Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE SUPERSTITION WHICH WAS TO BE SHUNNED.
1. Clearly and decisively everything that was in any way idolatrous was condemned; "turn ye not unto idols" (verse 4).
2. All that was distinctively or closely connected with heathen worship was also forbidden: the use of enchantments, the superstitious observance of lucky or unlucky times, also superstitious cutting of the hair or of the flesh (verses 26-28); resorting to wizards, etc. (see 1 Chronicles 10:13). There is amongst us much adoption of practices which are idle and vain, not warranted in Scripture nor founded on reason. Such things are to be deprecated and shunned, They are
(2) harmful, as taking the place in our thought which belongs to something really good and wise;
(3) displeasing to the God of truth.
II. THE RELIGION WHICH WAS TO BE CULTIVATED AND PRACTISED. The Jews were to cherish and cultivate, even as we are,
(1) sanctity like that of God himself (verse 2), entire separateness of spirit and so of conduct from every evil thing;
(2) reverence for his holy Name (verse 12), and consequent abstention from everything bordering on profanity;
(3) regard for divinely appointed ordinances - the sabbath and the sanctuary (verse 30);
(4) gratitude for his redeeming mercy (verse 36), "I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt;"
(5) spontaneous dedication to his service (verse 5). "At our own will" we must bring ourselves and our offerings to his altar;
(6) daily, hourly consultation of his holy will, "Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them" (verse 37). - C.
Leviticus 19Matthew 22:35-40; Romans 12; James, passim. From the primary principle of unworldliness, we now have to proceed to sundry details about social morality. Although these details are given indiscriminately, it is yet possible to discern certain great principles among them. And -
I. ALL SOCIAL MORALITY IS MADE TO REST ON OUR RELATION TO GOD HIMSELF. In the Decalogue we have social morality, that is, our duty to man, based upon our duty to God; the "second table" rests upon the first. It is the same here. God brooks no rival (verse 4). He sets himself as our model of holiness (verse 2). He calls man to fellowship through the peace offering (verses 5-8). His Name must be subjected to no profanation (verse 12), and the sabbaths are to be strictly kept (verse 30). In other words, we have the four commandments of the first table strewn up and down these details, and exhibiting the fountain-head of social morality in faithfulness to God. It is significant that all the efforts to make out an "independent morality" by the elimination or ignoring of God are proving failures. He is, after all, the sine qua non of real morality as well as of salvation. It is when his Name is feared and reverenced as it ought to be that man acts aright in his various relations.
II. COMPASSION FOR THE POOR AND AFFLICTED RESULTS, OF NECESSITY, FROM A DUE REGARD FOR GOD. For God is compassionate, and so should his people be. Hence the exhortation of verses 9, 10, about leaving in harvest-time what would be a help to the poor and the stranger. This is grounded upon the great fact, "I am the Lord your God." Hence also the warning not to curse the deaf, nor to put a stumbling-block in the way of the blind, but" thou shalt fear thy God" (verse 14). This consideration for the afflicted and for the poor is a most important element in social morality. Our asylums for the deaf, the dumb, and the blind are embodiments of this great social duty. The poor-law system, if a little more Christian sympathy were engrafted upon it, is a noble tribute to a sense of national obligation towards the poor, better organizations even than these will yet be the fruit of the religious spirit. How to apply the principle that "he that will not work shall not eat," and at the same time show the due measure of compassion, is a problem demanding most careful solution.
III. MERCANTILE MORALITY IS STRICTLY ENJOINED. All stealing, lying, and dishonest dealing is denounced (verse 11). No advantage is to be taken of a neighbour or of a servant (verse 13). All arbitration is to be without respect of persons (verse 15). Weights, measures, and balances are all to be just and true (verses 35, 36). This branch of social morality requires the strictest attention from the Lord's people. It is here that continual contact goes on between them and the world. If religion, therefore, do not produce a higher type of mercantile morality than the world, it will be discredited. Nothing injures religion so much as the mercantile immoralities of its professors. Fraudulent bankrupts, dishonest tradings, overreachings, - these are what go to lessen the influence of religion among men. It is just possible that we may, in our eagerness to be always presenting the truth of the gospel to our fellow-men, have failed to enforce sufficiently the morality which must be the great evidence of our religious life. At present, in this peculiarly mercantile age, this department of morality needs most earnest attention.
IV. PURITY IS TO BE CULTIVATED IN ALL SOCIAL RELATIONS. Not only was immorality discountenanced (verse 29), and punishment and trespass offerings directed in cases where immorality had occurred (verses 20-22), but the very cultivation of the land, the rearing of cattle, the making of garments, and, in a word, all their associations were to be pervaded by the principle of purity (verses 19, 23-25). For the use made of cattle, and of seed, and of raw material, might be prejudicial to purity in idea. Thus carefully does the Lord fence round his people with precautions.
V. SUPERSTITION IS TO BE DISCOURAGED, NO enchantment was to be used, nor were they to round the corners of their heads or beards; they were to make no cuttings in their flesh for the dead, or print marks upon themselves (verses 26-28). Nor were they to have recourse to familiar spirits or wizards, to be defiled by them (verse 31). God treats his people as intelligent, rational beings; and so he discourages all resort to unmeaning and pretended inspirations.
VI. IT IS CLEARLY SHOWS THAT LOVE IS THE ESSENCE OF ALL SOCIAL MORALITY. Vengeance is discouraged (verse 18) - it is the outcome of hatred, which is unlawful when borne towards a brother (verse 17). The form of blood-feud (verse 16), which existed and exists among the Oriental and wandering tribes, is denounced. In fact, the Law is brought to this simple issue," Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (verse 18). It is upon this that our blessed Lord seizes as the essence of the Divine Law (Matthew 22:35-40). Paul also brings this out clearly and emphatically (Romans 13:9, 10). And this suggests -
1. That there is a legitimate self-love. There is a "better self" which it is our duty to love and cherish, just as there is a "worse self" which it is our duty to detest and mortify. When we consider this "better self," we do not suffer sin upon it, we try to keep it pure and subject unto Christ. We try to be faithful with ourselves. We foster what is good and holy within us. All this is most distinct from selfishness. The selfish man is his own worst enemy; the man who cultivates proper self-love is his own best friend.
2. This self-love is to measure our love to our neighbour. Now, our Lord brought out, by the parable of the "Good Samaritan," who is our neighbour. Every one to whom our heart leads us to be neighbourly. Neighbourhood is a matter of the heart. We must cultivate it. We shall have no difficulty in discerning the objects of our love. Let us then love them as we do ourselves. The golden rule is the essence of the Divine Law, "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." It is evident from this that Judaism was not intended to be an exclusive and selfish system, so far as outsiders were concerned, Men did not work it out properly, and this was why it became so narrow and selfish. - R.M.E.
1 John 2:20, 21).
I. THE PEOPLE OF THE HOLY GOD MUST BE HOLY. (Verse 2.)
1. They must be separate from sinners.
(1) The people of God are distinguished by purity of heart. Of this God alone can take full cognizance.
(2) Also by purity of life (Titus 2:14). This is witnessed both by God and man.
2. They must be separated to God.
(1) This is implied in the reason, viz. "for I am holy" (see Peter 1:15, 16). Our Lord puts it strongly: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). This cannot be understood absolutely. It must be interpreted relatively, viz. that as in his relations to us God is perfect, so are we to be perfect in our corresponding relations to him. But what are these?
(2) As his servants.
(a) We have our work assigned by his appointment.
(b) He pays us our wages. In this life. In that to come.
(3) As his children.
3. Grace makes us to differ.
(1) This was ceremonially described in the Law. In order to partake of the holy things, the people must be made ceremonially holy by ablutions.
(2) The truth of this is seen in the promise of the gospel. Before we can have spiritual communion with God we must be sanctified at the laver of regeneration, viz. by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
II. THEIR HOLINESS WILL BE EXPRESSED IN PURE WORSHIP.
1. They keep the sabbaths of the Lord.
(1) They cease from the toil of the world. So far the observance is outward. They also rest from the labour of sorrow and sin. This is an inward and spiritual observance.
(2) They appear in the convocations of God's people. This worship may be public without any corresponding beauties of spiritual holiness. But the true worshipper mingles with the spiritual and heavenly portions of the Church as well as with the visible congregation (see Ephesians 3:15; Hebrews 12:22-24).
(3) Parents are held responsible for instructing their children in the due observance of the sabbath. So in the fourth commandment in the Decalogue, "Thou, and thy son, and thy daughter."
(4) Hence in the text (verse 3), the injunction to keep God's sabbaths is associated with another touching the respect due from children to parents (comp. Exodus 20:8-12). Parents are God's representatives to their children.
(a) In their paternity.
(b) In the providence they exercise during the helplessness and dependence of infancy and youth.
(c) In their authority.
This is from God, and it should be religiously maintained. Those who are allowed to break God's sabbaths will disobey their parents.
2. They keep themselves from idols.
(1) They will not "turn" to them. We are so surrounded by them, that we cannot turn from the true worship without encountering them.
(2) They will not "make" to themselves "molten gods." The allusion here is to Aaron's calf, which he intended to represent Jehovah Elohim. But in our godly parents, the work of God's hands, we have truer representations of the living Father than can possibly proceed from our own hands.
(3) Idolatry is folly. Idols are nothings (אלילם; comp. 1 Corinthians 8:4).
3. They serve God with reverence.
(1) They fear God, but not as slaves. They offer peace offerings to him which are offerings of friendship. They offer these also "at their own free will" (verse 5). A constrained is an imperfect service. "God loveth a cheerful giver."
(2) They worship him in faith. They will eat the peace offering the same day on which it is offered. They recognize the privileges of an early communion. What remains over on the second day they will eat. The dispensations of the types are two, viz. the patriarchal and Mosaic. But if any remain to the third day, this they burn with fire. Thus they express their faith in the Christian dispensation which should abolish the types by fulfilling them, and which should bring in better hopes.
(2) To return to the legal dispensation is now to provoke the anger of the Lord. Cyril of Alexandria argues that those who fail to see any spiritual meaning in the Law are still bound to keep it in the letter. But even that could do them no good, for according to the text, "If it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted. Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity," etc. (verses 7, 8). To rejecters of the gospel now there is nothing but hopeless excision. - J.A.M.
I. THE UNIVERSAL REQUIREMENT. "Speak unto all the congregation," etc.
1. No exception. "All have sinned."
2. The nature of man requires him to be holy. The relation between man and God. The laws of God not mere arbitrary decrees, but the expression, in positive relation to the freedom of man, of the Eternal Reality of the universe.
3. The universality of revelation is the universality of responsibility. "Their line is gone out in all the earth." "Having not the Law, they are a law unto themselves." What was said. to the Jews was said. to the world. The blessedness of humanity is the realization of the Divine image. A holy God, a holy universe.
II. THE UNIVERSAL MOTIVE. "For I am holy."
1. Dependence upon God the root of religion, not as mere blind dependence, but that of the children on the Father.
2. Gratitude the constant appeal of the heart. The Lord your God, who has done so much for you, requires your holiness.
3. The Divine command is related to and blessed with the Divine provision of grace in a specific system of holiness, in which the people of God are held up. Be holy, for I have prepared for your holiness. We are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Work out salvation, for God worketh in you.
III. THE MEDIATING MINISTRY. "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation."
1. Here is the gracious method by which our holiness is made possible. The holy God speaks. The holy men of God speak as they are moved by the Holy Ghost. The holy Word speaks, everywhere and always. The holy life is maintained among the holy people.
2. The holiness of humanity will be achieved as a fact through a holy ministry of the people of God to the world at large; of the consecrated few to the many. The hope of a revived Church, in a revived ministry. The spiritual leaders should feel their responsibility, both in teaching and in example.
3. Personal holiness must underlie all other. The purification of temples and services is not the sanctification God requires. He says not, "Be ye punctilious in worship and profuse in ritual;" but "Be ye personally holy, let your holiness be a transcript of mine, which is the holiness of will, of work, of thought, of character. - R.
give that which is due to others. The two passages connected in the text remind us that we should pay deference to -
I. THOSE WHO CARRY THE WEIGHT OF YEARS. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man." "Respect the burden, madam," said Napoleon, inviting a lady to move out of the way of one who was carrying a heavy weight. Those who have traveled far on the rough road of life, and are worn with many and sad experiences, on whom the privations of age are resting, - these carry a heavy weight, a burden we should respect. They are as wounded soldiers on whom the battle of life has left its scars, and these are marks of honour that demand the tribute of youth.
II. THOSE WHO HAVE ATTAINED TO WISDOM. The young are apt to think that they can reach the heights of wisdom without laboriously climbing the steeps of experience. They find that they are wrong. Time proves to each generation of men that wisdom, whether it be that of earth or of heaven, is only gained by the discipline of life. There are men who pass through human life and learn nothing in the passage; the folly of youth cleaves to them still. Such men must be comparatively unhonoured, receiving only the respect which is due to old age as such. But when men have gathered the fruits of a long and large experience - and especially when men of intelligence and piety have stored up the truth which God has been teaching them as he has led them along all the path of life - they are worthy to receive our sincerest honour, and we must know how to "rise up before the hoary head" in their case. With all and more than all the respect we pay to the learned, we should receive men whom God has been long teaching in his school - those who have learnt much of Jesus Christ.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE LAID US UNDER SPECIAL OBLIGATION.
1. Aged men who have lived a faithful life have done this. For they have lived, not only for themselves, but for their kind. They have wrought, struggled, suffered in order that they might help us and others to walk in the light, to enter the kingdom, to enjoy the favour of God; and they have earned our gratitude by their faithful service.
2. Our parents have done this also. "Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father." What benefits our parents have conferred on us, what kindnesses they have rendered us, what sacrifices they have made for us, what anxious thought and earnest prayer they have cherished and offered on our behalf, - who of us shall reckon? The debt we owe to them for all they have done for us is the heaviest of all, next to that supreme indebtedness under which we stand to God. But it is not only the obligation we have thus incurred which demands our filial reverence; it is the fact that our parents arc -
IV. THOSE WHO STAND IN A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO US.
1. We should remember that fatherhood is the human relationship which most closely resembles and most fully reveals that in which God himself stands to us all. Christ came to reveal the Father unto man as the Father of souls. Therefore it is to be highly honoured.
2. Fatherhood (parenthood, for the mother is not to be left out of our thought) in the best state of human society has received the largest share of honour. We may gather from this fact that it is a divinely implanted instinct, only absent when the race has miserably degenerated under sin.
3. Honour given to parents as such is imperatively required by God. It was a patriarchal and Jewish, as it is now a Christian, virtue. After the injunction stand these significant words, "I am the Lord." "Children, obey your parents in the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1). Filial disobedience and unkindness are grievous sins in his sight. Filial love, honour, and considerateness are well-pleasing unto the Lord. - C.
I. REVERENCE FOR PARENTS. True religion is seen in common, everyday life. If we love God, we love man. Family peace and order is best preserved by appeal to deep, religious motives. Natural affection is not sufficient against fallen human nature. "God says, Thou shalt," must be the support of natural feeling.
II. SABBATH KEEPING. Not as a Jewish regulation, but as both the demand of physical nature and the gracious provision of God for us. "The Son of man is Lord of the sabbath;" therefore, while preserving it from abuse to the oppression of human liberty, sanctifying it for the higher place it occupies in the Christian scheme.
III. ABSOLUTE SEPARATION FROM IDOLATRY and all heathenism. Holy religion.
IV. WILLINGHOOD IN RELIGION. Verse 5, "At your own will," or "that you may be accepted," i.e., do it as unto God, by his Word, for his glory, in dependence on his grace, with hearty resignation of self to him.
V. PHILANTHROPY AND COMPASSION FOR THE POOR. The true charity is a practical remembrance of the needy and suffering, beginning at home, from our own personal possessions. God is the Lord of all. All are brethren.
VI. HONESTY OF DEALING is only to be maintained by religion. Mere social considerations and political economy will never purify trade and sanctify men's intercourse with one another. Truth is safe in no keeping but that of the sanctuary.
VII. PROFANITY in speech and in act is an evil to be cured by positive religion.
VIII. THE JUSTICE OF THE LIPS is the justice of the heart in expression. The law that is kept sacred within will be honoured without respect of persons, and not by mere negation, but in active benevolence.
IX. REAL NEIGHBOURLINESS IS LOVE OF MAN PROCEEDING FROM LOVE OF GOD. No injury must be done either by word or deed, either by neglect of another's interests or unholy wrath against another or encouraging him to sin by withholding due rebuke. All summed up in the positive precept, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." All the various prescriptions of the Jewish law, both negative and positive, regard the pure and holy development both of individual and national life. Religion is the root, social morality is the blossom or the plant, national prosperity is the precious fruit, of which, if we would preserve the seed and perpetuate the blessing, we must see to it that we find the very inmost center and kernel, which is the love of God as the Father of all, and the love of men as the brethren of the same Divine family. - R.
I. THAT THE FEAR OF GOD WILL SURELY LEAD TO THE LOVE OF MAN. That piety which begins and ends in acts of devotion is one that may be reasonably suspected: it is not of the scriptural order. True piety is in consulting the will of the heavenly Father (Matthew 7:21), and his will is that we should love and be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32). Philanthropy is a word which may not have its synonym in the Old Testament, but the Hebrew legislator was not ignorant of the idea, and the Hebrew people were not left without incitement to the thing itself. Hence these injunctions to leave some corn in the corners of their fields, and the scattered ears for the reaping and gleaning of the poor (verse 9); to leave also some clusters of grapes which had been overlooked for needy hands to pluck (verse 10); to take no advantage of the weaker members of their society, the deaf and the blind (verse 14); and to show kindness to the stranger (verse 34).
II. THAT CONSIDERATENESS IS A GRACE WHICH IS PECULIARLY PLEASING TO GOD. The Jews were expressly enjoined to
(1) show kindness to the poor (verse 10);
(2) to be careful of those who suffered from bodily infirmity (verse 14);
(3) to interest themselves in the stranger (verses 33, 34).
There is something particularly striking in the commandment that they were to refrain from cursing the deaf. Even though there might be no danger of giving positive pain and exciting resentment, yet they were not to direct harsh words against any one of their more unfortunate brethren. This legislation for the weak and the necessitous presents a very pleasant aspect of the Law. It also reminds us of some truths which come home to ourselves. We may observe:
1. That power is apt to be tyrannical. The history of nations, tribes, individuals, is the history of assertion and assumption. The strong have ever shown themselves ready to take advantage of the weak. Hence the oppression and cruelty which darken the pages of human history.
2. That God would have us be just to one another. In most cases, if not in all, we can take no credit for our superior strength, and build no claim on it. In many cases, if not in most, we can impute no blame to others for their weakness: the unfortunate are not necessarily the undeserving, and we have no right to make them suffer.
3. But beyond this, God would have us be specially kind to the necessitous because they are reedy. Here are these statutes in respect of the poor, the afflicted, and the stranger. The devotional Scriptures speak more fully of this sacred duty (Psalm 41:1, 2; Psalm 62:13; 112:9, etc.). The prophets utter their voice still more forcibly (Isaiah 58:6-8; Ezekiel 18:7; Nehemiah 5:10-12; Jeremiah 22:16; Amos 4:1, etc.). Our Lord has, with strongest emphasis, commended to us considerateness toward the weak and helpless (Matthew 10:42; Matthew 18:6, 10, 14; Matthew 25:34-40, etc.). His apostles spoke and wrote in the same strain (Romans 12:15; 1 Corinthians 12:26, etc.). But that which, above everything, should lead us to be considerate toward the poorer and weaker members of our community is the thought that to do so is so truly and emphatically Divine. God himself has ever been acting on this gracious principle. He interposed to save the children of Israel because they were weak and afflicted. Again and again he stretched out his arm of deliverance, saving them from the strong and the mighty of the earth. On this Divine principle he deals with us all. He "knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust." "Like as a father pities his children, so he pities them that fear him." Our Saviour dealt with exquisite considerateness in all his relations to his undiscerning and unappreciative disciples; and now he is dealing with gracious forbearance toward us in all the weakness, poverty, shortcoming of our service. We are never so much like our merciful Master as when we speak and act considerately toward those who are poorer, weaker, and more helpless than ourselves. - C.
I. A GENEROUS CONSIDERATION FOR THE POOR.
1. The needs of the gleaner are to be respected.
(1) In reaping the harvest, owners are instructed to spare the corners of their crops for the poor. What fails from the hand of the reaper is not to be gathered up again, but left to the gleaner. So in gleaning the vintage, the loose branches must be left to the poor and the stranger.
(2) We must not consider that to be wasted which goes to the poor.
(3) The harvest and vintage are seasons of joy. Such seasons should be seasons also of charity. Kindliness purifies and so heightens joy.
2. The authority of God must be remembered.
(1) "I am Jehovah thy Elohim." This gives the poor and the stranger a Divine right in the gleanings, which now to disregard becomes impiety and injustice. Those who refuse their rights to the poor will have to answer for it to God (Psalm 9:18; Psalm 12:5; Psalm 82.; Isaiah 10:1-4).
(2) The Divine example should inspire and guide us. "He openeth his hand, and satisfieth every living thing." Man must not attempt to close the hand of God by refusing to the poor their due.
II. A CAREFUL AVOIDANCE OF INJUSTICE.
1. Wrong must not be practiced stealthily.
(1) "Ye shall not steal" - ye shall not injure your neighbour in a concealed way. To reap the harvest too narrowly would be to filch from the poor his due.
(2) "Neither shall ye deal falsely." Thus there must be no concealing of faults in articles offered for sale. There must be no false representation of values either in vending or purchasing.
2. Lies must not be uttered.
(1) "Neither lie one to another." When a lie is acted in false dealing, the next thing is to utter a lie to cover the wrong. One falsehood calls up another to keep it in countenance.
(2) "And ye shall not swear by my Name falsely." Upon the principle that lies are called in to countenance the concealment of a wrong, oaths are suborned to countenance lies. Thus sin begets sin; and sin, in its offspring, becomes increasingly degenerate.
(3) This last is frightful wickedness. "Neither shalt thou profane the Name of thy God." It is appealing to the God of truth to confirm a lie!
3. Nor must wrong be openly perpetrated.
(1) "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him." Power must not be abused in oppression. Many of the forms in which this was done are described by Job (chapter 24).
(2) "The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning." It is the means of his living; and once earned, no more belongs to the employer than does the property of any other person. Huge injustice is practiced by those who take long credit from tradesmen, who thereby are put to the utmost straits to meet their business claims and those of their families.
III. A TENDER RESPECT FOR THE CONDITION OF THE AFFLICTED.
1. "Thou shalt not curse the deaf."
(1) Thou shalt not be enraged should a deaf man be unable to render the service of one who has his hearing. So it is unreasonable to blame for not having rendered service those who were not informed that such service was expected.
(2) Thou shalt not curse, in his presence, a man that is deaf, because he is deaf and cannot hear it. So neither in his absence must a man be cursed, who is in the same case with the deaf, and cannot defend himself.
2. "Nor put a stumblingblock before the blind."
(1) To do this literally would be a wanton cruelty.
(2) Traps must not be laid for the unwary to their hurt, viz. in things material or in things spiritual (see Romans 14:13).
3. "But thou shalt fear thy God."
(1) Afflictions do not spring from the dust. They come from God or are permitted by him. To take advantage of them or to trifle with them is therefore to tempt the Lord.
(2) The tear of the retributive justice of Heaven should restrain (see Luke 17:1). Biblical history abundantly proves that the law of retaliation is a law of God. - J.A.M.
I. INTEGRITY IN DAILY TRANSACTIONS - HONESTY. "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely" (verse 11). "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him" (verse 13; see verses 35, 36). Nothing could be more explicit than this, nothing more comprehensive in suggestion. No member of the Hebrew commonwealth could
(1) deliberately appropriate what he knew was not his own, or
(2) rob his neighbour in the act of trading, or
(3) deal falsely or unrighteously in any transaction or in any relation, without consciously breaking the Law and coming under the displeasure of Jehovah.
The words of the Law are clear and strong, going straight to the understanding and to the conscience. Every man amongst them must have known, as every one amongst us knows well, that dishonesty is sin in the sight of God.
II. INTEGRITY IN OFFICIAL DUTY - JUSTICE. (Verse 15.) It is a pitiful thought that, in every nation, justice has been open to corruption; that men placed in honourable posts in order to do justice between man and man have either sold it to the highest bidder or surrendered and betrayed it from craven fear. God's clear word condemns such rank injustice, and his high displeasure follows the perpetrator of it. He who undertakes to judge his fellows must do so in the fear of God, and if he swerves from his integrity in his public acts, he must lay his account with heaven if not with man.
III. INTEGRITY IN WORD - TRUTH. "Ye shall not lie one to another" (verse 11). This, too, is a universal sin. Some nations may be more prone to it than others, The weak and the oppressed are too ready to take refuge in it; it is the resort of the feeble and the fearful But it is also used with shameful freedom and shocking unconcern, as an instrument of gain and power. God has revealed his holy hatred of it. "Ye shall not lie." "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord;" "the Lord hateth a lying tongue" (Proverbs 12:22; Proverbs 6:17). Under the gospel of Christ, we are earnestly warned against it (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). We are reminded that it is
(1) a wrong done to our fellow-men ("we are members," etc.), and
(2) closely associated with heather habits (the "old man," etc.); and we may remember that it is
(3) a habit most demoralizing to ourselves, as well as
(4) something which utterly separates us from our Lord, being so contrary to his Spirit and so grievous in his sight. - C.
I. IN RESPECT TO CONDUCT.
1. In judgment justice should be impartial.
(1) Pity for the poor is, in the abstract, good. Yet must it not lead us to favour them against the right (Exodus 23:3).
(2) Respect for those who enjoy rank and station is not only lawful but laudable. But this must not lead us to favour them in judgment (see James 2:1-4).
(3) The balances of justice are those of the sanctuary. They are true. They must be held by an impartial hand. It must not tremble under the excitement of pity, or of hope, or fear.
2. In dealings justice should be strict.
(1) "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people." Pedlaring is the vice here interdicted. This is rather the meaning of the word (רכיל) rendered "talebearer." Tramps, who have no settled residence, are oftentimes dishonest, and otherwise so dangerous to society, that every nation has its vagrant acts to control them.
(2) The Jews in their dispersion are much given to pedlaring. It has been to them a necessity owing to the unfriendly laws of the nations with respect to them. How dreadfully their sin has been visited upon their head when their necessities urge them to violate their law!
(3) Pedlars have, amongst other evils, been notorious tale-bearers. By the slanders they have circulated not only has the peace of families been invaded, but communities and nations have been embroiled. The Jews say, "One evil tongue hurts three persons - the speaker, the hearer, and- the person spoken of" (see Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 20:19).
3. The evils of injustice are serious.
(2) Slander may have this result without the intention of the slanderer. Who can control a conflagration? (see James 3:6)
II. IN RESPECT TO MOTIVE.
1. "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart."
(1) He is thy brother. He has a common fatherhood with thee in God. He has a common nature with thee.
(2) He is therefore amenable with thee to the same tribunal. God, the Judge of all, surveys not the conduct only, but also the motive.
2. "Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour."
(1) Not to reprove his sin is to hate him. This is eminently so when he hath trespassed against thee. To conceal it in such a case is to nurse wrath against the opportunity for revenge (2 Samuel 13:22). Such conduct is utterly at variance with the spirit of the gospel (see Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3).
(2) To "suffer sin upon him" is to be an accomplice in his sin. The words may be construed, "nor bear his sin." This suggests that the accomplice, with the guilt, is also obnoxious to the punishment of the sinner. Men wreak their vengeance upon themselves.
(3) In rebuking we should remember that the sinner is our "neighbour." It should be done in a neighbourly way. Thus, as far as practicable, privately. "Charity covereth a multitude of sins," viz. from others, though not from the sinner. And kindly. It is thus more likely to be well received, as it ought to be (see Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 27:5, 6).
3. The root of justice is love.
(1) "Thou shalt not avenge." This is another way of saying, "Thou shalt forgive." With the spirit of vengeance there can be no peace in the world. God says, "Vengeance is mine ;" he claims the right to avenge because he alone is superior to all retaliation.
(2) "Nor bear any grudge." Thou shalt not insidiously watch the children of thy people. How the Jews violated this law in their malignity against Jesus! (see Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; Luke 14:1; Luke 20:2).
(3) Contrarywise, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This is the spirit of the Law as well as of the gospel. The same Holy Spirit of love is the author of both (see Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:39; Romans 13:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 9:19; Galatians 5:14). - J.A.M.
1. It was twice quoted by our Lord (Matthew 19:19 and Matthew 22:39).
2. It shows us the Law as closer to the gospel than we are apt to think; it proves that, under the old dispensation, God was not satisfied with a mere mechanical propriety of behaviour, that he demanded rightness of feeling as well as correctness of conduct. We have -
I. THE BROAD PRINCIPLE OF GOD'S REQUIREMENT. Man is to "love his neighbour as himself" (verse 18). No man, indeed, can
(1) give as much time and thought to each of his neighbours as he does to himself, and no man
(2) is so responsible for the state of others' hearts and the rectitude of their lives as he is for his own. But every man can and should, by power of imagination and sympathy, put himself in his brother's place; be as anxious to avoid doing injury to another as he would be unwilling to receive injury from another; and be as desirous of doing good to his neighbour who is in need as he would be eager to receive help from him if he himself were in distress. This is the essence of the "golden rule" (Matthew 7:12).
II. THE ROOT FROM WHICH THIS FEELING WILL SPRING. How can we do this? it will be asked. How can we be interested in the uninteresting; love the unamiable; go out in warm affection toward those who have in them so much that is repulsive? The answer is here, "I am the Lord." We must look at all men in their relation to God.
1. God is interested, Christ is interested in the worst of men, is seeking to save and raise them; do we not care for those for whom he cares so much?
2. They are all God's children; it may be his prodigal children, living in the far country, but still his sons and daughters, over whom he yearns.
3. The most unlovely of men are those for whom our Saviour bled, agonized, died. Can we be indifferent to them?
4. They were once not far from the kingdom, and may yet be holy citizens of the kingdom of God. When we look at our fellow-men in the light of their relation to God, to Jesus Christ, we can see that in them which shines through all that is repelling, and which attracts us to their side that we may win and bless them.
III. THE FRUITS WHICH HOLY LOVE WILL BEAR. There are two suggested in the text.
1. Forbearance; "not hating our brother in our heart," "not avenging or bearing any grudge against" him. Without the restraints and impulses of piety we are under irresistible temptation to do this. Unreasonable dislike on our brother's part, injustice, ingratitude, unkindness, inconsiderateness, features of character which are antipathetic to our own, - these things and such things as these are provocative of ill will, dislike, enmity, resentment, even revenge on our part. But if we remember and realize our brother's relation to the common Father and Saviour, we shall rise to the noble height of forbearance; we shall have the love which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).
2. Restoration by remonstrance, Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." Instead of nursing and nourishing our indignation, allowing our brother to go on in the wrong, and permitting ourselves to become resentful as well as indignant, we shall offer the remonstrance of affection; we shall "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering" (2 Timothy 4:2). We shall try to win our brother back to that path of truth or righteousness which he has forsaken; so shall we "gain our brother" (Matthew 18:15), instead of "suffering sin upon him." This is the conquest of love, the crown of charity. - C.
I. WHAT WAS THE PRIMARY PURPORT OF THIS TRIPLE LAW. We need not be surprised if we find here another aid to purity of heart and life, another fence thrown up against immorality. Idolatry and immorality, both of the very worst description, had covered and dishonoured the land of Canaan. It was of the last importance that the people of God should be guarded in every possible way against infection and guilt. Therefore the wise and holy Lawgiver instituted various measures by which his people should be perpetually reminded that they must be absolutely free from these heinous crimes. And therefore precepts which intimated the will of Jehovah in this matter were bound up with their daily callings and their domestic life. Our text is an illustration. In the management of their cattle, in the cultivation of their fields, in the making and wearing of their clothes, God was whispering in their ear, "Be pure of heart and life." Everything impressed upon their minds - these precise injunctions among other statutes - that there must be no joining together of that which God had put asunder, no mingling of those who should keep apart, no "defilement" (see Deuteronomy 22:9), no "confusion" (chapter 20:12). By laws which had such continually recurring illustration they would have inwrought into the very texture of their minds the idea that, if they wished to retain their place as the people of God, they must be pure of heart and life.
II. SECONDARY TRUTHS WHICH THIS LAW SUGGESTS.
1. It suggests simplicity in worship; there may be such an admixture of the divinely appointed and the humanly imported, of the spiritual and the artistic, of the heavenly and the worldly, that the excellency and the acceptableness will be lost and gone.
2. It suggests sincerity in service; in the service of the sanctuary or the sabbath school, or in any sphere of sacred usefulness, there may be such a mingling of the higher and the lower motives, of the generous and the selfish, of the nobler and the meaner, that the "wood, hay, and stubble" weigh more than the "gold, silver, and precious stones" in the balances of heaven, and then the workman will "lose his reward."
3. It suggests also the wisdom of taking special securities against specially strong temptations. God gave his people very many and (what seem to us) even singular securities against the rampant and deadly evil which had ruined their predecessors and might reach and slay them also. The circumstances and conditions of the time demanded them. Exceptional and imperious necessity not only justifies but demands unusual securities. Let those who are tempted by powerful and masterful allurements to
take those special measures, lay upon themselves those exceptional restraints which others do not need, but without which they themselves would he in danger of transgression. - C.
I. THAT THE STATUTES OF THE LORD MUST BE KEPT. These require:
1. That there be no unnatural mixtures.
(1) For the examples furnished, sound economic and hygienic reasons may be given (verse 19).
(a) Cattle which God ordered "after their kind" (Genesis 1:25), are not to be let to gender with diverse kinds. Hybrids are degenerated creatures; they are monsters; and they are withal unfruitful.
(b) Mingled seed must not be sown in the field. The plants of both kinds in such a case are found to be inferior (Deuteronomy 22:9). The land also is impoverished.
(c) Garments of mingled flax and wool are not to be worn. The mixture would induce electrical disturbances impairing to health.
(2) But the spirit of the law is moral. The people of God are taught by it to avoid everything that would compromise their simplicity and sincerity (2 Corinthians 6:14). They must avoid marriages with the ungodly. In business they must be careful not to join in ungodly partnerships. In friendships they must choose those who are of the household of faith (James 4:4).
2. That atonement be made for sin.
(1) The case (verse 20) is that of a slave dishonoured and stilt held in bondage, who, through a subsequent offense, which, if she were free, would merit death (see Deuteronomy 22:24), is now punished with scourging. The degree of guilt is modified by circumstances; and punishment is moderated accordingly (Luke 12:47, 48).
(2) But before the man can be forgiven he must confess his sin over a guilt offering. He must bring a ram. This was a well-known type of Christ, without whose atonement, no matter what scourging our sin may have brought upon us, there can be no forgiveness.
3. That the fruit of a tree uncircumcised must not be eaten.
(1) For this law there are good economic reasons. It hurts a young tree to let the fruit ripen upon it; and therefore to circumcise it, or pinch off the blossoms of the first three years, will improve the quality of its fruit. In the fourth year, then, the fruit will be in perfection.
(2) But the spirit of this law also is moral.
(b) First thoughts and forward desires are vanity, and must be rejected as coming from the flesh (see Genesis 2:11). To let them ripen is to injure the character.
(c) In the fourth year, when the fruit is in perfection, it is consecrated to God as the "firstfruit," which therefore is not always that which comes first in order of time, but the best. The service we render to God after the removal of inordinate desire by converting grace, is our firstfruit, or best service.
(d) As to the fourth year, Christ who is the "Firstfruit" and "Firstborn of every creature," or Anti-type of the firstborn of every kind of creature, appeared amongst us in the fourth millennium of the world. And when he comes again it will be to introduce the fourth dispensation, viz. the millennial. The three dispensations preceding we need scarcely specify to be the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian.
(e) In the fifth year and thenceforward, the fruit was sanctified to the use of the owner. The consummation of our felicity will be in that glorious state to succeed the millennium, the "new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." We note -
II. THAT THE CUSTOMS OF THE HEATHEN MUST NOT BE FOLLOWED.
1. Nothing must be eaten with the blood.
(1) At the time when animal food was granted to man the blood was reserved. The reservation corresponded to that of the tree of knowledge of good and evil when vegetable food was granted. In each instance the prohibition was given to common progenitors of the race, and therefore universally obligatory. Noah stood to the "world that now is" in a similar relation to that in which Adam stood to mankind at large.
(2) The Noachian precepts in general were violated by the heathen, and in particular this precept respecting blood. The psalmist refers to the custom amongst the Syrians when he says, "Their drink offerings of blood will I not offer" (Psalm 16:4). And in these words there is a prophetic abhorrence of antichrist, who not only sets aside the Law of God by authorizing the eating of blood, but professes to drink the very blood of Jesus in the cup of the Mass.
(3) The penalties of this abomination are tremendous. As in Eden the eating of the forbidden fruit became death, so in the Noachian precept God requires the blood of the lives of those who will eat flesh with the life thereof which is the blood (Genesis 9:4, 5). Babylon who is also "drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus," is therefore doomed to drink blood, for that she is worthy (Revelation 17:6; Revelation 16:3-6).
2. Superstition must be shunned.
(1) Thus augury is to be discouraged (verse 26). This (נחשׁ) nachash, or divining, may have been by fire or serpents. "Nor observe times," nor consult the clouds. The heavens were their gods, and the clouds they naturally regarded as their aspects toward men, as indicating their intentions. The revealed word of the true God is sufficient for all lawful purposes of sacred knowledge.
(2) Distractions for the dead are to be discouraged. The heathen customs of cutting the hair and the flesh evinced the insanity of idolatry. Where the faith of a true religion is we have no need to mourn for the dead as those who have no hope. - J.A.M.
I. THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF THE TAINT OF SIN. The Israelites were to regard the very soil of Canaan as so polluted by the sins of its former inhabitants that the fruit which came from it must be treated "as uncircumcised" (verse 23). Idolatry and impurity - the two flagrant sins of the Canaanites - are evils which strike deep and last long in the taint which they confer. Their consequences are penetrating and far-spreading. So, in larger or lesser degree, is all sin. It leaves a taint behind; it pollutes the mind; it mars the life; it makes its fruit, its natural growth and outcome, to be "as uncircumcised," to be unholy and unclean. And this is to an extent beyond our human estimate. If the Israelites had concluded that the iniquities of the Canaanites were to be regarded as polluting the very soil, they would not have reckoned that three years would be required to free the land from the taint of evil. But God made the purifying process extend over this protracted time. He knows that the stain of sin goes deeper and lasts longer than we think it does. What an argument this for expelling the idolatrous and unclean from our heart and life, for cultivating and cherishing the holy and the pure!
II. THE RANGE OF GOD'S CLAIMS. (Verse 24.) Jehovah claimed the firstfruits of the land when the soil was cleansed: "all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord." It was to be given (probably) to the priests. Thus God reasserted and confirmed his claim to all the produce of the land. This law would remind them that the whole soil was his, and that he had sovereign right to dispose of it as lie willed, everything being of him and belonging to him. God claims all as his; and his claim is righteous. For we have nothing but that which we have received from him; we are nothing but that which he has created and preserved. "All our springs are in him," and all that we hold and occupy is his property. When we forget our derivation from him and our dependence upon him, he reminds us, by some providential privation, that we are failing from the spirit of reverence, gratitude, and submission which is the very life of our soul. And it is well for us voluntarily to set aside to his service the firstfruits of our labour, that we may be thus powerfully and practically reminded that we owe our very being and our whole substance to his bounty and his grace.
III. THE BENEFICENCE OF THE DIVINE RULE. By this provision God sought, as he is ever seeking,
(1) spiritual well-being and
(2) temporal prosperity.
By teaching them the truths which this abstinence suggested, and by requiring of them the patient waiting and the childlike obedience involved in the fulfillment of his will, he was disciplining and perfecting their spiritual nature. By giving them leave to pluck and partake for themselves after the fourth year, he provided for their bodily wants and appetites. These two ends God has continually in view in all his providential dealing with ourselves. He seeks our present satisfaction, and also - and far more - our spiritual well-being; our pleasure as children of time and sense, and our perfection as children of the Father of spirits, as followers of the righteous Leader, as temples of the Holy Ghost. - C.
I. IT IS A SOURCE OF PURITY.
1. To the family.
(1) There is a connection between verses 29 and 30. Those who keep God's sabbaths will not profane their daughters either to idolatry or for gain. The fear of God nourished by the one will prevent the other.
(2) In keeping God's sabbaths his sanctuary is reverenced. This furnishes an additional motive to social purity. For the sanctuary, whether it be composed of canvas, or of stone, or of flesh and blood, is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Who then can properly reverence it under one form and desecrate it under another? (see 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 6:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 6:16)
2. To the nation. "Lest the land," etc. (verse 29).
(1) The family is the root of the nation. All nations extant are sprung from the family of Noah.
(2) Nations are blessed or cursed in their families.
(3) God asserts himself here, "I am Jehovah" (verse 30). The character of God is seen in his laws. It is pledged to maintain them.
II. IT ARMS AGAINST THE POWER OF DEVILS.
1. Familiar spirits are more than myths.
(1) Their existence is not here challenged, but admitted (verse 31; see also Acts 16:16, where the fact is put beyond question).
(2) Pretenders to the unenviable distinction, as well as persons actually possessed of such devils, are here held up to reprobation.
2. The fear of the Lord will preserve us from them.
(2) But godly persons will avoid them. They could not so reflect upon the wisdom and goodness of God that he should leave anything for our advantage to be communicated by wicked spirits. Spiritualism is a devilish delusion. Pride and selfishness will lead men into the snare.
(3) In this prohibition God asserts himself, "I am Jehovah thy Elohim." He is our covenant Friend, who will so fully satisfy our lawful desires that we shall not need recourse to wicked expedients. He will also be our defense against the devices of the devil.
III. IT INSPIRES COURTESY.
1. Respect for age (verse 32).
(1) With age there should be the wisdom of experience, and this should be honoured by youth. Caryl well says, "He that wears the silver crown, should be honoured in his capacity as well as he that wears the golden crown."
(2) In respecting age we are to "fear Jehovah Elohim," our covenant God, whose blessings are from father to son and from generation to generation (Genesis 17:7; Isaiah 51:8; Luke 1:50). In the aged mart we should see the representative of the "Ancient of days" (Daniel 7:22).
2. Civility to strangers.
(1) "Thou shalt not vex," or oppress, "him;" but treat him as though he were a native. "Thou shalt love him as thyself." How tradition obscured this law when the question was prompted, viz. "Who is my neighbour?"
(2) The Hebrew is reminded, in connection with this injunction, how bitterly he suffered in the land of Egypt from the operation of the opposite principle. He is also reminded how odious to God was that cruel oppression from which he brought him out, and therefore how, if he would conciliate his favour, he must act from a different principle.
IV. IT PROMOTES JUSTICE.
1. In judgment.
(1) In the administration of law.
(2) In arbitration.
2. In dealings.
(1) Measures and weights must be true to the standards. These were kept in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple (chapter 27:25; 1 Chronicles 23:29). Religion and business must not be divorced.
(2) To use false balances, or weights, or measures is worse than open robbery. It is abominable hypocrisy. It is robbing under the very colour of equity. God claims the authorship of these laws (verses 36, 37).
1. They are worthy of him. He must be infatuated with ignorance or wickedness who would laud the "Roman virtue" in opposition to the "narrow spirit" of the Mosaic code.
2. They were eminently calculated to secure the happiness of the nation at home, and to promote its credit abroad.
3. Let us "observe" the Law of God to understand it, and, understanding, "keep" it. Then happy shall we be. - J.A.M.
I. ONE SACRED DAY IN EVERY SEVEN. "Ye shall keep my sabbaths." God has wrested from an exacting, rapacious world one-seventh of human life, and given it to us for the culture of the soul, for spiritual growth, for sacred usefulness. The observance of the sabbath is an act of
(1) filial obedience to God, and
(2) wise regard for our own true welfare.
II. A PLACE FOR SOCIAL WORSHIP. "Ye shall reverence my sanctuary." We have all the advantage of social influences, the impulse which comes from association, to impress, to direct, to establish the soul in heavenly wisdom. We should worship regularly at the sanctuary, because
(1) we should not draw so near to God elsewhere, or gain in any other place such spiritual nourishment;
(2) worship there helps to devotion everywhere.
III. DEVOTEDNESS OF HEART TO X DIVINE BEING-. "I am the Lord." Not the ineffectual endeavour to fill and feed, to nourish and strengthen the soul with admirable abstractions; but holy thought and sanctifying feeling gathered round a Divine One: directed toward him who says, "Trust me, love me, follow me, exalt me." - C.