When the host goes forth against your enemies, then keep you from every wicked thing.…
After insisting on purity giving power in war (ver. 9), and giving direction to men about putting away uncleanness which may be due to natural causes, Moses urges the precaution, because the All-seeing One walketh through the camp, Inspector of all their ways (ver. 14). The directions here given might have been urged on sanitary grounds, but Moses puts them deliberately upon religious. For the experience among Orientals and Occidentals is that something more than sanitary reasons is needed to overcome man's indolence and keep him clean.
I. CLEANLINESS MAY BE RAISED INTO A PHASE OF GODLINESS. In the proverb it is said to be next to godliness; but here Moses makes it a part of godliness. Religion comes to the aid of science, and helps by its sanctions the wise regulations suggested by science. Witness how painfully slow remedial and sanitary measures are in getting adopted. It would be well if religion could aid the civil power in making sanitation a sacred thing in the eyes of the people, The reason why cleanliness is not more sacred than it is, is a latent Manichaeanism, which seems to lurk in human nature; as if matter were essentially unholy, and could not be made sacred. But the religion of Christ lays hold of body as well as soul, and urges amens sana in corpore sago, and promises the perfection of its idea in a bodily resurrection. There is, consequently, a physical side to our religion, which should find expression in the consecration of cleanliness, and divers washings, and food and drink; all that religion may be a more manly and efficient thing. We believe thoroughly in the religious duty of denouncing dirt.
II. RELIGION IS LIFE SPENT IN THE REALIZED PRESENCE OF GOD. "Thou God seest me" is the watchword of religion. When all our life is brought under his eye, when we believe that the commonest and most trivial things are not beneath his notice, when we desire to hide nothing from him by night or by day, - then the light of his pure being illumines and regulates all, and the highest purity is reached. "Muscular Christianity" is a good idea, if by it we mean that Christianity has a physical as well as spiritual sphere. No efforts of our own, muscular or otherwise, will ever save us; but, being saved by Divine grace, our whole being, muscles and all, is at God's service. Religion in everything is the sense of God all through, and this should be our aim.
III. GOD IS THE CAPTAIN ONLY OF THE PURE. A holy camp is the preliminary to God leading Israel successfully against the enemy (ver. 14). The pure in heart see God and follow him to victory. It is the state of the camp of Israel, not the state of their enemies, that is all important. If Israel is impure, it will soon prove impotent. The pure are, in the long run, the powerful. God is on the side, not of the heaviest, but of the purest battalions. Really religious men are ultimately, under God, victorious. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing.