Deuteronomy 15

 

 

     THE YEAR OF RELEASE FOR THE BENEFIT OF DEBTORS AND

                     THE EMANCIPATION OF HEBREW SLAVES.

 

To the prescription of a tithe for the needy there is added a regulation for the behalf of

debtors. The Israelites were not only to help the poor, but they were to refrain from

what would be a hardship and oppression to them. Debtors, consequently, were not

to be deprived of the benefit of the sabbatical year, for at the close of each seventh year

there was to be a release. This does not imply that the debt was to be remitted, but

only that the debtor was not then to be pressed for payment. As during the sabbatical

year the land lay uncultivated, and the debtor consequently would earn nothing, it was

reasonable that he should not then be pressed for payment. A law that every seventh

year debts should be remitted, would have frustrated itself, for on such conditions no

one would lend, and so there would be no debtors. This is an addition to the law

of the Sabbath year (Exodus 23:10-11; Leviticus 25:2-7).

 

1 “At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.” Release.

The word thus rendered (hF;miv], from fm"v;, to leave, to let lie fallow) occurs only

here and in v. 2; in Exodus 23:11 the cognate verb is used, and from this the word is

best explained. The debt was to be left in the hands of the debtor, as the land was to

be let lie or left untilled for that year.

 

2 “And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor” -  literally, master of

 the loan of his hand, equivalent to owner of what his hand has lent to another.

Compare the expression “the debt of every hand” in Nehemiah 10:31; (Authorized

Version, “the exaction of every debt”) - “that lendeth ought unto his neighbor” –

here, fellow-Israelite - “shall release it; he shall  not exact it of his neighbor,” - 

literally, press or urge his neighbor, i.e. to pay – “or of his brother; because it is

called the LORD’s release.” - rather, a release  for Jehovah is proclaimed; the

sabbatical year, like the year of jubilee, was proclaimed, and it was for Jehovah,

in His honor, and in accordance with His ordinance.

 

3 “Of a foreigner” - a stranger of another nation, having no internal social relation

to Israel (yrik]n;), as distinguished from the stranger who lived among them and had

claims on their benevolence (rGe). Of such they might exact a debt, without regard to

the year of release. This rule breathes no hatred of foreigners, but simply allows the

Israelites the right of every creditor to demand his debts and enforce the demand

Upon foreigners, even in the sabbatical year. There was no severity in this, because

foreigners could get their ordinary income in the seventh year as well as in any other -

 thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine

hand shall release;”

 

4 “Save when there shall be no poor among you;” -  rather, only

that there shall be no poor among you; this ordinance is not intended

to prevent creditors seeking the payment of their just debts, but only to

prevent there being poor in the land. The reason assigned is that the Lord

would greatly bless them in the land which He had given them, so that the

creditor would be no loser by refraining from exacting his debt from his

brother in the seventh year -“for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the

land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:”

 

5 “Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to

observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day.”

This blessing, though promised and certified, should come only if they

were careful to observe and do all that God commanded them.

 

6  For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as He promised thee: and thou

shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt

reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee.”  The for at the

beginning this verse connects this with v. 4 - thou shalt lend - The verb in Kal

signifies to borrow on a pledge; in Hiph. to lend on a pledge, as here; it is a

denominative from the Hebrew noun signifying pledge.

 

 

Divine Checks on Human Greed (vs. 1-6)

 

In this paragraph the institution of the sabbatical year is presupposed (Exodus

23:9-13; Leviticus 25:2-7). During this year the land was to rest, and it would

doubtless be conducive to after-fruitfulness to give the soil this respite, by letting

it lie fallow every seventh year, for at this time the effect of the rotation of crops

was unknown.   We by no means affirm that such was the only reason for the

appointment; yet nothing hinders us from regarding it as a reason. In that year

there was to be a general remission of debts. To all appearance, there would,

however, be one social danger arising from so peculiar an arrangement. Human

nature, as regards capacity, aptitude, tact, kindness, hardness, etc., would differ

as greatly among Hebrews as among any other peoples. There would be the wise

manager, and the man who knew not how to manage at all. There would

be some easily “taken in,” and others watching for an opportunity of

enriching themselves at another’s expense. And among the harder men, the

thought would naturally arise, “Well, if I must not work to increase my

gains that year, I will at least secure all that I ought to have, by collecting

all debts due to me, and this I will do with rigor.” Now, here comes in this

law mercifully guarding the weak against the rapacity of the strong,

compelling men, at least outwardly, to show some regard for those who

are somewhat behindhand in the race for life, and preventing the more

successful ones from so exacting from poorer men as to reduce them to

helpless dependence upon others. The following points may be noted.

 

o       The sabbatical year is here assumed, ut supra.

o       This year debts were to be remitted, — not cancelled,

but pressure for payment was to be postponed.

o       Thus there was to be an enforced pause in the accumulation

of wealth.

o       The sentiment of kindliness and forbearance as well as of

justice in business life, was thus taught.

o       At the same time, there is a safeguard against the Hebrews

being trifled with by foreigners by a misuse of this law.

A foreigner (one who was so in all respects) might incur a

debt in the sixth year, thinking that, as a Hebrew could not

press for it the next year, he should have a long respite;

while, as he was not bound by the Hebrews’ Law, he

could press for debts due to him! This would have been

unequal. Hence God guards Israel against such

inequality, and says, as a foreigner is not under this law so

far as debts due to him are concerned, so neither is he

included in it with regard to debts incurred by him; and

the release is not intended to operate where its

operation cannot be equal all round.

o       Moreover, there is in this law no encouragement to

mendicancy, but rather such a check on pressure by the

rich, and such an inculcation of regard for the poor, that

beggary may be a thing unknown among them.

The word “beggar” does not occur once in the Mosaic

institutes. Surely in all    this there is abundance of material for

teaching from a Christian point of view. The formal institution

here referred to has passed away. But, if we follow out the

formula already laid down, that forms change, but

principles never, — we cannot be at a loss for an exposition

of the ethical teaching which this paragraph suggests for all

time. (In fact, the Mosaic legislation given by God would

have gone a long way towards eliminating poverty!” – CY

– 2012)  The spirit of this law is the same as that of the

weekly Sabbath. Both have a beneficent tendency, limiting

the rights and checking the sense of property:

 

§         the one puts in God’s claims on time,

§         the other on the land.

 

The land shall keep a Sabbath unto the Lord. “The land

is mine.” Let us, then, study the Divine checks on human

greed, as they are shown to us in the teaching of the New

Testament.

 

  • WE HAVE THE DISTINCT DECLARATION, “YE ARE NOT YOUR

OWN.  This is far wider and deeper than any analogous statement of

Moses. For while Israel had been redeemed out of Egypt, so that God said,

“I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee,” (Isaiah 43:3),

we must all feel how infinitely short that comes of the tender pathos in

I Corinthians 6:19-20; I Peter 1:18-19. The phrase, “Ye are not your own,”

must needs cover the whole ground of all that we are and have. As

redemptionwas the appeal at the basis of Israel’s life, SO IS IT IN

THE CASE OF GOD’S PEOPLE NOW!

 

  • WE ARE REDEEMED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE FOR GOD BY

LIVING FOR OTHERS. We are expected to have “the same mind”

Which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:1-8). Note the argument

involved in II Corinthians 8:7, 9; also that in Romans 14:7.  See the purpose

of Christ’s redeeming work, as stated in Titus 2:14; and also the law of the

Christian life in Galatians 6:1-10. In these passages there is so much of duty

indicated with regard to others, that though little of minute detail is now

specified, yet Christian men cannot go far wrong if their lives are regulated

thereby (I Corinthians 10:24).

 

  • THE PROHIBITION OF OUR LORD AGAINST COVETOUSNESS IS

VERY STERN AND STRONG. (See Luke 12:13-21.) At every stage of that

paragraph there is some new and startling light in which the evil of covetousness

is seen.

 

Ø      It cherishes a totally mistaken view of life  (v.15).

Ø      It is perilous (v.20). Hence:

Ø      It is foolish (vs. 20-21). Strong checks these! Far stronger than

Israel’s.

 

  • THERE IS A DIVINE STIGMA UPON COVETOUSNESS. (See

Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5.) It is idolatry. It is giving to creature

objects the regard which is due only to God. He would have us “in His

 light see light,” and regard the greed of gain as an abominable thing.

 

  • THERE IS A DIVINE RULE FOR LABOR. It is given us in

Ephesians 4:28. The observance of this precept would prevent the

social evil arising from covetousness on the one hand, and would create the

good accruing from benevolence on the other. “Let him labor in order that

he may have the wherewith to give!” How truly sublime! It is like the

benevolence of God.

 

  • THE CHRISTIAN TEACHER HAS SPECIAL INJUNCTIONS FOR

THE RICH, with the giving of which he is charged. (I Timothy 6:17-19.)

Thus the Christian code is by no means less comprehensive than the

Mosaic. On the contrary, it is far more so. It is equally stringent in allowing

no one to think of his property as his own.

 

 

  • OUR GOD WOULD WIN AS WELL AS WARN.  “Let your turn of

mind be free from the love of money (ajfila>rgurov  - Aphilarguros

not fond of money).” Why? “Because Himself hath said, I will in no wise

fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee” – (Hebrews 13:5;

(see also II Peter 1:4). We are permitted, in Christ, to call God “ours,”

to find in His love our joy, in His wisdom and strength our stay, in His wealth

our supply. Hence WE OUGHT TO BE LIFTED UP ABOVE ANY

CONSUMING CARE and to be loyally obedient to God’s will in the

sanctified use of all that we have (Matthew 6:33). Let any one set side by

side the Mosaic regulations in the paragraph we have just been considering,

with the seven considerations adduced from New Testament teaching. Let him

compare them with one another. And, if we mistake not, he will find more than

ample material on the height, the breadth, the depth, and the length of

Christian ethics, as covering the entire ground of the relations of man to

man and of man to God, and as requiring no less exactitude in detail

through less detail being specified. It is said (and we fear it is said truly)

that the great hindrance to God’s work in the world is that the Christian

name does not carry with it Christian morality. Ah! if it did, how luminous

would such morality appear! Let but the above considerations be

universally acted out, on all sides, and:

 

o       no more strife between capital and labor would ever be known.

o       The rich would neither oppress, nor despise, nor neglect the poor;

o       the poor would no longer be jealous of the rich.

 

Both would recognize their mutual relation to and need of each other. While,

with universal righteousness and kindness, mendicancy would be a thing

unknown. And never, never, till there is a new principle of love infused

through the various classes of society, will such a consummation be

attained! Still, however sad our hearts may be as we consider how far we

are off from the mutual regard between owner and laborer which even

Moses enjoined, let each of us feel his personal responsibility for

fidelity to the Divine Law. Only as this is felt and discharged by each,

can it be felt and discharged by all. The Lord make us and all men to

abound in good will, and may the supreme benevolence which has its source

in heaven flow o’er the world as a pure river of water of life!

 

 

The reference to the release in vs. 7-11, leads to a prescription regarding readiness

to lend to the poor. They were not to harden their hearts against their poorer brethren,

nor were they, in the prospect of the year of release, to refuse to lend them what was

necessary for their uses, but, on the contrary, were to open their heart and their

hand to them according to their need, lest the poor should appeal against them to

God, and sin should lie upon them.

 

 

7 “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any

of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou

shalt not harden thine heart,” - literally, make strong, so as to suppress

natural compassion and sympathy - “nor shut thine hand from thy poor

brother:”

 

8 “But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him

sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.” - literally, the sufficiency of

 his need which he needeth, i.e. whatever he might need to meet his requirements.

 

9 “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart,” - literally, a thing in

thy heart worthlessness, i.e. a thing which is worthless and unworthy. The word

used is belial (l["Y"liB]), which does not denote that which is wicked so much as that

which is worthless. Thus, “a man of Belial” is a worthless fellow — not necessarily

a wicked man (compare 13:13) - “saying, The seventh year, the year of release,

is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him

nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.”

 i.e. entail guilt upon thee, and so expose thee to the Divine displeasure.

 

10 “Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved” - literally,

shall not become evil, i.e. shall not entertain a grudge. They were to give, not

grudgingly or of necessity, merely through dread of God’s displeasure, but cheerfully

and spontaneously “for God loveth a cheerful giver”(II Corinthians 9:7). For

this God would bless them in all their works, so that they should not only be no losers,

but should be gainers, by their generosity -“when thou givest unto him: because

that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in

all that thou puttest thine hand unto.”

 

11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command

thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor,

and to thy needy, in thy land.”  They were to open their hand wide to their

poorer brethren, for there should always be such in the land. This statement is not

inconsistent with that in v. 4, for there it is the prevention of poverty by not dealing

harshly with the poor that is spoken of; here it is the continuance of occasion for the

relief of the poor that is referred to.

 

 

The Duty of Kindness to the Poor (vs. 7-11)

 

There seems to be at first sight a discrepancy between the phrase in v. 4 and that in v.11.

The former is, “Save when there shall be no poor among you;” the latter, “The poor

 shall never cease out of the land.”   The phrase in v. 4 is equivalent to, “Simply,

that there be no poor among you,” i.e. this or that was an appointment in Israel, in

order that the number of the poor might be reduced to a minimum, and that

those who were poor might not become abjectly so. But no such external law could

ever prevent some from falling back in the race. As long as men’s constitutions,

capacities, and characters were widely different, so would their measure of

success be. A leveling of circumstances could be brought about only through a leveling

of men.

 

Such genial enactments as the one in vs. 1-6 might prevent beggary, but would not do

away with poverty. “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” This phrase is

not to be regarded as indicating a Divine appointment that it should he so, but as a

Divine declaration that it would be so. As long as men are what they are, and the

varied features of temperament and ability continue as they are, so long will there be

abundant scope for THE EXERCISE OF SYMPATHY AND KINDLY HELP!

The points noticeable in this paragraph are five.

 

  • Year after year fresh claims on the kindly help of the prosperous would

be presented by their poorer brethren (v. 11).

 

  • These claims were to be generously and even gladly met, as if it were a

delight. The word for, yea, even the conception of, a beggar, as we now

understand it, is entirely absent from the Mosaic statutes. Honest and

diligent work is supposed to be universal; though it might not be

uniformly skilful or successful.  (Genesis 3:17-19)

 

  • The desire to evade any obligation thus presented, was a wicked

violation of the spirit of the Law (v. 9).

 

  • The cry of the neglected or oppressed poor would rise up to God, and

be heard.

 

  • The Lord would remember the, sin of cruel neglect and unkindness,

or of haughty coldness.

 

This section we will deal with as an inculcation of social duty. We need not ask

whether, in our New Testament standard, kindness to the poor is enjoined? That is

understood. Our one query is this:

 

  • NOW THAT WE ARE UNDER CHRIST, AS OUR LEADER, HOW IS

THE DUTY OF KINDNESS TO THE POOR PUT AND ENFORCED?

 

Ø      That duty which Moses enjoined as the leader and legislator of

Jehovah’s people, our Lord Jesus Christ set on the ground of His own

sovereign right, and enforced by His own example. In that wondrous

chapter of John’s Gospel, the thirteenth, we are told that, when our

Savior had washed His disciples’ feet, He told them that He had given

them an example that they should do as He had done to them, and also

said, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.

If I then, your Lord and Master , have washed your feet; ye

Also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).   We cannot

suppose that this one act of kindness and condescension was merely

 meant to be literally followed. It must have been a kind of representative

deed, in which our Lord virtually said, “In whatever way you may comfort

or soothe a worn and weary brother by ministering to his wants, do not

shrink from doing it, even though it may involve many a lowly, self-

sacrificing act.” Surely this covers the ground indicated in this paragraph,

and includes the duty of giving to the poor and helping the needy,

whatsoever their need may be.

 

Ø      Our Lord regards the poor and needy as His poor:  all, generally,

because He died for them; some, especially, because He lives in them.

Hence, whoever would act towards them so as to show them the

power and glory of a living Savior’s sympathy, must let the poor feel

through him the warm touch of a tender Savior’s love. Our Lord said

in His intercessory prayer, “As thou hast sent me into the world,

even so have I also sent them into the world” (John 17:18).  Thus

believers are to act in the world in the name and on the behalf

of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the friends and benefactors of men.

 

Ø      Our Lord reckons a kindness shown to men for His sake, as if it were

done to Him (Matthew 25:34-40).  Even in the Old Testament we get

a thought akin to this (Isaiah 63:9). But in the New Testament the truth

is more clearly defined (Acts 9:4, where it is presented to us in

connection with the reverse of kindness). Christ and His people are

one; and a kindness done to men, out of love to Him, is done to Him.

 

Ø      Of so much importance is this kindness to the poor for Christ’s sake to

be reckoned by us, that we are to watch for and seize opportunities of

doing “good unto all men, specially to them that are of the

 household of faith” (Galatians 6:10); yea, so laboring, we are even

to support the weak (I Thessalonians 5:14); recalling those priceless

words which an apostle was mercifully led to save from the peril

of unrecorded sayings, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”

(Acts 20:35).  Whenever and wherever there is presented to us a case

of genuine need, there is an opportunity for honoring our Savior

which we must not suffer to pass by unimproved.

 

Ø      There are New Testament warnings against the neglect of the poor,

which are not only not less severe than any in the Old Testaments —

they are even more so. We may arrange them in three classes, giving

one example under each:

 

v     I John 3:17: If a man can knowingly neglect the poor, God’s

love is not in his heart. Where love dwells in the heart, there will

be corresponding words on the tongue, and corresponding

blessings in the hand.

 

v     James 2:5-9; 5:1-4: The Apostle James declares that to neglect

or despise the poor is sin against God; and that the cries of

oppressed poverty will be heard in heaven.

 

v     Matthew 25:31-46: Our Lord has explicitly told us that in the

Day of judgment, the one test which will be applied to men,

and by which their destiny will be decided, will be that of

kindness to the poor for His sake!

 

Where that has been, penitence and faith have wrought out in love. Where that has not

been, there has been no love, and, consequently, neither faith nor penitent obedience.

It is not necessary to be openly wicked and profane, in order to incur rejection by the

Great Judge at last. There may have been not a single vice which shocked society or

violated outward propriety. Be it so. Even then the absence of the activities of love

will be a man’s ruin. He who has not lived to save his brother will not himself be

saved. A piety that is known only by negatives will be disowned by our sovereign Lord;

while genuine, active, unselfish love, though it may have had but a limited sphere for

service, oft shedding a tear that it could do no more, will meet with the holy Master’s

loving recognition, and will receive His gracious reward!

 

 

From injunctions regarding the treatment of the poor and of debtors the transition IN

Vs. 12-18 is  easy to the law concerning slaves, inasmuch as it was through the stress

of poverty that  any became such from among their brethren. The law, as here laid down,

is the same as that in Exodus 21:2-6, somewhat expanded; the most important addition

being that  the slave is not only to go free after six years of service, but is to be

furnished by his master with the means of setting up a home for himself. The six

years  here specified are not to be confounded with the years ending at the sabbatical

year;  they are any six years during which the individual has been in bondage.

 

12 “And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto

thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go

free from thee.  13  And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt

not let him go away empty:  14  Thou shalt furnish him liberally” - literally, shalt

lay on his neck, i.e. thou shalt load him. The meaning is well expressed in the

Authorized Version. This is the new prescription added to the earlier law - “out of thy

flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the

LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto Him.”

 

15 “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt,

and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing

to day.”  Compliance is enforced by the consideration that the Israelites had been

themselves bondmen in Egypt, and had been redeemed out of that bondage by God

(compare ch. 5:15; 10:19; 16:12; 24:18, 22;  Exodus 22:21; 23:9; Leviticus 19:34).

As God had dealt by them, so it behooved them to deal by others in like condition and

need.

 

16 “And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he

loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee; 17 Then thou shalt take

an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant

for ever. And also unto thy maidservant thou shalt do likewise.”  It might happen,

however, that the slave chose rather to remain with his master than to be manumitted,

and in that case he was not to be forced to go free, which would be a hardship to him,

but was to be, by a formal process of nailing his ear to the door of his master’s house,

constituted his slave for life (compare Exodus 21:5-6). This was not a painful

operation, especially as the servant’s ear was probably already pierced for a

ring; nor does any infamy appear to have been attached to the bearing of

this badge of perpetual servitude. There is no mention here, as in Exodus,

of the matter being referred to the judges; and this has led some to suppose

that, by the time this later prescription was given, the earlier usage had

passed away; but it is more natural to suppose that this usage was so

regular and well known that it was needless formally to announce it.

 

18 “It shall not seem hard unto thee, when thou sendest him away free

from thee; for he hath been worth a double hired servant to thee, in

serving thee six years: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in

all that thou doest.”  Where a slave determined to have his freedom, the

master was to set him free without grudge; for he hath been worth a double

hired servant to thee, in serving thee six years; literally, double the hire of a

hireling he hath served thee six years, i.e. he hath saved to thee as much

again as it would have cost thee to pay a hired laborer to do the same

amount of work.

 

 

THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE FIRSTBORN OF CATTLE (vs. 19-23)

 

19 “All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt

sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of

thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep.  20 Thou shalt eat it before

the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose,

thou and thy household.  21 And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be

lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the

LORD thy God.  22 Thou shalt eat it within thy gates: the unclean and the

clean person shall eat it alike, as the roebuck, and as the hart.  23 Only thou

shalt not eat the blood thereof; thou shalt pour it upon the ground as water."

 

In ch.12:6, 17 and in 14:23, reference is made to sacrificial meals, and to the

appropriation of the firstlings of the herds and flocks thereto; Moses here

reverts to this, and gives a fuller exposition of it. It is enjoined that, as all the

firstborn were to be sanctified to the Lord (Exodus 13:2-13), they were not to

work with the firstborn of their cattle, either by yoking the bullock to the

plough or wagon or by shearing the sheep: these belonged to God, and

were not to be put to any vulgar uses of men; year by year they were to be

brought to the sanctuary, offered as sacrifices, and eaten before the Lord.

If any of the firstborn animals were blind, or lame, or in any way blemished,

SUCH WERE NOT TO BE OFFERED TO THE LORD  but might be used

as food in their ordinary places of residence (compare Leviticus 22:19-20).

 

 

Sacrifices to be Without Blemish (v. 21)

 

A reference to passages in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers,

will show the frequency with which the injunction here contained was

insisted upon, and the importance attached to it. Sacrifices offered to God

MUST BE WITHOUT BLEMISH!   It taught two things in the region of law,

and also two things in the sphere of grace.

 

Under the Law:

 

o       That in the eye of the All-pure One, every moral flaw or defect was an

offence, and therefore could not be accepted by Him.

 

o       That as man was guilty before God, he could not, on the reckoning of

bare law, be well-pleasing in the eyes of a righteous Being, to whom all evil

was an abomination.

 

Under grace:

 

o       That a flawless sacrifice was to be selected and offered to God by, and

in the name, and on the behalf of, the guilty one.

 

o       That such flawless sacrifice, if offered in sincerity and penitence of spirit,

would be accepted on his behalf. Now, we are not left to interpret the type

as best we may, nor are we called on to offer the symbolic sacrifice. The

antitype has come. The reality is ours. And an inspired interpretation of

ancient rites is given us by apostles and prophets of our Lord and Savior

(Hebrews 9:14; I Peter 1:18-19; Ephesians 5:27; II Peter 3:14;

Jude 1:24; Revelation 14:5). With such teaching before us, we can see

a six-fold significance in our text.

 

  • HERE IS A DIVINE APPEAL TO THE CONSCIENCE. It says, in

language which ought never to be mistaken, “the least speck of sin is an

offence to God;” and guilty man cannot, on the ground of his own right,

have any standing-ground for an instant before Him. It is said that in the

later days of the Jewish economy, when the offerer brought his sacrifice,

the slaughterer (who was other than the priest) took a two-edged knife and

ran it from the nape of the neck down the spine, laying it bare. Not

infrequently this would disclose a dark spot: this was a blemish; the animal

was unfit for sacrifice, and had to be cast away. Hence the allusion in

Hebrews 4:12, which, so understood, has in it marvelous power. For

this blemish did not appear on the surface, it came not out to the light till

the spinal marrow was exposed to view. Hence, see Hebrews 4:13,

especially the marvelous phrase, “pa>nta de< gumna< kai< tetrachlisme>na

- panta de gumna kai tetrachaelismenaall yet naked and having been

bared  - Every creature is “opened” unto the eyes of Him with whom is our

account. And though exterior conduct may be such as to commend itself to

the eye of man, yet in the “marrow” of one’s being there may be a sin

which is an offence to God. May be? There is. There are sins upon sins,

and there is sinfulness, which is the root and ground of all. And hence it

must be the case that sinful man has no right, on the ground of his own

merits, to expect acceptance before God.

 

  • HERE IS A DIVINE INVITATION TO FAITH. There was to be a

sacrifice chosen, without blemish, which was to be presented by and on

behalf of the offerer (John 1:29). God has provided a Lamb for a burnt

offering, and for a sin offering too (Genesis 22:8, 13; Isaiah 53:6;

II Corinthians 5:21).  Suffice it here to say that this offering had the dignity

of a Divine Sacrifice, the appropriateness of a human one, and the

sweet-smelling savor” of A PERFECTLY PURE ONE!  Besides which

it had all the spontaneity of a voluntary offering, and all the generosity of a noble

self-surrender for the sake of others; in making which the Redeemer was

satisfied. And this offering which INFINITE LOVE HAS MADE, loving

faith may take and call its own; and abandoning all pretence to a

standing-ground in native right, it may find an everlastingly firm one in

sovereign grace!

 

  • HERE IS A DIVINE CALL TO PENITENCE. The sacrifice was to

be offered with confession of sin (see Leviticus 16:21). All the several

ordinances which were spread over different sacrificial services in Israel,

find their varied significances grouped in one, in the attitude of the sinner

before the cross of his Savior.  While we accept the Divine Sacrifice for

sin, penitential confession over sin should ever mark us (see Psalm 51.).

 

  • HERE IS A DIVINE DEMAND FOR RECTITUDE OF HEART.

When we bring our offerings to the Lord, no defect should be knowingly

tolerated by us. Grace gives no warrant to laxity, and true penitence will be

scrupulously intolerant of it (Psalm 66:18). The freeness of pardon to

the penitent involves no modification of ethical stringency, for the fact is,

wherever there is any known tolerance of ill, to that extent penitence does

not exist. God puts away sin by forgiving it, only as we put it away by

repenting of it and casting it off.

 

 

  • HERE IS A DIVINE SUMMONS TO DEVOTION. Jesus died, the

just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God  (I Peter 3:18). And

where a man, sorry for sin, intolerant of the evil in his nature, struggling against

it, and pleading with God to uproot it, casts himself before God in this genuine

uprightness of soul, none of the imperfections over which he mourns shall

prevent the Divine acceptance of such an offering, presented, as it will be,

IN THE NAME OF THE SPOTLESS SON OF GOD!  The virtue of

His spotless sacrifice ensures the acceptance of ours. Every true and

sincere penitent is, on this ground of free grace and dying love, as well-pleasing

to God and as near to His heart as the purest angel before the eternal throne.

The offering to God of a broken and a contrite heart is one which He cannot

and will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

 

  • HERE IS A DIVINE PROPHECY, TO INSPIRE HOPE. These

sacrifices of ours, offered in penitence, faith, and love, are still but

imperfect. And the holiest souls are most alive to such imperfection, and

most sorrowful over it. Hence it should be no small joy to find in the Word

of God precisely the same expressions used to express the future purity

of believers that are employed to indicate the perfection of the

Redeemer’s sacrifice. As the one Great Sacrifice was “without blemish

 and without spot,” so all those who are themselves living sacrifices to

God, shall be “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians

5:27).  He who received them at first on the ground of His own purity,

shall create in them a spotlessness like His own. They shall be

without fault” before the throne of God Revelation 14:5).  And He who

died for them shall then present them as His own! Have we not here

(in conclusion) a remarkable illustration of what the Apostle Paul so often

speaks of as THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD!   Each one

of these six steps is a fresh aspect of it:

 

Ø      The first shows the righteousness of God in taking cognizance of sin;

Ø      the second, the righteousness of God in offering a spotless sacrifice

for sin;

Ø      the third, the righteousness of God in requiring penitential

acknowledgment of sin;

Ø      the fourth, the righteousness of God in demanding intolerance of sin;

Ø      the fifth, the righteousness of God in accepting our consecration in

 the name of a SINLESS ONE  only when we penitently put away sin;

Ø      the sixth, the righteousness of God in ensuring that those who are

living sacrifices to Him shall ultimately be perfectly freed from

all sin!

 

Thus from beginning to end “grace reigns through righteousness, unto

eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21).  Now unto Him

that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before

 the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God

our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now

and ever. Amen.”  (Jude 1:24-25)

 

The First for God (vs. 19-23)

 

As GOD IS SUPREME  so His claim to recognition and obedience must have

consideration prior to all other claims. Such priority is His indefeasible right; SUCH

PRIORITY BEST SUBSERVES THE INTERESTS OF MEN!   The first day

of the week He claims and hallows; the firstfruits of the soil He claims for religious

offering; the first place in our affections He asks as His due; the firstborn, both of man

and of beast, He marks as His own. This is His royalty.

 

  • THE REPRODUCTIONS OF LIFE A CONTINUOUS CREATION OF

GOD. It is acknowledged on every side that LIFE CAN ONLY SPRING

FROM LIFE!  No arrangements of material atoms — no processes of

chemical change with which men are acquainted — can produce life. It is a

force unique in itself, and can only rationally be traced to THE CREATIVE

POWER OF A PERSONAL GOD!  The potency to reproduce life, which

God has placed in all the species, “whose seed is in itself, after his kind”

(Genesis 1:11-12; 21; 24-25, 28), is as clearly a demonstration of His creative

energy as if He manifestly and alone created each individual being. We cannot

escape from the conclusion that HE IS THE SOLE LIFE-GIVER!   I kill,”

saith God, “and I make alive.”  (ch. 32:29)

 

  • THE CLAIM OF THE FIRSTBORN ALONE IS A CONCESSION

OF THE FULLEST RIGHTS OF GOD. HE HAS A RIGHTFUL

PROPRIETORSHIP IN ALL LIFE!   But He allows to man, as His liege

vassal, dominion over the inferior races of His creatures (Psalm 8:3-9). 

Acknowledgment of man’s subjection must, however, be made; tribute must

be paid to the Heavenly King. This arrangement is an act of combined justice

and kindness. For man’s highest good, he must be kept in perpetual

remembrance of his dependence and his obligation. If the springs

of gratitude in man’s nature should dry up, his loss would be immeasurable.

Every memorial we have of God is a gospel.

 

  • GOD’S CLAIM AND MAN’S ENJOYMENT ARE IDENTICAL.

This devotement of the firstlings to God was no real loss: it was every way

a blessing. It cherished in them a feeling of filial dependence. It took them

up to the temple, year by year, and so brought them into close contact

with eternal things. It served to link religion with the commonest

 affairs of daily life. It taught them that God found a pleasure in their

enjoyments, and that His commandments were promotive of real

delight.  Thus the acts of Jehovah’s worship were not identified with

fasting and austerity, but with eating and drinking in the sacred temple.

The pleasure was all the greater because it was social. In the banquet

and festivity the whole household partook.

 

 

  • IMPERFECT SACRIFICES PROHIBITED. Very evident is it that

this demand of the firstborn was designed for spiritual instruction.

However great God’s care for our bodily life appears, His desire for our

souls’ well-being is immeasurably greater. By such visible and

impressive methods God sought to teach the Jews that perfection of nature

was God’s design, and that such perfection would alone find a place in His

heavenly temple. The best feelings and aspirations of our nature yearn

 after perfection. He has set “ETERNITY” in our hearts (Ecclesiastes

3:11)  Nothing less will satisfy the mind of God; nothing less will

satisfy us. “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness.”

(Psalm 17:15)

 

 

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