THE GOD OF JESHURUN
Ebenezer Chapel, Ossett.
Norman H. Roe
Jan. 25th 1970.
“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say. Destroy them.” Deut. 33. 26-27.
I do not know whether any of you feel as I do at times, and as the disciples did on the sea of Galilee, when Christ was asleep on a pillow at the back of the boat? The wind blew hard, the waves were boisterous, and they feared that they would surely perish in the storm. They could see destruction in the circumstances that surrounded them. As we look upon our circumstances and view the future, we fear we shall never be able to surmount the difficulties which trouble us, and think that the end is surely imminent. We see many things which we fear will certainly go wrong, and yet when we consider the words of this text, what a difference we find! O, what ground for hope! what comfort and consolation is contained in these words for the poor and needy, the feeble and faint-hearted of the Lord’s living family! Well might the Lord speak as He does in another place: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart. Be strong, fear not …” (Isa. 35. 3, 4).
The exhortation of our text turns away our eyes from weak, insufficient self, and from the difficulties and dangers found in the way. Moses, as he was speaking these last words to the children of Israel knew what would face the people when they crossed Jordan and took possession of the promised land. He knew that Jordan lay immediately before them, that many mighty nations were in Canaan, and that there were even giants in the land in those days. The difficulties appeared insurmountable, but notice where Moses directed the eyes of this people. Through the Lord’s merciful dealings with our souls may our eyes be ever directed to the place to which Moses directed Israel, the place of which the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 121: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” Whilst our eyes, under the gracious Spirit’s teaching, are directed to, and kept fixed upon the one blessed, precious Object that Moses sets before us here, what strength, comfort and consolation is imparted to the soul. Immediately our eyes are moved from this Object and we begin to consider what we are and the difficulties lying before us, then we founder as did Peter when he walked on the waters to the Lord, but eyed the tempest, began to sink and cried from his heart:
“Lord, save me.” Moses directs the eyes of this people to the Lord
Himself. I trust that our hearts might be likewise directed in the midst of all the things which we may be passing through.
“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky!” Our eyes are directed to the Triune God, whose arm is lifted up in the defence of His people. God who is able to do exceeding abundantly above that which they can even ask or think; God who has proved His faithfulness and goodness towards them in every step of their journey; God in whose hand they are held and who will never let them go, never leave them to finally fall and perish. Thus Moses speaks early in this chapter: “Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet;
every one shall receive of thy words.” They are all in His hand. Thus, also, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10. 27-30). Our eyes are therefore directed by our text to the Triune God.
“There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.” In Psalm 89. 6 we read: “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?” There is none like unto Him, none can equal God in anything. He is supreme in all His blessed, glorious attributes. There is none to compare with Him in faithfulness, in power, in love and mercy to His people, in His righteous, just judgment and justice. None can be compared with God. The Lord, the Lord God is One, declares His word. Do we, through divine grace, worship this true, this One God? “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.”
This name Jeshurun is only found four times in the Scriptures. It is given to Israel, and its meaning has been explained in two ways. Firstly, Jeshurun means ‘righteous or upright people’. There is none like unto the God of this righteous or upright people. Israel should have been righteous and upright. What had God not done for them? He likens Israel in one place to a vineyard which he planted with the choicest vines, but which brought forth wild grapes, and he says: “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done to it?” This perverseness brought the Judgment of God many times upon this people. They should have been righteous, and had no excuse for being otherwise. God says He could have done no more than He had done. Of course, there were some even in Israel who were righteous and upright, and there were times when they merited this name which God applied to them. But how quickly they fell, how quickly they forsook righteousness. Because they forsook the Lord their God, they were forsaken by God. This truth is still verified in God’s dealings with His people. Where through divine grace there is the honouring of God, there will be the honouring of His people by
God. When they forsake God and walk contrary to Him, the Lord states that He will walk contrary to them.
There is gracious truth in the words of our text when we view them in relation to the true Israel of God, the one church of the living God, His own spiritual Israel. But you say that these people are sinners. They are sinners of themselves, yet remember that which the one in the Song of Solomon speaks: “I am black but comely”. Do we know anything of this secret, through divine grace, within our souls? She was black by original sin, black by actual transgression, but she was comely, not by her own righteousness, but in the righteousness of another, even the God-man Christ Jesus. Through the righteousness of His holy life, imputed by faith to each believer. God’s people are as Jeshurun, a righteous, upright people. Firstly, they are righteous through the righteousness which God imputes unto them by precious faith. A glorious name relative to the Lord’s people is revealed in the prophecy of Jeremiah. He shall be called “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS”. His people stand righteous in the sight of God through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But it is important to note that there is the evidence, the testimony in their life and conversation, that they are an upright people. Where divine grace is in the heart it leads to the Lord’s requirement spoken in another place: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” The Apostle, writing to the Hebrews, exhorts them in this matter: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
We know that none are holy of themselves, but that Christ is made unto His people, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. But they are brought by divine grace and by the Spirit’s leading, to live an upright, holy life. There is this holy principle implanted within their hearts. The Apostle says: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein.” Let us not deceive ourselves upon this point. When divine grace is implanted within the soul, there will be corresponding fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. These things cannot be separated from each other. Where grace is within the heart, there will be holiness in some measure in the life. There will be the earnest desire after holiness. The sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit separates His people, cleansing them in the precious blood of Jesus Christ and separating them unto holiness and conformity with the blessed image of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
There is a second view of this word Jeshurun: “a seeing people.” This certainly applied to ancient Israel. What wonders had they seen in the land of Egypt, by the Red Sea, and in the Lord’s provision for them in the wilderness. They were a seeing people. Their eyes had been opened to behold their God through His mighty works, and by the things of which Moses speaks in this verse: “Who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.” Have we this mark of the Lord’s family? They are a seeing people. Their eyes are opened to behold
spiritual things. The word of God declares that men by nature have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, and hearts but understand not. Their eyes are blinded to truth. What a mercy if our eyes are opened to see what God reveals in His holy word, opened on the one hand to see our lost, ruined state by nature, and on the other hand to see our salvation for time and eternity in the mighty work of a precious Christ, and to have the assurance in our hearts of a personal interest in the salvation wrought out by God for His people.
There is a further thought relating to these words: “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun”, the God of this people Israel. In the books of the law where the Lord establishes and reiterates the laws and commandments by which the children of Israel were to order their daily lives. He states repeatedly: “I am the Lord your God.” The Lord was pleased to reveal to Israel, through Moses that He was the Lord their God. What precious fulness is in these words: “the Lord thy God.” This incomparable God, this God of Jeshurun, this God of His own people, this One who rides on the heavens in thy help, and in His excellency on the sky, this One of whose glory and power the following verses testify, is thy God. Is there the response and witness through divine grace, in our own soul, that this God is the Lord our God for ever and ever, and will be our guide even unto death? What inestimable blessing if, by humble faith, we are able to enter into those words of the Psalmist: “This God is our God for ever and ever.” Be assured that He still manifests Himself as the “Lord our God” unto His people even in our generation. No blessing is comparable to the knowledge of this truth revealed by grace to our souls. It is vital to have a personal interest in these truths, not merely to be acquainted with them. Many have been, and many still are, merely acquainted with these truths and have not known the living reality of them within their souls. May you and I be blessed with real diligence in seeking after, and not resting short of a personal interest in this great God. To those truly brought to seek Him, He will surely reveal Himself in His own good time and way, as the Lord their God. I believe that if they are brought to seek Him in true diligence of soul, they have in this the evidence that the Lord is their God, otherwise they would never have sought Him, whom to know is life eternal.
Now let us continue with further exposition of the text: “Who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.” We might say that this is high language to be used by Moses. But here is set forth the mighty power of God, the glory of God displayed in His goodness towards His own people, in what He does for them, and in His appearances on their behalf in times of need. The more one goes on, the more one sees the fulness in those words which express the ability of God, the ability of Jesus Christ: “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” It is a glorious, precious truth, that God is able, and that
there is none like unto Him in ability. He rideth upon the heaven in thy help. Can there be anything that can prevent His coming to us, any mountains of difficulty that God cannot surmount? As the heavens are so much higher than the earth, so is the ability of your God to appear for your help and deliverance in your times of need. “God is able.”
I believe that in the experience of His own living family there are times when all seems to fail, except hope and trust in God’s ability. The leper who came to Jesus was sure of one thing – the ability of God to satisfy his need and cleanse his leprosy: “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean.” Flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, because the curing of leprosy was unknown in those days. This man was a seeing man, whose eyes were opened to behold in Jesus, One who was greater than all men, even God manifest in the flesh. “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst do it. I’m sure that Thou art able.” How blessed to be established in this truth of God’s ability to do what is necessary when everything else seems to fail, and when in your soul’s feelings you are brought to the very ends of the earth. The believer cannot be reduced to circumstances where it is impossible to be borne up by this precious truth of God’s ability. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, says the Apostle.
The Lord Jesus confirmed this truth when in the days of His flesh. He said: “The things which are impossible with man are possible with God.” Nothing is impossible for our God. The Scriptures speak of one thing that God cannot do. He cannot deny Himself. He is able to help His people in every time of need. There is no circumstance from which God is unable to deliver them. “He rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.”
I said earlier that His glory is seen in His dealings with His people. This was confirmed when Moses desired to see the Lord’s glory. He said that no man could see His face and live, but that He would make all His goodness pass before him. The Lord demonstrates His glory when He rides upon the heaven in thy help and in his excellency on the sky, when His goodness passes before you in the way. What glimpses have you had of the Lord’s glory in His goodness towards your poor soul, in His provision for you in the way? The Israelites saw many precious glimpses of God’s glory in this respect, in spite of their sinfulness and rebellion. Though God severely chastened them at times for their sin of unbelief, yet they were given gracious views of His glory, and His people are likewise blessed in our day. Have you not had a precious glimpse of His glory, when His goodness has passed before you, when He has filled your heart with His goodness, when you have seen His kind provision for you, not only in providence, which is indeed great, but also in the gracious revelation of Himself as an able and a willing Saviour?
God’s ability, power and glory is not manifest in some abstract, fanciful way, but in things which really come home to His people
and which they prove by experience in their daily lives. Real religion is something daily lived and proved by His people, through divine grace. Let us never forget that it is a real, living thing, not merely reserved for certain times and seasons in our lives. If our eyes are opened, the reality of the Lord’s glory and power is revealed in every step of our life’s journey.
Now Moses goes on to say that: “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say. Destroy them.” Here is further enlargement of the truths of which I have been trying to speak. “The eternal God is thy refuge.” What fulness these words contain! How necessary was a refuge for Israel, in which they could find safety and protection! They had been brought out from the midst of their powerful enemy Egypt, were surrounded and threatened in the wilderness not only by many external enemies but by foes even within the camp, and were troubled on account of their own unbelief and disobedience to the revealed mind and will of God. But Moses states that the eternal God was their refuge. Moses does not merely state the truth that what God does or provides is a refuge for them. He goes beyond that. See the blessed fulness and the durability of the refuge that God has provided for poor sinners. He says: “The eternal God is thy refuge.” God Himself is the refuge of His people. A refuge is for safe protection from things that would destroy us, as illustrated in God’s provision of cities of refuge for Israel, to which one who accidentally slew a man might flee for safety from the avenger of blood. Such were to abide in the city until the death of the High Priest, when they could go free. This blessedly sets forth the glorious gospel of divine grace. The hymnwriter sings:
A refuge for sinners the gospel makes known;
“Tis found in the merits of Jesus alone;
The weary, the tempted, and burdened by sin,
Were never exempted from entering therein.
You and I are sinners when born into this world. We need refuge, deliverance and safety from the just wrath of an eternal God, which we have incurred by our own sin and transgression. We should always bear well in mind that a man’s condemnation is because of his own sin, because he is guilty of breaking God’s holy law. We know that God has declared that it is an elect people who shall be saved. But it is not only because a person is not among the elect that he will be found at last in hell. His own sin will have brought him there. Guilt comes home to the correct place. We can never lay the blame at God’s door. It lies at your door. It lies at mine. As sinners, therefore, under solemn condemnation through breaking the law of God, we need a refuge, deliverance and salvation from the just out-pourings of God’s wrath upon us. “The eternal God is thy refuge.” In the gospel we have the person and work of Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, set forth as the refuge of a poor sinner. Christ in His own person has endured the wrath of God against sin. He has paid the price due to divine
justice. As the hymnwriter penned:
Rock of ages cleft for me;
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
Christ is an eternal refuge. He is the ‘Rock of ages’ which shall not just afford seasonal refuge for His people, but an eternal refuge for them. God manifest in the flesh is the refuge for a sinner. This is the sweet experience of the Lord’s living family, when by grace there is the sheltering in the eternal refuge which the gospel provides. There is certain, everlasting protection. God, the eternal God is thy refuge. Although Israel sinned, although many enemies surrounded them, and things in their midst provoked God, yet He was still their refuge and defence. He was faithful to the word which He had spoken in bringing them into full possession of the promised land. It is thus spiritually with the Lord’s own people. Do you not more and more daily feel the need of the refuge? If you know anything of divine grace in your soul you will prove that you cannot keep yourself. There are not only external things to trouble you, but Achans within your camp as well. If God were to leave you to yourself, you would suffer self-destruction.
Sweetly coupled up with this text: “The eternal God is thy refuge” are the words: “and underneath are the everlasting arms.” On the one hand we see the protection provided by God for His people, and on the other hand we see the gracious sustaining of God’s people. What a blessed sustaining is this! Though you may feel to get low at times within your soul, you can never come lower than these everlasting arms which are underneath, the everlasting arms of His divine love and mercy. This is to be proved in all the paths into which the Lord may bring you, for even in the trials through which you pass. God’s arms of everlasting love and mercy are underneath. He has said: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” His people prove that the Lord deals with them in everlasting kindness. No matter what they pass through, these arms are underneath, to sustain, uphold, comfort and encourage them and to bring them on their way.
“And he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say. Destroy them.” These final words of our text refer to the entrance of Israel into the promised land. Their God sent His angel to thrust out the foe from before them, and commanded Israel to destroy all her enemies. Those enemies which they did not destroy, proved to be thorns in their eyes and sides, as the Lord said they would be unto them. They proved that the Canaanites which still dwelt in the land, which they had not destroyed through their own disobedience to the command of God, sorely troubled, irritated and perplexed them. There is
spiritual truth in these words, which concerns all the Lord’s people. “He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say. Destroy them.” God will indeed separate His people unto Himself. I have already quoted the Apostle’s words to the Romans: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” There will be a separation from sin, though sin will still be a trouble to them because they carry about a body of sin and death. But sin indulged will bring trouble upon you, just as the Canaanites who were left in the land distressed Israel and brought about their overthrow and departure from the land which God had given them.
In the gospel dispensation none of His people can ever be deprived of that which God in Christ has purchased for them by His own precious blood. But why is it that many go all their days in darkness and distress of soul? Why is it, that so few of the Lord’s people realize the comfort which flows from the fulness of the blessings of the truth as it is in Jesus? Are there not, as the Apostle says, many lame, many weak, many sickly amongst them, because there has not been the destroying of the enemy and the seeking of the Lord’s gracious enabling to be separated from all things which are unprofitable? Sin indulged will bring sorrow and trouble upon the Lord’s people. The Psalmist says: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” If we indulge in sin, can we expect the Lord’s blessing to be with us? Can we not rather expect darkness and distress, trouble and thorns in our sides and eyes as experienced by ancient Israel?
“He shall thrust out the enemy from before thee.” Though as in the case of Israel, you have enemies within and without which are too powerful for you, yet God is able to thrust them out. In the words of our text He has promised that He will do so. Oh, that we might plead, by His grace to be kept close to Himself. “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”