Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Deuteronomy 34:1-4.
These two scriptures give us what I conceive to be the two ways in which we can read and understand the word of God.
In the first scripture you have it as that which provides the food for the soul. As you notice, everything there tells us of the fertility of the land; its hills and valleys; its springs and water-courses; its pomegranates, figs and oil olive — everything that was good for food, reminding one almost of the garden of Eden itself. In the other scripture we have Moses viewing the land from a distance. I do not speak of it being a penalty for his conduct. In one way it seems infinitely pathetic that the man who had been most faithful to God in his day and generation, should be the one singled out by Him to mark the inflexible righteousness which is ever exercised in His house. It is not merely the failing Israelite who is not allowed to enter into the land, not merely the stumbled one of insignificant place or of little value in the work of God. But it is the leader himself, — Moses the one who had led them out of Egypt, who had borne with all their folly and shortcomings in the desert, who had brought them to the border of the land — who for one act of haste, which dishonored God is singled out in order to show, as I said, that inflexible judgment which ever belongs to His house. In grace Moses has the highest place, but in government he must be with the lowest, under the mighty hand of God.
It is not of Moses, however, I would speak, but rather of ourselves: and to show from this passage the other way in which we can look at the land, that is, look at it from a distance. Moses was not allowed to go in; he is taken, however, to the top of Mount Pisgah, and there his eye can range over the whole territory. From distant Dan in the north, down through all the central mountain region to the far south country, from near by Jordan over to the western sea his eye can range, and God says, This is the land which I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is what Israel is to enter into.
In like manner we can apply it to the word of God., I need not tell you that in one sense we have, like Abraham, not a single foot of land to call our own. Who are poorer than the children of God? All our precious things are invisible to sight. The things of greatest value to us, the world says do not exist: all the inheritance of God's people is a future inheritance. But where do we find that inheritance described? where do we have it spread before us in all its beauty, fertility, and perfection? In the precious Word of God. And so these scriptures are our present inheritance, into which we can enter now by faith, and already enjoy the reality which is there unfolded to us.
Now you see how these two scriptures apply. We have first of all the word of God supplying the varied food for our souls. There you have the fruit of the vine, the fig-tree, the pomegranate, the wheat, the barley, the oil olive of which we were speaking, — food for our souls. Then again you have the view from Mount Pisgah looking over the whole heritage, taking in the general scope of the word of God, and the grouping of its parts; and just as you would climb to some mountain summit to get a view of the whole land, and then go down and enter into some farm-house to get food for your hunger, so it is our purpose, with the Lord's help, to take up at this time the mountain view of Scripture; to look at the whole Word of God, to see its groupings and general contents, and to descend from time to time to get something for our own souls. That is God's way in all His works. We can look at nature with the telescope, or with the microscope. The astronomer sweeps the heavens with his telescope. He gazes into their depths and where we see naught, he sees, not merely worlds, but systems of worlds. The biologist will take a single drop of water, and with his microscope see a new world there just as perfect and real as the starry worlds above. How perfect is all God's work, whether of His hands or of His Spirit.
Thus we can come to the Bible and look at it, as it were with the telescope and range over all its fulness seeing its general harmony and its contents. Then we can take, as with a microscope, a single verse — a single sentence, yea, single words, and find therein the same wisdom and perfection that we see in the mighty fulness of the Scriptures as a whole.
We will take up the Word in that larger way, and seek to get a general idea of the purposes of God as unfolded thus.
People get salvation mostly through single verses of the Bible. How many have found peace through that precious verse "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I thank God, we do not have to be scholars to be saved; we do not even have to know where to find a single verse in the word of God. The simplest truth as to Christ, the Saviour of the lost, is the means of our salvation. Do I know I am a lost sinner? that I have sinned and come short of the glory of God? Can I say "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned?" Then it is my privilege to hearken to that other word, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," and to know that God's love is commended to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
But we do not want to remain ignorant. God saves us to be sharers in His thoughts. That is why we ought to covet to understand His Word.
We are so intensely selfish naturally that we cheat ourselves as most selfish people do. We are so selfish that unless we think a certain portion of God's word is going to minister to our comfort, or specially suits our case, it has no bearing for us, there is no good in it for us, and therefore we fail to be in harmony with the thoughts of God. As a result we live a poor low life that is exposed to the temptations of the enemy.
Why is it that Satan has such power over the people of God, dragging them into the world, occupying them with its thoughts? It is because they neglect the word of God. You neglect the Scriptures on the plea that you are already saved and that all you need is a few little rules by which you can guide your course, something like a navigator on a merchant vessel, who can take his bearings, and know how to steer his ship, but at the same time is ignorant of the mighty works of God and passes heedlessly under that which speaks of the glory of God, the firmament which showeth His handiwork. And so you and I may have two or three verses that apply to the Christian walk, and two or three more scriptures that apply to restoration and communion and a few more that apply to our dealings with the world, and we think we have enough to live by: but we are not in communion with God. There is only one way to be in communion with God and that is through His precious Word. Now that is the importance of our taking up as we are going to do in somewhat an orderly way, an unfolding of some of the perfections of that blessed Word.