Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 32:36 - 32:36

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 32:36 - 32:36

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Deu_32:36. The Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

IT is a certain truth that God is immutable in his purposes, whether of judgment or of mercy. In the execution of either there may be long delays: but neither the one nor the other shall fail. The sins of the impenitent “are laid up in store with him, and sealed up among his treasures:” and how secure soever the ungodly may imagine themselves, they shall give up their account to him, “to whom belongeth vengeance and recompence:” yes, they may stand fast in their own apprehension; but “their feet shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand; and the things that shall come upon them make haste [Note: ver. 34, 35.];” or, to use the energetic language of St. Peter, “their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not [Note: 2Pe_2:3.].” In like manner are mercies reserved for his chosen people: and though he may, for wise and gracious purposes, suffer them to be reduced to the greatest extremities, as he did his people in Babylon [Note: See Mic_4:10.], yet will he interpose effectually for them in due season, “repenting himself for them, when he sees that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left.”

In confirmation of this truth I propose to shew,

I.       To what a state God’s people may be reduced—

God’s ways and thoughts are far different from ours. We should be ready to suppose that he would preserve his people from any great calamities, and interpose for their deliverance at the very commencement of their trials. But this is not the way in which he proceeds. He permits his people to be severely tried,

1.       By temporal afflictions—

[To these is the primary reference in the text [Note: Compare Jdg_2:14-15; Jdg_2:18 with 2Ki_14:26.] — — — And the whole of God’s dispensations towards his people, in Egypt and the wilderness, evince the truth of it. Nor is it the wicked only whom he permits to be visited with severe afflictions: the righteous in every age have drunk deep of the cup of sorrow which has been put into their hands [Note: Heb_11:37-38; Act_8:3-4.]: God has seen it “needful that they should be in heaviness through manifold temptations [Note: 1Pe_1:6.];” and has taught them to regard their lot, not as a mark of his displeasure, but rather as a token of his love [Note: Heb_12:6.].]

2.       By spiritual trouble—

[Many, previous to their finding peace with God, are brought into the deepest distress on account of their iniquities, and from an apprehension of God’s heavy displeasure [Note: Psa_6:1-7; Psa_38:1-8.] — — — And many too after that they have obtained mercy, may yet be greatly tried by reason of the hidings of God’s face [Note: Psa_22:1-2; Psa_42:6; Psalms 7.], and the delays of his promised blessings [Note: Psa_77:1-9; Psa_88:14-16; Psa_102:1-11.] — — — Greater distress than this cannot be imagined; yet was it the lot of him who was “the man after God’s own heart.”]

But let us contemplate,

II.      The seasonable interpositions which they may hope for—

“God will judge his people, and repent himself for his servants,” when he sees them reduced to such a state as this.

He has done this in instances without number—

[The whole history of the Bible is replete with instances: yea, on numberless occasions have his interpositions been so signal, that his most inveterate enemies have been constrained to acknowledge his hand, and his most unbelieving people to sing his praise. The hundred and seventh Psalm is in fact an epitome of God’s dealings with his people from the beginning of the world to this present moment — — — And there is not any one amongst ourselves, who, if he have been at all observant of the ways of Providence, must not acknowledge, that he has both seen in others, and experienced in himself, many merciful interpositions in the hour of need.]

He will do it to the end of time—

[The words before us are in the form of a promise: and we may rely upon them as sure and faithful. They shall be fulfilled to us under temporal distresses [Note: Psa_33:18-19.] — — — and under spiritual trouble also will God surely remember them for our good. Where can we find a more disconsolate state than that depicted by the Prophet Isaiah? Yet sooner will God work for us the most stupendous miracles than leave us destitute of the desired aid [Note: Isa_41:17-18.] — — —]

The frequency of such interpositions leads me to point out,

III.     The reason why God permits such crises previous to the bestowment of his promised blessings—

Amongst many other reasons, he does it,

1.       For the making of us more sensible of our dependence upon him—

[Whilst, in theory, we acknowledge God as “the Author and Giver of all good,” there is no sentiment further from our minds than this in practice. It is only in straits and difficulties that we think of looking unto God. But such atheism is most displeasing to the Governor of the universe: and on this account he suffers us to fall into divers temptations, that we may know from whence all our blessings have flowed, and on whose providence we depend. St. Paul assigns this as one very important reason why God permitted such trials to come upon him in Asia, that he was driven to utter despair: “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead; who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us [Note: 2Co_1:8-10.].” And every affliction that brings us to a more simple life of faith on God, we may justly welcome as a blessing in disguise.]

2.       For the magnifying the more his own glorious perfections—

[We scarcely notice God at all in his common mercies: it is only when we are delivered by some signal interposition of his providence or grace, that we become sensible of our obligations to him. Then we say, The Lord hath done this: and we feel disposed, for a time at least, to give him the glory due unto his name. It was for this reason that Jesus came not to restore Lazarus, till he had been dead four days [Note: Joh_11:4; Joh_11:6; Joh_11:15; Joh_11:40.]. Under such circumstances we admire his goodness, and adore his love; and confess him to be a faithful God, who has never failed in the execution of any promise to his believing people. The song of Moses is sung by us again: “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, amongst the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders [Note: Exo_15:11.]?” Conviction flashes on our minds with tenfold energy; and we exclaim with the convinced worshippers of Baal, “The Lord, he is the God! the Lord, he is the God!”]

3.       For the rendering of his mercies more influential on our minds—

[When God’s mercies have been heaped upon us in an unusual degree, then we feel disposed to ask, “What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me?” Behold David after some great deliverance, whereby “his soul was brought out of a horrible pit, and set, as it were, upon a rock;” “what songs were put into his mouth;” and with what ardour does he exclaim, “Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust [Note: Psa_40:1-4.]!” St. Paul had been brought to similar distress by reason of the thorn in his flesh: yet, when once assured that “the grace of Christ should be sufficient for him,” how does he immediately take pleasure and glory in all that he either did or could endure [Note: 2Co_12:7-10.]! And thus will it be with all, in proportion as they are sensible of the mercies conferred upon them: they will present their whole selves a living sacrifice unto their God, as a reasonable and delightful service [Note: Rom_12:1.].]


1.       To those who are under any temporal affliction—

[Say not, that “the Lord has forsaken and forgotten you [Note: Isa_49:14.]:” but wait his leisure, and assure yourselves that “all is working for your good.” It was by a circuitous path that he led Israel to the promised land: but “he led them by the right way:” and you also shall see, in due season, that though “clouds and darkness have been round about him, righteousness and judgment have been the basis of his throne.”]

2.       To those whose trials are of a spiritual nature—

[These are the heavier of the two: for “a wounded spirit who can bear?” But “light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Only wait the appointed time, and “the vision shall come, and not tarry [Note: Hab_3:2.].” “In the evening time it shall be light [Note: Zec_14:7.].” In the mean while follow the direction which the Lord himself gives you; and, whilst “walking in darkness and without light, trust in the Lord, and stay yourselves upon your God [Note: Isa_50:10.].”]