Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 32:39 - 32:39

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 32:39 - 32:39

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Deu_32:39. See now, that I, even I, am he, and there it no strange god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither it there any that can deliver out of my hand.

THE Jews, from the time that they became a nation, turned aside from the living God to the worship of idols: on which account, God, in righteous indignation, refused them, on some occasions, the aid which he alone could bestow; and referred them to their idols, in whom they trusted, that they might obtain from them those things of which they stood in need: “Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings? Let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.” But to us is the same reproach most justly due: for though we do not, like them, bow down to shocks and stones, we are far from realizing in our minds the exclusive agency of Jehovah. To us, therefore, no less than to them, may be addressed the solemn admonition before us; “See now, that I, even I, am he, and there is no strange god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”

Let me now entreat your attention to,

I.       God’s own description of his own character—

Agreeably to what is here spoken, we see, that,

1.       His agency is universal—

[There is not any thing done, whether it be good or evil, but he is the doer of it. “I am the Lord,” says he; “and there is none else; there is no God besides me. I am the Lord; and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things [Note: Isa_45:5-7 with Amo_3:6.].” There is nothing so great, or so small, but it must be traced to him as its proper source and author, even to the falling of a sparrow, or the falling of a hair from our heads [Note: Mat_10:29-30.]. And God is desirous that this should be known and duly considered by us. To discover this to his ancient people, was one great reason for his marvellous interpositions for them [Note: Deu_4:34-35.], and of the no less marvellous forbearance which he exercised towards them [Note: ver. 27.]. And we, also, must bear in mind, that “whether he kill or make alive, whether he wound or heal, it is He alone that does it, and there is no strange god with him.”]

2.       His appointments are sovereign—

[The whole Scripture bears testimony that “God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” He does so in relation to all temporal matters: “He killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up: he maketh poor and maketh rich; he bringeth low and lifteth up: he raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit a throne of glory [Note: 1Sa_2:6-8.].” In relation to spiritual matters, also, he exercises no less a sovereign control, “having mercy on whom he will have mercy, and hardening whom he sees good to harden [Note: Rom_9:18.].” This was viewed by St. Paul in so important a light, that when he had once touched upon it, he did not know how to relinquish the subject, but insisted on it with every diversity of expression that language could furnish, and yet with such repetitions as appeared almost to be endless. Having said that God had blessed us with all spiritual blessings, he traces the gift to this as its true source: “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he had purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory [Note: Eph_1:3-12 and again in ver. 14.].” We have often read this passage, but with so little care, as scarcely to get a glimpse of its true import: but, the more minutely and attentively we consider it, the more, shall we see the amazing importance of the subject contained in it, and of the character of God as a mighty Sovereign, that does what he will, and “gives not account to us of any of his matters [Note: Job_33:13.].”]

3.       His power is uncontrollable—

[Forcible is that appeal of Elihu, “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation or a man only [Note: Job_34:29.].” He is a mighty “Lawgiver, alike able to save or to destroy [Note: Jam_4:12.].” Hear Jehovah’s own declaration respecting this: “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Saviour. Before the day was, I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work; and who shall let it [Note: Isa_43:11; Isa_43:13.]?” Does he meditate vengeance? this is his own awful asseveration, in the words immediately following my text: “I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh [Note: ver. 40–42.].” On the other hand, does he contemplate the exercise of mercy? this is the assurance that he gives his people: “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not, I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel: I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing-instrument, having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel [Note: Isa_41:13-16.].” In a word, He is a Potter, and we are the clay; and whether he is pleased to make, or mar, the vessel, none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou [Note: Jer_18:3-6 with Rom_9:20-21.]?]

Let us now proceed to notice,

II.      His solemn call to the consideration of it—

“See now,” says he, “that this is my unquestionable, and unchangeable character:” and you are called to contemplate it,

1.       That you may give him the glory of all that you have received—

[My Brethren, God is a holy and a jealous God: “his very name is, Jealous [Note: Exo_34:14.];” and “his glory he will not give to another [Note: Isa_42:8.].” How fearfully he will resent any interference with him in this respect, may be seen in the case of Herod, who, when he was applauded for his eloquence, gave not God the glory; and God, in righteous displeasure, caused him to be “eaten up of worms, till he gave up the ghost [Note: Act_12:21-23.].” But more especially is God jealous in relation to spiritual blessings, which must be ascribed to him alone. Indeed, he has so constituted the whole work of man’s salvation, that no particle of honour should be assumed by man, but all glory should be given to him, as “the author and the finisher of our faith.” “He has treasured up for us every thing in Christ Jesus [Note: Col_1:19.];” and ordained, that we should “receive every thing out of his fulness [Note: Joh_1:16.],” looking to him as our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our complete redemption, “that no flesh should glory in his presence, but that all should glory in him alone [Note: 1Co_1:29-31.].” Let this lesson, then, be learned by us, that God may receive from us all the glory of all that we possess; since “if we differ from others in any respect, it is he who has made us to differ; and we possess nothing which we have not gratuitously received from him [Note: 1Co_4:7.].”]

2.       That you may depend on him for all that you ever hope to receive—

[Here, also, God asserts his claim to our entire dependence: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and that maketh flesh his arm; and whose heart departeth from the Lord his God [Note: Jer_17:5-8.].” Especially in reference to every thing that concerns our salvation, does God require our undivided affiance: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God; and there is none else [Note: Isa_45:22.].” Every child of man, whatever he may possess, must rely on Christ alone, saying, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” “In the Lord alone shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory [Note: Isa_45:24-25.].” To this has God a very especial respect in the words of my text. If we look to the creature, or place any dependence on an arm of flesh, we must take the consequences [Note: ver. 37, 38, 39.]. The creature “cannot do good, or do evil.” As to the idols on which the Jews were disposed to place their confidence, God says to them, “Ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you [Note: Isa_41:23-24.].” So must it be said of every thing on which we are wont to rely; “It is a broken reed, which will only pierce the hand that resteth on it [Note: 2Ki_18:21.].” Trust ye, then, in the Lord, and in him alone: yea, “trust in him for ever: for with the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength [Note: Isa_26:4.].”]

This subject, methinks, speaks,

1.       Comfort to the true Christian—

[Respecting this glorious Being who is here described, it is your privilege to say, that “he is your God.” In truth, whatever you want, he describes himself as a God of that very thing, of “love,” of “mercy,” of “peace,” of “strength,” of “comfort,” of “all grace;” and in relation to that very thing will he “be a God unto you [Note: Heb_8:10.].” Seek him, then, in Christ Jesus; and glory in him as “your God and portion for ever.”]

2.       Terror to those who have any other god—

[Who is that God that shall save you in the hour of your extremity? or, Where will ye flee for succour in the day of judgment? Indeed, indeed, there is no refuge for you, but in Christ; nor “any other name given under heaven but his, whereby you can be saved [Note: Act_4:12.].”]