2 Samuel 13:12
And she answered him, No, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not you this folly.
The plea of Tamar, "no such thing ought to be done in Israel," is interesting, as showing that the sentiment was prevalent amongst the Israelites, morally imperfect as they were, that they were not to be as the nations around them; that practices prevalent elsewhere were altogether out of keeping with their position and calling "It may be so elsewhere; but it must not be so in Israel." A similar sentiment as to what is statable and becoming is appealed to in the New Testament. Christians are exhorted to act "as becometh saints" (Ephesians 5:3; Romans 16:2), to "walk worthy of the Lord," "worthy of their vocation," etc. (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1).
I. THE GROUNDS OF SUCH A SENTIMENT. Why should the people of God regard themselves as under special obligations to live pure and holy lives?
1. The character of their God. "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy" was the language of God to Israel (Leviticus 11:44); and it was repeated to Christians (1 Peter 1:15, 16). The injunction could not have been addressed - cannot now - to the worshippers of other gods.
2. Their own consecration to God. Israel was separated by God from other people to be his own people, devoted to the practice of purity and righteousness (Leviticus 20:24, 26). All their history, laws, and institutions had this for their aim, and were adapted to it. In like manner Christians are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7), chosen of God, "that they should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4). The Son of God is called Jesus, because he came to "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The purpose of his love and self-sacrifice for them is to "redeem them from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14, Revised Version). This aim is expressed by the rite by which they are consecrated to God and introduced into his kingdom - it is a baptism, a washing from uncleanness. For this they are united into a holy fellowship, with sacred ministries and services, and godly discipline; and all the inspired instructions and admonitions addressed to them, and expounded to them by their teachers, have manifestly the same end and tendency. With all and above all, the Spirit which dwells amongst them and gives life and reality to all their communion, worship, and service, is the Holy Spirit, and his work is to regenerate and sanctify their nature, and produce in them all goodness.
3. The wonders by which they have been redeemed and consecrated. Ancient Israel, by a long succession of supernatural revelations, marvellous miracles, and providential interpositions. The Church of Christ, by the incarnation of the Eternal Word, and all that followed in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, and the miraculous bestowment and works of the Holy Ghost. Yea, every true Christian is himself, as such, a product of the Spirit's supernatural power, being "born again," "born of the Spirit" (John 3:3, 6). Thus it is that this "holy nation" is perpetuated in the earth.
4. Their privileges and hopes. "The children of Israel" were "a people near unto God" (Psalm 148:14). He was their "Portion;" they enjoyed his special presence, guidance, government, and defence. In a yet more emphatic sense Christians have God as their God, enjoy constant union and communion with him, and are assured of his love and sympathy, care and protection. Moreover, to them is given, more clearly and fully than to the Old Testament Church, the hope of eternal life. And what is this hope? It is that of seeing God and being like him (1 John 3:2), of becoming "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but...holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27), presented "faultless before the presence of his glory" (Jude 1:24). It is to be admitted into the "New Jerusalem," into which nothing unholy can enter (Revelation 21:27). The condition of realizing this blessedness is purity of heart - that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord" (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14). it is clear that in such a community nothing unholy "ought to be done," however common elsewhere. Such things are utterly inconsistent with their position, their knowledge, their professions, and their prospects.
II. THE CONDUCT WHICH THIS SENTIMENT CONDEMNS. We need not dwell on gross sensuality, such as that against which the words of the text were first used. They were appropriate then, because the standard of morality "in Israel" was so much higher in respect to such practices than in the surrounding nations. But the respectable part of general society in our time and country recognizes "no such thing" as Amnon proposed as lawful. And as to many other departments of morality, the moral standard of society has been elevated by the influence of Christianity. In using the words, therefore, we do well to think of practices which are permitted or at least thought tightly of by others, but which are nevertheless contrary to the precepts or spirit of our religion. Amongst these may be named:
1. Selfishness. Including covetousness, worldly ambition, illiberality, etc., with the disregard or violation of the claims and rights of others that are allied to them. These are common enough in Christian countries, but ought not to exist amongst Christian people, whose religion is a product of Divine love, whose great Leader and Master is the incarnation of love, who have received numberless precepts enjoining the love of others as of themselves, and have been assured that love is greater than faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13), much greater, then, than religious ceremonies, and ecclesiastical forms and observances. Covetousness in particular is closely associated in the New Testament with sensuality, as a vice not even to be named amongst Christians, and is declared to be idolatry (Ephesians 5:3, 5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 5:10, 11);
2. Pride. Whether of rank, or wealth, or intellect. Holy Scripture, in both Testaments, abounds in precepts and examples against pride. The Lord Jesus "humbled himself" in becoming man, and in the whole of his life on earth, and frequently enjoined humility on his disciples, and reproved every indication of a proud spirit in them. Common, therefore, as pride is in the world, "no such thing ought to be" in the Church.
3. Similar remarks may be made as to unkindness, the revengeful spirit, the unforgiving spirit, quarrelsomeness, uncharitableness, evil speaking, and the like.
4. To these may be added .frivolity, gaiety - dissipation, a life of mere amusement, with no serious, worthy purpose or pursuit. These are not becoming in those who are enjoined to work out their salvation with fear and trembling; to be sober and vigilant because of the activity of Satan in seeking their destruction; to deny themselves, etc. (Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 9:23).
5. Indifference to the spiritual welfare of others. The gospel brings into prominence the claims which men have upon Christians in this respect. Jesus very solemnly warns against "offending," others, even the least, by doing or saying what would lead them into sin or hinder their salvation (Matthew 18:6, 7). He repeatedly teaches his disciples that he gave them light in order that they might "shine before men," and so lead them to glorify God (Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 4:21, 22). St. Paul commends the Philippians for their "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel," and urges them to "strive" on its behalf (Philippians 1:5, 27, Revised Version). St. Peter enjoins that "as every man hath received the gift," he should use it for the good of others, in teaching and ministering (1 Peter 4:10, 11). And in general, the cause of Christ is committed to his disciples, that they may sustain and extend it both by active service and by pecuniary gifts. To the discharge of this duty by others we owe our own Christian privileges and character. If we disregard it, we display ingratitude, unfaithfulness to our Lord, insensibility to his great love to ourselves. Unconcern as to the salvation of men is natural enough in men of the world, but "no such thing ought to be" found amongst Christians. Finally, in the absence of specific precepts, we may settle many a doubt as to our duty by considering whether the act or habit in question is suitable and becoming in those who profess themselves earnest disciples of Jesus Christ; whether it is in harmony with his spirit and character, and conducive, or at least not hostile, to our spiritual benefit, or that of others. - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.