Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Exodus 12:2), and was connected with sacrifices (Leviticus 23:5-8; Numbers 28:15-26); hence "flock and herd" (ver. 2) covering the sacrifices of the seven days' feast. It was the sacrifice which mediated the new relationship established between Jehovah and the people on the night of the Exodus. There was a fitness, at so solemn a crisis in the history of the chosen nation, in the line of demarcation between them and the Egyptians being drawn so strongly in atoning blood. Not for any righteousness of theirs, but through God's mercy, under cover of blood of atonement, was Israel - collectively a part of Egypt, and individually partakers of its guilt and corruptions - spared the stroke of judgment. The sacrifice then offered was:
1. Pacificatory. In their blood-sheltered dwellings, the Israelites enjoyed the presence of God, communion with God, peace with God. A feast of peace was held upon the flesh, as in the later peace offerings.
2. Purificatory. It sanctified the people in view of their departure from Egypt; and separation as a peculiar people to Jehovah - in view also of his peculiarly near approach to them in their deliverance.
3. Protective. As warding off the stroke of the destroying angel. Later Passovers, as the yearly presentation of the blood implied, were not only commemorations, but in some sense also perpetuations of the original one. The Passover, as observed from year to year, was -
I. A MEMORIAL. It stood as an historical monument, testifying to the reality of the events of the Exodus. In this view of it, it is of great value. No criticism of documents can impair its witness. It is a Bible outside of the Bible, confirmatory of the Bible narratives. No one has yet succeeded in showing how a festival like the Passover could have been introduced at any period later than that to which it historically refers. It has, so far as we can make out anything in history, been observed by the Jews from the very beginning of their national existence. Note to what it testifies -
1. To the fact of the Exodus.
2. That the Exodus was accomplished without warlike resistance from the Egyptians.
3. That it was looked forward to, prepared for, sacrifice offered, and a sacrificial meal eaten, in anticipation of it.
4. That the preparations for departure were hurried, yet orderly.
5. That on the night in question a judgment fell on Egypt, from which the Israelites were exempted - a circumstance which gives to the feast its name, the Passover. The festival has thus all the value of a contemporary witness, and fully corroborates the Scripture history. The Lord's Supper, in like manner, is an historical witness, not to be got rid of, testifying to acts and words of our Lord on the night of his betrayal, and furnishing clear evidence as to the light in which his death was regarded by himself.
II. A TYPE. The typological features have often been dwelt on.
2. The blood - atoning, need of personal application, sole shelter from death, under its shelter inviolable security (Romans 8:1).
3. The feast - the slain lamb the food of a new life (John 6:51-57); a feast of reconciliation and peace, with fellow-believers, with bitter herbs (affliction, repentance), and without leaven - memorial of haste (ver. 3), but also emblematic of spiritual incorruption, of the purity which is to characterize the new life (1 Corinthians 5:7-9); no part of the flesh to remain till morning (ver. 4), for same reason, to avoid corruption; the feast to last seven days - a week, an entire circle of time, symbolical of life-long consecration to holiness of walk.
4. The redemption - great, once for all, a redemption, by blood and by power, from wrath, from bondage. All these types are conspicuously fulfilled in Christ.
III. AN ORDINANCE.
1. The first and chief of the feasts (ver. 1).
2. To be observed regularly (ver. 1). So now the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:25).
3. At the central sanctuary (vers. 2, 5, 6). Christians should seek to realize their unity with all saints at the Lord's table.
4. With due seriousness and solemnity (vers. 2, 6). - J.O.
Exodus 12.) was preliminary to their deliverance from Egypt, just as the Lord's Supper was preliminary to the death of Jesus Christ, which it was designed subsequently to commemorate. On the first occasion it was a sacrifice presented at home, as was most proper. But when the central altar was set up in Palestine, it became the center of the Passover festival, and to it the Jews in their multitudes repaired. This secured a national assembly under very solemn circumstances, and was an important element in sustaining the national spirit.
I. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SOUL FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN SHOULD BE HELD IN PERPETUAL REMEMBRANCE. The Passover was the yearly celebration of national redemption. By it the Jews were annually reminded that they were a redeemed people. Gratitude to God would be elicited, and that self-denial and abstinence from evil which the unleavened bread typified. And it is evident that a similar memorial is contemplated in the New Testament dispensation. The Lord's Supper coming regularly round is intended to recall the deliverance from sin and guilt which we believe God has wrought for us, and to foster that holiness of walk which should characterize the redeemed of the Lord.
II. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE SOUL HAS BEEN THROUGH SACRIFICE. The Passover taught this, if it taught anything. Egypt had to part with her firstborn before God's firstborn, Israel, could be redeemed (Exodus 13:15). This was evidently the idea - the firstborn of Egypt must die to ensure the liberty of the firstborn of God (Exodus 4:22, 23). This was the spirit of the Mosaic commission, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn." But if the involuntary sacrifice of the Egyptian firstborn be primarily referred to in the Passover, it unquestionably refers secondarily and typically to the great voluntary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through which our souls are redeemed. Hence Paul speaks of" Christ our Passover being sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Just as the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel that the destroying angel might spare the inmates, so the blood of Christ is sprinkled on our hearts and consciences, and our safety from condemnation becomes assured.
III. THE UNITY OF THE SACRIFICE THAT REDEEMS US WAS STRIKINGLY ILLUSTRATED AT THE PASSOVER. None of the flesh was to remain until the morning, all was to be eaten or burnt with fire. The sacrifice was to be a finished unity, not a protracted feast, which might through delay become corrupt. So with the sacrifice of which it is the type. Jesus Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28). He was not allowed to see any corruption (Acts 13:37). The unity of the sacrifice - the once for all - was thus strikingly brought out. Upon this our assurance of acceptance rests. We have now no doubt that the satisfaction is complete. "It is finished," said Jesus triumphantly on the tree. It is surely a matter of great moment and thankfulness to have our case disposed of at once, without uncertain delays, without any possible appeals. God is satisfied, and we are justified and free.
IV. SALVATION BY SACRIFICE IS WITH A VIEW TO HOLY LIVING. The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the Passover. Leaven was the type of self-indulgence and sin. The unleavened bread indicated how hastily they had to flee out of Egypt, and how little consideration for self there could be in their flight. Paul interprets the reference for us when he says, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:8). The feast of unleavened bread symbolized, therefore, the life of holy living which succeeds our salvation. Self-righteousness reverses this Divine order. It insists on the holy living meriting the salvation; but God gives the salvation gratuitously, and respects the holy living as a matter of gratitude. We should not make the way more difficult than God has done. - R.M.E.
step in the development of the redemptive scheme. In that night of destruction the elect nation was born.
I. EMANCIPATION OF NATIONAL LIFE FROM BONDAGE IS A FIT SUBJECT FOR YEARLY COMMEMORATION. It is God's will that such commemoration should be observed, and be observed in a most religious spirit. The effect of such commemoration upon the minds of the people would be most beneficial. The nation is but a collection of units; and as every unit had shared in the boon, so every unit should partake in the acknowledgment. It is a sin when we forget our participation in national blessings. Our pious example will be a benign stimulus to others.
II. GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION SHOULD PERPETUATE ALL THE METHODS AND INCIDENTS OF THE DIVINE DELIVERANCE.
1. Life had to be sacrificed in order to obtain that redemption. It was, in the most proper sense, a redemption. They had belonged to God; a usurper had despoiled God of his right; hence, the people had to be "bought back." Natural agencies had been employed to soften Pharaoh's heart; but in vain. Nothing short of the death of the firstborn sufficed to procure deliverance. Therefore the commemoration of the event fitly included the sacrifice of the lamb.
2. The release had been with haste. This incident was deserving of commemoration. So urgent was Pharaoh's desire that they should depart, that they had not time to bake their daily ration of bread; hence the yearly commemoration was to be with "bread unleavened." Bodily appetites must be forgotten when the golden moment of emancipation dawns.
3. The sense of obligation should be deep and abiding. On this account, the commemoration was appointed to extend over seven days. Gladness was to be tempered with self-denial and pain.
III. GRATEFUL COMMEMORATION TAKES THE FORM OF DEEDS AND SELF-SACRIFICES. The gratitude that contents itself with words is cheap and shallow. God delights to hear the language of deeds. This is the real language of the heart. It feels the pain of restraint and disappointment, if it may not bring some visible expression of its love or perform some service for its friend. In the case of the Hebrews, long journeys had to be undertaken, lambs had to be slain, much time had to be devoted to the sacred festival. Yet all this was performed with radiant gladness.
IV. THE COMMEMORATION OF THE PASSOVER WAS TO BE OBSERVED UNDER THE SOLEMN SANCTIONS OF RELIGION. Under the theocratic government, every public act was baptized at the fountain of religion. Religion was not simply a particular department of the State: it was a spirit of heaven that ennobled and beautified every public deed. The Paschal lamb might not be slain anywhere, it must be slain at the temple gate. It was an offering made to God, and God at once returned it, with added blessing to the offerer. Thus, year by year, they professed that their emancipation was a gift from God, that national life and earthly home and prospective hope came from the goodness of God.
V. NATIONAL EMANCIPATION WAS A PROPHECY OF THE WORLD'S REDEMPTION. A man is a type of a nation; a nation is a type of the world. What God has done for a nation, he is prepared to do (if need be) for the race. We too are under bondage, in the grasp of a mightier tyrant than Pharaoh. "Christ our Passover is for us slain." From all on whom is the effectual mark of Messiah's blood, doom is removed. "They shall never perish." Their destiny is the heavenly Canaan - the new Jerusalem. We too have our Paschal feast - the Eucharist. As the deliverance of the earthly Israel was complete, "not a hoof was left behind," so Christ Jesus shall eventually be Victor over all his foes. Redemption of the true Israel is in progress. - D.
I. A SACRED RECKONING. "Seven weeks shall thou number," etc. (ver. 9). A week of weeks, seven times seven, hence the name, "Feast of Weeks "(ver. 10). The count began with the offering of the sheaf of firstfruits on Nisan 16, the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:11). Till that sheaf was offered, no Israelite was permitted to eat of the new corn (ver. 14). With the arrival of the fiftieth day, inclusive of the second of Unleavened Bread, the labors of the harvest were presumed to be ended, and this festival ensued, at which baked loaves were presented to Jehovah (Leviticus 23:17), in token of consecration to him of the fruits of the harvest, and of dedication of the life which bread sustained. There is, intended or unintended, a beautiful symbolism in this sacred count, the divinely allotted period for the labors of the harvest, its days reckoned by heaven's calendar, the end, an "appearing before God" in the sanctuary. The harvest began with consecration (in the Passover sheaf), it ended with it (in the presentation of the wave loaves). So has the Christian his allotted work-time in the world, a sacred cycle of weeks, rounded off in God's wisdom for the work he means to be accomplished (John 9:4); work in the Christian harvest-field, a work beginning in consecration, carried on in the spirit of consecration, and the termination of which is "entrance into the joy of the Lord."
II. A HARVEST THANKSGIVING. This was distinctly the idea of the Pentecostal festival. It was characterized:
1. By a devout recognition of the Divine bounty in the fruits of the earth.
2. By a voluntary dedication to God of part of what he had given. There was the public ceremony of the two wave loaves. But the Israelite was required in addition to keep the feast with "a tribute of a free-will offering of his hand" (ver. 10). The offering was to be voluntary, yet not without rule, but "according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee."
3. By a willing sharing of God's bounty with the needy (ver. 11). The stranger, the fatherless, the widow, were, as usual, not to be neglected. The remembrance of former bondage in Egypt was to furnish the "touch of nature" which would make this duty easy (ver. 12). Note:
(2) Our gifts to God ought to be proportionate to our prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:2).
(3) God's goodness to us (in harvests, in trade, in business generally) ought to be acknowledged by liberal gifts for his service.
(4) God's goodness to us (in deliverances, etc.) should open our hearts in sympathy for others.
III. A GOSPEL TYPE. The figure of the firstfruits finds an abundance of applications in the New Testament. It is employed of the Jews (Romans 11:16), sanctified in their covenant heads; of Christ, the "Firstfruits" of them that sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20-23); of first converts in a particular district (1 Corinthians 16:15); of believers generally, as "a kind of firstfruits" of the redeemed creation (James 1:18); of the 144,000 of the Apocalypse (Revelation 14:4), possibly "all the Church of Christ at any time on the earth; a limited company at any one time, capable of being numbered" (Revelation 7:1-9). A more direct relation must be traced between the presentation of the firstfruits at Pentecost and the events consequent upon the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit (Acts it.). It is surely not to be ascribed to accident that, as our Lord died on the Friday of the Passover - probably on the 14th of Nisan - so the disciples were kept waiting for the promised effusion of the Spirit till "the day of Pentecost was fully come;" and that on this day the great ingathering of three thousand took place, embracing representatives from "every nation under heaven" - a truly glorious offering of "firstfruits." May we pursue the coincidence further, and see in Christ, the solitary sheaf, raised from the dead on the same day that the first-cut sheaf was presented in the sanctuary (Nisan 16), the firstfruits of the harvest in prospect; while in the Church constituted and consecrated at Pentecost, the day of the offering of the wave loaves, we have the firstfruits of the harvest as realized. The wave loaves correspond in significance to the meat offering, and still more nearly to the showbread. Bread, as the staff of life, the nourishing principle, stands for the presentation to God of the life so nourished, involving the recognition of him as the Nourisher of it. In the possession of the believing heart by the Spirit of God, as the indwelling and abiding principle of spiritual life, we have the full realization of this thought, the fulfillment of the types of meat offering. The passage, James 1:18, suggests the deeper idea that the Church constituted at Pentecost is itself only a kind of firstfruits of redemption. It is so in relation:
1. To the latter-day effusion of the Spirit (Acts 2:17-20).
2. To creation as a whole (Romans 8:19-24).
Other two points may be noted:
1. If our dates be correct, Pentecost, like the Resurrection, fell on the first day of the week - the Spirit was given on the Lord's day.
2. As Pentecost was held by the Jews in commemoration of the giving of the Law, so God signalized it as the day of the giving of the Spirit, thus superseding the old dispensation by the new. - J.O.
Acts 2., it seems to have drawn Jews and proselytes from all lands. These two references suggest a moral and a typical lesson respectively from the feast.
I. IT WAS THE EXPRESSION OF HARVEST THANKSGIVING. Here we have its moral meaning. It was an acknowledgment that God is the Author of the harvest, and should have the firstfruits. We never shall prosper unless we are grateful to the bountiful Giver. And the joy of harvest will be all the deeper when it is entertained before God. In harvest homes there should be the religious element continually. If God be forgotten, it is sheer and base ingratitude.
II. IT WAS TYPICAL OF THE PENTECOST OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. The Jews celebrated on this festival the giving of the Law, and the blessings attending it. An interesting parallel may be traced between the Pentecost at Sinai and the Pentecost at Jerusalem.
1. The Jews celebrated the giving of the Law, while we celebrate the proclamation at Pentecost of the gospel. We have here a parallel and also a contrast. The gospel is the Law magnified and delivered as love.
2. The Jews received the Law as the rule of life after their deliverance through the Paschal sacrifice, as we receive the message of love on the foundation of Christ our Passover sacrificed fifty days before.
3. There were wonderful works attending both the Pentecosts: the fearful thunderings and lightnings at Sinai, and the rushing mighty wind and fire in the upper room at Jerusalem; the sound of the trumpet at Sinai, the sound of the gospel in many languages at Jerusalem.
4. There were important effects following both Pentecosts: thus the fear of the Israelites at Sinai, and the conviction of sin at Jerusalem; the separation and ceremonial at Sinai, Moses being constituted mediator, and the fellowship resulting at Jerusalem, when the three thousand were added unto the Church.
III. SYSTEMATIC BENEFICENCE WAS FOSTERED BY THE FESTIVAL. In giving to God "according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee," servants, Levites, strangers, and the widow and fatherless are sure to be considered. This was the case too after Pentecost. The Christian commune was tried, which was a mighty though unsuccessful effort of beneficence. This law of beneficence must be obeyed by all Christian men. - R.M.E.
I. MATERIAL BLESSINGS AFFORD PREGNANT REASONS FOR RELIGIOUS JOY, A frequent effect upon the mind of some large influx of wealth is to produce a sense of independence and self-sufficiency. The very event which ought, most of all, to lead men's thoughts up to God, leads to self-gratulation and self-trust. Now present need is met. We have stores of abundance. We can say to ourselves, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." Therefore we must counteract this tendency. In very kindness to men's souls, God ordained this festival. He would have us to look from the gift to the Giver. It is his will that we should rejoice abundantly, but that our joy should be religious joy - a joy consecrated at the temple gate.
II. THE FESTIVE SEASONS ARE FIXED ACCORDING TO A RELIGIOUS MEASUREMENT. (Ver. 9.) The year is a measurement of time fixed by a natural cycle. So also is the month, so also the day. But there is nothing in nature that marks the commencement and the close of the week. This is a measurement specially ordained of God. The visible universe is not the whole of existence. Another voice breaks upon the ear, softer than the music of nature, and more full of authority than the voice of Caesar - a voice which makes a new boundary in time, and bids us to count our days by sevens.
III. RECEIVING SHOULD PROMPT US TO A PROPORTIONATE GIVING. (Ver. 10.) The gift to be brought to the temple is not specified. It might be a gift of corn, or of fruit, or of wine, or of money. The form of the gift was left to the option of the husbandman; but some tribute was required, and the amount must be proportionate to the abundance of his crops. If plain and imperative law could make the Jews generous-hearted, God did his utmost to cultivate in them this excellence. Avarice was scouted by Divine Law.
IV. RELIGIOUS JOY SHOULD BE DIFFUSIVE. This giving to God was to be an act of gladness. It was not allowed to be with grudging or with gloom (ver. 11). God had no personal need for these material presents. They were expended at once in new blessing and joy. Not only was the household to share in the festive gladness, in the banquet and the song; but the servant, the stranger, the poor Levite, the widow, and the orphan also. God's copious goodness in the harvest was designed to enlarge all narrow affections, and to thaw, in streams of kindness, all frozen sympathies. At such a season, they were reminded that they were not proprietors of anything, but put in offices of trust as the stewards of God.
V. A SENSE OF OBLIGATION SHOULD INSPIRE OBEDIENCE. (Ver. 12.) The hour of prosperity is the hour of reflection. By the law of associated ideas, the contrast is suggested. The mind, free from the pressure of care, retraces the past. We think of the "rock whence we were hewn, the hole of the pit whence we were digged." The recollection of our lowly origin - the dust of the ground - ought to affect us tenderly; and our sense of devout obligation should stimulate new and larger obedience. If I owe so much to God, what can I otherwise do than keep his commandments with mind and heart and soul? Complete obedience is a dictate of earliest intelligence. - D.
I. A FEAST OF THE INGATHERING. (Ver. 13.) Held in the seventh month, when all the fruits of the earth had been gathered in. Thus:
1. Every stage of labor was sanctified by the recognition of God. At the Passover, when the sickle was thrust into the virgin grain; at Pentecost, when the cereal crops were harvested; and now, at the close of the agricultural year, when the season's labors had yielded to the husbandman their full results.
2. The fruits of labor were sanctified by dedication to God. The usual feasts were held, and shared with the needy (ver. 14), and free-will offerings (vers. 16, 17) were presented to God. Bountiful giving is the appropriate return for bountiful receiving.
II. A MEMORIAL OF PAST WANDERINGS. (Leviticus 23:43.) During the seven days of the festival, the Israelites were to live in booths. This symbolized, and served to remind them of, the wandering, unsettled life of the desert. Booths were erections of simpler construction, and more in keeping with an agricultural festival, especially after the settlement in Canaan, than tents would have been. But there may have been an allusion also to actual circumstances of the journeyings, e.g. the first halt at Succoth, i.e. booths (Exodus 12:3; see Stanley). This memorial was instituted:
1. That in the midst of their prosperity they might not forget the days of their adversity (Deuteronomy 8:12-18).
2. That they might be reminded of God's gracious care of them. Booths or huts may, as Keil thinks, have been used instead of tents with reference to this idea. The booth was a shelter, a protection. So God promises to be to his Church, as he had been in the past, "a booth for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from the storm and rain" (Isaiah 4:6).
3. That their enjoyment of the goodness of the land might be enhanced by feelings of warm gratitude, awakened by the sense of contrast.
III. AN IMAGE OF PRESENT PILGRIMAGE. Though settled in Canaan, the Israelites were not to regard themselves as in possession of the final rest (Hebrews 4:7, 8). The pilgrim state continued (Psalm 39:12). It does so still. We still inhabit tabernacles (2 Corinthians 5:1). Spiritual rest, the inward side of the Canaan type, is attained in Christ; but the full realization of the rest of God lies in eternity. Till heaven is reached, our state is that of pilgrims - wilderness wanderers. "The admission of this festival into Zechariah's prophecy of Messianic times (Zechariah 14:18) is undoubtedly founded on the thought that the keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles is an expression on the part of the nations of their thankfulness for the termination of their wanderings by their reception into the peaceful kingdom of Messiah" (Oehler). - J.O.
I. THE FESTIVAL WAS TO REMIND THE ISRAELITES OF THE PILGRIMAGE IN THE WILDERNESS. Their settling in Canaan was not to blot out the memory of their previous pilgrimage, and how they dwelt with God in tents. The same danger threatens God's children still. This world gets so settled and home-like that we forget the pilgrimage which life is meant by God to be. We need the exhortation of Peter, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
II. THE FESTIVAL WAS TO BE A JOYOUS ONE. It would be joyous on three accounts:
(1) because of the ingathered harvest;
(2) because of the complete atonement so recently past;
(3) because of the time of year, the glorious October of Palestine.
Hence the festival would be virtually a tenting out in the pleasantest time of the year, with minds delivered from all anxiety and fear. And this is to indicate the high-water mark of Christian experience. We are living below our privileges if we are not rejoicing in God's providential goodness, and in his atoning grace, and in his beautiful world. "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).
III. THE FESTIVAL FOSTERED HOPE. For if life as it now is should be regarded as a pilgrimage, an unsettled state, then each time we are reminded of this we learn to look for a better condition and more permanent abode. If I am reminded that I dwell in a tent of flesh, easily taken down, I learn to hope for the building of God, the "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens' (2 Corinthians 5:1).
"A while on earth we roam "For in our Father's house IV. THE FESTIVAL FOSTERED FORETHOUGHT AND THRIFT. It had all the wholesome effect on them which an annual picnic has upon working people. They look forward to it and make preparation for it. Now, these festivals at the center of the national worship were to be joyful and liberal times. They were not to appear empty-handed before the Lord. They were to be able to give at his altar and be hospitable as they had opportunity. Hence the festival cultivated thrifty habits in order to be openhanded when the glad day came. So should religion make us all! - R.M.E.
"For in our Father's house IV. THE FESTIVAL FOSTERED FORETHOUGHT AND THRIFT. It had all the wholesome effect on them which an annual picnic has upon working people. They look forward to it and make preparation for it. Now, these festivals at the center of the national worship were to be joyful and liberal times. They were not to appear empty-handed before the Lord. They were to be able to give at his altar and be hospitable as they had opportunity. Hence the festival cultivated thrifty habits in order to be openhanded when the glad day came. So should religion make us all! - R.M.E.
IV. THE FESTIVAL FOSTERED FORETHOUGHT AND THRIFT. It had all the wholesome effect on them which an annual picnic has upon working people. They look forward to it and make preparation for it. Now, these festivals at the center of the national worship were to be joyful and liberal times. They were not to appear empty-handed before the Lord. They were to be able to give at his altar and be hospitable as they had opportunity. Hence the festival cultivated thrifty habits in order to be openhanded when the glad day came. So should religion make us all! - R.M.E.
I. JUDGES OCCUPY A HIGH AND RESPONSIBLE POSITION.
1. They are necessary. They require to be set up "in all thy gates... throughout thy tribes."
3. They are set to uphold the sacred interests of justice.
4. They may, by wresting judgment, or by hasty and wrong decisions, inflict irremediable injury on the innocent.
5. The right discharge of their functions conduces in the highest degree to the stability, happiness, and material prosperity of society.
II. JUDGES ARE REQUIRED TO EXECUTE JUST JUDGMENT.
1. They are not to be swayed by private partialities - political, social, ecclesiastical.
2. They are not to make distinctions between rich and poor, i.e. "respect persons."
3. They are not to accept bribes.
4. They are, as administrators of a justice which is impersonal, to judge in every case according to absolute right. - J.O.
I. THAT ALL JUDGMENT AMONG MEN IS THE FORESHADOWING OF A DIVINE JUDGMENT AT THE LAST. We live under a moral Governor who has not yet delivered final judgment upon his creatures. That final review of life is naturally expected from the imperfect justice of the world. Men in their judgments can at best only approximate to what will be the Divine decision.
II. GOD DEMANDS IMPARTIAL JUDGES FROM HIS PEOPLE BECAUSE HE IS THE IMPARTIAL JUDGE HIMSELF. The impartiality of God's administration will be vindicated at last. All seeming violations of the principle will be exhibited in their true light. For instance, God's plan of salvation is the very essence of impartiality, since it proposes to save men without regard to any personal consideration, as a matter of free grace alone. Whosoever takes exception to this is taking exception to the Divine impartiality. Again, in providence we shall doubtless find that, by a series of compensations and of drawbacks, each person's lot in life is impartially and graciously ordered. The "favorites of fortune" find some drop of bitterness in their cup, and the sweetness is more apparent than real.
III. MEN NEED NOT TRY TO BRIBE GOD, HOWEVER THEY MAY SUCCEED WITH MEN. For although this may seem a strong way of putting it, it is nevertheless the attempt that sinners thoughtlessly make. For instance, when an anxious soul thinks that a certain amount of conviction of sin, a certain amount of penitence, a certain amount of frames and feelings, will secure acceptance and peace, he is proposing to bribe God. It is as if an insane person tried to corrupt a judge on the bench by the present of a bundle of rags - "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." God will take no bribe. He will accept no man's person. Unless we give up the idea of personal claim and personal fitness for his reception of us, we cannot be accepted.
IV. WE MAY EXPECT AN IMPARTIAL JUDGMENT AT THE LAST. It is Jesus who is to sit on the throne when the appeal cases from the injustice of earth to the justice of heaven are heard. He knows our cases so thoroughly that he cannot, as he would not, err. All wrongs shall then be righted; all unfair advantage taken shall then be condemned. "Behold, the judge standeth at the door"' Let us see to it that we learn of him impartiality, and men shall regard us as truly Godlike in our dealings with them! - R.M.E.
I. THE ADMINISTRATION OF SOCIAL JUSTICE IS ENTRUSTED TO IMPERFECT MEN. The laws of the Jews were framed in heaven, and were conveyed to men by the mediation of angels, but the administration and execution of these laws were imposed on men selected from among themselves. What men cannot do God will do for them; what men can do for themselves, God requires them to accomplish. This administration of Divine Law by men was a magnificent training for higher once. In the best sense, God desires that men "should be as gods." By handling the affairs of justice, they would best grow in the understanding of the Divine government.
II. EVERY TOWN WAS A TYPE OF THE WHOLE KINGDOM. Magistrates were to be appointed in every community, who should be kings in their sphere of jurisdiction. Such magistrates were the people's choice, and thus they were initiated into the art of self-government. Justice well administered in every town would secure the order and well-being of the nation. The burden of governing the whole nation would thus be reduced to a thousand infinitesimal burdens - each one easily to be borne. Duty well done in every individual sphere would make the world happy and prosperous.
III. THE SACRED INTERESTS OF JUSTICE OUTWEIGH ALL PERSONAL CONSIDERATIONS. Gifts from friends are not to be despised; but if they have the feeblest tendency to weaken our sense of right or to bring discredit on public justice, they must be declined. If a man accepts the office of a ruler, he must be prepared to forego many private advantages and pleasures. He is the steward of public interests - the servant of justice. He is no longer his own master. Personal friendships must be forgotten in the judicial court. No regard must be had to any other interest save the interest of righteousness. One thing the magistrate must do, and one only; he must be the mouthpiece of eternal righteousness. He may err, but he must be honest. Simple integrity of purpose is the chief qualification to rule. He who candidly desires to do right will be guided by an unerring hand.
IV. THE CAUSE OF PUBLIC JUSTICE IS SERVED BY PUBLICITY. The administration of justice was to be in the gate - in the place of public concourse. From the free conflict of public opinion sparks of truth will be elicited. So weak and vacillating is ofttimes human purpose, that the blaze of mortal eyes is needed to keep that purpose steadfast. This mode of administering justice had also a deterrent influence on the immature and the vile; it educated the public conscience.
V. JUSTICE HONESTLY ADMINISTERED SECURES NATIONAL PROSPERITY. It is the lesson of universal history that official injustice loosens all the bonds of society, and brings a kingdom into utter ruin. Men will patiently tolerate many abuses of power, but the public abuse of justice quickly brings deadly retribution. On the other hand, an honest and prompt administration of righteous law is the seed of order, content, and mutual confidence. It gives a sense of security; it fosters patriotism; it develops courage; it brings the smile and benediction of God. - D.
I. GOD WISHES TO IMPART TO MEN HIS OWN FEELING TOWARDS IDOLATRY. (Ver. 22.) To be like God is the summit of every good man's ambition. This is God's intention also. But the attainment can only gradually be made. We must have God's thoughts rooted in us; we must cultivate similar feelings; we must cherish similar purposes or we cannot be like him in character. Idolatry corrupts the soul and generates death. To know and worship God leads up to richest life.
II. EXTERNAL AIDS TO IDOLATRY MUST BE CAREFULLY AVOIDED. A stone which is a stumbling-block to a child has no peril for a strong man; for the sake of the young and the weak, the stone should be taken out of the way. It is wise and noble to abstain from self-indulgences which will imperil the piety of others. A shady grove would be pleasant enough for worshippers in the scorching climate of the East; nevertheless, if it shall tend in the least measure to lure the ignorant into idolatry, we will forego the pleasure. This is Godlike, to deny self in order to bless others. If umbrageous groves make my weak brother to offend, I will endure the noontide heat so long as life shall last. Our mental tastes, our love of the beautiful, our desire for pleasure, - all must give way to honest endeavor for the moral elevation of the race.
III. GOD'S FATHERLY KINDNESS IS EXPRESSED IN THESE PLAIN PRECEPTS. We might reach these wise maxims as reasonable deductions from moral principles; yet they come to us clothed with irresistible authority, when they appear as the revealed will of God, A twofold light blends to point out the path of human conduct, viz. the light of conscience and the light of Scripture; yet these twin rays emanate from the selfsame sun. - D.