that they needed not to wear tattered garments, nor to injure their feet by walking without shoes or sandals."
6. There was also chastening (Deuteronomy 8:5). This word includes not only correction but all that belongs to the training of a child (cf. Hebrews 12:7; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 89:32; Job 7:17, Job 7:18; Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12; Revelation 3:19).
III. THERE IS A REASON INDICATED HERE WHY GOD TAKES SO MUCH PAINS TO TEACH THESE LESSONS. Deuteronomy 8:5, "As a man chasteneth his son." We might well ask, Why should the Great Supreme do so much to educate into shape such raw and rough natures as ours? That he should do so at all is, per se, far harder to believe than any apparent variation of the ordinary course of physical nature. The reason is found in the words, "Ye are sons." Israel was God's son, even his firstborn. Believers are the adopted children of God; hence the greatness of their destiny, and the earnestness of their Leader in training them for it. It may be said, indeed, by an unbeliever, "I have all these changes in life, but they are not training me," etc. No, because the one condition is wanting under which all these come to be a training—sonship. This order is never reversed—rescued, then educated. If men have not known the first, they cannot understand the second.
IV. IF GOD CARES SO MUCH TO TRAIN, WE SHOULD CAREFULLY CONSIDER WHAT HIS TRAINING MEANS. (Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 8:5.) Let us understand what a high moral and spiritual aim God has in the culture of this life of ours! The life of a man is not a mere material something, on a physical basis; it is the expression of a plan of God. Then let us be as anxious to be rightly educated for eternity, as God is so to educate us. Never let us allow the lower ends of life to master the higher (Deuteronomy 8:6). Ever let us keep the end of life in view. For eternity we are meant, and for eternity we should live. Some have life largely in retrospect, even now. Do they not see that the past is explained by the present? Even so the present will be explained by the future (John 13:7). Let them rejoice that they have a Father who guides by the way which he sees to be right, and not "according to their mind." Some have life before them.
1. Let it be the supreme desire to let life become what God wants it to be—a continuous advance in preparation for heaven. This is of more consequence than all the ease and comfort in the world.
2. Recognize and praise the kindness of God in giving men these chequered experiences of life, if they do but educate for higher service. Don't let us wonder if we cannot understand God's ways at the time. We shall in the end.
3. If we want God to train us for glory—first, we must come out of Egypt. The education cannot begin in the land of bondage,—we must first be the Lard's free men; then, let us leave the way and method of the culture entirely to God. If he were to let us choose the way, what mistakes we should make! Our faith in God even in youth should be such as to lead us to say, "Father, my supreme desire is to grow like thee, and to live with thee. I know not by what paths I need to be led, nor through what discipline I need to be brought, to bring about this end. I leave all in thy gracious hands, desiring that thine infinite wisdom and love should order all things for me. Here I am. Take me as I am, all guilty and defiled. Make me what I should be; and if by thy grace I am ripened for and led to Canaan, then will I sing, 'Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, to him which sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'"
The duty of thankfulness for the bounty of God in nature.
The people of Israel were being led by the Lord their God to a land beautiful, luxuriant, fruitful. (For an account of the productions of Palestine, of the fertility of its soil, and of the treasures hidden in its hills, see works by Kitto, Stanley, Wilson, Thomson, and others; as well as Bible dictionaries and Cyclopedias, under the several headings.) Evidently, at the time Moses uttered the words before us, the people had not reached that land; though they were expecting shortly to do so. In view thereof, Moses bids them (Deuteronomy 8:10) bless the Lord their God for the good land he had given them. Hence our subject: "the duty of recognizing the hand of God in the bounties of nature, and of thankfulness for the use of them."
I. THERE IS A MARVELLOUS ADAPTATION IN EXTERNAL NATURE TO THE CONSTITUTION AND WARTS OF MAN. (Each of the varied terms used in Deuteronomy 8:7-9 will afford vast scope for the expansion of this thought. And the wider the range of knowledge, the greater delight will such expansion afford to one who longs to make others see the variety of the Divine goodness.) What a vast and prolonged preparation must there have been to fit this world for the use of those who should hereafter dwell upon it! And then, when all is ready, man, the crown of God's earthly creation, comes last upon the scene, with "all things put under his feet."
II. ALL THE WEALTH OF EARTH IS A GIFT TO MAN. "The good land which he hath given thee" (Deuteronomy 8:10). It is but reasonable that we look at the profusion of riches upon and within the earth as a "gift." "What have we that we have not received?' Where were we when "the foundations of the earth' were laid? Yet some would have us adopt a "religion of humanity," as if humanity were to be praised for the physical basis of its own existence! A Power not in man nor of man hath given us all.
III. THE GIFT COMETH FROM A PERSONAL BEING. "The Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee." The Power from which nature's wealth cometh, is not a blind non-intelligent force. For man's own intelligence has to be accounted for; and even if impersonal forces could have wrought out matter, it is axiomatically certain that impersonality could not produce personality. So far natural religion can go. But our text takes us further.
IV. NATURE'S WEALTH COMETH FROM THE LORD OUR GOD. "Our God." He is not an "Unknown." We may not set up an altar, ἀγνώστῳ θεῷ. We know him as a redeeming God, as One who delights to exercise loving-kindness, righteousness, and judgment in the earth. And since God is revealed to us in Christ, we learn thereby that the long preparations of earth have been going on with a view of setting up on it the new creations of redeeming grace. This is "the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory." Oh, the boundless meaning of the expression, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world!"
V. ALL THIS SHOULD CALL FORTH SPECIAL THANKFULNESS FROM OUR HEARTS AND LIPS. "Thou shalt bless," etc. We may go very far beyond the merely personal consideration which Moses suggests here. We know more clearly, therefore we should praise more intelligently, devoutly, and warmly. Israel might include some, we should take in all, the following considerations, to stimulate to intense thankfulness.
1. We were nothing, had nothing, and yet we have all given to us "richly to enjoy."
2. We are sinful, and have forfeited thereby even our natural claim. Yet all is continued to us, in unwearying kindness and unabated faithfulness.
3. We have not only the actual possessions of earth's wealth, but are put in possession of the mind and purpose of the Great Framer of all, that ours may be the praise of understanding hearts.
4. We read that God wills to have on this globe a ransomed people, ours, therefore, may well be the jubilant praise of redeemed men.
5. We are not here merely to enjoy this world and then to know no other, but to enjoy this world as a stepping-stone to another. Hence ours should be the triumphant shout of men with a glorious destiny ahead, and of those who use this world so as to help them to a better. Finally:
6. The present form of earth is destined to fall away. God will "make all things new" (Psalms 102:26; Hebrews 1:12; 2 Peter 3:13). We for whom this world was made, will then be rejoicing in God, and will be enraptured to see what ever-advancing forms of beauty "he hath prepared for them that love him" Thus ours should be the praise of men on whom even the too oft-repeated dirge, "passing away," leaves no trace of gloom or of regret. If we are the redeemed of the Lord, our life may be a song of thanksgiving, and our death a shout of victory!
(See Homiletics: Deuteronomy 6:10-19.)
(See Homiletics: Deuteronomy 8:1-6.)
Deuteronomy 8:17, Deuteronomy 8:18
Danger of self-glorification.
The enjoyment of God's mercies, which should be so provocative of thankfulness, may become a snare, if we are not careful to guard against their misuse. Several of the dangers to which prosperity makes us liable are dealt with in the Homily referred to above. Here, there is one specially named, which is perhaps the most common of all, viz. that of attributing success in life to one's own skill, or wisdom, or might: "And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth" (see Ezekiel 28:4, Ezekiel 28:5; Ezekiel 29:3; Psalms 12:3; 7:2). So strong is the tendency to accredit ourselves with any gains which may be ours, in a vain, self-glorifying spirit, that we cannot be too anxious to guard against it, by exposing the sin and evil of it.
I. IT IS UNTRUE. However much care we may have taken to ensure success, whether we gain our end or no, has been dependent at every moment on a conjunction of circumstances, which we were as powerless to bring about or to avoid, as to create the tides or arrest the moon. And even the ability to take care, and to put forth effort, has been a gift. We are violating the first rudiments of most certain truth, when we take the credit of success in life to ourselves.
II. IT IS DISLOYAL. For it is God who gives us the power to get wealth. We owe all we have to his bounty, and even the very breath we draw, to his unceasing care. The laws on which we have relied to bring prosperity have been of God's creation. And for a creature to plume himself on the gifts of the Creator, who can adequately set forth such injustice to high Heaven?
III. IT IS UNGRATEFUL. For, as if it were not enough that the Most High should have all our faults to bear with unceasingly—is it not marvelously ungrateful that creatures who would have long ago been cut down except for the long-suffering of God, should pride themselves on the abilities which have been in such forbearance continued to them?
IV. IT IS MOST MISCHIEVOUS IN ITS EFFECTS. For it nurses pride, instead of fostering thankfulness. It genders selfishness, it freezes benevolence, and will surely breed a covetous, tyrannous, haughty disposition, if not fought against and overcome.
V. IT IS OFFENSIVE IN GOD'S SIGHT, (Proverbs 6:16, Proverbs 6:17; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.) God sets himself in array against pride of heart. How can it be otherwise? "What communion hath light with darkness?" God will dwell with the contrite and humble spirit, but "the proud he knoweth afar off."
VI. IT IS THE REVERSE OF THAT WHICH GODS DESIGNS. (Deuteronomy 8:16.) For the varied experiences of life are an appeal of God to men as moral beings, "to humble them and prove them;" and if, in spite of all, any take the credit to themselves of their own prosperity, God's own intent in their life-history is being reversed.
VII. IT WILL SOONER OR LATER BRING HUMILIATION AND SUFFERING, (Proverbs 29:23.) Again and again does our Savior also lay down this principle, that pride exposes to much shame (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14). It is not for us to say, in any individual case, in what form the debasement or disappointment will come. But come it will. It may be in one or more of the following ways:
1. By the removal of the wealth which was gained, and a sudden plunge from prosperity to adversity. It is sad when men have to part with all before they will learn that God gave all!
2. By depriving men of any further power to attend to worldly concerns, they may have to see their utter helplessness without God.
3. By a searching dealing with the spirit in the furnace of tribulation, God may graciously burn up the pride, and purge away corruption. But the process is a terrific one, even here. It is being saved, "yet so as by fire." Still, it is better to be saved, even thus, cost what it may (1 Corinthians 3:18). It is only when God succeeds in "humbling" us, that he can do us good "at the latter end."
4. If, after all warnings, teachings, and strivings, God's voice is still unheard, and pride still rears itself up against him, he will reckon the proud one as "the chaff which the wind driveth away." And oh, how will this self-elation shrivel up then (see Isaiah 2:10-22)! God will not give his glory to another (1 Samuel 2:30; Malachi 4:1). What reversals of position will that day witness! That which the world reckoned as "great wealth" will come to naught, and the "wealthy" one will be bankrupt for eternity; while those who in lowliness of spirit have received thankfully the least of God's gifts, shall have him as their "exceeding great Reward." To such he will say, "Friend, come up higher!"
Deuteronomy 8:19, Deuteronomy 8:20
(See Homiletics: Deuteronomy 28:1-68.)
HOMILIES BY D. DAVIES
The moral uses of memory.
The memory of man exerts a mighty influence over his history and his destiny. Minus memory, man would be altogether another being. Remembrance of the past is a guidepost, or a beacon, for the future.
The key-word of this passage is "all:" "all the way;" "every word;" "all the commandments."
I. THE SCOPE OF MEMORY. "All the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee."
1. Remember thy needs—how many, how various, how urgent. Our hourly dependence upon material substance for food, and upon a Power beyond and above ourselves, ought to make us profoundly humble. Is there an occupant of this globe so full of need of many sorts as man?
2. Remember thy special perils. Every man has his particular dangers, as the Hebrews had in the desert—perils arising from outward circumstance, moral temptations, evil powers, personal defects and infirmities, distinctive vocation.
3. Remember God's suitable supplies. Their needs in the desert were unique and unprecedented; yet God was prepared for every emergency. It was open to him either to diminish the need, or else to institute new methods of supply. What if the sandy soil refused to yield a harvest? He can distil a harvest from the dewy air. What if flax be wanting as a material from which to fabricate raiment! He can stay, by a volition, the progress of decay and wear. What though the journeys tend to injure and blister the feet? He can make the skin durable as iron and brass. There shall be special blessing for special need. Every man's history is more or less special. Every point of our past history teems with footprints of God. Placed under the microscope of pious memory, every atom yields surprising lessons, sparkling truths.
II. THE MORAL USES OF MEMORY. They may be summed up under one head, viz. to perceive that God was in every event—that every word of God is a force for giving life.
1. A calm review of the past discovers the moral purpose God has kept in view. As when a man stands in the midst of complicated machinery, he is deafened by the roar, and bewildered by the manifold movements, that he cannot detect the definite end which that machine serves. To gum that knowledge, he must move away, and take in by one glance the effect of the whole. So, amid the whirl and excitement of passing events, we do not discern the definite purpose God has in view. We must get a bird's-eye view kern a new elevation. To reduce the pride of man's heart, to persuade him that God rules, are laudable purposes of Divine leadings.
2. The remembrance of the past exhibits the fatherly disciplines of God. Mingled tenderness and severity is conspicuous in God's dealings. We can see now that we had the sunshine of his favor when we kept the pathway of obedience, and that as often as we became wayward, the rod of his indignation fell. We can see now the likeness between God's treatment of us, and our fatherly treatment of our children. Faithful discipline is better every way than foolish fondness.
3. Memory revealed to them the fact that God was making in their life a great experiment. The vicissitudes and hardships and surprising deliverances in the wilderness were now seen to be tests, by which God would discover whether the people were worthy of Canaan, competent to be the depository of his truth. The object was to prove them, whether they could be entrusted with this Divine mission. So, every man's life is God's experiment. The question to be solved in each of our lives is this," Are we worthy a place in God's eternal kingdom?" Every effort is made by God to make this experiment successful.
4. A review of the past serves to show that man has a nobler life than that of the body. The main purpose why the Hebrews had been fed for forty years on manna was this, viz. to demonstrate that our well-being is not dependent on material things. Man lives not by bread, but by the Divine word. Even bread itself is a product of God's word. All the processes of mastication, digestion, assimilation, are the effects of Divine command. Our entire life is nourished by the word of God. Practical obedience is to the soul's life what digestion is to the life of the body. "My meat and drink is to do the will of my Father in heaven."
III. THE BENEFICENT EFFECTS OF A MEMORY DEVOUTLY EXERCISED. If we remember "all the way"—its subtle and intricate windings, and the faithful leadership of our Guide; if we appreciate the vital value of "every word" of Jehovah; we shall resolve henceforth to keep "all his commandments."
1. Remembrance will excite gratitude. Our gratitude is largely deficient, because we do not consider and reflect. if memory will fulfill her office well in supplying fuel for the altar of the heart, the flame of love will burn with a more constant glow.
2. Remembrance of Divine favors will convince us that God's interests and ours are identical. It is the natural effect of sin to persuade us that God is our enemy. We say, "Depart from us." But, when with unbiased mind we ponder the proofs of God's kindness, we yield to the evidence that he is a true Friend. Experience teaches us that it is our interest to obey.
3. Remembrance of past favors aids the operations of conscience. The conscience becomes hard before it becomes blind. Whatever keeps alive feeling in the conscience benefits the whole man. If there be light and life in a man's conscience, he will resolutely say, "I must not sin. I will fear God and keep his commandments."
4. Vivid remembrance of God's past goodness is a vigorous incentive to obedience. A sense of obligation for the past cannot fully express itself, except in acts of hearty obedience. When we realize fully that our every step has been under God's guidance, that every good thing has come from our Father's hand, and that every word of his is empowered to give us joyous life,—then are we constrained to say, "All that the Lord commandeth us will we do."—D.
Wealth perilous to piety.
God's policy in the government of men is to win by prodigal kindness. A churlish parsimony has never been found with him; the very opposite. An open eye discovers widespread munificence—a royal banquet. The present is only a sample of the future. The full inheritance is always the object of hope. The children of a king have large expectations. This passage contains—
I. A NOTABLE INSTANCE OF DIVINE MUNIFICENCE.
1. The heritage of Israel was a "good land." Both climate and soil were suited to every variety of natural production. The fruits of the North, and the fruits of the Tropics, might alike find a home there. Untold ages had passed, during which God had been slowly preparing that land for Israel, and storing it with elements of fertility, and wealth of minerals.
2. Others had been employed to bring the virgin soil under culture. The harder and more unprofitable toil bad been accomplished. The house of Israel was already well furnished, as when a bridegroom brings home his bride.
3. There was every variety of provision. This betokened thoughtful foresight and tender affection. No needed good had been overlooked. The beneficent Creator had furnished, not only the necessaries of life, but every luxury. Whatever could please the palate, or gratify a taste, or invigorate the health, was there. These were pictures of heavenly good; for as yet the people could not appreciate the imperishable treasures of the spirit-land.
4. This inheritance was unpurchased and unreserved. It made them, body and soul, debtors to God. Had they preferred to purchase it with money, they had naught of their own; they could not create the medium of barter. They had not obtained it by the merit of obedience. They were the recipients of distinguished favor—pensioners on the Divine bounty. If it be said that they obtained the land by right of conquest, it must be counter-said that the Lord had given them victory. The battle was the Lord's. Herein God designed to conquer their proud spirits by the generosity of his love.
5. This inheritance was not the final end. God had ulterior purposes of good yet beyond, towards the realization of which this was a stepping-stone. His next design was to "establish his covenant with them." At present, they were reaping the fruit of their fathers' faith. This was a reward for Abraham's piety. If they should prove faithful, they too should be promoted to higher things. Canaan was not a home, but a school-house.
II. THE PASSAGE CONTAINS VALUABLE COUNSEL. The counsels of clear-eyed, venerable wisdom are more precious than pearls.
1. The counsel prescribes grateful recollection. Having received such measureless kindness, it would be the rankest villany to forget the Giver. Over the sunken rock of ingratitude a triple beacon stands: "Beware!" Give this murderous reef ample sea-room. Here many a gallant ship has gone to pieces.
2. The counsel directs suitable requital. "Thou shalt bless the Lord thy God!" But can man confer any blessing on his Maker? Can we add to God's wealth or enjoyment? In a sense we can. Dispositions are accepted as deeds. If we are not willing to give to God all we have, our hearts are base. We can bring him the wealth of our love. We can bring him the music of our praise. We can bring him the devotion of our lives. Does his voice whisper to us from heaven, "It is well that it is in thine heart?" Does he smell the sweet savor of our sacrifice?
3. The counsel includes practical obedience. Obedience, if genuine, will be complete. It will embrace every known command. If we observe some commandments, and consciously neglect others, this is not obedience; we are merely doing our own will. Whether we perceive the reason of the command or not, we shall honor it as oar Lord's will—as our Lord himself. No matter what compliance costs, we will give it. Ours not to reason why. True obedience is hearty, complete, perpetual.
III. THIS PASSAGE INDICATES IMMINENT PERILS.
1. Wealth often leads to fleshly indulgence. With abundance in our possession, it is easier to indulge the appetites than to deny them. Yet the higher life can only be developed at the expense of the lower. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom."
2. Wealth breeds self-sufficient pride. It serves to weaken our sense of dependence upon God. When from our visible stores every felt need can be supplied, we are prone to forget the unseen Giver. Most men may well thank God that the temptations of wealth dwell not under their roofs. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" In the hot-bed of riches, the flower of sweet humility does not thrive.
3. Wealth loses sight of its own origin. It has a short memory for obligations. The millionaire soon forgets the days of poverty and struggle—forgets the Friend who succored him in his extremity—kicks away the ladder by which he rose. Riches naturally encumber and stifle the flame of religious feeling.
4. Riches beget in us false confidence. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we say, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?" We find a delicious pleasure in hearing our own skill and sagacity praised. The tide of natural feeling sets strongly towards self-trust.
5. Riches tend towards idolatry. In the days of poverty we did not object to be accounted singular; but in the time of wealth we aspire to do as others do. It is arduous to have to think for one's self, to rely upon one's own judgments, to pursue a course which men will ridicule. If others bow clown to their own net, or rear a popular idol, we too must bow down and worship it. Wealth has given us prominence, set us on high, and we must not risk our new reputation. It is easier to drift with the stream than to stem it.
6. Justice, with her balances and sword, is always nigh. No man can defraud God. If the Amorites were thrust out from the land because they had become flagrant idolaters, so also shall the Israelites if they become votaries of idols. As the Hebrews conquered the Canaanites, so did the Assyrians vanquish the Hebrews. One law shall prevail for all. If we have not been overwhelmed in one disaster, we may be overtaken suddenly by another minister of justice. Sin shall bear its own proper fruit. Every nation and every individual shall "go to his own p