This is what the LORD says: "Maintain justice and do what is right, for My salvation is coming soon, and My righteousness will be revealed.
Jeremiah 17:19-27; Ezekiel 20:11-21; Ezekiel 22:8, 26; Nehemiah 13:15-22; cf. 2 Kings 11:11-16 with 1 Macc. 2:32-38). Its estimation rose with the estimation of prayer (Cheyne).
I. THE DUTY OF OBEDIENCE. The Law is "the objective rule of life, the Law of Jehovah." Or, with others, "equity, justice." And the "practice of righteousness" is ever a necessity with him. The more so as every serious crisis draws on. My salvation is near - the kingdom of heaven is at hand. A crisis means a time of sifting and separation. "God's salvation is not indiscriminate. And the grounds on which he distinguishes his people from his enemies are not external, but internal. It is the Israel within Israel, the spiritual circumcision, the holy seed, that he acknowledges, vindicates, rescues, glorifies" (Cheyne).
II. SABBATH-KEEPING AS AN EXPRESSION OF OBEDIENCE. How significant the sabbath in the institutions of Judaism! True, the seventh day belonged also to Babylonian religion, but we know its beauty and its blessing through the Jews. It was a sign of the great standing covenant between God and the nation (Exodus 31:13-17). By this the Jews were marked as a nation. Narrow notions, Puritan superstitions, have gathered about the sabbath; still, the idea of it is very beautiful. Ewald brings it under the idea of sacrifice of time. It is the representative of the duties of the first table (Ezekiel 20:11-21). But mere sabbath-keeping avails not without the honest heart and the upright life - the man must "keep his hand from evil."
III. THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE UNIVERSAL. The prophet would remove a misunderstanding. The beatitude is universally applicable to those who keep God's commandments. The foreigner might be anxious about his position in the spiritual commonwealth. For there were exclusive injunctions directed against him (Deuteronomy 23:4-7). During the Captivity probably an exclusive spirit was growing; it may be observed in the restored exiles (Nehemiah 13.). They are here assured that they shall be admitted to the spiritual commonwealth on an equal footing with the Jews. National barriers are broken down before the new expansive spirit of love. There was also a law against eunuchs (Deuteronomy 23:2). But this disability is also to be removed. This class of men may stand for the outcast and degraded in general. They are to be admitted to communion, and are to receive some "trophy and monument" (1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 18:18) in the temple itself - provided they have been faithful to the commands and covenant of Jehovah. Probably a spiritual and everlasting memorial is meant (cf. Revelation 3:12; Matthew 26:13). Then the foreign proselytes who should
(1) join them to the Lord,
(2) with intent to serve him,
(3) and who should love the Name of the Lord,
(4) who should be his servants,
(5) who should keep his sabbaths,
(6) and take hold of his covenant, were to be admitted to all the privileges of the chosen people.
The same terms of salvation were to be applicable to all. In 1 Kings 8:41-43 Solomon prays that God should do "according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for." In Psalm 135:19, 20 the proselytes are called to bless Jehovah, after the house of Israel, of Aaron, of Levi.
IV. THE BLESSINGS OF THE HOUSE OF PRAYER. All shall be brought to God's holy mountain - shall be admitted to the one sacred fellowship. They shall be made joyful by the revelation of the Shechinah - the presence of the Eternal in his power and mercy. Their offerings (those of the proselytes) shall be accepted on his altar. There should be no invidious distinctions. The house should be a "house of prayer to all peoples" (cf. Matthew 21:13). Moreover, other nations, not now of Israel, would be united to the one spiritual stock. The exiles in distant lands would be gathered; also other Gentiles of whom the proselytes are the firstfruits - "other sheep not of this flock" (John 10:16) - and they will become fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). The race - "on a level with respect to moral character, all having sinned and come short of the glory of God - is on a level with respect to redemption; the same Saviour died for all, the same Spirit is ready to sanctify all. The wide world may be saved, and there is not one of the human race so degraded in human estimation by rank, or colour, or ignorance, who may not be admitted to the same heaven with Abraham and the prophets, and whose prayers and praises may not be as acceptable to God as those of the most magnificent monarch who ever wore a crown." - J.
Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment.
(F. A. Alexander.)
( M. Henry.)
I. SHOW WHAT LIES WITHIN THE POWER OF THE UNCONVERTED; AND WHAT, THEREFORE, THEY ARE BOUND TO DO IF THEY HOPE FOR, CONVERSION. We apply this direction to the case of every individual, whatever his station in society; and we consider it as requiring of him a more diligent attention to the duties of that station, as preliminary to his obtaining a single share in the mercies of redemption. If he be living in any known sin, let him renounce it. God's Spirit, so to speak, is scared away by his intemperance, his lust, his uncontrolled tempers, and if he would hope for visitation from this Spirit, let him strive to sweep the chamber, and to garnish it for its reception.
II. THE PERFECT HARMONY OF THESE STATEMENTS WITH THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE. We are accustomed to preach to you the insufficiency of works, in helping forward that justification which is purely of faith; and now we seem to teach the vast importance of works, and those, too, works wrought by mere human strength, as distinctly instrumental to human salvation.
1. The throwing of a man upon certain resources which we hold him to possess, is not representing him as able to advance one step without God. It is God's own appointment that we should use the strength which we have, before more is imparted; and since we only teach submission to this appointment, there can be nothing of interference with the freeness of grace.
2. Our representation of the duties of the unconverted, if they desire conversion, must be correct, inasmuch as it is formed altogether on a Scriptural model. We refer you to the preaching of John the Baptist, as furnishing this model.
3. There is a difficult passage in the history of our Lord's ministrations, which can only be explained on the supposed truth of what we have advanced. When the young man came to Jesus, and demanded what good thing he must do that he might have eternal life, the Saviour replied, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
4. We admit that, if a man reform his life under the idea that the reform is meritorious, he may possibly be no nearer conversion i but if he attempt to reform, simply as a preliminary, he shall, surely, be thereby brought unto greater fitness for the reception of grace; and yet the grace when it comes shall have lost none of its characteristics, but still be grace the very freest and the most undeserved.
5. Again, salvation is a thing of faith, not of works. The very desire after conversion pre-supposes faith. If a man do not believe in the coming wrath, he can have no wish for a change that is to secure him against the outbreak of that wrath i and in exhorting him unto an immediate fighting against sin, we exhort him to bring his faith into practice.
6. The individual who goes out into the arena of life and makes an effort in his own strength to overthrow evil, will be a hundredfold better taught the moral decrepitude of man, by the little progress that he makes, or the defeat that he sustains, than another who sits down in his closet and seeks to ascertain his native insufficiency by throwing his power into a balance, or computing it by a process of mathematical calculation.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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