Ye are the children of the Lord your God.
I. HOW GOD HAD DIGNIFIED THEM, AS A PECULIAR PEOPLE, WITH THREE DISTINGUISHABLE PRIVILEGES, which were their honour, and figures of those spiritual blessings in heavenly things with which God has in Christ blessed us.
1. Here is election. "The Lord hath chosen thee" (ver. 2); not for their own merits, or for any good works foreseen, but because He would magnify the riches of His power and grace among them. And thus were believers chosen (Ephesians 1:4).
2. Here is adoption. "Ye are the children of the Lord your God" (ver. 1); formed by Him into a people, owned by Him as His people, nay, His family, a people near unto Him, nearer than any other. Every "Israelite indeed" is a child of God; partaker of His nature and favour, His love and blessing.
3. Here is sanctification. "Thou art an holy people" (ver. 2); separated and set apart for God, devoted to His service, designed for His praise, governed by a holy law, graced by a holy tabernacle and the holy ordinances relating to it.
II. HOW THEY OUGHT TO DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES BY A SOBER SINGULARITY FROM ALL THE NATIONS THAT WERE ABOUT THEM.
1. In their mourning. "Ye shall not cut yourselves" (ver. 1).(1) They are forbidden to deform or hurt their own bodies upon any account. This is like a parent's charge to his children that are foolish, careless, and wilful. The true meaning of such commandments is, do yourselves no harm; and this is also the design of those providences which most cross us, to remove from us those things by which we are in danger of doing ourselves injury. The body is for the Lord, and is to be used accordingly.(2) They are forbidden to disturb and afflict their own minds with inordinate grief for the loss of near and dear relations. If your father die, "ye shall not cut yourselves," you shall not sorrow more than is meet, for you are not fatherless, you have a Father who is great, living and permanent, even the holy, blessed God, whose children ye are.
2. In their meat. Their observance of this law would make them to be taken notice of in all mixed companies as a separate people, and preserve them from mingling themselves with their idolatrous neighbours.(1) It is plain, in the law itself, that these precepts belonged only to the Jews, and were not moral nor of perpetual use, because not of perpetual obligation (ver. 21).(2) It is plain, in the Gospel, that they are now antiquated and repealed (1 Timothy 4:4).
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
The beasts which ye shall eat.I. PROVISION, DIVINE IN ITS SOURCE. Israel could not have procured it and would not have known without Divine teaching what was good for them. Recognise that power which can "furnish a table in the wilderness" (Psalm 78:19).
II. PROVISION GOOD IN QUALITY. Nothing unclean, nothing unwholesome, was specified. Not anything was to be eaten apt to stimulate sensual passions, or to foster coarse tastes and degrading habits.
III. PROVISIONS ABUNDANT IN QUALITY. There was no stint in beasts, birds, or fish. The articles of food were nutritious and abundant. God's legislation for our lower reminds us of His care for our higher nature. There is no lack anywhere. Let us remember our Benefactor, for we cannot put a morsel of food into our mouths till God puts it into our hands — discern kindness not only in prescribing, but in prohibiting, and be grateful to "the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1 Timothy 6:17). For a man may be blessed with riches, wealth, and honour; want nothing; "yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof" (Ecclesiastes 6:2).
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
1. A mark of Divine condescension. If kings legislated for the diet of their people, is it beneath the King of Israel to appoint the food for His chosen people? "All that we know of God," says Dr. Cumming, "in creation, in providence, in redemption, leads us to see that He takes as much care of what the world calls, in its ignorance, little things, as He does of what the world thinks, in equal ignorance, great and weighty things."
2. A proof of Divine benevolence. It is kind to provide at all. But what thought indicated, in the choice of animals which multiplied slowly, which were not difficult to obtain, found without leaving the camp, and without danger and contact with heathens around them! All this intended to reclaim and bless.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
Every creeping thing that flieth is unclean1. There is a natural disgust in everyone to the idea of eating, or even handling, a creeping worm or caterpillar. However difficult this feeling may be to analyse, God has given it to the race for some purpose. All things that are abhorrent to our human instincts — things which we call repulsive — are so many indications of the great truth that we are to make distinctions between clean and unclean, good and evil, right and wrong.
2. Now God saw fit to incorporate this natural instinct of man, which He had implanted, in the law for His people. He forbade their eating these repulsive, crawling things. We know how the natural instinct is often overcome by wilful habits, and we find degraded men taking pleasure in those articles of food which the human palate originally and instinctively rejects. Hence the necessity of a law behind the instinct, when God would teach by it His great spiritual lesson.
3. He would teach us that we may in conscience shrink from gross sins, and yet gradually blunt conscience and indulge in sins we formerly abhorred; and that, therefore, a Divine law must be made the norm of our lives, and not simply the protests of natural conscience.
4. We desire to call your attention to a different class of dalliers with sin — not the gross and vulgar, but the refined and elegant. Their refinement is such that gross forms of sin repel them — not because they are sin, but because they are gross. The nauseous caterpillar has dressed itself up as a beautiful butterfly, and in this form they sport with the creature. But what does God's law say? "Every creeping thing that flieth is unclean unto you." The wings and pretty colours have not altered the nature of the vermin. The same uncleanness is there as before. How many there are who would shrink with dismay from overt sensuality, and yet will, in the privacy of the chamber, gloat over a licentious novel! It is the very same crawling thing — only now it has pretty wings.
5. One of the most successful cloaks for sin at the present day is so-called art. Art is something very lovely and refined. It is a grand thing for the young to know all about art. It shows high breeding to admire and criticise art. Now, there is a grain of wheat and a bushel of chaff in all this talk. To one genuine artist who only looks to the art, there are a thousand hypocrites, who know nothing about art, and only adopt the language of art to hide their sinful tendencies. In the name of art they go to see the public performances of a loose woman and watch the movements of a play that makes light of the marriage relation. In the name of art they fill their parlours with nudities, in voluptuous form and colour, by which the youth of the families are stimulated to sensuality and debauchery; and, in the name of art, the young artist sits before his nude model for her destruction and his.
6. In every way luxury can devise, passions are inflamed, and then modesty is called prudery. Indecent dressing, lascivious dances, immoral innuendo in conversation, form part of this refined system of destroying the soul, in which Christians engage because they must he in the fashion. The creeping thing down in a dance house in Water Street they would exclaim against; but the winged creeping thing that flies in the uptown parlour they delight in; yet it is the same venomous beast.
7. Is it right for those who are washed in the blood of Christ, and who seek the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, to enter wilfully into a social life where books and pictures and statuary and entertainments are most unblushingly promotive of sensuality and vicious thought? Is it right to become accustomed to such gilded filth, so that we lose our Christian delicacy and reserve, and at last make impurity a fashionable virtue? Satan is cunning in his temptations. He does not come to us in a vulgar form and so disgust us. He puts the many-coloured wings on the slimy crawler, and so fascinates us into his service. "Beware!"
(H. Crosby, D. D.)
Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk.I. That which commentators upon Scripture have found intricate and uncertain, WRITERS OF A MORE SECULAR CHARACTER HAVE SEIZED UPON AND READ RIGHTLY. Some of you may remember the use made of it in one of those classical works of fiction of which Englishmen are so justly proud; where the intended victim of a deep-laid plot is lured to her destruction by an imitation of her husbands signal, and one of the conspirators says to his more guilty accomplice, "Thou hast destroyed her by means of her best affections. It is a seething of the kid in the mother's milk!" A just and thrilling application of the inspired charge; of which the simplest meaning is the true one. Thou shalt not blunt thy natural feelings, or those of others, by disregarding the inward dictate of a Divine humanity: human nature shrinks from the idea of using that which ought to be the food of a newborn animal, to prepare that animal to be man's food; of applying the mother's milk to a purpose so opposite to that for which God destined it: harden not thy heart against this instinct of tenderness on the plea that it matters not to the slain animal in what particular way it is dressed, or that the living parent, void of reason, has no consciousness of the inhumanity: for thine own sake refrain from that which is hardhearted; from that which, though it inflicts not pain, springs out of selfishness, indicates a spirit unworthy of man and forgetful of God, and tends still further to blunt those moral sensibilities which once lost are commonly lost forever, and with them all that is most beautiful and most attractive in the human character.
II. The text seems to teach us most of all THE WICKEDNESS OF USING FOR SELFISH OR WRONG PURPOSES THE SACRED FEELINGS OF ANOTHER; of availing ourselves of the knowledge of another's affections to make him miserable or to make him sinful; of trifling, in this sense, with the most delicate workings of the human mechanism, and turning to evil account that insight into character with which God has endowed us all, in different degrees, for purposes wholly beneficent, pure, and good.
III. In proportion as you learn and practise early that regard for others' feelings which is almost synonymous with Christian charity, in that same degree will you become, not effeminate, BUT IN THE BEST OF ALL SENSES MANLY; having put away childish things, and anticipated the noblest qualities of a Christian maturity. We pray in the Litany, "From hardness of heart, good Lord, deliver us." Hardness of heart has two aspects; towards man, and towards God. Towards God it is brought about by acts of neglect, leading to habits of neglect; by a disregard of His word and commandments, issuing in what is called in the same petition, a "contempt" of both. Towards man, it is produced in us in a similar way; by repeated acts of disregard, leading to a habit of disregard; by blinding ourselves to others' feelings, and saying and doing every day things which wound them, till at last we become unconscious of their very existence, and think nothing real which is not, in some manner, our own. That is hardness of heart in its full growth; selfishness unrestrained and unlimited. Many people are walking about in that state; with a heart hardened utterly both towards man and towards God. And they pass for respectable men too: in them religion and charity, worship and almsgiving, have become alike workings of selfishness regulated by calculations of self-interest, and never looking beyond earth for their reward. That you may not become thus seared, you must watch and pray, while you can, against hardness of heart. You must practise its opposite. Try to think more than you do of others, and less than you do of yourselves. Enter into the feelings one of another. Think not only what is your right, or what you can get, or what you are used to, in such and such a matter; but also what others would like, what would give pleasure, what would make their life happy, in small things or great; and sometimes do that; form the habit of doing that.
Tithe all the increase of thy seed.I. THE DUTY OF GOD'S PEOPLE. In Jewish law God claimed tithes and gifts for the worship of the sanctuary and the necessities of the poor. Conspicuous features of these demands are — the priority of God's claim — that provision for it be made before man's self-enjoyment, that it bear some suitable proportion to the Divine glory and grace, and that for fullness and power, system is essential; i.e. that the work of God be provided for before man's indulgence (Leviticus 19; Numbers 18:1; Deuteronomy 14:1). The New Testament has also its plan of meeting God's claim, containing the same elements of priority, certainty, proportion and system. See 1 Corinthians 16:2, sustained and illustrated by the weighty arguments and motives of 2 Corinthians 8; 2 Corinthians 9.
II. THE FINANCIAL LAW OF CHRIST. Christ is sole King in His Church. The constitution of this Church is Christian, not Jewish. "As I have given order to the Churches of Galatia, even so do ye." The method taught by the apostle to provide the revenues of the Church is an expansion of Jewish and pentecostal church systems, an example for us, an implied and inferential obligation sustained by cumulative and presumptive argument. New Testament institutions are not given with Sinaitic form and severity. They meet us as sacred provisions for urgent occasions. They appeal to a willing heart more than to a legal mind. Christ rules in love, but His will should not have less authority or constraining power on that account (John 7:17).
III. THE NECESSITY OF THE AGE. The present age needs loftiness of aim, seriousness of feeling, and ardour of devotion. Faithful consecration of substance to God, elevated by Christian love to a financial rule of life, would nourish every moral and spiritual principle in the soul. Storing the Lord's portion is the necessity of the age, from its tendency.
1. To cheek the idolatry of money and to strengthen the love of God in the heart.
2. To meet adequately the demands of religion and humanity.
3. To exhibit the power and beauty of godliness. By fostering simplicity of life and personal fidelity to God. By liberally sustaining the honour of Christ in the sight of men.