When you build a new house, then you shall make a battlement for your roof, that you bring not blood on your house…
The different directions here given may be reduced to one idea, that of genuineness. The houses were to be substantial edifices, not endangering the lives of others by defective buildings or deficient battlements. The vineyards were to be sown with pure seed, that the plants might have a fair chance of growing luxuriantly. The ploughing was not to be done by an ox and ass together, for though the oxen are so small in Palestine as to be yokeable with an ass, the contrariety in temper and inequality in power would prevent good work. Linsey-woolsey was to be avoided as poor stuff compared with either woolen or linen alone. And finally, the fringes were to be made upon their garments, to be at once a finishing and a distinction in the clothes of the chosen people. God gave them thus a uniform. The great idea here, consequently, is that God's people should be distinguished by the genuineness and honesty of their life-work. Carlyle's preaching against shams is here forestalled, and we may surely learn from the directions here such lessons as these -
I. TO BE THOROUGH IN ALL OUR WORK. This is God's great lesson for us in his own government of the world. The beauty of the flower of the grass, which is to perish and be cast into the oven so soon, tells us to be microscopically minute and thorough in the most transient work. There are no short cuts through "shoddy" to real worth and real usefulness; but all should be genuine if we would serve our generation by the will of God.
II. LET US NOT BE ASHAMED TO BE CALLED GOD'S PEOPLE AMID LIFE'S HARD WORK. The Israelites were to wear their fringes, to go in uniform, and be pious peasants. The linking of genuine work with professed piety is altogether admirable. "Sublimer," says Carlyle, "in this world know I nothing than a peasant saint, could such now anywhere be met with. Such a one will take thee back to Nazareth itself: thou wilt see the splendor of heaven spring forth from the humblest depths of earth, like a light shining in great darkness." What we need is genuine piety to secure conscientious work. We shall not have better work till we have better men. Saintly workmen would discover for us the way back to Eden.
III. LET US FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF THE PEASANT OF NAZARETH. For our Lord became poor, and wrought as an artisan, and lived with the common people, to make a life of labor forever glorious. Nowhere do pride and vanity receive such reproof as in the life of him who wrought so nobly in Nazareth. And when he exchanged the carpenter's bench for the work of the ministry, it was only to work harder than before. "He went about doing good." "He had no leisure so much as to eat." So busy was he that he had frequently to steal from sleep the time for prayer. In his example we have the ideal of genuine, hearty labor, and so far as we follow him shall we be safe and happy. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.