And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
A nation's importance is not to be reckoned according to its size, but more according to the character of its people and of the great men who have belonged to it. That must ever be a distinguished nation which has had a Moses ruling over it, a man with whom God spoke face to face, instructing him by what rules to govern the people. Those rules form a code second to none in history for purity, justice, and completeness. At the head of a number of separate precepts stands the special injunction of the text, calling upon the Israelites to respect the entire Law.
I. A REMINDER THAT IN EVERY PLACE THERE ARE EVIL PRACTICES TO BE SHUNNED. The present position of every individual is an isthmus connecting the continent of the past and the future. Israel in the wilderness journeying from Egypt to Canaan was but like many between youth and manhood, school and business, activity and retirement. Such a transition state may be profitably used as a time of thought and resolution. In no position must we expect freedom from temptation. The conduct of the Egyptians and of the Canaanites must alike be avoided (verse 3). And those who defer religious decision until a season of immunity from danger arrives, may tarry in vain. The wilderness has its lawless manners as well as the settled country. How necessary to be upon our guard lest we be corrupted by the customs of our neighbours! Happy the college, the mart, the home, that is less likely to contaminate than to purify!
II. COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAWS OF GOD IS THE BEST PRESERVATIVE AGAINST IMITATING SINFUL CUSTOMS. He runs quickest away from evil who pursues the good in front of him. Simply to retreat from danger, backing from it, is a slow and insecure method. We want more than negative righteousness, we need positive fulfillment of holy commands to ensure us against adopting odious habits. It is not safe to take men as our patterns of behaviour. "Be ye imitators of God as beloved children," Egyptians and Canaanites were equally unfit to be followed. The Apostle Paul did not set up his own life as a model except in so far as he also imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Obedience is here described in three ways, as doing the judgments of God, keeping his ordinances, and walking therein (verse 4). Great is the privilege that moderns enjoy in having so many copies of God's Word multiplied as to be easily accessible to all. Surely we ought to meditate therein day and night, that we may order our steps thereby.
III. OBEDIENCE MAY BE STIMULATED BY REFLECTION.
1. Upon the right of God to issue commands. "I am Jehovah" is his claim to attention as the Fount of law, and a claim which no thoughtful mind should reject. The ever-living Almighty Holy One possesses in himself every attribute that demands our homage. To withhold it is to violate congruity, to act in a manner out of harmony with what fitness requires.
2. Upon our acceptance of his lordship over us. "I am the Lord your God." We have entered into covenant relationship with him, and we break the terms of agreement if we fail to keep his statutes. The plural form of "God" may, without forcing, be taken here to indicate that the Israelites had deliberately bound themselves to the one Jehovah as their "Gods," instead of the idols of the nations round. God is our Father, how shall we be disobedient children? our King, how can we act as rebellious subjects? our Lawgiver, how can we dare to transgress his commandments?
3. Upon the blessedness attained by observance of God's statutes. "Which if a man do, he shall live in them." Man thought to increase his power by tasting forbidden fruit, but he lost his life, and only regained it in proportion as he returned to obedience. It is true that the impossibility of perfectly keeping the Law foreshadowed the necessity of another way of salvation, but according as the Israelites adhered to the Law in letter and spirit, so they experienced happiness and the favour of God, which is life indeed. We rejoice in the gospel plan of faith in Christ, not as making the Law inoperative, but as enabling us to fulfill its aim, to accomplish its real design - sanctification of life; and therein delivered from thraldom, we enter upon the life eternal that comprehends all blessing. We listen to the Law now, not as if it were the stern prescription of a hard Taskmaster, but as the instruction of a loving, all-wise Friend, which the more closely we follow, the more prosperous our career will be. "Freely we serve, because we freely love." - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,