These be the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea…
I. God, in His address to His people, ENJOINS ACTION. "Not slothful" is the apostolic command. "Ye have dwelt long enough." The time of inactivity is over. "Turn you, take your journey." God enjoins on His people to be like Himself. He is ever active. The whole seven days round His energies are going forth in creating and blessing. Not less active than the Father is the Son. Week day and Sabbath He exerted Himself to make man happier and the world brighter. His reason for this He gives in John 5:17. It is not unnatural, therefore, that God seeks in His people qualities so largely developed in Himself. God does not want idlers in His vineyard. Man was put into the garden of the world to work (Genesis 2:15). However, God permits some rest. Life is not all work. Storm and calm, battle and peace, make history. But still the law of life and growth is, the more we do within certain limits the more we are able to do. This is true both physically and spiritually. People of impaired health by proper exercise become strong. The morally weak are strengthened by the exercise of trial. The more kind a man tries to be, the more he is. So with faith, patience, hope.
II. GOD ADVISES WITH REGARD TO THE NATURE, DIRECTION, AND EXTENT OF THIS ACTION.
1. Nature of the action. Let it be action with a purpose in view. Have an aim in life. "Go to the mount of the Amorites."
2. Direction of the action. Two hints with regard to that —
(1) Let it go forth. It does not do for a man's action to turn in on himself. Uniform selfishness is as injurious as constant introspection; and ceaseless introspection is as ruinous as unmixed selfishness. Live for others as well as self; work for others.
(2) This is modified by another hint. Go to what is near first.
3. Extent of the action. Begin at the near, then proceed to what is more remote, till the whole world is affected by your life, e.g. —
(1) First to the plain. Read part of the Bible easily understood and applied. Interpret providence as far as Son can trace a Father's hands. What cannot be understood leave for a future day and clearer lights.
(2) After this go to the hill. Do not mind a difficulty sometimes. A little adversity strengthens the soul. Trust is perfected in suffering.
(3) Now you may proceed to the vale. There is the "valley of the shadow of death" — "the valley of humiliation" — "the valley of vision. Here the soul is quickened and brought into that region of experience that Paul designates as being "hidden with Christ in God."(4) Thus prepared with "the whole armour of God," go to the "south." Here were hills infested with foes. So the Christian, after mounting the Hill of Transfiguration with Christ, where for a moment the Divine glory is manifested, has to go back again to a world where man has to contend with demons (Matthew 17:14-18), where he has to grapple with many a spiritual foe, wolves in sheep's clothing, the lion that seeks to devour, the subtle serpent.
(5) Then comes the reward. Having gone to the "south," the people might turn aside to the sea. So does God bring the Christian after long and hard toil to gaze into those depths of love and grace which are as oceans mirroring the midnight skies.
(6) After such revelation of God's glory and power the people of God can go forth to war with the Canaanite. The kingdom of Christ is extended to Lebanon (the far north) — to the river (the far cast). The whole world is filled with the glory of the Lord.
III. GOD, IN HIS ADDRESS, POINTS OUT HOW RIGHTLY DIRECTED ACTION WILL BRING ITS OWN REWARD. "Behold, I have set (Hebrews 'given') the land before you: go in and possess."
1. True work is sure to bring recompense of some kind. It brings external reward. A day's work brings the day's wages. The sewings of spring are followed by the harvests of autumn. It brings an internal reward in a man's own nature and being.
2. Show what work is. Distinguish work from pleasure. Pleasure is the expending of energy without any end or purpose save the sensations caused by the act of waste, whereby pleasure has been defined as "dissipating enjoyments"; work is energy expended for a purpose. In its idea it is conservative. Work is action to get a return for the energy so spent, both to recuperate and increase the power thus employed. Pleasure seeks nothing save the sensation; work demands a recompense. God promises to work its recompense. "Go in and possess."
Parallel VersesKJV: These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.