There were four things in and by which God showed himself reconciled to Israel and made them truly great and happy, and in which God’s goodness took occasion from their badness to make him the more illustrious:—
I. He gave them his law, gave it to them in writing, as a standing pledge of his favour. Though the tables that were first written were broken, because Israel had broken the commandments, and God might justly break the covenant, yet when his anger was turned away the tables were renewed, Deut. 10:1, 2. Note, God’s putting his law in our reconciliation to God and the best earnest of our happiness in him. Moses is told to hew the tables; for the law prepares the heart by conviction and humiliation for the grace of God, but it is only that grace that then writes the law in it. Moses made an ark of shittim-wood (Deut. 10:3), a plain chest, the same, I suppose, in which the tables were afterwards preserved: but Bezaleel is said to make it (Exod. 37:1), because he afterwards finished it up and overlaid it with gold. Or Moses is said to make it because, when he went up the second time into the mount, he ordered it to be made by Bezaleel against he came down. And it is observable that for this reason the ark was the first thing that God gave orders about, Exod. 25:10. And this left an earnest to the congregation that the tables should not miscarry this second time, as they had done the first. God will send his law and gospel to those whose hearts are prepared as arks to receive them. Christ is the ark in which now our salvation is kept safely, that it may not be lost as it was in the first Adam, when he had it in his own hand. Observe, 1. What it was that God wrote on the two tables, the ten commandments (Deut. 10:4), or ten words, intimating in how little a compass they were contained: they were not ten volumes, but ten words: it was the same with the first writing, and both the same that he spoke in the mount. The second edition needed no correction nor amendment, nor did what he wrote differ form what he spoke. The written word is as truly the word of God as that which he spoke to his servants the prophets. 2. What care was taken of it. These two tables, thus engraven, were faithfully laid up in the ark. And there they be, said Moses, pointing it is probable towards the sanctuary, Deut. 10:5. That good thing which was committed to him he transmitted to them, and left it pure and entire in their hands; now let them look to it at their peril. Thus we may say to the rising generation, “God has entrusted us with Bibles, sabbaths, sacraments, etc., as tokens of his presence and favour, and there they be; we lodge them with you,” 2 Tim. 1:13, 14.
II. He led them forward towards Canaan, though they in their hearts turned back towards Egypt, and he might justly have chosen their delusions, Deut. 10:6, 7. He brought them to a land of rivers of waters, out of a dry and barren wilderness. Sometimes God supplied their wants by the ordinary course of nature: when that failed, then by miracles; and yet after this, when they were brought into a little distress, we find them distrusting God and murmuring, Num. 20:3, 4.
III. He appointed a standing ministry among them, to deal for them in holy things. At that time when Moses went up a second time to the mount, or soon after, he had orders to separate the tribe of Levi to God, and to his immediate service, they having distinguished themselves by their zeal against the worshippers of the golden calf, Deut. 10:8, 9. The Kohathites carried the ark; they and the other Levites stood before the Lord, to minister to him in all the offices of the tabernacle; and the priests, who were of that tribe, were to bless the people. This was a standing ordinance, which had now continued almost forty years, even unto this day; and provision was made for the perpetuating of it by the settled maintenance of that tribe, which was such as gave them great encouragement in their work, and no diversion from it. The Lord is his inheritance. Note, A settled ministry is a great blessing to a people, and a special token of God’s favour. And, since the particular priests could not continue by reason of death, God showed his care of the people in securing a succession, which Moses takes notice of here, Deut. 10:6. When Aaron died, the priesthood did not die with him, but Eleazar his son ministered in his stead, and took care of the ark, in which the tables of stone, those precious stones, were deposited, that they should suffer no damage; there they be, and he has the custody of them. Under the law, a succession in the ministry was kept up, by an entail of the office on a certain tribe and family. But now, under the gospel, when the effusion of the Spirit is more plentiful and powerful, the succession is kept up by the Spirit’s operation on men’s hearts, qualifying men for, and inclining men to, that work, some in every age, that the name of Israel may not be blotted out.
IV. He accepted Moses as an advocate or intercessor for them, and therefore constituted him their prince and leader (Deut. 10:10, 11): The Lord hearkened to me and said, Arise, go before the people. It was a mercy to them that they had such a friend, so faithful both to him that appointed him and to those for whom he was appointed. It was fit that he who had saved them from ruin, by his intercession with heaven, should have the conduct and command of them. And herein he was a type of Christ, who, as he ever lives making intercession for us, so he has all power both in heaven and in earth.