Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby, [1857-62], at sacred-texts.com
To close this succession of ordinances, we have (chap. 26) a most beautiful picture of the worship consequent on the enjoyment of the land according to the promises of God, a picture full of instruction for us too. First, we find the main subject of this book appears as everywhere else: Israel is in the land which God had given him for an inheritance. But, as to worship, it is not looked at here in the light of drawing near to God in the holy place, by means of sacrifices which, supposing sin, opened the way for the people into the presence of Jehovah. This characterises the whole book. Then the question was, could they, or how far could they, or how near could they or the priests-draw near to Jehovah in the sanctuary of His holiness. What Deuteronomy presents is, while acknowledging their previous state, the festal enjoyment of the effect of all the promises, only as coming from, and they themselves identified with Jehovah. (So in chaps. 12 and 14). [See Note #1] They enjoy the promise, and present themselves as worshippers, giving thanks as enjoying it. In presenting the firstfruits of the land of promise, they were to go up to the place where the Lord had placed His name. What then was the spirit of that worship?
First, it was based on the open confession that they were in the full enjoyment of the effect of the promise of God. "I profess this day unto Jehovah that I am come unto the country which Jehovah sware unto our fathers to give us." That is the first feature of that worship-the full profession of being in the enjoyment of the effect of the promise. It was the acknowledgment of the faithfulness of God in the present communion of His goodness. Thereupon the offering was presented.
Then, in the presence of Jehovah, the worshipper made confession of the redemption and deliverance of the people. A Syrian, ready to perish, was his father; and afterwards, when his children, oppressed by the Egyptians, cried unto Jehovah, Jehovah had heard and delivered them with an outstretched arm, and had, by a display of His power, brought them up into the land they were enjoying.
The second feature, then, is the confession of what their misery had been, of their impotency in time past, and that their redemption has been accomplished by Jehovah alone, to whom they were indebted for all these blessings. Thereupon the worshipper directly addresses Jehovah, presenting Him with the firstfruits of those blessings. It was the recognition of God in the blessings (the infallible effect of a work of God in the heart), and the only means of truly enjoying them; for God's blessings turn the heart away from Him, if their first effect is not to turn it to Him. That is the history of Israel, and a thousand times alas! in the details of life, that of our own hearts. A pious heart acknowledges God Himself in the blessing, before enjoying it. See a beautiful example in the conduct of Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, sent to fetch a wife for Isaac.
Then it is added, "And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which Jehovah thy God hath given unto thee." They were to enjoy them with God; and, consequently, observe here, that in this the spirit of grace manifests itself at once: "Thou, the Levite, and the stranger that is within thy gate." It is impossible truly to rejoice in the blessing of God before Him, without the spirit of grace being present-without returning blessing for cursing, knowing that we are called to inherit His blessing. The same truth is found again in the tithes of the third year, given to the poor, the Levite, &c., according to the spirit which we have just spoken of. Another feature of the state of heart of the true worshipper was holiness in consecrating to Jehovah, with uprightness of heart, that which was due to Him according to grace. He was not to be robbed in anything for appropriation to oneself: nothing was to be profaned by applying it to self-to defiled or interested uses. In a word, the conscience was good as regarded consecration to Jehovah, in the things by which the worshipper acknowledged Him as the true and sole Author of all the blessings. And if Jehovah was the Author of them, communion with Him, in acknowledging Him, was enjoyed in the spirit of holiness, of consecration to Him, and in the spirit of goodness and grace that was in Him towards His poor and forsaken ones. The character of God is introduced again and again, and His name brought in, in that which is recognised in the communion of His people; if overlooked, the people were guilty and defiled, in that they had profaned the name of the Lord. This consecration in purity to God, and this expression of His goodness, are singularly beautiful. Then the blessing of God was implored not only upon oneself, from God who cared for all His people, but upon all Israel, upon the land which was the proof of the faithfulness of God and of the riches of His goodness.
This chapter is of great importance, and a kind of summing up of the spirit proposed of God in the whole book: it is the last chapter of the body of its contents. It refers to no promises to Abraham, Isaac, etc., but takes the history of Israel from Jacob's going down into Egypt, a Syrian ready to perish; oppressed in Egypt they cried to the God of their fathers, historically so known (not the promises), and they were delivered with great signs, and Jehovah had brought them into that good land where they were, and they brought the firstfruits of the land Jehovah had given them. It was the acknowledgment of the possession of blessing in the land given by Jehovah through grace. This was their worship; and they, and Levites, and strangers rejoiced together there in all the good Jehovah had given. They did so also, when they had given to fatherless, widows, Levites, strangers, the tithes of the third year, which were eaten within their gates, they declare their cleanness and uprightness; there had been no profanation, but obedience in all things as to their ordinances; and thereupon an appeal to God for blessing on the people and the land. The land possessed, its firstfruits offered to Jehovah; then comes rejoicing in all the good Jehovah gave; then fellowship in grace with all in need every third year, and with this, avowal of purity of ways, thoroughness in doing it, and obedience, and so a blessing looked for. It is a picture of the true state of the people with Jehovah, and in the land, and walking uprightly, considering the needy, that the blessing might rest upon them; and on this ground they now entered into covenant with Jehovah to possess and enjoy the land in obedience, and be fully blessed and exalted. This worship was, then, a bond between the people and God, in the communion of what He was; that is, a bond in worship by acknowledging what He was; and by bearing witness to it. Thus, according to the commandments of Jehovah, looked at as the conditions of this bond, God had that day acknowledged the people, and the people had acknowledged Jehovah for their God. This closes the teaching of the book.
These two characters of worship, the wilderness worshipper's approach to Jehovah, and the enjoyment of promises in the land, are not separated for Christians as they are in these books, because we have entered into, and are in, the holiest, in heavenly places, and the things we enjoy are the things that are there. It is all one, though we shall reign over a subject inheritance, but our undefiled inheritance is there where we are entered. This is a blessed truth. It is with, not from. We have from; but we joy in God.