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Biblical Illustrator Deut 33

Biblical Illustrator Deut 33

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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR DEUT 33CHAPTER XXXIII.Vers. 1-5. This is the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed thechildren of Israel before his death. — The blessing of the tribes : — The manysucces-sive "blessings " of Israel were a necessary consequence of his Divine election. Inthat seed all families of the earth were to be blessed. Therefore it was fitting thatformal and repeated blessings should be pronounced upon the bearer of such highdestinies, that none of the issues of his history might seem to be by chance, and thathe and all men might know what was "the hope of his calling, and what the richesof the glory of his inheritance among the saints, and what is the exceeding greatnessof God's power towards us who believe." The notion of a distinct continuity incalling and in privilege between Israel and the Christian Church is no fancy of anantiquated theology. It springs out of the very root idea of the Bible, the principlewhich rightly leads us to speak of so many Scriptures, written at sundry times andin divers manners, as one book and one revelation. The first utterance of blessingupon the chosen people proceeded from the lips of God Himself, and was renewedinnearly the same form of language to each of the three great patriarchs, Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob. It can hardly be by an accident that the record in Genesis of this initial benediction is sevenfold. Seven times exactly did God declare Hispurpose to bless the seed of Abraham in the line of Isaac and of Jacob ; and havingthus established His covenant as by an oath, He spake no more by a like directcommunication, but He used the lips of inspired men to enlarge the scope of Hisand to give definiteness to its first and necessarily somewhat vagueCHAP. XXXIII.] DEUTEROOMY. 571generalities. The blessing of Moses was evidently founded upon the earlier utter-ance of the dying Jacob concerning the future of his twelve sons. But the differ-ences between the two blessings are far more suggestive than their resemblances.Thereare parts of Jacob's discourse to which the notion of "blessing" is altogetherforeign. Simeon and Levi are stricken in it with an absolute curse ; the predictionconcerning Issachar is at least equivocal in its reference to willing servitude ; and
 
for Reuben there is nothing but a mournful foreclosure of his natural birthright(Gen. xlix. 3-7, 14, 15). But the prophecy of Moses is really a benediction uponevery tribe that is named therein. It is couched throughout in the language of unfeigned attection, intercession, and giving of thanks for what is or for what maybe unequivocally good. Careful readers will observe that the tribes of Israel arearranged in different order in the two blessings by Jacob and by Moses. Thenatural order of age and of maternal parentage is followed by Jacob ; but Moses atfirst sight seems to adopt an altogether arbitrary arrangement, three times puttinga younger before an elder son, separating children of the same mother, andomittingone name altogether. This fact, however, is itself one of our clues to the rightunderstanding of the blessing as a whole, for its only possible explanation dependsupon the typical character of Israel's national history. The place which DivineProvidence assigned to each tribe in the temporal commonwealth of Israel at differ-ent stages of its development was meant to illustrate some permanent principle of God's spiritual kingdom which Moses foresaw in its continuance to our own day.The thirty-third chapter of Deuteronomy has a prologue and an epilogue, whichmay not be passed over in silence. The blessings of the children of Israel areembraced between them intentionally, for the inspired author wished to set forththe unalterable conditions of blessing in God's kingdom, and the inseparable con-nection which subsists between obedience, happiness, and faith towards God. ogrander description of the Divine covenant with Israel was ever given than iscontained in the opening verses of this chapter, nor has the law from Sinai beenanywhere else depicted so awfully and yet so attractively in its character of "theinheritance" of Jehovah's "congregation." That law, in its outward form, has nodoubt passed away for Christians, but the obligation of its spirit is perpetual, andthe blessing of each citizen of God's new covenant kingdom depends upon a lovingacceptance of that obligation. ot Moses, but Christ, has "commanded us a law."He is our "king," and we are "not without law to God, but under the law toChrist. " {T. G. Rooke, B.A.) The end in sight ; or last works and dying songs^ : — There is not a more illustrative example of the benefits of early training andreligiousculture than Moses. Whether we think of the depth of his religious convictioms,the purity of his personal character, the clearness of his spiritual insight, thesagacity of his legislation, or the rectitude of his administration, we cannot butwonder at the manifold perfection of his human greatness and the closeness of hiswalk with God. But in one respect he stands pre-eminent. He was transcendentin moral glory when age had wrinkled his brow and whitened his head, when thesun began to go down in the golden west, and the shadows were casting their longlengths of darkness round him. "His eye was not dim, nor his natural forceabated." either was his mind obscured, nor were his sympathies narrowed, norhis heart soured. The shadow of a great disappointment was trailing over his path
 
and clouding his future ; yet, to his fellows, the radiance of his spirit was un-dimmed, and the clear shining of his intellect was as sparkling as the morning dew.1. The end in sight and the last works of the man of God. 1. He knew hisdeath was certainly near. God hardly ever allows men to wear the crown of com-pleted undertakings in this world— "that no flesh should glory in His presence."2. Faithful in his house, he set everything in order, under the influence of thiscertainty. 3. The characteristics of the last work of his pen are worthy of specialstudy. There is a rich and glowing beauty about these last words. There are inthem some of the most marvellous predictions of the Old Testament. * ' TheProphetlike unto himself" finds its fulfilment in Him who was both Prophet and Redeemer.There is also a forecast of the Hebrew history and the Hebrew doom, which cannotbe read without wonder at its truth, and awe in presence of certain Divine judg-ments disclosed. His burdened heart looks down the vista of ages, and sees, withbut too clear a vision, the sad departures from the true line of spiritual duty andobedience, which were only too possible. Side by side with ritual and ceremonialrequirements, he lays down the principle that spiritual consecration, that lovingdevotion to God, is the only safety. He is not a Jew, even to Moses, who is oneoutwardly. Even here *' love is the fulfilling of the law." But he uses, especially,572 THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR. [ohap. xxxiii,**the terrors of the Lord" to fortify them against the unfaithfulness and unbelief vhich were their danger. As Dean Milman says, "The sublimity of these denuncia-tions surpasses anything which has ever been known in the oratory or poetry of thewhole world. ature is exhausted in furnishing terrific images ; nothing except thereal horrors of Jewish history, the miseries of their sieges, the cruelty, the contempt,the oppressions, the persecutions, which for ages this scattered ana despised nationhave endured, can approach the tremendous maledictions which warned themagainst the violation of their law." II. His dying songs ; or the thoughtsWHICH AIMATED THE GREAT LAWGIVER I THE EAR PROSPECT OFDEATH.1. Here is his faith in Divine relations to those who were to come after him. othingis more diflScult to an old man than the gi'aceful resignation of the power andauthority which have come to him through his origination of offioe or business, andthrough the long experience of active, ruling life. Abdication is the most difficult

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