III. -Moses, gives three distinctive reasons why none is like unto Israel.
1. The first is a reason indeed. It clears up the whole mystery at once. It does indeed show that none can be like unto Israel -"O people saved by the LORD!" Can you fathom the depths of these words? I cannot. I may attempt to gather up a few crumbs from this feast of fat things: I may attempt to dip my cup into this everflowing, overflowing crystal stream to bring out a few drops; but it is a pure river of mercy, love; and grace that has neither bottom, bank, nor shore. "O people saved by the LORD." To understand these words, even in a feeble measure, we must look at the three Persons in the glorious Godhead, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and see how they are all interested in the expression. Israel is a people saved by each of the three Persons of the glorious Godhead.
i. She is saved by God the Father, - by His own eternal purpose, His fixed decree, His unalterable word and oath. He has decreed to save Israel. Can that decree be altered? God would cease to be God if He could waver or falter in His eternal purposes. If He could forfeit His work. He would not longer be Jehovah. Then who is like unto Israel, if she be a people saved by God the Father -not to be saved, but saved already, in His own eternal mind? so that the salvation of every member of the mystical body of Christ is as complete now as it will be in eternity to come. "Who hath saved us and called us." 2Ti 1:9 How then can one member of Christ s mystical body be lost ? How can the feeblest joint be cut off from the Head and die? if Israel is a people saved by the Lord; if God the Father has already saved her in His own eternal mind by fixed decree, who is to separate Israel from her God?
How sure then the salvation of all the elect race! Their being saved by the Lord determines the point without fear of contradiction. O how many have tried to save themselves! How many now, at this present moment, are fleeing, some to a broken law, that can only accuse and condemn; some to their own righteousness, which is as filthy rags; some to their own resolutions, which are but spiders webs; and some to hopes of amendment, which will all prove to be a lie. Look at Israel how distinct she stands from all these; she is saved by the Lord. Therefore she wants no other salvation. That is complete. And being saved by the Lord, her salvation is indefeasible and indestructible.
ii. Look at her salvation as accomplished by God the Son.
The Son of God became incarnate. The Son of God took our nature into union with His own divine Person, and in that nature suffered, bled, agonized, and died. By His obedience to the Law, He wrought out and brought in an everlasting righteousness, and by shedding His blood upon the cross offered an aveiling sacrifice. Look at Israel and ask the question again -"Who is like unto thee, saved by the Lord?" What! Has God the Son justified thee by His meritorious righteousness, and washed thee in the fountain, which He opened for thee in His own precious blood on Calvary s tree? Has God the Son groaned, and sweat, and bled, and suffered, and died for thy personal redemption in that body which the Father prepared for Him, and which He took as an act of voluntary and acceptable obedience? Then "who is like unto thee?" And if thou, who hast fled for refuge to the hope set before thee, ever hast had an evidence in thine own conscience that God the Son suffered for thee personally, individually, in the garden and upon the cross, who is like unto thee? Whom needest thou envy? With whom wouldst thou wish to exchange? Wouldst thou, like Esau, sell thine inheritance for a mess of pottage? Wouldst thou give up thy hope of eternal life for any consideration, or part with it at any price?
iii. Then there is being saved by God the Holy Ghost- by His personal work upon the heart, by His sanctifying influence upon the soul, by His manifestation of salvation to the conscience, and by the setting up of the kingdom of God with His own divine power in the inmost affections.
Look then once more at the words- "Who is tike unto thee?" If God the Father has saved thee by fixed decree -God the Son by meritorious obedience -and God the Spirit by personal manifestation. "Who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the LORD?" If in any measure blessed with faith to look unto and believe in a salvation like this, do we, can we, want to save ourselves? Do we want anything which the creature can perform to be added to this blessed salvation from the Triune God? Our mercy is to believe it, our blessedness to know it, our happiness to enjoy it. If your soul has ever tasted that precious salvation, you want no other -it is so complete, it brings such glory to God; it is so suitable to the wants and woes of man that all other is but misery and ruin.
2. There is another reason why Israel stands alone and is not numbered with the nations: "the shield of thy help." Is this wanted also? Have we not had enough in the words "O people, saved by the LORD?" Have we not exhausted in that one sentence the whole of God s grace? No; we have something still to add. Israel, in passing through this world, is not without her foes. She wants, therefore, a shield to guard her in the day of battle, and against the innumerable foes who thirst for her destruction. Look at some of them.
i. There are the curses of a fiery Law. The law is revealed against all sin and all unrighteousness, and speaks in words of thunder against every transgressor: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die; Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Though saved in the purposes of God, yet, as guilty of actual transgression, the Church is exposed to that fiery law, and under its terrible threatenings her guilty conscience sinks. She wants then a shield. Who is this shield? An incarnate God. How did He become the shield? By receiving into His holy body and soul the curse of the law, and thus drinking up the wrath of God revealed in that fiery dispensation. Thus as a shield in ancient times protected the warrior s breast, so the incarnate God, by receiving the arrows of the law into His holy body and soul, became the Church s shield; and not a single dart can slay her, for He stands between.
ii. Then there is conscience, for, strange to say, we want a shield against our very selves. Has conscience no arrows? Do you never want a shield against the spears of your own guilty conscience? Why that has been the sharpest conflict that your soul has ever been engaged in. What are accusations without to accusations within? it is what your conscience testifies against you that makes you doubt and fear. If you had but conscience on your side, you could fight to some purpose; but O, a guilty conscience! how it takes up arms against you, and, like the avenger of blood, pursues you up to the very throne of God. O, if you could have your conscience purged from guilt by the application of atoning blood, you would feel as happy as the day is long. Now Jesus must be your shield against the accusations of a guilty conscience; for His atoning blood alone can pacify it, and speak-peace and pardon to a troubled heart.
iii. There is Satan. You want a shield against the fiery darts of the wicked. What shield shall that be? An incarnate God, to interpose Himself between those fiery darts and your trembling soul. As the Lord rebuked Satan when he stood at Joshua s right hand to resist him and gave charge to take away the filthy garments from him, so does the blessed Jesus still rebuke the evil one, nor will He suffer him to accuse the saints of their filthy garments, for He clothes them with change of raiment. Thus. Jesus becomes the shield of the soul against a fiery law, a guilty conscience, and an accusing devil, not to speak of a thousand minor foes over whom He makes it more than conqueror.
3. "Who is the sword also of thy excellency." What! a sword as well as a shield? Yes. What would the ancient warrior have done unless he had had a sword wherewith to fight as well as a shield wherewith to defend himself? The shield would not do Without the sword, nor the sword without the shield: the shield to defend -the sword to attack; the shield to guard against the hostile thrust -the sword to cut the enemy down. What! have we enemies then? Yes, many. Shall we, then, take up the sword? Yes, if it be a right one -not the sword of the flesh. Peter had enough of that when he cut off the ear of Malchus. Take not Peter s sword: the sword of the Spirit be ours. And the Lord especially -who is "the sword of thy excellency" - let Him fight your battles. All we have to do is to be still in the matter. Let the Lord fight. Yet we may in some sense fight too. As the Psalmist says- "Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight."
I hope the Lord has made me a swordsman. I should not stand here to any purpose unless He had put a sword into my hand, and that not a sheathed one. The sword in the scabbard would never reach your conscience. I must draw the sword and thrust it into your conscience up to the very hilt, if you are to feel its keen point and edge. Your hard hearts would never feel a blow of the sword in the scabbard. It might bruise your flesh, but it would not "pierce even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow." But the Lord must be "the sword of my excellency." I must not stand here with carnal weapons, with logic or learning, with human arguments and passionate appeals. I must stand with the sword of the Spirit in my hand, with the fear of God in my heart, and with the strength of Christ in my arm. Thee it does execution. O what power there is in the word of God when the Lord speaks in and by it -when the Word incarnate speaks by the word written. Then, and then alone is real execution done.
Upon what? Your lusts, those internal enemies -yourself, your greatest foe; your pride and self-righteousness; your unbelief and infidelity; your worldly-mindedness, and all those evils of our fallen nature that are ever fighting for the mastery. Against them, whether in myself or others, let me ever take the sword. I have had many enemies from without -from the world and from the church -from profane and professor. I expect to have them to my dying day. But I hope the Lord has kept me from using against them the sword of the tongue or pen, nor as a minister do I ever wish to use carnal weapons, though frequently called upon to fight the Lord s battles. Let my weapons be faith and prayer, and the word of God. O that the Lord may ever be the shield of my help and the sword of my excellency, and then I shall be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and fight his battles to some purpose. Be not, however, surprised if the sword of the Spirit sometimes pierces you to the very quick. The conscience sometimes needs to be pierced. You may have inward gatherings of pride and self-righteousness, of which the blood and matter need to be let out; you may have sluggish and indolent turnouts of long-standing that want to be opened; you may have a swelling, puffed up heart that requires lancing; you may have festering sores which will not kindly heal unless the point of the sword reach down to the very bottom of the wound. Therefore, if I do use the sword sometimes, and do not merely brandish it over your head but thrust it into your conscience, I do it not to kill you but to cure you. Nothing is really slain thereby but the Lord s enemies and yours; and you know God s own words concerning Himself. "The Lord killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up."
IV. I pass on to our fourth and last point, which contains two sweet promises.
1. The first is, -"Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee." I have been speaking of enemies. I have thought sometimes that the people of God dwell too much upon their outward, and too little upon their inward enemies. The less you think of your outward, and the more you think of your inward opponents, the better it will be for your soul. Turn your eyes away from outward foes. However numerous, however formidable they may appear, they will never do you any real harm.
i. Keep a watchful eye upon every inward foe; and if you fight, fight against the enemy that lurks and works in your own breast. I may almost say to you, in the language of the King of Syria -"Fight not with small or great, only with thyself." I have ever found myself to be my greatest enemy. I never had a foe that troubled me so much as my own heart; nor has any one ever wrought me half the mischief or given me half the plague that I have felt and known within; and it is a daily sense of this which makes me dread myself more than anybody that walks upon the face of the earth. But God has promised that our enemies shall be found liars unto us. You may have had your external enemies, who may have prophesied your downfall. When I have been laid aside by illness, enemies have rejoiced in the hope that my mouth was stopped, and expressed their kind wishes that it might never be opened again. But I have been raised up again, nor is my mouth stopped yet. It is still my privilege here and elsewhere to preach His truth and proclaim His great and glorious name. I have no unkind feeling against a single foe, and I hope that they may be proved not to be the Lord s enemies, though they may be mine. You, too, may have had enemies, who may have said of you -"Ah, he is nothing but a hypocrite: you may depend upon it that he has not the root of the matter in him: he will sink and fall as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow." Have they yet seen you sink and fall? You may live to see them fall, when grace makes you to stand.
ii. Satan, too, has been a cruel foe, and as such has doubtless presented many gloomy prospects before your eyes, and been to you a prophet of evil -not of good. He shall also be found a liar, if indeed you are one of God s Israel. You shall not die, as he has sometimes told you, in the dark, nor in despair, nor be sent to hell with all your sins upon your head. This enemy to your soul shall be found a liar.
iii. Even the accusations of your own guilty conscience shall all eventually be found liars. God will prove Himself to be true, if every one else is proved to be false. What a mercy to have God upon our side! Whom, then, need we fear -what need we fear? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" But I may add, if God be against us, who can be for us? If God be for you, not all the powers of hell can keep you out of heaven. If God be against you, not all the angels, were it their will, could pull you in. Remember, I am assuming an impossibility, for devils could not, and angels would not defeat the purposes of the one great and glorious Sovereign of heaven and earth.
2. Now a few words upon the second promise. "And thou shalt tread upon their high places." Your enemies now may be very high and you very low; and it may seem at times to you that they will always be up and you always down. Presumption may seem to carry the day for a time; your enemies may succeed for a moment. But the time will come when the humble child of God will "tread upon their high places." Remember the step that is to tread them down -not the step of pride, "but the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy." Isa 26:6 The time will come, if you are one of God s Israel, when however high the enemies of your soul may have raised their fortifications, you shall tread them down, not with the foot of revenge, but of humility.
May the Lord be pleased to raise up in your souls who fear His great name, a sweet and blessed evidence that all these mercies and promises are yours, that you may have the comfort, and He may have the glory!