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 (שְׁמִטָּה, from שָׁמַט, 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
claims on their benevolence (גֵּר). 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
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
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
“redemption” was the
appeal at the basis of
THE CASE OF GOD’S PEOPLE NOW!
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).
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
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
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.
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 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.
mind be free from the love of money (ἀφιλάργυρος - 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
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 (בְּלִיַּעַל),), 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
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
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.
be presented by their poorer brethren (v. 11).
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)
violation of the spirit of the Law (v. 9).
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:
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.”
thou shalt remember that thou wast
a bondman in the
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
(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
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.
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.
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, πάντα δὲ γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα –
panta de gumna kai tetrachaelismena – all 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.
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
be offered with confession of sin (see Leviticus 16:21). All the several
ordinances which were spread over different sacrificial services in
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.).
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.”
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