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wicked Canaan should occupy that land, and prepare it, as it were, for Israel; and that the Israelites should be just ready to possess it when the inhabitants should have filled up the measure of their iniquities, and become ripe for the execution of the curse of God upon them. It was in reference to the children of Israel that “the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance,” and set the bounds of each peculiar people.
The manner also in which he had brought them to it is particularly specified. He had brought them through a waste howling wilderness, where he had preserved them by an uninterrupted series of miracles, and had instructed them in the knowledge of his will, and had kept them as the apple of his eye, and had made them the objects of his tenderest solicitude, like the eagle fostering, instructing, and protecting her helpless offspring
The richness of the provision which he had made for them is also described in animated and appropriate terms. The fertility of the land, the stores administered even by its barren rocks, the countless multitudes of its flocks and herds, together with the abundance of its produce in corn and wine, all are set forth, in order that the nation even to their latest posterity might know how to appreciate the goodness of God to them, and be suitably impressed with a sense of their unbounded obligations. ] 2. Prophetic
[God had before declared what the ultimate fate of that nation would be: but here he states it in a compendious way. He foretells both their sins, and their punishment. Notwithstanding all that he had done for them, they would soon forget him, and would stupidly worship the idols of the heathen, which had not been able to protect their own votaries. Thus would they entirely cast off their allegiance to him, and provoke him to execute upon them his heaviest judgments. Even for their past abominations he would have cast them off, if he had not been apprehensive that their enemies would have exulted, and taken occasion from it to harden themselves in their atheistical impiety. But by effecting his purposes in the first instance, and delaying his judgments to a future and distant period, he should cut off all occasion for such vain triumphs, and should display at once his mercy and forbearance, his power and justice, his holiness and truth.
The terms in which his judgments are predicted necessarily carry our minds forward to the times of the present dispersion.
b Deut. xxxi. 8.
c Deut. xxxii. 10–12.
Awful as was their punishment in Babylon, it fell short of these menaces, which were only to receive their full accomplishment, when they should have filled up the measure of their iniquities in the murder of their Messiah. This is evident from that part of the song which is,] 3. Promissory
[Fixed as was God's determination to inflict“ vengeance upon them“ in due time,” he revealed also his determination not to cast them off for ever, but in their lowest extremity to remember and restore them. He would indeed banish them from that good land, and admit the Gentiles into fellowship with him as his peculiar people in their stead : but, whilst he calls on " the Gentiles to rejoice" on this account, he calls on the Jews also to participate their joy: for though they should be long oppressed by cruel enemies, God would appear again for them, “avenging the blood of his servants, and rendering vengeance to his adversaries," and would again “be merciful unto his land, and to his once most highly-favoured people h.”
These promises shall in due time be fulfilled: and we trust that the time for their accomplishment is not now far distant. " The root of Jesse now stands for an ensign to the nations ; and whilst “the Gentiles are seeking to it,” we hope that God will speedily set it up also as an ensign to the Jews, and "assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth'."]
These things were comprehended in “ a song, which was to be taught the children of Israel.” We proceed to consider, II. Its peculiar use
It was “to be a witness for God against the children of Israel," and was for this end to be transmitted to their latest posterity. It was intended in this view, 1. To justify God
[When God should have inflicted all these judgments upon his people, they might be ready to reflect on him as variable in his purposes, and cruel in his dispensations. But he here tells them beforehand what he would do, and for what reason he would do it. The change that was to take place, would not be in him, but in them. The very change of his dispensations would prove to them the unchangeableness of his nature. It was for the wickedness of the Canaanites that he was about to cast them out: and for the same reason he would cast out the Israelites also, when they should have provoked him to anger, by sinning in a far more grievous manner, against clearer light and knowledge, and against infinitely greater obligations than they. Of this he forewarned them; and the fault, as well as misery, would be all their own." His work is perfect: all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity; just and right is hek."] 2. To humble them
8 Deut. xxxii. 36. h Deut. xxxii. 43. with Rom. xv. 10.
i Isai. xi. 10--12, 15, 16.
[The Jews were at all times a stiff-necked people, "a perverse and crooked generation.” The best period of their history was from the death of Moses to the death of Joshua: yet God testified respecting them even then, that they manifested all those evil dispositions, which in process of time would be matured, and grow up into an abundant harvest: “I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware?!" Hence every Jew must see, that as his forefathers were not put into possession of that land for their righteousness, so he, and all his whole nation, are banished from it for their iniquities. And oh, how humiliating the comparison between their present, and their former, state! once the glory of the whole world, and now “ an astonishment, and a proverb, and a by-word in every nation where they dwell.” They need only repeat this song, and they have enough to shew them how low they are fallen, and enough to humble them in dust and ashes.] 3. To prepare them for his promised blessings
[The promise of a future restoration would of itself be sufficient to stimulate their desires after it. But it is worthy of observation, that the very judgments which God here denounces against them are as strongly expressive of his gracious intentions towards them, and as encouraging to their minds, as the promise itself: “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with them which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation m. Thus whilst he transferred the blessings of salvation to the Gentiles, he did it no less for the good of his own rebellious and apostate people the Jews, than for the Gentiles themselves; hoping thereby to stir them up to seek a participation of those privileges, which, when exclusively enjoyed by them, they had despised". This idea, the moment it shall enter into their minds, will afford them rich encouragement: and we are persuaded, that, if the Christian world evinced a just sense of the
k Deut. xxxii. 4.
ver. 21. n Rom. xi. 11—14.
mercies they enjoy, and walked worthy of them, the Jews would soon be stirred up to seek those blessings, in the contempt of which they are hardened by Christians themselves.] Let us LEARN then from hence,
1. To cultivate a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures ourselves
[To us also are they a witness, as they were to the Jews of old, and are at this day: only they testify for God and against us in a thousand-fold greater degree. Hear what our blessed Lord himself affirms : “ Search the Scriptures; for they are they which testify of me.” O what mysteries of love and mercy do the New Testament Scriptures attest! the incarnation, the life, the death, the resurrection, the ascension of Jesus Christ; his supremacy over all things in heaven and earth; together with all the wonders of redeeming love; how loudly do they testify for Christ; and how awfully will they testify against us, if we neglect them! If God commanded that the Jews, “men, women and children, and the strangers within their gates, should at stated times be gathered together, to hear the law, and learn to fear the Lord and to do his commandments," and that every individual
among them in all successive ages should learn this song; much more ought we to assemble ourselves together for public instruction, and to commit to memory select portions of Scripture, and to teach them diligently to our children, in order to obtain for ourselves, and to transmit to others, the knowledge of God's will as it is revealed to us in the Gospelo! We call upon all of you then to study the Holy Scriptures in private ; to teach them to your children and servants; to be useful, where you can, in reading them to your poorer neighbours, who through ignorance are unable to read them for themselves, or through sickness are incapacitated from attending the public ordinances. To be active also in the conducting of Sunday schools is a service most beneficial to man, and most acceptable to God.]
2. To impart the knowledge of them to the Jewish nation
[They, alas ! have almost universally forgotten this song: but we have it in our hands, and profess to reverence it as the word of God. Ought we not then to concur with God in that which was his special design in transmitting it to us? Ought we not to use it as the means of conviction to the Jews; and as the means of consolation to them also ? Ought we not to seek that they may be partakers of our joy, and be again engrafted on their own olive-tree? Yet, strange as it may appear,
over. 12, 13.
not only have mere nominal Christians neglected them, but even the godly themselves have for the most part overlooked them, as much as if they were in no danger, or as if their conversion were an hopeless attempt. But we need not occupy your time in proving the danger of their state: for if they were not perishing, why did Christ and his Apostles make such efforts to save them? Nor need we labour to prove their conversion practicable, when God has declared it to be certain. Let then our bowels of compassion yearn over them: let us grieve to see them perishing in the midst of mercy: let us unite our endeavours to draw their attention to the Holy Scriptures, and to the Messiah, whom they have so long continued to reject. Let us constrain them to see what blessings they despise; what holiness and happiness we ourselves have derived from the Lord Jesus, and what they lose by not believing in him. In this way let us endeavour to provoke them to jealousy. Then may we hope to see the veil taken from their hearts, and to have them associated with us in adoring the once crucified Jesus, and in singing to all eternity “ the song of Moses and the Lamb."]
THE CHARACTER OF JEHOVAH.
Deut. xxxii. 1-4. Give ear, Oye heavens, and I will speak;
and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass : because I will publish the name of the Lord : ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect : for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
IN this chapter is contained the song which Moses wrote for the conviction of the Jews in all future ages, especially in that period when they should have provoked God to scatter them over the face of the whole earth. Its general contents have been before considered". At present we shall confine ourselves only to its exordium, in which Moses addresses the whole creation, and then describes the character of the Creator. An invocation of “ the heavens and the earth” is not uncommon in the Scriptures: it is used in order to impress men with a deeper sense of the
a See Discourse on Deut. xxxi. 19,