Here is, I. The solemn delivery of this song to the children of Israel, Deut. 32:44, 45. Moses spoke it to as many as could hear him, while Joshua, in another assembly, at the same time, delivered it to as many as his voice would reach. Thus coming to them from the mouth of both their governors, Moses who was laying down the government, and Joshua who was taking it up, they would see they were both in the same mind, and that, though they changed their commander, there was no change in the divine command; Joshua, as well as Moses, would be a witness against them if ever they forsook God.
II. An earnest charge to them to mind these and all the rest of the good words that Moses had said to them. How earnestly does he long after them all, how very desirous that the word of God might make deep and lasting impressions upon them, how jealous over them with a godly jealousy, lest they should at any time let slip these great things!
1. The duties he charges upon them are, (1.) Carefully to attend to these themselves: “Set your hearts both to the laws, and to the promises and threatenings, the blessings and curses, and now at last to this song. Let the mind be closely applied to the consideration of these things; be affected with them; be intent upon your duty, and cleave to it with full purpose of heart.” (2.) Faithfully to transmit these things to those that should come after them: “What interest you have in your children, or influence upon them, use it for this purpose; and command them (as your father Abraham did, Gen. 18:19) to observe to do all the words of this law.” Those that are good themselves cannot but desire that their children may be so likewise, and that posterity may keep up religion in their day and the entail of it may not be cut off.
2. The arguments he uses to persuade them to make religion their business and to persevere in it are, (1.) The vast importance of the things themselves which he had charged upon them (Deut. 32:47): “It is not a vain thing, because it is your life. It is not an indifferent thing, but of absolute necessity; it is not a trifle, but a matter of consequence, a matter of life and death; mind it, and you are made for ever; neglect it, and you are for ever undone.” O that men were but fully persuaded of this, that religion is their life, even the life of their souls! (2.) The vast advantage it would be of to them: Through this thing you shall prolong your days in Canaan, which is a typical promise of that eternal life which Christ has assured us those shall enter into that keep the commandments of God, Matt. 19:17.
III. Orders given to Moses concerning his death. Now that this renowned witness for God had finished his testimony, he must go up to Mount Nebo and die; in the prophecy of Christ’s two witnesses there is a plain allusion to Moses and Elias (Rev. 11:6), and perhaps their removal, being by martyrdom, is no less glorious than the removal either of Moses or Elias. Orders were given to Moses that self-same day, Deut. 32:48. Now that he had done his work, why should he desire to live a day longer? He had indeed formerly prayed that he might go over Jordan, but now he is entirely satisfied, and, as God had bidden him, saith no more of that matter. 1. God here reminds him of the sin he had been guilty of, for which he was excluded Canaan (Deut. 32:51), that he might the more patiently bear the rebuke because he had sinned, and that now he might renew his sorrow for that unadvised word, for it is good for the best of men to die repenting of the infirmities they are conscious to themselves of. It was an omission that was thus displeasing to God; he did not sanctify God, as he ought to have done, before the children of Israel, he did not carry himself with a due decorum in executing the orders he had then received. 2. He reminds him of the death of his brother Aaron (Deut. 32:50), to make his own the more familiar and the less formidable. Note, It is a great encouragement to us, when we die, to think of our friends that have gone before us through that darksome valley, especially of Christ, our elder brother and great high priest. 3. He sends him up to a high hill, thence to take a view of the land of Canaan and then die, Deut. 32:49, 50. The remembrance of his sin might make death terrible, but the sight God gave him of Canaan took off the terror of it, as it was a token of God’s being reconciled to him, and a plain indication to him that though his sin shut him out of the earthly Canaan, yet it should not deprive him of that better country which in this world can only be seen, and that with an eye of faith. Note, Those may die with comfort and ease whenever God calls for them (notwithstanding the sins they remember against themselves) who have a believing prospect and a well-grounded hope of eternal life beyond death.
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