And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
The rebukes tacitly administered by the Law in cases of unjust dealing are neither effete nor unnecessary in modern days. The practices here reprehended still survive, commercial immorality is even yet a fruitful topic of remark. Temptations to dishonesty abound, and are as potent as of yore, for the springs of evil in the human breast remain unaltered, pouring forth their dark and bitter waters. And whilst it is not by works that the children of God expect to be justified, yet may their good works glorify God; and to guard against the deeds of injustice to which men are prone is to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour. Happy the congregation of Christians none of whose members has ever been convicted of the transgressions mentioned in these verses!
I. THE SIN DESCRIBED.
1. Its main feature is the unlawful possession of another's property, through wrongful acquisition or detention. Force or deceit has been employed in procuring or retaining the goods. This sin may be committed in little things or great, and by communities as well as individuals.
2. Its source is avarice. The eye beholds, the heart covets, the will consents, and the hand grasps, as in the history of Achan, who robbed God (Joshua 7:21). There is thus the evil cooperation of the senses and faculties, sin in inward thought and outward act. The temporary gratification of the flesh is preferred to the durable contentment of the spirit; self is brought into hideous prominence, as if it could never be coincident with the interest of others and of God. It is classed with sins of ignorance because, though wittingly done, the covetous desire seems to blind the moral sight, and man acts as if under the constraint of a foreign power. Beware of greed! it is insidious in its approaches, and awful in its effects.
3. It is aggravated by falsehood. One sin drags another in its wake; avarice prepares the way for lying, even demands it that its designs may be achieved. What has been taken by force is often defended by perjury. The pillars of wickedness are unstable; they need each other's support, for they cannot stand alone in their own native strength. A covetous heart calls for a deceitful tongue.
II. THE REPARATION. Real happiness does not accompany sin; it is a thorny rose, a cup with nauseous elements, a nightmare sleep. Though no human eye detect the wrong, the sinner is guilty, and knows that One above will not recognize the right of might and violence, nor allow his name to be used with impunity as a shield to vice. Remorse tortures the transgressor, until he is driven to confess his crime and to make amends for it. The Law mercifully appoints a salve for the bleeding conscience.
1. Full restitution to the rightful owner. The property stolen or retained, together with an added fifth, is returned as compensation for the injury suffered. Sin is shown to be unprofitable, and no length of possession is allowed to supply a reason for inequitable retention. Lapse of time must never be supposed to bar recovery of rights. Are there no persons in our assemblies to whom this law is applicable?
2. Acknowledgment of an offense committed against God. It was "a trespass against the Lord" (verse 2), and in several respects. His commandments were broken, notably the second, third, eighth, and tenth (Exodus 20). An atonement is required, the sacrifice of a ram, the fat parts of which are burnt on the altar, and the rest eaten by the priests. The two branches of the moral law are closely connected. To violate the one is to dishonour the other. Experience attests their contiguity. Those who best regard the interests of their neighbours are the men that are jealous for the honour of God. Forget not to impress upon children the importance of asking, not only their parents' pardon, but the forgiveness of their heavenly Father when they have acted dishonestly or unkindly. Frequently the newspapers record the receipt by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of money sent because of unpaid taxes. Do the senders always remember that they have sinned against God as well as man; and implore forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ? - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,