Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE RENEWAL OF THE TABLES. (Vers. 1-5.)
1. Reconciliation to God is only possible through return to obedience. God cannot but require that we accept his commands, and make them the rule of our life (Matthew 5:19, 20; Romans 6:13-23). Such return to obedience is involved in gospel faith (Romans 7:4). "Repent ye" (Mark 1:15).
2. The Law is one and unalterable (ver. 4). We must change; God cannot.
3. The Law underlies the mercy-seat (ver. 2). A testimony against sins, yet the foundation of the covenant. In redemption, the covenant obligation is not annulled, but fulfilled representatively in the spiritual Head - Christ. In receiving Christ, the Law's Fulfiller, we bind ourselves to be fulfillers of it also, as no longer servants of sin, but of righteousness (Romans 6.). Our justification is in him; his Spirit of life is in us (Romans 8:1, 2; Hebrews 10:16).
II. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF RELIGION. (Vers. 6-10.) The renewal of the high priesthood in the person of Eleazar (ver. 6); the separation of the tribe of Levi for the service of the sanctuary (vers. 8, 9). The existence of ordinances is a proof of continued mercy. God punishes unfaithfulness by removing the candlestick out of its place (Revelation 2:5). The gospel ministry is Christ's gift to his Church (Ephesians 4:11). Means of grace end with the close of the day of grace (Matthew 28:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2), and the removal of the individual from their midst ends the day of grace to him (Hebrews 9:27).
III. THE COMMANDMENT TO GO FORWARD. (Vers. 7, 11.) We also are commanded to go forward - to advance to the conquest of the world - to press to heaven. So long as that command stands unrepealed, so long may sinners be assured that the day of grace lasts, and that they are warranted in believing in the mercy of God towards them. - J.O.
I. WE SEE THE HUMAN FACTOR IN DIVINE REVELATION. The conceptions that dwell in God's mind are incomprehensible until they are put into human mold. This introduction of a human element implies limitation, but does not imply error. The prophet becomes the channel through which Divine communications flow; but the prophet needs great subjective preparation to receive the message. He must leave the throng and bustle of men, ascend above the low cares of earth, and spend forty days in communion with heavenly realities, before he is competent to receive the gift of Divine Law. Such absorption of mind in Divine fellowship will make us also susceptible of larger revelation. Obedience likewise to Divine command fits us for this fellowship.
II. WE SEE THE PERMANENCY OF GOD'S LAW.
1. The words that were written on these second tablets were the same as were written on the first - were the same as were spoken in the flame. Though man may violate and break his Law, God does not modify nor reduce his claims.
2. They were recorded on stone, on the granite stone of Sinai. There is significance to be found in the material chosen. In many respects stone tablets would involve inconvenience, but the impression to be made on men's minds was of the first importance, and God does nothing without reason.
3. They were to be preserved in a chest. Thus they would be handed down from age to age as the unchanging will of God.
III. WE SEE THE SUCCINCTNESS OF GOD'S COMMANDS. These cardinal precepts were but ten, which might easily be laid up in memory, and recited by aid of the fingers. In the absence of writings, this natural aid to memory would be in common use. Yet, though few in number, these ten words were pregnant with meaning - were living seeds of truth, which, planted in the soul, would yield a copious harvest. The two stone tablets may have been ordered to correspond with the two hands, or to embrace man's twofold relationship - Godward and manward.
IV. THE CONSERVATION OF THE LAW IN THE ARK IS HIGHLY SUGGESTIVE.
1. It is suggestive of mystery. Since the human mind cannot measure the universe, mystery is necessary - mystery is wholesome discipline.
2. It is suggestive of protection. The stony tablets needed protection against the ebullitions of Moses' anger. They needed to be hid to prevent their becoming an object of idolatry.
3. It is suggestive of value. They had both an extrinsic and an intrinsic worth. They would be valued as rare and unique. They ought to have been valued more highly still as the records of God's will.
4. It is suggestive of the use men should make of them. This hidden deposit is symbolical. As the material temple is the symbol of the human soul, in which God most of all prefers to reside, so the word of God is required to be enshrined within. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart." The word is the true forerunner, which prepares the way for the entrance of the Living God. - D.
I. MAN IS ASKED TO PROVIDE THE TABLES. God loves the co-operation of his people as far as possible. "Fellow-workers with God" is our highest honor. Just as when Christ was raising Lazarus he allowed men to roll away the stone (John 11:39-41), so when he would write the Decalogue anew, he directs Moses to provide the tables. This is better than to encourage man's indolence by God doing all. In the very same way it is upon "the fleshy tables of the heart" God writes his Law (2 Corinthians 3:3). Man, so to speak, provides the material, offers his heart for the sacred inscription, and thus becomes a living epistle, known and read of all men.
II. GOD'S WILL IS UNCHANGING. The two new tables received the same words as the first which were broken. The second edition of the Decalogue was identical with the first. God's will may be stereotyped, it is so perfect and changeless. Man may be wayward; but God will not alter his standard to suit man's low ideal. The Divine plan is to keep before man the unchanging Law, and bring him by easy stages up to it. There is no depreciation of the Divine requirements.
III. THE ARK WAS PRIMARILY INTENDED AS A DEPOSITORY OF THE LAW. This chest of shittim wood, made strong and beautiful, was evidently meant as a "safe," where this precious deposit, this oracle of God, should be placed. There was nothing so precious in the keeping of Israel. It was their great riches. What advantage had the Jew? "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." And this ark not only typified the care taken of the canon, but also it would seem Christ himself, who, as the Ark, kept the Law in its entirety; it was the expression of his own will, and it was the deposit within him. "Think not that I am come, to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).
IV. SANCTIFIED MEN ARE SIMILARLY TO BE DEPOSITORIES OF GOD'S HOLY WILL. Those who are regenerated hide God's Law in their hearts, as Christ says prophetically he did (Psalm 40:8). The preservation of the sacred books has been wonderful - but better is it to have truth settled in the soul and manifested through the life. The blessedness of him who makes God's Law his meditation day and night is great indeed (Psalm 1:2). "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 10:16, 17). When God's word and will are so deposited; when human hearts receive, like Lydia's the truth, - then is it carried not only through the wilderness of life, but out into "the undiscovered lands." The ark of shittim wood, so strong and precious, only faintly images the more precious receptacle of the human heart, rendered by Divine grace strong and true, which accepts of God's word of promise, and becomes thereby partaker of the Divine nature and escapes the corruption of the world (2 Peter 1:4). - R.M.E.
I. PROGRESS IS MARKED BY DISTINCT STAGES. There are times for action, and times for rest. Neither body nor mind can, in our present state, bear the strain of continuous exertion. There is an advantage in an occasional halt, by which we can review the past, measure our progress, examine our resources, and reconnoiter the future. The soul is many-sided, and advance in knowledge, devout feeling, practical exertion, self-denial, cannot be made at one and the same time. Today we gain clearer perception of heavenly truths; tomorrow we exercise our best affections on abject sufferers; the day following we fight with the enemy with sword and buckler.
"Each morning sees some task begun, II. PROGRESS IS ACCOMPANIED BY CHANGEFUL INCIDENT, PAINFUL AND PLEASANT. At one halting-place Aaron died, and the camp was plunged into bitter mourning; at another halt they came upon streams of refreshing water. Yet all events may minister to the soul's progress. There are no absolute impediments to the highest progress, "Out of the eater comes forth meat." "All things work together for good." The order of experience usually happens, as in this case, viz. first the bitter, then the sweet first loss, then gain. The evening and the morning make one day. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." III. THERE IS PROGRESS TOO IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOD'S PLANS. At another stage of their pilgrimage, God chose the tribe of Levi to minister unto him in sacred things. Heretofore, the firstborn in each family was claimed by God as his special minister; now a particular tribe is selected on the ground of its zealous exertions in God's cause. Character, not the accident of birth, is the basis of God's approval. In God's kingdom, he bears the palm who merits it. Higher service is to be accounted the most honorable reward. Promotion to a nearer fellowship with God - this ought to be our richest joy. IV. THERE IS PROGRESS SHOWN ALSO IN THE NATURE OF DIVINE AWARDS. It had been considered hitherto that the supreme mark of Jehovah's favor was the gift of Canaan. Now the people are gradually led to perceive that there is something better than that. One tribe, and that the most signally separated by God for favor, is deprived of participation in the Promised Land. The Levites, like Abraham, though dwelling in the land, shall possess no personal property in fields or vineyards. Their advantage it shall be, to be exempt from the cares and ambitions and jealousies pertaining to landed estate. An inheritance shall be theirs, boundless in extent; satisfying in its nature; inalienable in its tenure; uncorrupting, yea, ennobling, in its effect upon the possessor; uncreated, and therefore undecaying. Their inheritance was God himself. He who has God, has all things. The universe is his. V. TRUE PROGRESS IS THE RESULT OF COMBINED CONTEMPLATION AND ACTION. In the busy life of our Lord, communion with God and intense activity sweetly blended. To be always on the mount would make us pietists and recluses and mystics - hot-house plants. To be always on the field of action will make us narrow, hard, arrogant, self-reliant. Both sides of our nature must grow in ratio, if we are to be full-orbed, attractive Christians. The ferry-boat of the gospel, which is to carry men to the other side, must be rowed with two oars - prayer and labor. VI. THE PROGRESS OF ONE IS THE PROGRESS OF MANY. A useful principle of emulation appears in human nature. It is painful to be left behind in the race. If we cannot be in the front, we wish to be near it. Every man has a following. We cannot go to heaven or to hell alone. With more or less of persuasiveness, every man is saying, "Come with me!" Is my influence beneficial or baneful? - D.
II. PROGRESS IS ACCOMPANIED BY CHANGEFUL INCIDENT, PAINFUL AND PLEASANT. At one halting-place Aaron died, and the camp was plunged into bitter mourning; at another halt they came upon streams of refreshing water. Yet all events may minister to the soul's progress. There are no absolute impediments to the highest progress, "Out of the eater comes forth meat." "All things work together for good." The order of experience usually happens, as in this case, viz. first the bitter, then the sweet first loss, then gain. The evening and the morning make one day. "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
III. THERE IS PROGRESS TOO IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF GOD'S PLANS. At another stage of their pilgrimage, God chose the tribe of Levi to minister unto him in sacred things. Heretofore, the firstborn in each family was claimed by God as his special minister; now a particular tribe is selected on the ground of its zealous exertions in God's cause. Character, not the accident of birth, is the basis of God's approval. In God's kingdom, he bears the palm who merits it. Higher service is to be accounted the most honorable reward. Promotion to a nearer fellowship with God - this ought to be our richest joy.
IV. THERE IS PROGRESS SHOWN ALSO IN THE NATURE OF DIVINE AWARDS. It had been considered hitherto that the supreme mark of Jehovah's favor was the gift of Canaan. Now the people are gradually led to perceive that there is something better than that. One tribe, and that the most signally separated by God for favor, is deprived of participation in the Promised Land. The Levites, like Abraham, though dwelling in the land, shall possess no personal property in fields or vineyards. Their advantage it shall be, to be exempt from the cares and ambitions and jealousies pertaining to landed estate. An inheritance shall be theirs, boundless in extent; satisfying in its nature; inalienable in its tenure; uncorrupting, yea, ennobling, in its effect upon the possessor; uncreated, and therefore undecaying. Their inheritance was God himself. He who has God, has all things. The universe is his.
V. TRUE PROGRESS IS THE RESULT OF COMBINED CONTEMPLATION AND ACTION. In the busy life of our Lord, communion with God and intense activity sweetly blended. To be always on the mount would make us pietists and recluses and mystics - hot-house plants. To be always on the field of action will make us narrow, hard, arrogant, self-reliant. Both sides of our nature must grow in ratio, if we are to be full-orbed, attractive Christians. The ferry-boat of the gospel, which is to carry men to the other side, must be rowed with two oars - prayer and labor.
VI. THE PROGRESS OF ONE IS THE PROGRESS OF MANY. A useful principle of emulation appears in human nature. It is painful to be left behind in the race. If we cannot be in the front, we wish to be near it. Every man has a following. We cannot go to heaven or to hell alone. With more or less of persuasiveness, every man is saying, "Come with me!" Is my influence beneficial or baneful? - D.
I. IT IS SURELY DESIRABLE THAT A SPECIAL ORDER OF MEN SHOULD BE SET APART FOR THE CUSTODY OF THE DIVINE WORD. This was the primary office of the sons of Levi, custodians of the ark of the covenant. In this respect they resemble the Christian ministry, whose great office is to keep and to propagate the Divine Word. In the "division of labor" to which human wisdom brings us, it is surely important that a special class should be charged with the sacred deposit of the Divine Word. Men secularized by business cannot be expected to handle the Word of God with the wisdom and power of those who are set apart for this special purpose.
II. THE SONS OF LEVI WERE ALSO TO BE MINISTERS UNTO GOD. They were directed to stand and officiate. They were the ministers of God. They were Ms servants, not man's. We do not now refer to the priestly rites, through which they passed according to the Mosaic Law. These were special and temporary. They typified the priestly office fulfilled by Christ, and, when fulfilled, no longer needed. But the general idea of ministration in God's presence and for the Lord is surely the very essence of the ministerial office.
III. THE SONS OF LEVI WERE ALSO TO BLESS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. They were charged to pronounce certain benedictions in God's Name. And this right is manifestly continued in the Christian Church. The pronouncing of the benediction is surely something more than a mere prayer breathed to heaven for the blessings specialized. Is it not the assurance on the part of God's officer that the blessings are conveyed to those waiting to receive them (cf. Numbers 6:24 and 2 Corinthians 13:14)?
IV. IT WAS ARRANGED THAT THE LEVITES SHOULD NOT BE SECULARIZED, BUT SHOULD LIVE AT THE ALTAR OF GOD. "Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren; the Lord is his inheritance, according as the Lord thy God hath promised him." This means that this tribe was not to be secularized by worldly anxieties and common cares. The Lord guaranteed their support by arrangements at his altar. And "ministerial support" should mean no more! It is a Divine expedient to secure a class of men for his service, emancipated from secular cares and troubles. The privilege of studying and enforcing God's Word is great and glorious. We only ask such support as ministers as will preserve us from corroding cares, and enable us with free spirits to give ourselves to this high business. It is this only we ask for, the freedom from the secularity which the world demands even when one is most watchful, in business struggles, against it. It is when a believing Church gives the ministry of Christ such emancipation all round that they may expect the ministerial office to be fulfilled with superior power and to command the ablest men. - R.M.E.
new obedience here presented.
I. ISRAEL WAS TO BE A GOD-FEARING PEOPLE. A fine word this, "the fear of God" - not indicative of slavish consternation, but of reverential awe. It is the fear which springs from a fitting sense of God's greatness and majesty. He is too great and too glorious (ver. 17) for any of his people to trifle with or to presume upon him, as in the familiarities of ordinary intercourse.
II. AND CONSEQUENTLY ISRAEL WILL SERVE GOD WITH HEART AND SOUL. For when in faith we fear God, we find that "faith worketh by love," and so we throw ourselves "heart and soul" into his service. We adore his excellencies, and then are "proud to serve him." His commandments become our songs in the house of our pilgrimage, and we find in keeping them a great reward (Psalm 119:54; Psalm 19:11).
III. THE NEED OF SPIRITUAL CIRCUMCISION WILL THEN BE FELT. "The circumcision of the foreskin of the heart" can only mean the use of all lawful means to restrain the willfulness and waywardness of the heart. The lusts must be subdued, of which self is the center and selfishness the essence. God has become central and supreme, and so all that interferes in any way with his rights must be "cut off," no matter how painful the process be. This is the cure for "stiffneckedness."
IV. THE CARE OF THE FATHERLESS, WIDOW, AND STRANGER, IS FELT TO BE DIVINEST DUTY. God is impartial, he respects not persons. He is just in all his reign. But he is also compassionate, and makes the defenseless and the helpless his special care (vers. 17, 18). And in this we feel it our privilege as well as duty to follow him. This is manifested in -
1. Orphan societies. Where the widow is considered with the fatherless, and as much of the wrecked home as can be kept together is tried by loving care to be preserved. We are finding more considerate ways every day of ministering to the lonely and the desolate.
2. Hospitality. This means love manifested to a stranger because he is a stranger. There is a speculative hospitality that is poor and mean; and there is a Divine hospitality that asks those who cannot repay the attention, and asks them for the good Lord's sake. For if we are redeemed of God, like Israel, we must feel that it is due to God's kindness to strangers. We were naturally "aliens," but his love made us friends, and we have entered into his fellowship and joy. It is this felt obligation which sustains the attention to "strangers" which the Lord enjoined. It is evident that the Jewish religion was intended to be a lovely thing because a thing of love; a matter of broad and genial sympathies and of noble efforts after divinest duties. - R.M.E.
Deuteronomy 6:4), and with this he ends. The sum of the Law, and the sum of all his exhortations. It all and always comes back to this (Ecclesiastes 12:13): "What doth the Lord require of thee?" etc. We have here:
1. The central requirement.
2. The all-embracing requirement.
3. The indispensable requirement; that for which nothing else can be accepted as a substitute.
4. The requirement of kindness - "for thy good."
5. A reasonable requirement. This love and obedience were due from Israel for God's mercies to them. As in the gospel, grace precedes, obedience follows. Saved by grace, we are to make such return as is possible by loving and fearing God, and diligently keeping his commands (Luke 7:47; Romans 6:13; Romans 7:6; Ephesians 2:8-11). - J.O.
I. THE REASONABLENESS OF GOD'S SERVICE HAY RE DEDUCED FROM THE PERFECTION OF HIS CHARACTER.
1. His supremacy. He is "God of gods." He stands alone, the sole Creator, but himself uncreated. His claims upon his creatures are absolute, unlimited, and unconditioned.
2. His equity. If, at any time, men suspect any unrighteousness in God, it is because of some obliqueness of vision, or some defect in their mental instrument, or some deficiency of knowledge. No shadow of partiality has ever once been found in him. The favorites of God have been the most chastised.
3. His immense power. He is "mighty and terrible." A breath of God can create; a breath can destroy. "With the breath of his mouth he will slay the wicked."
4. His goodness and pity. His goodness is profuse, is distributed with royal generosity, without stint. But his special care is reserved for the helpless. Widows and orphans have exceptional protection and defense. He makes their case his own, and becomes their unseen Patron. Human monarchs lavish their favors upon those who can do them most service; God lavishes his kindness upon the most needy. Want is the passport to his storehouse. Infinite worth belongs to him.
II. THIS REASONABLENESS OF SERVING GOD IS SEEN IN HIS GRACIOUS TREATMENT OF MEN.
1. There was no need, so far as we can discover, that God should be served by men. The heaven was his, and all previous orders of intelligent beings. The earth also was his, and all its various contents. Here was large scope for the display of his perfections. If men were rebellions, he could readily crush the race, and sweep it from the face of the earth. And no other motive for his kindness to men can we discover, than that of generous and irrepressible love.
2. He has made covenant engagements with them. Moses never fails to remind Israel that the God of heaven was their God. With condescending grace, that excites our perpetual surprise, God had chosen them to be recipients of special blessing. He had found "delight in their fathers;" and for the fathers' sakes had loved the children. We, too, who believe in Christ, "are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." God regards renewed men as his treasure, his portion, his jewels. They are dear to him as "the apple of his eye." There is no service he will not render for them, "no gift will he withhold." He has redeemed them with life-blood, and esteems them as unspeakably precious. They are destined to share his society, his possessions, his throne, his image. God has bound himself to us by most solemn compacts, and all his vast resources are pledged to us. It is a covenant made in heaven, and "is ordered in all things and sure."
III. THIS REASONABLENESS IS SEEN IN THE SELF-ADVANTAGE OF SERVING GOD.
1. It is "for our good." Every command may not be pleasant to flesh and blood, nor always to appetite and inclination; but obedience is salutary to all the better parts of man's nature. "In keeping his commandments we have great reward." There is large present benefit, and there is larger prospective good.
2. It is a credit to us to serve such a God. "He is our praise." The statesmen and ambassadors and generals of England count it high honor to serve Britain's queen. How vastly greater the honor to serve the King of kings! We may suffer passing reproach from our attachment to Christ, but reproach is like the early hoar-frost, which the ascending sun will scatter. If men do not perceive the honor, it is because they are blind. "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord."
3. God's past goodness excites our largest hope. God had already done great things for Israel. He had multiplied them in Egypt a thousandfold. Nor had he reached the end of his power nor the end of his intentions. What he had done was only a sample of what he yet meant to do. A world of good is yet in store for each believer. We shall never touch the furthest limits of God's beneficence. "Eye hath not seen it." To his faithful servants the invitation is repeated a thousand times over, "Come up higher."
IV. THIS REASONABLENESS IS SEEN IN THE KIND OF SERVICE REQUIRED. Nothing more is demanded than our thoughtful reason and enlightened conscience approve.
1. Reverence. We have only to know God in order to yield him the reverence of our souls. If we could perceive his inherent majesty, his real excellence, and his unsullied purity, we should (if feeling were right) instinctively yield to him the profoundest reverence of our hearts. Were it not for the corrupting effects of sin, this would be natural.
2. Submission to his superior will. By virtue of his wisdom, he has a right to counsel. By virtue of his relation as Monarch, he has a right to command. By virtue of his supremacy as Creator, he has claims on every part of our nature and on every moment of our time. His will is excellent, benevolent, unerring. To take his will, not ours, for chart and compass is simplest duty, ay, is largest privilege. "Be no more stiffnecked." A pliable will alone makes a dutiful child.
3. Hearty love. That we can love at all is due to him. The power to cherish love, to receive love, is his gift. Hence, if we love at all, our love belongs to him. If we love in proportion to benefits received, or in proportion to the worth of the object, or in proportion to the love expended on us, then all our love will center in God.
4. Practical service. Genuine love will always seek some channel for its outflow, and service for love's object is a delight, and is only love in active exercise. It would be a restraint and a pain for love to be silent. She would justly count it bondage to be caged up within the heart. Having feet, it would be a restraint not to walk; how great the honor to be able to walk in God's paths, in the highways he himself doth take! True service for God is freedom, life, joy, heaven. If we love we must obey.
5. Such service makes us Godlike. God counts it a joy to serve us, though he is under no obligation of law or right so to do. To serve him means that we grow like him. We imitate him first in actions, then in disposition, then in purposes, then in character. Said Moses significantly to Israel, "God loveth the stranger Love ye therefore the stranger." Through every hour of every day we may be climbing heavenwards, becoming Godlike. Every duty may become to us an instrument actively molding us into the image of perfection. The obedience that springs from love is a pathway of flowery pleasantness, ascending gradually to the hills of frankincense, and to the presence of God. - D.
I. GOD EXALTED, YET STOOPING. (Vers. 14-16.) The wonder of revelation:
1. That One so exalted should stoop at all. The wonder is not abated by reflecting that infinite perfection must include infinite mercy with every other attribute. It fills us with amazement to think of the Possessor of heaven and earth stooping to hold friendly converse with his creature, man. The Bible dwells on the thought with astonishment (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 8:3, 4; Psalm 147:3-6; Isaiah 57:15). Modern science indirectly testifies to the wonder in objecting that, with our enlarged conceptions of the universe, it is impossible to believe that God should feel the special interest in man which the Bible says he does.
2. That One so exalted should stoop so far. God's depth of condescension seen peculiarly in the gospel.
(1) In sending the Son.
(2) In surrendering him to death.
(3) This for enemies.
The persuasiveness of the revelation lies in its blending of majesty with grace.
II. GOD MIGHTY AND EQUITABLE, YET TENDERLY SYMPATHETIC. (Vers. 17-20.) Another aspect of the Divine greatness, blending with lowliness, which attracts the heart. The combination of great strength with great gentleness; of judicial sternness with humane consideration of those in distress, are sufficiently rare to be always striking. We marvel when, in the hero of a hundred battles, we discover a heart of woman's tenderness; when in the judge whose strictness on the bench every one remarks, we light on a spring of deep and genuine compassionateness. It is this combination we see in God. A God of gods, a Lord of lords; great, mighty, terrible, sternly just; yet, what might seem incompatible with this, tenderly and touchingly compassionate. His might and equity, so terrible to evil-doers, he throws as a shield around the fatherless, the widow, and the stranger. He executes their judgment. They are his peculiar care. Them, above all others, will he not allow to be wronged (Psalm 68:5).
III. GOD OMNIPOTENT, YET HIS OMNIPOTENCE EXERTED IN DEFENDING AND BLESSING HIS CHURCH. (Vers. 21, 22.) Power in itself awakens fear; power known to be engaged in our protection and for our good inspires the highest confidence. Moses recalls to the Israelites, as a reason for fearing and loving God, his acts of power on then behalf, especially his power as exerted in their extraordinary increase. God's power may be viewed as displayed:
1. In the Church's redemption (Colossians 1:13).
2. In the Church's increase (Acts 5:38, 39).
The individual Christian will have reason to rejoice in the same power as exerted in his conversion (Ephesians 1:19), in his upholding (Jude 1:24), in his protection (Romans 8:35-39), in his ultimate salvation (1 Peter 1:5). - J.O.
I. HEART CIRCUMCISION IN ITS IMPORT.
1. Betokens the existence of natural impurity. The rite of circumcision, as the initiatory rite of the covenant, taught that man, in his natural, unpurified state, is unfit for fellowship with God. "In us, that is, in our flesh, dwells no good thing" (John 3:6; Romans 7:18). It was a symbol of the putting away of "the filth of the flesh" - a truth now signified in baptism (Colossians 2:11; 1 Peter 3:21).
2. Illustrates the painful nature of the renunciation of fleshly lusts. The operation was sharp, painful, bloody. It vividly set forth at once the necessity of renouncing the lusts of the flesh, and the pain attendant on the act. We are called on to mortify our members which are upon the earth (Colossians 3:5). The process is described as a crucifying of the flesh, with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24). The deepest form which this renunciation can assume is the renunciation of the principle of self-will in its entirety, the sharp excision of evil in its root.
3. Implies the grace of the covenant. The reception of God's grace as exhibited in the covenant is the condition of the possibility of this renunciation. We achieve it, not in our own strength, but through the impartation of a new principle of life. Paul makes it a result of faith in the risen Christ (Colossians 2:12). The circumcised heart marks the accepted and restored recipient of the grace of God - a child of the spiritual covenant, one born again.
II. HEART CIRCUMCISION IN ITS NECESSITY.
1. As distinguished from outward circumcision. The latter was valueless without the former. Being but a symbol, its sole worth lay in that which it represented. The true Jew was he who was one inwardly, whose circumcision was "that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter" (Romans 2:28, 29). The remark applies to baptism. It also is but a symbol, and without the grace which it exhibits, and the inward renewal which it betokens, it is a dead work, a valueless rite, leaving its subject as little a Christian as at first. So with all ceremonies.
2. As a positive qualification for God's service. Pure obedience can flow only from a pure heart, a renewed will. It is not a fruit of the flesh. The flesh must he renounced, and a new and spiritual nature begotten in us before we can render it. What is needed is not reformation, but regeneration - a new birth, a new creation, a new heart (John 3:3; Romans 7:18-25; Romans 8:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16-25). - J.O.
I. TO LITERAL STRANGERS. Persons from foreign countries, or from distant parts of our own country, settling in our midst. Why should these be treated so often as intruders, "incomers," persons to be jealously watched and suspected, instead of being taken by the hand and welcomed?
II. TO THE UNFRIENDED AND HELPLESS. To all whose hearts are lonely, and their lives destitute of the cheer given by the love and sympathy of friends. To the fatherless and the widow - strangers in a very true sense m a world where selfish interests so hugely predominate.
III. TO YOUNG MAN IS GREAT CITIES. Often lost for lack of some one to take a kindly interest in them.
IV. TO STRANGERS TURNING UP IN CHURCHES. Coldness here repels many who might otherwise be won to interest in religion, and secured for Christ. Brotherly and friendly attention, a kind word, the warm shake of a hand, the courteous offer of a pew, - how far will they often go? They are, like "good words," worth much, and cost little. Show kindness to strangers:
1. Because they peculiarly need it. "The heart of a stranger."
2. Because God loves them. He will avenge their wrongs. He will reward kindness shown to them (Matthew 25:35).
3. We may be placed in similar circumstances. Changes in fortune (Ruth 1:19-22). - J.O.
I. SERVING HIM - or religion in deed. In resistance of all seductions to a counter-service (Matthew 4:10). In the faithful and diligent discharge of all duties.
II. CLEAVING TO HIM - or religion in heart. Fear and love, rooted in faith, here reveal themselves as an energy of trust and adherence. They dread separation from God as the worst evil. They hold by him for support, for keeping, for strength, for direction.
III. SWEARING BY HIS NAME - or religion in word. This includes religious oaths, but denotes also willingness at any time to make public confession of God.
IV. REJOICING IN HIM. "He is thy praise" (cf. Philippians 4:4). - J.O.