BIBLE STUDY SERIES #458, 459 and 460

3 September, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE, PART IX

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Presently, we are studying Scripture passages in The Book of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses has been giving the people of a younger generation an account of the manner whereby The LORD has been guiding and protecting, but also instructing His Israel people through the years. This is preparatory to their taking control of the Promised Land which they must occupy in order to form an established national entity to serve Yahweh, Himself. That land had been promised to Abraham, and hence down through Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), and now to the descendants of that Patriarch, the Tribes of Israel who are gathered for this, the last and one of the most important messages the aged Prophet, Moses, will be giving to them before he passes into the history of his people.

Today, we are approaching the Scripture passage beginning with Deuteronomy 4:7, wherein the review of the recent events in Israel's history has been sufficiently completed, and Moses is now to begin giving an introductory comment to the statute laws which he wishes to review for this younger generation of Israel. In a sense, it is a preparation which includes a review and warning concerning the various spiritual perils which Israel has experienced during their wilderness wanderings. The words of the chapter had begun with "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you."

Thus Moses now calls all the people to attention, as he prepares to expound to them the law of the Lord. The call to "hearken" and the need for obedience to God's voice are frequently repeated. We had simply read these first verses at the end of the last Study, so perhaps it will be best if I begin the reading of today's Scripture passage in Deuteronomy 4, starting again at verse 7, to gain the thrust of the subject matter which is involved.

7. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8. And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?
9. Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
10. Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

Of verses 7 and 8, Keil and Delitzsch give a summary in these words: "This mighty and attractive force of the wisdom of Israel consisted in the fact, that in Jehovah they possessed a God who was at hand with His help when they called upon Him (cf. chap. xxxiii. 29; Ps. xxxiv. 19, cxlv. 18; 1 Kings ii. 7), as none of the gods of the other nations had ever been; and that in the law of God they possessed such statutes and rights as the heathen never had. True right has its roots in God; and with the obscuration of the knowledge of God, law and right, with their divinely established foundations, are also shaken and obscured (cf. Rom. i. 26-32)."

We might just read a few of those supportive references given in that quotation. Deuteronomy 33:29 says "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places." Psalm 34:19 says "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all." Psalm 145:18 says "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth."

This thought in verses 7 and 8 having been explained, Moses is now concerned to see that Israel not forget this precious heritage which has been transmitted into their hands. He is concerned for the generations yet to come, for in those words contained in verse 9, "Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;" we see the obligation of parents, and particularly these Israelite parents, to take care that they transmit this teaching to their children. There is, here, a thought which comes out of our examination of the Ten Commandments, back in Exodus 20, and the comments on that passage by Keil and Delitzsch, who stated of the Fifth Commandment, which refers to honouring of parents, "...as God is to be served with honour and fear, His representatives are to be so too." They also note of the same relationship that "...all government has grown out of the relation of father and child, and draws its moral weight and stability, upon which the prosperity and well-being of a nation depends, from the reverence of children towards their parents."

Indeed, when discussing Exodus 19, the same reference had mentioned an extension of the principle to the whole people, in these words: "The spiritual attitude of Israel towards the nations was the result of its priestly character. As the priest is a mediator between God and man, so Israel was called to be the vehicle of the knowledge and salvation of God to the nations of the earth."

Seen in this light, we may well understand how concerned Moses was that the words of God be transmitted from generation to generation among God's Israel peoples. How, then, ought we to view the total official ban upon the Commandments in all official departments, in schools, courts, and government ministries themselves, in deference to alien sensitivities? Thus was Israel commanded in sundry places to take especial care concerning the influx of such carriers of alien religion into the nation by way of immigration and acquisition of citizenship, that they not be subsequently pressured to adopt just such measures as have of recent years appeared everywhere among God's peoples.

Under the sub-heading "The covenant of the Lord (iv, 9-24)", The New Bible Commentary makes the remark that "Moses was addressing a nation of young men. Theirs was the responsibility of passing on the revelation to future generations; hence the repeated emphasis upon teaching (iv. 9, 10, vi. 7, xi. 19, xxiv. 8, xxxi. 19). The lesson was not forgotten in pious households (2 Tim. iii. 14, 15)." Of the words "Lest thou forget (9)", it notes "The duty of remembering is repeatedly emphasized both negatively (iv. 23, 31, vi. 12, viii. 11, 14, 19, ix. 7, xxv. 19), and positively (v. 15, vii. 18, viii. 2, 18, ix. 7, xv. 15, xvi. 3, 12, xxiv. 9, 18, 22, xxv. 17, xxxii. 7). This is supplemented by the command to teach ... and write (vi. 9n.); and so the foundation is laid for a body of holy Scripture."

That reference continues, of the words "In Horeb" at verse 10 "Deuteronomy is full of Moses' 'reminiscences'. These may be divided into four groups relating, first, to Egypt and the journey to Sinai (see iv. 34n); secondly, to the giving of the law at Sinai ... ; thirdly, to the journey from Horeb to Kadesh (see viii. 1n.); and fourthly, to the events of the last two years (see xxiii. 4n). Those of the second group occupy a considerable part of chapters iv, v, ix and xi. They refer to the covenant, the ten commandments, the thunders and the fire of Sinai, the apostasy of the golden calf, Moses' intercessions for the people, the giving of the second tables and the separation of the tribe of Levi."

Of the words "Learn to fear" in verse 10, it states "The phrase is repeated xiv. 23, xvii. 19, xxxi. 13; cf. vi. 24, viii. 6, x. 12, xxviii. 58. A sense of filial fear towards God, as well as the feeling of dutiful love, should be cultivated. They are both elements in the covenant relationship between God and His people. See Lv. xix. 3n. The element of dread (ix. 19n.) may pass, whilst that of reverence remains."

While we should, perhaps, stop at this point, I might just take the remaining moment to read on through the next few verses to see the continuance of the thoughts which we have covered in the present Study.

11. And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
12. And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
13. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
14. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

We might take for the week the meditation of those impressive and descriptive words.

10 September, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE, PART X

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the sequence of subsequent Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Presently, we are studying Scripture passages in The Book of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses has been giving the people of a younger generation an account of the manner whereby The LORD has been guiding and protecting, but also instructing His Israel people through the years. This is preparatory to their taking control of the Promised Land which they must occupy in order to form an established national entity to serve Yahweh, Himself. That land had been promised to Abraham, and hence down through Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel), and now to the descendants of that Patriarch, the Tribes of Israel who are gathered for this, the last and one of the most important messages the aged Prophet, Moses, will be giving to them before he passes into the history of his people.

Today, we are approaching the Scripture passage beginning with Deuteronomy 4:11, wherein the review of the recent events in Israel's history has been sufficiently completed, and Moses is now to begin giving an introductory comment to the statute laws which he wishes to review for this younger generation of Israel. In a sense, it is a preparation which includes a review and warning concerning the various spiritual perils which Israel has experienced during their wilderness wanderings. The words of the chapter had begun with "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you." Let us begin reading today's Scripture portion from Deuteronomy 4, starting at verse 11:

11. And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
12. And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
13. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.
14. And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

The New Bible Commentary makes comment at verse 11, regarding the word "darkness", indicating a comparison with Ex. xix. 18, xx. 21; Ps. xcvii. 2. It points out that "God dwells in light unapproachable (1 Tim. vi. 16), but darkness hides Him from the eyes of sinful man." (That verse reads "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, or can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.") It continues, of the words "out of the midst of the fire" (12) "This pregnant expression occurs ten times (see iv. 12, 15, 33, 36, v. 4, 22, 24, 26, ix. 10, x. 4; cf. xxxii. 22), showing the deep impression made upon Moses, to whom God first revealed Himself thus at the burning bush, and then in the fires of Sinai. Wherever there is true revival God still speaks 'out of the midst of the fire'. Fire symbolizes the majesty of God and the mighty elemental forces under His control (Ps. civ. 4). (That last verse reads "Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.")

Keil and Delitzsch explain that the Israelites "came near to the mountain which burned in fire" and continue "The expression, burning in fire 'even to the heart of heaven,' i.e. quite into the sky, is a rhetorical description of the awful majesty of the pillar of fire, in which the glory of the Lord appeared upon Sinai, intended to impress deeply upon the minds of the people the remembrance of this manifestation of God. And the expression, 'darkness, clouds, and thick darkness,' which is equivalent to the smoking of the great mountain ... is employed with the same object. And lastly (vers. 12, 13), he reminds them that the Lord spoke out of the midst of the fire, and adds this important remark, to prepare the way for what is to follow, 'Ye heard the sound of the words, but ye did not see a shape,' which not only agrees most fully with Ex. xxiv., where it is stated that the sight of the glory of Jehovah upon the mountain appeared to the people as they stood at the foot of the mountain 'like devouring fire' (ver. 17), and that even the elders who 'saw God' upon the mountain at the conclusion of the covenant saw no form of God (ver. 11), but also with Ex. xxxiii. 20, 23, according to which no man can see the face (panem) of God. Even the similitude (temunah) of Jehovah, which Moses saw when the Lord spoke to him mouth to mouth (Num. xii, 8), was not the form of the essential being of God which was visible to his bodily eyes, but simply a manifestation of the glory of God answering to his own intuition and perceptive faculty, which is not to be regarded as a form of God which was an adequate representation of the divine nature."

I might comment on the matter thus: A ruler who governs does so by the terms of a contract, namely a code of law or agreed rule of conduct, which includes penalty for non-compliance on the part of both the ruler and the governed. If a person is in a state of rebellion or Sin against the rule of the supreme authority, and that person stands boldly in the presence of, and face to face with, that authority, then the penalty must immediately be exacted upon the culprit, lest the authority of the ruler be itself tarnished or subverted; a development which would follow should the ruler break the contract through failure to exact immediately the appropriate penalty in accordance with that code of law.

However, if the culprit and the ruler be separated by a screen so that the confrontation does not explicitly take place, boldly, and openly face to face, so to speak, then the authority has the option of adopting the legal position that the culprit has not actually been in the immediate presence of, and openly confronting, the authority, and the penalty can be postponed. This is important as this arrangement allows for the option whereby, at a later occasion, the penalty may be applied to, and accepted by, a substitute. At Christ's First Advent, His divine glory was veiled in flesh. The veil in the temple was a screen, which was symbolically torn at the moment of Christ's Sacrificial death on Golgotha. Perhaps this may assist in explaining the reason why God's face, in the Old Testament descriptions is veiled by fire, cloud or darkness, or, as in Exodus 33:22-23 by God's hand, and why no man might see God and live, as we saw in I Timothy 6:16 a few moments ago. The Exodus passage refers to the event when God answered Moses' request to see Him by placing Moses in a cleft of the rock, and showing Moses only His back, but not His face as He passed by.

The words in that impressive verse 12 might warrant yet another look. The Companion Bible notes with attention to the word "saw", the comment "an idol being that which is seen." It also gives the meaning of "similitude" as "appearance of form, or likeness." The meaning is soon made clear as we shall see in the next few verses. The people only heard a voice from the midst of the fire.

At verse 13, The New Bible Commentary brings out the idea concerning the words "His covenant" (with a side reference to xxix. 1n.) "This is the first of twenty-seven recurrences in Deuteronomy of this important theme. Whilst the word berith may be used of a contract based upon conditions, it can also be used, as here, of the establishment of a relationship, an abiding bond between two parties. This may be one of brotherhood, as with David and Jonathan (1 Sa. xviii. 3), or of overlordship, as between David and Israel, or of pure grace, as God's covenant with Noah (Gn. ix. 9). By the covenant in Horeb Jehovah, by pure grace also, took Israel to be His 'peculiar people', whilst they took Him to be their God (Ex. xix. 5, 8). He then gave them the 'ten words of the covenant' (Ex. xxxiv. 28; cf. Dt. ix. 9), together with 'statutes and judgments', which, in virtue of the covenant already made, they promised to obey. Thus the 'promise' came before the 'law' (Gal. iii. 15ff.)." Of the additional phrase "He wrote them" in verse 13, it says "See vi. 9n. Could anything be more explicit than this statement, twice repeated (v. 22, x. 4), of their divine origin? What instrumentality He used we need not inquire. But He who can write on the human heart (2 Cor. iii. 3) could certainly devise a means to write upon stone."

We shall move to the subsequent Scriptures on the next Study.

17 September, 2000

DEUTERONOMY'S MESSAGE - PART XI.

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our ongoing series of Bible Studies, which began with the Call by The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, in Genesis 12, has taken us through the Biblical passages which relate the family history of the generations of the Patriarchs and tribes of his progeny as they entered Egypt, and later emerged through The Exodus into Sinai, heading eventually towards their Promised Land, under Moses and by the direction of The Almighty God.

Presently, we are studying Scripture passages in The Book of Deuteronomy, wherein Moses has been giving the people of a younger generation an account of the manner whereby The LORD has been guiding and protecting, but also instructing His Israel people through the years. This is preparatory to their taking control of the Promised Land which they must occupy in order to form an established national entity to serve Yahweh, Himself. It is to the descendants of Jacob (Israel), these Tribes of Israel who are gathered before him, that the Book of Deuteronomy, the last and one of the most important messages delivered by the aged Prophet, Moses, will be given before he passes into the history of his people.

Today, we are approaching the Scripture passage beginning with Deuteronomy 4:15, wherein the review of the recent events in Israel's history has been sufficiently completed, and Moses is now to begin giving an introductory comment to the statute laws which he wishes to review for this younger generation of Israel. In a sense, it is a preparation which includes a review and warning concerning the various spiritual perils which Israel has experienced during their wilderness wanderings. The words of the chapter had begun with "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you." Let us begin reading today's Scripture portion from Deuteronomy 4, starting at verse 15, after we take note of a statement by Keil and Delitzsch concerning that first two verses that we read: "As the Israelites had seen no shape of God at Horeb, they were to beware for their soul's sake (for their lives) of acting corruptly, and making to themselves any kind of image of Jehovah their God, namely, as the context shows, to worship God in it."

15. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
16. Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
17. The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,
18. The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:

Keil and Delitzsch here take note that the caution against making any image of any kind of beast was against imitating the animal worship of Egypt.

Here also, The Companion Bible notes that the words "graven image" is a sculpture, and "Likeness" = form, or model. The point is not that sculpture itself is necessarily to be shunned as evil, for the creation of models may serve, for example, to assist in planning designs for future improvements, but rather that it might lend itself, especially in the case of certain subject matter and in certain cultural context to be linked to a sense of worship which tends to create a diversion from that which is to be devoted solely to The LORD.

However, let us dwell here for a moment. Do we worship the images in newspapers, and on TV screens of the "stars" (so called), which inhabit Hollywood? Do we see the fashions, created by the garment industry and modeled on runways around the world, as potential forms desired to amplify the worship of self? Even to pose the question may give us some food for thought! Continuing at verse 19:

19. And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

Keil and Delitzsch comment "They were not to allow themselves to be torn away ... to worship the stars of heaven, namely, by the seductive influence exerted upon the senses by the sight of the heavenly bodies as they shone in their glorious splendour." The reason for this prohibition is given in the last portion of the verse, and is seen by the Commentary as being provided for idolatry to the heathen whom God had given over to idolatry and shameful lusts because, although they knew Him from His works, they did not praise Him as God.

Here again, The Companion Bible explains that this sin, worshipping of the Sun, Moon and Stars, shows foreknowledge of what would happen, as noted at II Kings 17:16-18, 23:4. The first of these is the verse which shows the practice extant in Israel, while the second speaks of the day when King Josiah ordered the priests to bring out of the Temple all the offending vessels used in worship of Baal, and of the host of heaven, and these were burned in the fields of Kidron, outside Jerusalem. Lest we believe this is not done today, let us be reminded of its modern counterpart, the daily horoscope, found in most newspapers in the land, and the material which also finds a wide readership in booklet form. The same reference draws attention to Amos 5:26, wherein we find "But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun, your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves." and compares that with Acts 7:42-43, which speaks of the wilderness worship by Israel of "the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them... ."

20. But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.

On that verse, Keil and Delitzsch comment "The Israelites were not to imitate the heathen in this respect, because Jehovah, who brought them out of the iron furnace of Egypt, had taken them ... to Himself, i.e. had drawn them out or separated them from the rest of the nations, to be a people of inheritance. They were therefore not to seek God and pray to Him in any kind of creature, but to worship Him without image and form, in a manner corresponding to His own nature, which had been manifested in no form, and therefore could not be imitated." Regarding the iron furnace, they note that this is a furnace for smelting, and indicates the terrible sufferings endured by Israel in Egypt.

21. Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance:
22. But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.

Here, Moses slips into his discourse one of those short references to his own personal experiences of life, in which we see the fact that The LORD would not be lenient with a human leader, even of the stature of Moses because there was great importance for all Israel in knowing that God is a pure and purposeful husband to His national wife, and would not have her impure through lack of discipline.

Further, there was a most significant instruction to be grasped and underscored in the fact that there was a prophetic aspect to the two occurrences of providing water from the rock, which Moses has in view as he makes this statement. Moses was to strike the rock to bring forth water for the people on the first occasion, and simply to speak to it on the second; a prophetic enactment which should have been carefully carried out by that great leader in order to prophesy of the circumstances of the two Advents of Jesus Christ. The failure of Moses to follow the script carefully, in that he struck the rock on both occasions, would have destroyed the meaning of this enactment, so to restore its importance in the sight of all the people, Moses himself must suffer a consequence sufficiently impressive to insure that the meaning would be perceived and preserved even though he failed to carry out instructions with due regard to its details.

23. Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
24. For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

While we can see that Moses is conveying a passage which is so stated as to impress firmly upon the people, who had known the idolatry of Egypt, the immense danger which was still so near to being repeated in this and subsequent generations, we can see further that he, as a prophet, knows that this will again be a practice to which their descendants will once again fall victim, with dire consequences. His concern shows itself in his repeated admonitions against such repetition of idolatry. We shall move to the subsequent Scriptures on the next Study.

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