If they were sedulous to keep God's commandments, and faithfully adhered to him, loving him and walking in all his ways, he would drive out before them the nations of the Canaanites, and cause them to possess the territory of nations greater and mightier than themselves. Every place on which the soles of their feet should tread should be theirs, i . e . they had but to enter the land to become possessors of it. This is more exactly defined as restricted to the land the boundaries of which are given—from the Arabian desert on the south to Lebanon on the north, and from the river Euphrates on the east to the Mediterranean on the west ( Deuteronomy 1:7 ). From the wilderness and Lebanon ; read, even unto Lebanon ; הַעֶ בָנוֹן is for עַד־הַלְּ בַנוֹן (cf. עדהַיָּם in the end of the verse). The uttermost sea ; rather, the hinder sea ( Numbers 34:6 ), the sea that lay behind one looking to the east ( Deuteronomy 11:26 ; cf. Deuteronomy 7:24 ; Deuteronomy 2:25 ; Exodus 23:27 ).
The moral power of national righteousness.
There was a definite territory assigned by God to Israel. They were promised it , but the prohibition against going beyond what God had allotted them, was as remarkable and strong as the assurance of their possessing such allotment. The bounds here specified are stated afresh in Joshua 1:3 , Joshua 1:4 . In the days of Solomon these boundaries were actually theirs. But, as is welt known, they were a people untrained for war; in regard to military skill and warlike appliances, other nations were vastly more than a match for them, leaving out of the question Israel's paucity in numbers. But (and it is not the least striking feature in the Mosaic legislation) they were to have power of another kind, even that which was moral, a power arising from their righteousness, and also dependent upon it. And in this passage:
1. Moses afresh reminds the people of their duty—to keep the commandments of the Lord their God.
2. He points out that their loyalty to God and assurance of his protection would give them irresistible strength.
3. The knowledge of this higher order of moral life, and of the promised guard of their covenant God, would so influence the other nations that they would be inspired with dread (see Joshua 2:9 , Joshua 2:10 , Joshua 2:11 ).
4. This dread of Israel which the nations round about would feel would clear their way, would ensure their conquest, and would be a security for them in retaining their possessions. From all this we get one of the most important lessons suggested which can possibly be taught on national affairs, viz. That the kind of power over other nations , which a people may well desire the most , is that which comes from the influence of its own righteousness .
I. NATIONAL POWER IS UNIVERSALLY COVETED . Nor, provided sundry conditions are fulfilled which will be presently named, is this wrong. No nation ought to consent to be a cipher among nations. Just as really as a man may well wish to be something amongst his fellows, so should a people wish to be something in the regard of neighboring states.
II. IT IS MOST IMPORTANT THAT THE POWER OF A NATION OVER OTHERS SHOULD BE THAT OF THE HIGHEST KIND . One nation may be chiefly great in its commercial enterprise, another in its culture of art, a third in the renown of its orators or poets, a fourth in its philosophic wisdom, a fifth in its military or naval fame; but there is a power, unlike all these, after which Israel was hidden to aspire.
III. THAT IS THE POWER MOST TO BE DESIRED WHICH WOULD MAKE IT WORTH WHILE TO PERPETUATE THE NATION POSSESSING IT , FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD 'S GOOD . Moses, under Divine direction, is continually recognizing this, by putting Israel's continuance in the land as conditioned on their loyalty to Jehovah and his laws.
IV. THE ONLY POWER WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO THE WORLD 'S GOOD IS THAT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS . This unites a people. This gives clear heads, strong frames, valiant hearts. A nation whose heart is soundly righteous will not fight unless it must; but if it must, it will fight grandly and for a righteous aim.
V. THIS POWER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL HAVE A MANIFOLD EFFECT WITH REGARD TO OTHER NATIONS .
1. As a rule, it will ensure their good-will.
2. Appealing as it does to man's sense of justice, it will help to ward off attacks from without.
3. Where it fails to do this, and where an attack has to be resisted, if in the hour of their need they cry unto God, they will find that he shields them in the day of battle (see 2 Chronicles 20:1-29 ).
VI. THIS POWER MAY EVEN BE DEVELOPED AND STRENGTHENED BY REPEATED AND ARDUOUS CONFLICT . (See 2 Chronicles 20:29 .) When a people are with one heart loyal to God, and do with one voice cry unto him, they will find out that Jehovah hears, and that God speeds the right. And may we not appeal fearlessly to every one of our readers, and say, Is not this power of righteousness pre-eminently that which the world wants? This being so, we may bring this series of remarks to a close by observing—
VII. THAT THE GREAT GOD OF NATIONS WILL SET HIS SEAL OF APPROVAL ON PEOPLES THAT SO CLEAVE TO THE RIGHT , BY GIVING AGAIN AND AGAIN THE VICTORY TO THAT WHICH , HUMANLY SPEAKING , IS THE WEAKER SIDE . Scripture cases of this abound: Israel and Pharaoh; Gideon and the Midianites; Hezekiah and Sennacherib; Jehoshaphat and the Ammonites; and (in another sense) Elijah and the priests and prophets of Baal. The Word of God is continually showing us that power is not always where it seems to be, but very often where it seems not to be: Joseph, Daniel, Peter, etc. From all these considerations, there may be drawn out an earnest appeal to men, even if they aim at naught higher than to be the true lovers and guardians of their country and nation, to seek for the sake of their own dear land, to love and to practice righteousness. Nor let it be supposed that this statement is at all affected by the fact that we are "not under the Law but under grace." Grace reigns through righteousness, and only through righteousness. Infinite grace has offered a Sacrifice which has done away with the need of continuing the sacrifices of the ceremonial law. But grace never has and never will abate one jot or tittle of the demands for righteousness which mark the moral law. Never! And if we are rescued from condemnation, if we are made sons of God, it is not that we may be absolved from the obligation to righteousness; but that "the righteousness of the Law may be fulfilled in us" from the spontaneity of personal choice, without the need of any command to enforce or pressure to constrain. And inasmuch as only in a perfectly righteous people can there be an absolute guarantee of permanence, it follows that only the people in the commonwealth of Israel will constitute "the eternal city." For there" the people shall be all righteous," and then "they shall inherit the land forever." Righteousness and permanence are thus linked together in the prophetic outlook of Isaiah, as really as in the legislation of Moses (see Isaiah 61:1-11 :21). In this new and nobler world, righteousness will come into being, not as a response to a Divine command, but as the product of a Divine creation. And then around it there shall be an eternal guard. No enemy from without shall dare to attack; no foe from within shall weaken. "Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks."
Vastness of promise.
An inspiring statement of what God would do for the obedient nation. Shining through it we see the promise to the Church. God promises—
I. VICTORY OVER ALL ENEMIES . ( Deuteronomy 11:23 .) The strongest spiritual foes will go down if we cleave to God. Though greater and mightier than we, they shall be overthrown.
II. ENLARGEMENT OF BOUNDS . ( Deuteronomy 11:23 .) They would grow numerous, fill the land, and spread beyond it. A wider prospect is held out to the Church. Her possession is the earth. If faithful, she has the means within herself to spread abroad her conquests, and occupy from sea to sea.
III. MORAL SUPREMACY . ( Deuteronomy 11:25 .) Israel's power would be acknowledged—her influence felt. Men would dread her hostility. The felt presence of God in a man, or in a Church, has a power to inspire fear. Its awing effect is felt often where it is not acknowledged.—J.O.
He who best serves is most fit to rule.
Golden links of life unite our pious love with universal conquest. "All things become ours, if we are Christ's."
I. LOYAL OBEDIENCE GENERATES LOVE . It is quite true that love is the mother of obedience; it is also true that obedience fosters and intensifies love. The earth receives heat from the sun, but it gives out heat likewise. The sentiment of love in the breast will dwindle and die unless it have practical exercise. Diligent and thoughtful service will bring us nearer God, make God more precious to us, and bind us to him in tenderer bonds. There is an interlacement of affection. Our desires send deep their roots in God, and an indissoluble alliance is the result.
II. UNION WITH GOD SECURES HIS PRACTICAL AID . We are required" to cleave to him." The effect is that he will cleave to us, and prove a real Ally, an almighty Helper. He will drive out all our foes for us, however great and mighty they be. Our foes become his foes. He identifies himself with our cause; or, what is the same thing, we identify ourselves with his .
III. DIVINE ASSISTANCE MAKES US ALL - CONQUERING . "No man shall be able to stand before us." Good men will be drawn to us in sacred friendship; bad men will be held fast in the mysterious spell of awe. We shall be known as the friends and allies of God; and, in proportion as we are like him, men will feel for us the dread they feel for God.
IV. SUCH VALIANT STRENGTH WILL INTRODUCE US TO UNIVERSAL INHERITANCE . "Every place whereon the soles of our feet shall tread shall be ours." In such covenant alliance with God, we shall walk through his universe as " his heirs ." Every element of material substance, every event in time, every circumstance and experience, shall conduce to our profit. The world shall be laid under tribute to our best life. We shall extract advantage and joy from adversity itself.—D.
Family training an dement of success.
As in Deuteronomy 6:6-25 , Moses again insists on the words of God being preserved among the people by faithful family instruction. The "home school" is, in fact, the great factor in national success. Education must give due prominence to the family institution, as the providential unit of mankind. And here let us notice—
I. GOD 'S WORDS ARE TO BE RECEIVED FIRST OF ALL INTO THE HEART . It is when individuals, and especially parents, receive God's testimony into the heart, as Lydia did Cf. Sir Henry Taylor's 'Notes from Life,' Essay 2; 'Humility and Independence.' ( Acts 16:14 ), that it is likely to bloom out in a fitting public profession. It is " with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," and then "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" ( Romans 10:10 ). As the ark received the tables of the Law, so the heart of man is to be the depository of the Divine commandments.
II. GOD 'S WORDS ARE TO BE KEPT BEFORE OUR OWN EYES AND THE EYES OF OTHERS . This seems to be the idea about the frontiers between the eyes—in this way others had the words displayed for their benefit; whereas the placing them upon the hand was for the individual's own memorial (cf. Isaiah 49:16 ). So the person heartily interested in God's Word will make arrangements to remind himself continually of it, and also to keep it before the minds of others. Religion thus becomes not only a constant personal experience, but a constant public profession.
III. GOD 'S WORDS ARE TO BE THE STAPLE OF HOME TRAINING . The children are to be taught them at home, when the "home school" is gathered together. God's words are also to be the staple of conversation when parents and children are enjoying their saunters together. And the first thought of the morning and the last at night should be of God's commandments. In this way the indoctrination of the rising generation is to be secured. Well would it be for us still if these old Jewish rules were practiced.
IV. THE HOUSEHOLD IS TO MAKE PUBLIC PROFESSION OF RELIGION AS WELL AS THE INDIVIDUAL . Some individuals content themselves with a personal concern in religion, and are willing to be members of a household which does not collectively identify itself with God. But the Jew was to write God's commandments on the doorposts and on the gates of his house. The household was thus to be God's. The fact is that households need conversion just as individuals do. There is as much difference between a religious household and a worldly one as there is between a converted and an unconverted individual. The direction given consequently to the Jews covered the household as well as the person, and was thus perfect.
V. THE RESULT OF SUCH FAITHFULNESS WILL BE COMPLETE SUCCESS , The Lord engages to drive out the nations from before them, even though they be greater and mightier than Israel. He will make the obedient ones resistless. He will make the fear of them to fall like a nightmare on their enemies, and not one of them will be able to stand before them.
And surely all this is but a type of the success which still waits upon God's obedient people. Not, of course, that temporal success is the form of success desired or granted now. Many of God's people continue poor, but they succeed in life nevertheless. When they have grace to show a contented spirit amid their limited resources, they succeed in demonstrating that God is all-sufficient, and are the best testimony to the reality of religion before men. When the saints can sing with Habakkuk, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom," etc; " yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation" ( Hebrews 3:17 , Hebrews 3:18 ), they have really prospered in all life's essentials. It is thus in various ways the Lord fulfils his covenant engagements, and. makes all that his people do to prosper ( Psalms 1:3 ).
Obedience is consequently the charter of success. But we leave to our loving Father to determine what our success will be. We do not insist on its assuming the form of gold and silver, venison and champagne. The success of self-conquest, the success of being public benefactors, the success of serving our generation by the will of God ere we fall on sleep,—this is better far than the success of invading hosts with the laurels dipped in gore.
"Not fruitless is thy toil
If thou my cross wouldst bear;
I do but ask thy willing heart,
To grave my image there.
"For each net vainly cast,
Stronger thine arm will prove;
The trial of thy patient hope
Is witness of thy love.
"The time, the place, the way,
Are open to mine eye;
I sent them—not to gather spoil—
To labor patiently." £