And the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
Measureless is the distance between man and his Maker. And it is sometimes emphasized in such a way as to repress thought and stifle the aspirations of the human breast. In Scripture it is not brought forward as a rayless truth, but is shown to be replete with profit and joy. To consider it increases humility, indeed, but also intensifies gratitude and love. For the less has been blessed by the Greater, and we are permitted to say, looking upon the attributes of the Eternal as exercised towards us in mercy and favour, "This God is our God: we will rejoice in his salvation."
I. MAN IS IGNORANT: THE GRACE OF GOD IS SEEN IN THE DISTINCT ENUNCIATION OF HIS WILL. The light of reason, the voice of conscience, the promptings of emotion, - these can inform us only to a slight extent of the worship and service likely to be acceptable to God. Hence the surpassing worth of the full, clear-toned, authoritative utterances of Scripture. That God is Spirit, Light, and Love, that he is holy and almighty, are declarations for which we must be devoutly thankful. The Epicureans pictured the happy gods as dwelling in unruffled serenity far from all cognizance of or interference with the concerns of men. Inspiration removes our suspicions, reassures us with the words, "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers." Errors in the manner of our approach are prevented. Some would have presumptuously drawn near without the accustomed offering; others might bring unsuitable gifts - human sacrifices, unclean animals, etc. A God less kind might suffer the people to incur the terrible consequences of ignorance, but not if Nadab and Abihu perish it shall not be for lack of instruction. "Go ye into all the world, teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you."
II. MAN IS FEARFUL AND PERTURBED IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD: IT IS GRACIOUSLY ORDAINED THAT SPECIAL MESSENGERS SHALL BE THE APPOINTED CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION. "The Lord called unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel." When God appeared on Sinai and thundered out His Law, the terrified people implored that God might not Himself speak again lest they should die. Their entreaty was regarded, and Moses became the medium of conveying the mind of God. Should Jehovah be for ever appearing in person, his visits would be attended with such overwhelming awe that the purport of his words might be in danger of being lost or mistaken. When embarrassed, man's thoughts are dispersed, and memory fails. It was better, therefore, that holy men should speak unto men as moved by the Holy Ghost. The striking instance is the assumption of our nature by the Son of God, putting a veil over the features of Deity that weak sinful mortals might draw near without trembling and admire the gracious words proceeding out of his mouth. Even children hear and understand the words of Jesus. And here we may remark that the utterances of the messengers retest be received as coming from the Most High. In the appointed place God talked with Moses, and on his repeating the instructions to the Israelites they were bound to attend to them. It is equally incumbent upon us to respect the decrees of God delivered through prophets and apostles, and above all to honour the Father by honouring the Son, believing his words, trusting him as the Teacher sent from God. Preachers are "ambassadors for Christ." We would give thanks without ceasing when hearers receive the truth from our lips, not as the word of men, but the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
III. MAN IS SINFUL: THE GRACE OF GOD PROVIDES MEDIATORIAL ACCESS TO THE HOLY ONE.
1. Sacrifices appointed. "Bring an offering" without blemish, and place your hand upon its head, to show that it is willingly offered and stands instead of the offerer. And "it shall be accepted to make atonement" for you, to cover your person and works with the robe of mercy and righteousness, so that the Divine gaze may be fastened upon you without displeasure. By the grace of God it was arranged that Jesus Christ should taste death for every man. His was the one offering that, through accomplishing the will of God, sanctifies all who make mention of his name. Who will hesitate to appear before the Most High? Let faith lay her hand upon the Saviour, rejoicing in the conviction that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
2. A priesthood. The Levites were set apart for the service of Jehovah, instead of all the firstborn of Israel. And of the Levites, the sons of Aaron were to minister continually before the Lord, observing all his regulations and maintaining constant purification of themselves, so that without insulting the holiness of God they might interpose between him and his people. Priesthood bridged the chasm between sinful creatures and a pure Creator. The priesthood sanctified the entire nation, which was theoretically a "kingdom of priests." Jesus Christ has concentred the priestly functions in himself. He has entered into the heaven as our Forerunner, to sprinkle the atoning blood on the altar. And now with true heart in full assurance of faith we may draw nigh to God.
IV. MAN'S CONDITION VARIES; THE GRACE OF GOD PROVIDES FOR ITS INEQUALITIES.
1. Notice is taken of the poor, and appropriate offerings permitted. Oriental monarchs often despised and rejected the subjects who were unable to enrich their royal coffers. But God is no respecter of persons. It is one of the glories of the gospel that it has been preached to the poor, and is adapted to their needs. God expects every man to come and testify his respect and affection. The poor may bring "turtle-doves or young pigeons." The way was thus opened for the parents of him who "became poor for our sakes." It is to be feared that many withhold a contribution because it seems so insignificant. But the Lord is as sorry to see the mite retained in the pocket as the gold which the wealthy refuse to part with. "If there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath." Do not decline to engage in Christian work on the plea of defective ability! Surely some fitting department of service can be found. It is often the one talent that is hid in a napkin.
2. The offering of the poor is pronounced equally acceptable. Note the repetition of "it is a sacrifice, of a sweet savour unto the Lord" after the 17th verse. It is rather the spirit than the action itself which God regards. Not the results of labour so much as its motives and the proportion of ability to accomplishment. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,