God's Deliverance of Israel Out of the Iron Furnace
Deuteronomy 4:20
But the LORD has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be to him a people of inheritance…

First, for the terms of their deliverance, to speak of them, which are here propounded two manner of ways, in the general and in the particular. The general, Egypt. The particular, the furnace of iron.

I. We begin first of all with the general proposition, which, though it be last in order of Scripture, yet is first in order of nature, AND THAT IS EGYPT. This was the place which they were delivered from, which when we have considered how miserable a place it was, and especially to them, we shall see the greatness of their deliverance. The place, I say, in general was Egypt, which we find these Israelites to be very often put in mind of in Scripture upon all occasions (Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 16:12; Deuteronomy 24:18, 22).

1. It was a place of exile or peregrination. This the Scripture does very much insist on. That they were strangers in the land of Egypt (Psalm 114:1). The world to the children of God is but as the land of strangers. It is heaven which is their proper home and their Father's house. It should make them the more willing to go when God calls them by seasonable dissolution, in that here they are but in a land of strangers. That was not all, nor the main thing, which was considerable in Egypt.

2. It was, moreover, a land of idolaters. There is matter of pollution. It was hard for Israel to be long in Egypt, and not in a great measure to partake with them in their idolatries. Oh, it is a great mercy to be kept from sinful allurements, especially considering what inclinations are in ourselves to the closing with them, we have a nature in us which is like dry tinder to these sparks. And therefore to be prevented from the occasion is so much the greater advantage. As there is pollution in these things in regard of nature, so there is offensiveness in regard of grace. Evil examples and temptations, if they do not defile us, yet they cannot but offend and grieve us and expose us more to sin, so they trouble us and expose us more to grief, prove wearisome and tedious to us. There is also danger in them, too, in regard to the consequents. Danger both to body and soul. For ourselves, let us bless God that He has graciously given us the opportunities of knowledge, and delivered us from the Egypt both of Paganism and Popery.

II. The second is as it is laid down in particular, AND THAT IS THE IRON FURNACE (1 Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4).

1. First, here is affliction in general compared to a furnace (Isaiah 48:10). Afflictions are the fiery trial to test God's people, and purge away the dross (1 Peter 4:12).

2. For this affliction in particular which now happened to Israel, it is called the iron furnace. Both in the letter and in the moral. In the letter. First, because those furnaces which they wrought in were such as in which iron was melted. And so from the work they were employed in, furnaces of iron. But then secondly, of iron in the moral. First, an hard and laborious employment. Iron is an emblem of severity. Then, secondly, as from the sharpness of it, so from the continuance of it likewise (Psalm evil. 20). The use which we are to make of this observation to ourselves is therefore, first, not to wonder at it, or to think much of it, but to expect it. The refiner puts the gold into the furnace, and the potter puts the clay into the fire, and both of them to very good purpose; and so does God. Again, we should be careful to find afflictions to have this efficacy upon us, to wit, of refining us.


1. First, it is He alone hath the bowels, it is He alone that hath the strength. Deliverance of others out of trouble is an act of pity and compassion. Now, none but only God has so much of this in them towards the Church; we shall see in the book of the Lamentations the complaining of the want of commiseration in others towards her; but this God hath in Him abundance.

2. Secondly, none but He hath the strength. The adversaries of the Church are potent, and therefore need to have one of power to deal with them. And this is God Himself; the Almighty and All-sufficient. Therefore still let Him be both repaired to, as also acknowledged in such providences as these are.

IV. THE MANNER OF IT. This we have expressed in two words, "Taken you and brought you forth." Though one might have served the turn for the signification of the deliverance, yet two are made use of to make it so much the more emphatical.

1. First, an emphasis of appropriation, "taken you," that is, laid claim unto you, as a man that seizes upon that which is his own when it is in the hand of strangers.

2. Secondly, as there is in it an emphasis of appropriation, so likewise an emphasis of affection. "He hath taken you," that is, with a great deal of tenderness and regard unto you (Deuteronomy 22:11).Hath brought you, and this, as well as the other, hath a double force in it.

1. First, there is power in it. "Bring you forth," that is, forced you forth, whether your enemies would or no.

2. Secondly, there is also solemnity in it. "He brought them forth," i.e. in triumph, as with a strong hand so with a stretched-out arm, as the Scripture also expresses it (Deuteronomy 5:15). Now, from both these expressions together we see the thing itself sufficiently declared, that God did at last deliver His people out of captivity (Psalm 81:6, 8, 13). Though God suffers His servants sometimes to fall into the hand of their enemies, yet He does at length free them from them. This He doth upon divers considerations. First, out of His own compassion (Psalm 103:9; Isaiah 57:16). Secondly, out of respect to His people, lest they should be discouraged and provoked to evil (Psalm 125:3). Thirdly, out of regard to the enemies, lest they should insult (Deuteronomy 32:26, 27). Let this, therefore, be the use which we make of it to ourselves. First, to expect it, whereas yet it is not. Secondly, to acknowledge it, and to improve it there where it is. And so much may suffice to have spoken of the first general part of the text, namely, the deliverance itself.

V. THE END OR CONSEQUENT OF THIS DELIVERANCE, and that we have in these words, "To be unto Him a people of inheritance as ye are this day." In which passage we have again two particulars. First, the design itself, and secondly, the amplification of it." The design itself, "To be unto Him a people of inheritance." The amplification of it. "As ye are this day." I begin with the first, namely, the design itself, To be unto Him a people of inheritance, This is that which God aimed at concerning Israel. Now, this may again admit of a double interpretation, either so as for Him to be their inheritance, or else so as for them to be His. The Scripture makes mention of either in sundry places. First, for Him to be theirs. This is the privilege of God's people. That the Lord Himself is their portion and inheritance and so expresses Himself to be to them (Psalm 16:5). David, speaking of himself, The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: Thou maintainest the lot. And so of Levi it is said, that the Lord is his inheritance (Deuteronomy 10:9). And the Church, (Lamentations 3:24) "The Lord is my portion," etc. This is a great comfort to the godly, and to those which are most destitute amongst them, to live upon the power of this truth, what though they have none of the great inheritance of the world. Yet as long as they have a portion in God they have that which may abundantly satisfy them, and keep them from dejection, forasmuch as from henceforth no good thing shall be wanting unto them, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." How so? It follows in the next words, "And I will be his God," etc. (Revelation 21:7). The second is for them to be His. This is another thing which the Scripture makes mention of (Psalm 33:12; Deuteronomy 32:9; Psalm 28:9). An inheritance contains three things in it. First, some good and advantage. Secondly, peculiarity and propriety of interest. Thirdly, succession and derivation of it to posterity. Now, according to all these notions of it does God make choice of His people to be an inheritance to Himself. This, therefore, first of all teaches us what we ourselves should be, namely, such as are wholly devoted and consecrated to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). We are the inheritance of God, therefore we should not suffer Satan to get possession of us, nor any evil to prevail upon us. Secondly, here is matter of comfort to the true Church and people of God, that being His inheritance He will therefore take care of them and protect them, and keep them from evil. I desire now, further, to enforce it as a duty which is belonging to you to take care of it especially; we should all in our several opportunities endeavour the continuance of the Church in succeeding time. That God may have to Himself a portion and people of inheritance, even when we are in our graves. This is done, first of all, by being good in our own generation. Secondly, by taking care of others, and educating them in His fear. Now, further, we may look upon it also as a consequent, and so see the connection of these two both together. How did God, bringing His people forth out of Egypt, make them to be to Him a people of inheritance, namely, thus far, as they had now larger opportunities for the serving of Him afforded unto them than while they were in Egypt, they were there restrained in regard of the idolatrous people, which they were mingled withal, but now being escaped they were more at liberty. This, therefore, is the advantage which we should still make of such opportunities (Luke 1:74, 75). And so much of the first particular observable in this second general, namely, the design itself to be, etc. The second is the amplification of it. "As ye are this day." In which clause we have three things especially hinted to us concerning God. First, the accomplishment of His purposes. Secondly, the certainty of His promises. Thirdly, the continuance of His performances. Now, from hence will follow another point as our duty, which is here also to be observed, and that is, that we are accordingly to call them to our minds, and so from thence make them fresh unto us, as if done at this present time. It is that which Moses endeavours to make these Israelites do here in the text, who reminds them of a mercy which was done many years ago for them, as if it had been done for them just at that time. This is the scope of this narration, and this also hath been the practice of the saints of God in other places (Psalm 78:1, 6).

(T. Herren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.

WEB: But Yahweh has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be to him a people of inheritance, as at this day.

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