You must walk in all the ways that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land you will possess.
I. GOD WELCOMES IN MAN THE FAINTEST TRACES OF A DISPOSITION TO RETURN TO HIM. (Ver. 27.) This trait in the Divine character is scarcely recognized by us as it should be. We are apt to take for granted that till conversion is absolutely complete - till it is in every respect sincere and thorough, it can obtain no favor in the eyes of Heaven. Scripture teaches, on the contrary, that God wills to recognize in man any signs of turning towards himself, and would fain, by holding out encouragements, ripen these into thorough conversion (1 Kings 21:27-29; Psalm 78:34-40; Jonah 3:10).
II. GOD IS NEVERTHELESS AWARE OF ALL THAT IS LACKING IN HEARTS NOT COMPLETELY SURRENDERED TO HIM. The professions of the Israelites did not deceive him. He knew the superficiality of their states of feeling. They lacked yet "one thing" (Mark 11:21) - the entire surrender of their hearts to him. We have the same discernment in the New Testament (John 2:25; Acts 8:21; Revelation 3:1; cf. 1 Kings 15:3; Matthew 13:20, 21).
III. GOD DESIRES IN MAN THAT THOROUGHNESS OF CONVERSION WHICH ALONE CAN SECURE OBEDIENCE, HAPPINESS, AND PERSEVERANCE. What God desires in man is heart-religion; this has:
1. Its seat in the heart.
2. Its principle in the fear of God.
3. Its outcome in obedience.
4. Its test in perseverance.
5. Its reward in blessedness.
It is God's love which here speaks, but also his righteousness, which is necessarily averse from whatever is unreal, and desires to see goodness triumphant. - J.O.
That ye may live, and...prolong your days.I. We fall, I conceive, into a very inaccurate method of speech, when we say that the prize which God proposes to His people is set forth in one of these clauses; the duty, or performance by which they are to earn that prize, in the other. Moses teaches his countrymen that God has conferred upon them the highest prize which man can conceive, freely and without any merit on their part.
II. Is there no duty, then, enjoined in the words of my text? Does it merely speak of a blessing or a privilege? Certainly when it is said, "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you," it must be meant that there was something required on the part of the creature as well as something bestowed by the Creator. If we believe that an actual living being to whom we are related has put us in this way, and that it is a way of dependence upon Himself, we can understand how the preservation of it becomes a duty to Him; we begin in fact to know what duty is. If, finally, we believe that He who puts us in this way is the only person who can keep us in it, or prevent us from going out of it, we may feel that His command is itself a power; that it does not merely say, "Thus and thus you must do, thus and thus you must not do"; but, "This will I enable you to do, this will I prevent you from doing."
III. We come then at length to this class of blessings which are shortly gathered up in the words: "That ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess." It is here signified in very simple, clear language, which admits, I conceive, of no double sense, that a people in a right, orderly, godly state shall be a well-doing people; a people with all the signs and tokens of strength, growth, triumph; a people marked for permanence and indefinite expansion. I cannot put another meaning upon these words; I should think that a wish to dilute their force was a proof of the greatest carelessness about the authority from which they proceed, as well as of the most shocking inhumanity. If it be the distinction of saints and spiritual men that they do not trouble themselves about the external prosperity of a land, that they do not care whether the oxen are strong to labour, whether the sheep are bringing forth thousands and ten thousands, whether there is no complaining in the streets; if they are so occupied in the future as to have no interest in the present, too busy with their souls to have leisure for thinking about the ruin which may be threatening the bodies of their fellow men — then I say at once Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, were not saints and spiritual men. Since they held that God's order was the perfectly right and living order, they could not but think that all disorder, all wrong and death which had invaded it, must have come through man's neglect to fulfil the part which had been assigned him; — through his unwillingness to till and subdue the earth which he was meant to till and subdue; through his idleness and distrust and self-seeking, his refusal to walk in the ways which God had commanded.
IV. And therefore it cannot be true — the whole history of the Jews declares it not to be true — that the blessings of adversity were unknown to them, were reserved for a later period. Which of the good men of the Old Testament was not proved in a furnace? Into whose soul did the iron at some time not enter? It was not because they believed in God's promises to their nation, and were sure that its outward prosperity must and would at last correspond to its inward health and vitality; it was not because they longed for the earth to bring forth and bud, to have heaps of corn upon it, that its presses might burst forth with new wine; it was not on this account that they had to endure less of inward sadness, or fewer reproaches from the kings and priests and people to whom they spoke. No; the more strong their feeling was that God had chosen their nation and made a covenant with it, the greater was the struggle with their individual selfishness.
(F. D. Maurice, M. A.).
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