Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then you can tell us everything the LORD our God tells you; we will listen and obey."
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.
I. IT BESPOKE JUST FEELINGS OF GOD'S TERRIBLE MAJESTY, AND THEIR OWN LITTLENESS. It was the beginning of a right acquaintance with Him. The meeting at Sinai was a corrective at once for profane indifference and self-righteous security; it exhibited what God was. They had hitherto heard of Him by the hearing of the ear, but then their eyes saw Him; they were abashed and trembled. Who among the listening myriads could harbour light thoughts of Him with that quaking mountain in their sight, and that voice rolling in their ears? Who among them but must have felt his self-importance annihilated in that blaze of glory, and the conviction filling all his soul, "that men could not be profitable unto God, nor was it any gain to Him that they made their ways perfect"? The majesty of Jehovah burst upon them in its true proportions and splendour. Was it any wonder that they removed and stood afar off? Was it not a proper feeling that led them to retire from the presence, fearful, submissive, and adoring?
Speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee.I. It is his special business and privilege TO APPROACH WITH FREQUENCY INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD, AND TO KEEP UP AN INTIMATE AND FAMILIAR INTERCOURSE WITH HIM, that he may obtain enlarged disclosures of His will, and receive fuller manifestations of His character and excellence.
1. That one and the principal source of their information in reference to Divine things, is the inspired Word of God.
2. The Christian minister is to "go near, and hear what the Lord God says," by a close and enlightened attention to the dispensations of Providence.
3. The Christian minister is to "go near, and hear what the Lord God says," in the frequent and fervent exercise of secret prayer.
II. The other department of duty attached to the ministerial office, as suggested by the text, is THE DECLARATION OF THE MIND OF GOD TO THE PEOPLE.
1. He is to speak unto the people only what God speaks unto him.
2. He is to speak all that God speaks to him. He must away with that base, time-serving principle, that would smooth down, or expunge altogether, the holy truths of God, to meet the vitiated tastes of degenerate men.
II. It was further agreeable to God because IT BESPOKE A NEW FORMED CONVICTION OF THE STRICTNESS, DIGNITY, AND PURITY OF THE DIVINE LAW. The imperfect knowledge of God in which they had hitherto lived must have been attended with very false or defective notions concerning the requirements of the law and the measure of their own obedience. It is hard to say what their views upon the subject may have been, but it is not unwarrantable to suppose that they did not differ herein from their fellow sinners of all times, whose error it has always been to underrate the demands made on them, and to overrate their own payment of obedience. One thing is certain, that they have first discovered an unbending strictness in the law for which they were not prepared, a minute and severe exaction which astonished and confounded them. Before this, their ideas of obedience might have been lax — a few transgressions seeming of little importance; and provision, they might have thought, was made in the law for human weakness, so as to admit to the credit of the doers of the law all not stained with gross crimes or perverse immoralities. But a far better lesson was taught them when they were brought forth by Moses to meet with God: they learned that sin of any the smallest kind, in thought even, was a transgression of the law, and that every sin was capital. Commandment after commandment, as it came from God's voice, only confirmed their condemnation. Overcome with alarm, fearing lest each successive declaration of His will should be the reiteration of their doom, they took advantage of the first pause, and eagerly requested to be relieved from their most uncomfortable condition.
III. The chief propriety of the Israelites' request lay in this: that IT BESPOKE THEIR SENSE OF THE NECESSITY OF A MEDIATOR — of someone to go between them and the dread Majesty of Heaven. Conscious that their sins had separated them from their God, they desired one to be the channel of free, unrestrained communion with Him; one who, without the terrors of the Godhead, could make known the Divine will as he should receive commandment, and take back to the Eternal their submission and their requests. Accordingly, because they could not think of a better, they selected Moses for this office. But the wisdom of Jehovah knew better how to supply their need, and shortly after made known to them His intentions in this matter (Deuteronomy 18:15). You know that our Lord Jesus Christ gave ample proof that He was this prophet who should come into the world. He is the only one who can effectually mediate between guilty man and his offended God. Moses exceedingly feared; but Jesus cannot be disturbed by the awfulness of His own Godhead; yet He has veiled that Godhead in our human nature, that we may come with boldness to the throne of grace, no longer panic-struck by the sight of Sinai. He can best speak to us the things that God shall say, for He is in the Father, and the Father in Him. Such a Mediator God has given, according to His promise; and, because a sense of our need of a Saviour is the best preparation for accepting the Saviour, God approved the words in which the Israelites expressed such a sense.
(R. Henderson, M. A.)
We will hear it and do it.1. That it is their duty to hear, by which we mean it is their duty to place themselves within the reach of hearing, the Gospel; that is, it is incumbent on them to be regular in their attendance upon public ordinances.
2. That it is their duty to hear with attention. Iris incumbent on them to collect their scattered thoughts, and ridding their minds of subjects of inferior weight, to direct them with perseverance to the truths which they assemble to hear.
3. That it is their duty to hear with candour. It is enjoined upon us to divest ourselves of all prejudices and partial affections, whether in reference to the truths that are set before us, or to the person that declares them; that it is our duty to avoid captiousness and disingenuity, and to hear with sincerity of mind all that the Lord God says.
4. That it is their duty to hear with faith. We must believe the record that God has given of His Son.
5. That it is their duty to hear with a view to obedience. "We will hear," said the Israelites, "and do it." Christianity is throughout a practical system. Though the method of salvation which it reveals is entirely of grace, and accomplished by Divine agency, to the utter exclusion of human merit, it nevertheless does enjoin unreserved obedience to the Divine law, and furnishes motives of the greatest efficacy to dispose us to yield it.
II. THE PEOPLE'S ANSWER. Our responsibility is a joint responsibility. So far as we faithfully expound God's Word to our people, they are to receive it "not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the Word of God." Now this implies that they hear —
1. Willingly. Not because custom requires or respectability demands.
2. Attentively. The willing hearer is commonly an attentive hearer. Lydia "attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."
3. Thoughtfully. Attention is one thing, thought is another.
4. Honestly, by which I mean without prejudice, with a single desire to know the will of God, and with the fearless unreserved purpose of doing it when known. "We will hear it and do it."
5. Prayerfully. Apart from the Divine blessing and the teaching of the Holy Spirit we preach and we hear in vain. And for that Divine gift we must pray.
(E. Bayley, D. D.)
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