THE GOSPEL IN DEUTERONOMY: God's Israel
GOD'S ISRAEL"Happy are you, O Israel; who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your excellency! and your enemies shall be found liars unto you; and you shall tread upon their high places." Deuteronomy 33:29
Moses thus speaks--and then on earth his lips forever close. Just as his spirit spreads enraptured wings--just as he enters into perfect light--he seems to pause, and take a farewell view of Israel's camp. He now must leave the flock, for which he long had watched--the vineyard, in which he long had toiled--the children dearer than his very life. But he well knows, that they are God's especial care--loved above all nations of the earth--bound in the bundle of distinguishing grace. Hence, joying in their joy, and fervent in their hopes, he cannot check his overflowing heart. His spirit thus finds vent, "Happy are you, O Israel; who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your excellency! and your enemies shall be found liars unto you; and you shall tread upon their high places."
These precious words are obviously, in their first sense, the portion of those tribes, whose feet now stood on Canaan's confines. But the treasure is not theirs exclusively. Such thought is far too narrow. Here is each true believer's lot. This heritage descends to all faith's sons. It may be claimed by all, who to the end of time, trust in Christ Jesus--bathe in His blood--put on His righteousness--and are the temple of His Spirit. Happiness--perfect--heaven-born--heaven-sent--is their sure property. Here are the pastures, in which they all are privileged to feed. Happy are you, O child of God, who is like unto you!
Believer, you, then, are invited to draw out the fragrance, which these delicious flowers present, and to luxuriate in these pastures of delight.
What is the first element of this HAPPINESS? What is the richest savor in this cup? What is the sweetest music in this note? What is the brightest jewel in this crown? It is salvation--salvation realized. "Who is like unto you, O people saved." Saved--so that sin can no more injure, and self no more destroy, and Satan no more claim--saved, so that soul-misery is infinitely distant--saved, so that God is your Father--heaven is your home--a throne of glory is your high seat--and hallelujahs are your eternal song. Is not this happiness? This joy at once uplifts from earth. Let clouds of trial gather--let billows of affliction toss--let persecution, threats, and sneers assail--the heart, which clasps assurance of salvation, sits high above all other troubles. There is no darkness, where this true light shines. "Happy are you, O Israel, who is like unto you, O people saved!"
But assurance of salvation is not firm, unless it rests upon a mighty rock. This rock is here displayed. It is the Lord--the Lord Himself. It is Jehovah, strong in omnipotence--"Saved by the Lord!"
Mark well, salvation is the Father's will. He writes the book of life. He frames the covenant of grace. He cannot change. He cannot be diverted from His plans. None can obliterate His fixed decrees. They must be saved, for whom He purposes salvation. Saved by the Father is sure salvation.
Mark next, salvation is the work of Jesus. He comes, able and qualified to save to the uttermost. He rescues captive souls from Satan's grasp. By his blood He puts out the penal flames. By His strength He shatters every fetter. By His own right hand He tears down the gates of hell--and clears away all hindrance. He sends His angels to be guards. He causes all revolving providences to bring good. He never leaves His happy flock, until the crown is won. They must be saved, for whom He thus works out salvation. Saved by Christ is sure salvation.
"Saved by the Lord." No man could help himself. United companies could bring no aid. The hosts of the angelic world are vain to take away one sin. Jesus alone is able to achieve such work. Alone He undertakes. Alone He consummates. Alone He finishes. Thus the true Israel is "Saved by the Lord."
The eternal Spirit speeds on the wings of love to lend His aid. He opens blinded eyes to see the glories of the cross. He shows the grace and beauty of the dying Lamb. He melts the stony heart to love the precious Lord. He makes the sinner one with Christ by faith, and so an heir of God. Saved by the Spirit is sure salvation.
This salvation, then, is a sure Rock. Its summit towers above the heaven of heavens. Its deep foundations cannot be uprooted. It stands secure--complete--immovable. Nothing can detract from it. More cannot be added. He must be happy, then, whose feet are set upon this stable ground. The word is brightly true, "Happy are you, O Israel, who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord!"
But perhaps a sigh is heard, 'Will not mighty foes strive to destroy this happiness?' Foes, indeed, are strong and many. There is SATAN, hating with terrific hate, and aided with the countless troops of hell. He comes on, armed with tremendous weapons, each barbed with venom, each directed with consummate skill, each urged with super human force. Can he be happy, who hourly stands in such a fight?
There is the WORLD, too, now smiling with seducing arts, now bitter in sarcastic sneers, now menacing with poverty, contempt, disgrace, and countless ills.
The FLESH, too, is a restless plague--an Achan in the camp--a viper nurtured in the breast--a traitor hidden in the recesses of the heart, ever willing to betray--ever ready to suck life-blood. There must be danger in such a combat-field--and danger disturbs happiness.
But what, if the defense is so impenetrable--so wide--so near--that none of these attacks can prosper? What, if a covering shield averts each point? Then the calm warrior will dwell in blissful peace, fearless of real hurt.
Now view the fact. Is not a shield prepared for every child of faith? And that shield, is it not the Lord Himself? Yes, the word loudly sounds--He is "The shield of your help." He screens. He shelters. He protects. He keeps unharmed, uninjured, and unwounded. Adversaries, therefore, must be infinite in number, more than omnipotent in strength, before they can prevail.
Believer, realize this sure defense. Go forth, brave to encounter every conflict. Shielded by God, you are as safe, as if the heaven of heavens were your covert. Behind this panoply you may smile at the battering rage of the incessant shower, and sing "Happy am I, saved of the Lord, who is the shield of my help!"
But Zion's warriors are not happy in security alone. They covet trophies. Laurels must crown their brow. Now to be conquerors they need offensive weapons. They must give wounds, and smite, and overthrow. Their hands must wield a sword.
Happy believer! as you have God for a shield, so, too, a sword is sharpened for your use. It is not of the earth. It is framed by no human skill. It is from heaven. Therefore it is resistless. It is the Lord Himself. Therefore it is all-conquering. He is "the sword of your excellency." Know then your power. Face each opponent. Advance to the assault. Deal heavy blows. Spare not. The mighty God strikes with your arm. And when He strikes, each giant-adversary must fall low.
Happy are you, so screened! Happy are you, so equipped for victories! What, though hell's troops move on, proud in their boastings, swelling in wrathful words of menace! It is added, "They shall be found liars unto you." Their arrogance shall be, as empty bubbles. Their vaunting pride shall pass, as the passing wind. Their threats shall vanish, as the smoke. They may accuse--they may insinuate a host of doubts--they may suggest, that God will fail, and your soul perish, before the conflict end. But these vile whisperings are false. The fight will gloriously end. Your feet shall crush their necks. The Spirit of truth, by Moses' lips, sounds these grand words--"Your enemies shall be found liars unto you, and you shall tread upon their high places."
Reader, I trust, that you now are well taught, where happiness alone can dwell. Its home is with God's Israel. It is the portion of the chosen race. It is the heritage of those, who know and love the Lord. Under the shelter of His wings, His people rest encircled with these joys. Let such open their eyes to view their happy state. Let them receive with faith the countless pledges of their God. Is it not said, "He, that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things!" Rom. 8:32. Is it not said, "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." 1 Cor. 3:21-23. Is it not said, "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads--they shall obtain joy and gladness--and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Is. 35:10. Only believe, and become happy in this happiness. "Happy are you, O Israel." Only believe, and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Faith ever sings, and happy is its song.
Reader, this tract would sincerely detain you, while it makes a final effort to impress your heart. Pause, then, and say, is happiness your lot? Do you arise with morning light to joy? Do you move joyously throughout the day? Is joy the hand, which bolts your evening door? Your head hangs down. A sigh tells a sad tale. Your feet have not attained this happy ground. How is it? You have sought happiness, but you have sought it, where it never grows. The world, perhaps, enticed you. It showed a panoramic view of glittering honors--tinsel wealth--vain titles--empty bubbles of applause--and fading flowers of visionary peace. You toiled long in the pursuit; and now, wearied--worn-out--desponding, you confess, the world has been a miserable cheat.
Perhaps a more refined bait has allured. Perhaps science and literature's page have courted. For a while you have found interesting converse with brilliant thoughts, and lofty flights of intellect. But still you are not happy. There is a void. There is distress. Conscience is restless and disturbed. The heart finds no repose on such a pillow. The bark cannot cast anchor on such sand. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, and vexation of spirit." Alas! you are not happy.
Know, then, you never can be, while apart from God. Listen. Turn not away. Cast not aside these lines. Is it too late? You live. Jesus still lives. The living word still cries, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." Be, then, persuaded. Approach the cross on bended knees--with suppliant lip--in deep humility--with earnest prayer. Confess your need. Avow your willingness to be Christ's. Place your whole soul and heart in His redeeming hands. Wrestle with Him. Let Him not go, until your burdens fall, and peace swells like a rising tide. He can bring back to God. He can assure of pardon. He can reveal His pierced hands and side. He can bestow the title-deeds of life. He can admit you, as an adopted child, to the high family of grace. Then you will fully feel, how true are Moses' last words, "Happy are you, O Israel; who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your excellency! and your enemies shall be found liars unto you; and you shall tread upon their high places."
Holy Spirit, use these humble lines as seed of happiness, now and ever, to each reader's soul!
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