You must not make idols for yourselves or set up a carved image or sacred pillar, or place a sculpted stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God.
I. THE QUALITIES OF THE RIGHTEOUS DESCRIBED. These are:
1. That they worship the true God.
(1) They make no idols. Graven images. Pillars to memorialize advantages supposed to be derived from false gods. Witness the votive offerings of the papists. They might not superstitiously worship such stones of memorial as Jacob set up to memorialize the blessings of Jehovah (see Genesis 28:18; and comp. 2 Kings 18:4). The images of stone or "stones of picture" (see margin) would probably be statues. Note: men make their idols.
(2) They respect Jehovah. He is the Maker of all things. He is himself uncreate. He is the Covenant Friend of the righteous.
2. That they worship him truly.
(1) By keeping his sabbaths. Memorials of his works of creation and redemption. Pledges of the rest of heaven.
(2) These are: weekly - monthly - yearly - septennial - in the jubilee.
(3) By reverencing his sanctuary. The place of his presence, of his altar, of the congregation of his people.
3. They serve him obediently.
(1) Walking in his statutes. This implies the study of his Word.
(2) To keep his commandments also implies prayer for Divine grace.
II. THEIR BLESSEDNESS ASSURED. They have the promise of:
(1) The elements were to be propitious to them. Seasonable rains. These are very important. They are here mentioned as representing all benign elemental influences - light, heat, electricity, - all which are essential.
(2) The result then is abundance (verse 5). Before they could have reaped and threshed out their corn, the vintage should be ready, and before they could have pressed out their wine, it would be time again to sow.
(3) This was to prefigure the abundance of grace which should mark the times of the gospel (see Amos 9:18).
(1) From the hostility of the elements. No plague should invade them.
(2) From the hostility of men. No warrior should invade them. No robber should trouble them.
(3) From the hostility of animals. Where population is reduced by wars and famines, beasts of prey prowl.
(4) How the faithfulness of God has been verified in the history of his people!
(1) God puts the dread of them into their enemies. They fly before them. Witness the flight of the Syrians in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 7.).
(2) He puts courage into their hearts. Witness the exploits of Gideon, of Samson, of Jonathan and his armour-bearer (1 Samuel 14:6, 12).
(1) This is a blessing of the covenant. It is a real strength to a nation. It is a real strength to a Church.
(2) But outside the covenant mere numbers may prove a formidable evil.
5. Divine favour.
(1) "I will have respect unto you." Contrast with this Hebrews 10:38.
(2) The token of the favour of God is his presence.
(a) His tabernacle was amongst them in the wilderness. What miracles of mercy were shown to them then!
(b) How glorious were the days of Solomon when the Shechinah entered the temple.
(c) His tabernacle was set among his people in the presence of Jesus (John 1:14). But they did not know the blessedness of their day
(e) The glory of the tabernacle will culminate in the new heavens and earth (see Revelation 21:3). All this blessedness was pledged in the emancipation from the bondage of Egypt (verse 13). More fully in the redemption of the gospel typified thereby. - J.A.M.
If thy brother... be sold unto thee.
I. TEXTS RELATING TO SLAVES.
5. Strangers, under certain restrictions (ver. 45).
6. Foreigners, might be purchased (ver. 44).
8. Thieves were sold (Exodus 22:3).
9. Israelites to be kindly treated (vers. 39, 40, 46), and to be liberated after six years (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12); or if they refused to be free, then (Exodus 21:5, 6; Deuteronomy 15:16, 17), when sold to foreigners might be redeemed (vers. 47-55), or be free at the jubilee (vers. 10, 40, 41, 54), but could not demand wife and child procured during bondage (Exodus 21:3, 4); were to be furnished liberally on regaining liberty (Deuteronomy 15:13, 14).
11. If ill-treated by masters, to be set free (Exodus 21:26, 27).
12. Laws respecting killing slaves (Exodus 21:20, 21).
13. If they ran away, not to be delivered up (Deuteronomy 23:15).
II. NOTE ON THE ABOVE TEXTS. Consider —
1. The nature of slavery as practised by the heathen world (the treatment of Israelites by Egyptians).
2. The restraint laid upon these Israelites in their conduct to foreign bondsmen. But for these laws how might these people — who had been slaves of foreigners themselves — have treated foreigners when in their turn they became masters?
3. The relation of Israelitish slaves to Israelitish masters, with their privileges (social and religious), and certain freedom.
4. The causes for which alone they might become slaves.
5. Especially consider that while these laws ameliorated the condition Of slavery as it then existed — eliminating the elements of cruelty, &c., leaving, in fact, nothing of bondage but the name — they paved the way, by the training of justice and mercy, for the total extinction of slavery.
6. Christianity in spirit, precept, and practice against slavery.(1) Asserts that there is no bond or free, but that all are one in Christ.(2) Teaches the fraternity of the race. "God hath made of one blood," &c. "All we are brethren."(3) Strikingly illustrates this by the case of a runaway slave — Onesimus — whom Paul sent back to his master, whom in some way he had wronged, not as a slave, but as a brother beloved (Philemon). Learn:
1. No warrant for modern slavery in the Word of God (Isaiah 58:6).
2. Spiritual slavery the worst form (2 Timothy 2:26).
(J. C. Gray.).
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