“Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.”
THE Hebrew slave who meant perpetual consecration of service had to lose a little blood. It was a disagreeable and not wholly painless process, by which his vows were ratified and rendered permanent. But not otherwise could he serve for ever. That awl represents the nail that affixed Christ to the cross, and we must expect it in every true act of consecration. For want of it so many seem to go through that supreme act, and shortly after go back from it, bringing discredit and shame upon the teaching they had eagerly welcomed. There are two stages in the Christian life: that in which we serve with the spirit of a slave, and that in which we freely yield ourselves to serve our Master for ever. This is the service represented by the pierced ear.
The awl spiritually means the humiliation and pain with which we surrender the self-life. We are tempted to consecrate ourselves in our own energy; to resolve on the devout life in the strength of our own resolution; to say, “I will serve Christ utterly.” We avoid the awl which deprives us of our own energy, which is applied to us by the hand of another, and which makes us helpless and self-emptied, that God may become all in all. In your case the awl may be the daily fret of some uncongenial associate; the pressure of loss and anxiety for the salve of Jesus; the humiliation of your pride by perpetual sense of failure. Whatever it be, welcome all that binds you to His cross, because through death you live.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
“If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.”
THIS chapter is full of restitution, of which there is far too little in ordinary Christian life. We try to make amends for injury done to another by an extraordinary amount of civility; but we are reluctant in so many words to frankly confess that we have done wrong, and make proper reparation for the act or speech. We often excuse ourselves by the thought that we were fully justified in speaking or acting as we did, whereas we may behave ourselves wrongly in courses of conduct which are themselves legitimate.
Loosing a beast into another man’s field (Exodus 22:5). — We may through our carelessness allow another to suffer detriment. The beast ought not to have been thus allowed to stray; and, as we let it loose, we should make amends for our carelessness in respect to our brother’s interests. We wrong another not only by what we do, or permit to be done, but in what we carelessly fail to do.
Kindling a Fire (Exodus 22:6). — The tongue is a spark that kindles a great matter. If we drop firebrands and lighted matches in the inflammable material of a circle of gossip, we should make amends to the person whose character may have been thereby injured.
Borrowed goods (Exodus 22:14). — To return a house, a book, a horse, in the state in which we received it, fair wear and tear excepted, or to make good any injury, should be a commonplace of Christian morality. Trustees are responsible for not making due inquiry into risky investments. Each is his brothers keeper. If we remember at the prayer-hour that he has aught against us, let us seek him, and confess, and restore.
“But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.”
IT is a most helpful thought that the angel of the covenant whom is God’s name, always precedes us. In our march through the wilderness we perceive His form, which is viewless to others, and realize that His strong hand prepares our path. Let us be very careful not to grieve or disobey Him, lest we lose His mighty championship. Strict obedience to His slightest whisper secures the certainty of His vindication of us from the wrongs we suffer at the hands of our foes. A little further on the same voice promises to send a hornet before the chosen host (Exodus 23:28). He who is an angel to the saint is a hornet to his foes. A swarm of bonnets is the most relentless and irresistible foe that man can face.
Have you enemies? Be sure that they hate you only for the truth’s sake, and because darkness must always be in antagonism to light.
“Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” But see to it that you cherish no spirit of hatred or retaliation towards them.
Think of the misery of their heart, which is full of jealousy, envy, and bitterness. Pity and pray for them.
When we are right with God we shall have many new enemies.
All who hate Him will hate us. But this is rather to our credit than otherwise. Those who have defamed the master of the household will be hostile to his servants. But when our cause is one with God’s, and His foes ours, our foes are His, and He deals with them; He stands between us and their hate. He will not leave us in their hands; He will give us vindication and deliverance.
“And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”
IT is a beautiful combination, which we should do well to emulate.
Some eat and drink, and do not behold God. — They are taken up with the delights of sense. Their one cry, as the children of this world, is, What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed? But the God in whose hand their breath is and whose are all their ways, they do not glorify. Let us beware; it was of Christian professors that the Apostle said, Their god is their belly.
Some behold God, and do not eat and drink. — They look on God with such awful fear that they isolate Him from the common duties of life. They draw a strict line between the sacred and secular, between Sunday and weekday, between God’s and their own. This divorce between religion and daily life is fatal to true religion, which was meant to be the bond between the commonest details of life and the service of God.
Some behold God, and eat and drink. — They turn from the commonest avocations to look up into His face. They glorify God in their body as well as in their spirit. They obey the apostle’s injunction, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Oh for the grace to be able to combine the vision of God with every common incident — to live always beneath His eye in the unrestrained gladness of little children in their Father’s presence!
Never a trial that He to not there, Never a burden that He doth not bear; Never a sorrow that He doth not share— Moment by moment I’m under his care.
“According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.”
IT was clear that God would only be responsible for the material that was needed for His plan. If Moses, or the people, insisted on putting in more than was in His original plan, they would have to bear the anxiety of securing the stuff. This is our mistake. We incur responsibilities that God does not put on us; we burden our hearts with anxiety and care because we insist on introducing so many items into our daily life, which would not have been there if we had but been content with God’s pattern, and acquiesced in His program.
This injunction is repeated in four different passages, showing the importance with which God regards it. Indeed, to be on God’s plan is the only place of rightness, safety, and joy.
God’s plan in our character. — It is presented in the human life of Jesus. We are to walk as He walked. Having been called according to His purpose, let us never rest content with anything less than being conformed to the image of God’s Son.
God’s plan in our Christian service. — Not seeking to resemble some other devoted life; but endeavoring to be as God would have us, the embodiment of His thought, the expression of His conception. Then our efforts will be crowned with success, and we shall bear much fruit to the glory of God.
God’s plan for every day. — He has prepared a scheme for the employment of every hour, and will show it to us by the indication of His Spirit, or by the trend of circumstances. Let us abide in Him, doing nothing that He does not teach, doing all He does. So life will become a tabernacle, in which the Shechinah will shine and sacrifices be offered.
“And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.”
THAT vail was rent when Jesus died, the Holy Ghost signifying that from that moment access was free into the Holiest. All believers are now welcome to draw near and live in the perpetual presence of God, their Father, even as Jesus did in His earthly life, and as He does in the Heaven of Heavens. This is the clear teaching of Hebrews 10:19–22:— “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
But there is a deeper significance still. The new and living way was opened through the rending of the flesh of Jesus Christ. As His flesh was rent on the Cross, the Temple vail was rent from the top to the bottom. And it is only when we have chosen the cross, with its shame and death, as the lot of our self-life, that we can enter into that immediate fellowship with God, which is described as “within the vail.”
How many there are who never get beyond that dividing vail!
They know the brazen altar of Atonement, the laver of daily washing, the golden altar of intercession; but they are never admitted to that blessed intimacy of communion which sees the Shechinah glory between the cherubim and blood-sprinkled mercy seat.
O Spirit of God, apply the blood to sprinkle our consciences, and the water to cleanse the habits of our daily life; and lead us where our Forerunner and Priest awaits us.
“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.”
THE saintly McCheyne used to say, when urging his brother ministers to diligent preparation for the pulpit: “Beaten oil for the sanctuary.” And he strove never to present to his people truth which had not been beaten out by careful devout meditation.
But there is yet another thought. That lamp in the Holy Place was an emblem of the testimony of the Church, that is, of believers.
As the incense table was a type of their aspect towards God, as intercessors, so the seven-branched candlestick was a type of their aspect towards the world, as luminaries. In the Book of Revelation the Lord compares His churches to candlesticks: “the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
The oil is, of course, as always in Scripture, a type of the Holy Spirit. He in us is the only source of light-bearing. But the beaten oil reminds us of the chastisement and discipline through which alone our best testimony can be given. The persecutions of the Church have always been the times when she has given her fairest, brightest witness to the Redeemer. The sufferings of believers have ever led to the tenderest, strongest words for the Master, whether by the sick bed or in the hospital ward. That brokenness of spirit, which is the surest mark of the mature work of God in the heart, is also a rare condition of light-giving. The more beaten and broken you are, in poverty of spirit, the purer will be the heavenly ray of love and light which will shine forth from your life; and it is the purpose of God that you should be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15).