Thus said the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary…
The prophet is necessarily expressing himself in the terms of the old dispensation; and he declares, in God's name, that no man who has not received a right spirit ("uncircumcised in heart"), and that no man who has not been admitted to the citizenship of the kingdom of God ("uncircumcised in flesh"), can "enter the sanctuary" - can come into closest contact with, and render holiest service unto, the Lord (see ver. 9). And he further declares that those of his people who had grievously sinned against him by their guilty apostasy should be excluded from the more sacred offices of the priesthood; yet that they should be admitted to the humbler posts of guarding the doors, of slaying 'the sacrificial animals, and of ministering to those priests who were worthier than themselves (vers. 11, 14). The general lesson we learn is that God deals with us graciously and generously, but discriminately. He gives to all his children, but he does not give the same kind, nor does he give the same measure, to all; he is merciful to the penitent, but he does not let his mercy obscure or reduce his righteousness. Those who have done serious wrong "bear their iniquity" (ver. 10), they "bear their shame" (ver. 13); and yet they have their place and do their work in the day of restoration (see vers. 11, 14). In that kingdom of God wherein we now stand we see illustrations of this Divine discrimination in -
I. THE DISPENSING OF THE DIVINE BOUNTY. God gives much to all his creatures, to all his children; but he gives much more to some than he does to others. Herein is no favoritism or injustice. It is simply the presence of a most desirable variety; the conferring upon every one more than he deserves or can claim, and upon some a very large inheritance of good. Not any one of us is entitled to our being, or our comforts, or our powers; but God, in the fullness of his bounty, gives us these. Shall we complain because there are those to whom he has been even more bountifully than he has to us? Shall we not rather rejoice and be grateful that he has not limited his love as he might well have done? In fact, although very much inequality here is due to our own unwisdom, much is due to the variety in the Divine distribution. To some he gives more vigorous health, a clearer or more active mind, a stronger will, a fuller or longer life. Surely gratitude and not complaint is the note of the wise and the good.
II. THE DIVERSITY OF THE DIVINE BESTOWAL OF "GIFTS." While there is no one who may not and who should not bring his contribution to the cause of Christ and of man, it is clear that some may do a much higher and a much greater work than others can. To some it is given to guard the door only; to others to present the sacrifice unto the Lord. Some with a feeble intelligence and a scanty knowledge may be quite equal to a humble post; others with versatile and vigorous powers and a well-stored mind may render most important and vital service. And there are many degrees between the humblest and the highest office in the Christian ranks. Let every man feel that to be or to do anything for Christ is a joy and an honor; let those who are invited to the "chief seats" remind themselves that they "have nothing which they have not received," and let them do everything "as with the ability which God giveth."
III. THE EXERCISE OF DIVINE MERCY. The "Levites that went astray after their idols' were to receive the Divine mercy; they were to be restored to their place in the commonwealth of Israel; they were to be admitted to service at and indeed in the sanctuary (see vers. 11, 14); but they could not wholly regain what they had lost; some of their iniquity (or shame, ver. 13) they would have to bear; at a certain point their privileges stopped. Now, in the kingdom of Christ, we have the same kind of Divine discrimination.
1. There is mercy for those who have gone furthest astray. Into whatever alienation of heart, rejection by the mind, guiltiness of behavior, they have wandered, there is forgiveness to be had in Jesus Christ.
2. The mercy of God means much. It means the absolute pardon of all past sin; the restoration of the soul to the favor and the friendship of God; access, full and free, to his praise, his throne, his table; liberty to serve him in the broad field of sacred usefulness.
3. But there is some serious and necessary qualification. They who have gone very far into wrong-doing, or have spent many years in sinful estrangement, must "bear their iniquity" in one sense - they must suffer the injury which their sin has wrought in the formation of evil habits (mental or physical) which cannot be immediately cast forth; in the loss of reputation which cannot be at once regained; in the enfeeblement of the soul (or, at any rate, the loss of strength and influence that might have been acquired) which has to be endured. Sin means some considerable measure of absolutely irreparable loss. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.