And when you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was blazing with fire, all the heads of your tribes and your elders approached me,
I. THE FACT OF TERROR. It is not unnatural that man should tremble in presence of any near manifestation of the Divine. The chief cause of this terror is the consciousness of sin. Guilty man fears his Judge. The text is an instance of this terror, but the same thing has often been witnessed.
1. In presence of unusual appearances of nature. Comets, eclipses, unusual darkness, thunderstorms, earthquakes, etc.
2. Under the powerful preaching of judgment. Felix under the preaching of Paul (Acts 24:25). Massillon bringing the French court to their feet in terror, as he described the Lord's coming. Whitfield's oratory and its effects.
3. In prospect of death. There are few in whom the approach of death does not awaken serious alarms. The effect is most conspicuous in times of sudden danger, as in shipwrecks, etc.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF TERROR. Usually, as here:
1. It extorts confession of the truth. The Israelites spoke of God in juster terms than ever they had done before, or perhaps ever did again. Terror draws from the soul strange acknowledgments. The white face of the scoffer shows how little, in his heart, he disbelieves in the God he would fain have disavowed. The self-righteous man is made suddenly aware of his sins. The blasphemer stops his oaths, and begins to pray. The liar for once finds himself speaking the truth.
2. It awakens the cry for a mediator. Thus we see it leading men to send for ministers or lay Christians to pray for them, or crying for mercy to the Savior or to saints.
3. It prompts to vows and promises. In their terrified moods, men are willing to promise anything - whatever they think will please or propitiate God (ver. 27). They will repent, will pray, will go to church, will make restitution for wrongs, will abandon vices, etc.
III. THE INEFFICACY OF TERROR AS AN INSTRUMENT OF CONVERSION. Terror, when excited by just views of sin, has its uses. It breaks up the hardened crust of indifference, ploughs into the nature, and prepares it for the reception of better teaching. But terror of itself cannot change the heart. It is the message of love which alone can exalt, renovate, and truly convert. Not the Law, but the cross. The Law is only useful when employed as a schoolmaster to bring to Christ. These Israelites soon forgot their terrors, and in less than forty days had made for themselves a golden calf. The jailor's terrors (Acts 16:27) would have wrought death, but the words, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," etc. (ver. 31), made him live anew. - J.O.
These words the Lord spake.Jehovah-shammah, "The Lord is there," becomes the covenant of Jehovah-Tsidkenu, "The Lord our Righteousness." As the atoning blood is sprinkled before the broken tables of the Law it teaches us we have indeed all sinned, but that with God in Christ there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. Christ Himself is "the end of the law unto righteousness to everyone that believeth."
He added no more
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THE LAW IS OUR SCHOOLMASTER TO BRING US TO CHRIST. Leighton truly says, "It is a weak conceit, arising upon the mistake of the Scriptures, to make Christ and Moses as opposites. No, Moses was the servant in the house and Christ the Son; and being a faithful servant, he is not contrary to the Son, but subordinate to Him." By showing us what God requires, the law discloses to us our own manifold transgressions, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. It conveys to us much and important instruction concerning God and concerning ourselves. It teaches us His holiness and our unholiness, His righteousness and our unrighteousness, His infinite perfections and our fallen and imperfect condition. Thus the law, when listened to in the spirit of reverence and godly fear, must produce conviction of sin, and prepare the soul for the reception of Christ. It is our schoolmaster for this great end, that by holy discipline and faithful teaching it may lead us to Him in whom alone salvation is to be found, and of whom we read that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth."
II. THE LAW IS THE PERPETUAL RULE OF DUTY TO ALL WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST. In our Divine Surety we see that the law has been perfectly fulfilled, its honour maintained, and its demands fully satisfied. And through His Almighty power, whose purpose is from everlasting, the righteousness which the Lord Jesus presented to the law is imputed to His people — it is unto all and upon all them that believe. It is the spotless robe in which they are accepted now at the throne of grace, and in which they shall be presented hereafter faultless before the throne of glory. How vainly do they talk who speak of the abrogation of the moral law! They forget that He has said, and will perform it, "I will put My laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people." Well, then, might the apostle triumphantly exclaim, "Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the law." Trusting in the Saviour, the believer is secure; but if his faith is genuine and sincere, he will ever seek to have that mind in him which was also in Christ Jesus, and he will be constrained to say, as the Psalmist did, "Oh, how love I Thy law: it is my meditation all the day!"
(W. Niven, B. D.)
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