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The whole of this section–Ch. xi:I to XXVI:19—will repay most careful study. It is not a fornial code of laws, and the unsystematic order of its contents is significant of its character. It is not intended to be scientific, but practical. It deals with life and conduct, not with a system of jurisprudence. "It is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path.” It has the tone of friendly counsel rather than the imperative voice of the law; the kindly admonition of a father, rather than the severe writs of the court.
The following subjects may be taken as exercises in the study of this section.
The treatment of the poor. Ch. xv:1-18, xxiv:6, 10-25; 19-22.
The care of widows and orphans. XXIV:17.
The most distinguished feature of this code-if we may call it a code—is the ground and reason upon which it is based, that is, the sovereign will of a loving God. The practical advantage of right conduct to promote happiness, its tendency to bring life and prosperity is not ignored; but the ultimate ground of duty is our relation to God. He is the supreme and rightful Lord of all, and his will is commended to us by His love and care. The relation of God to us is personal. He appeals to us on the generous ground of his manifested interest, and his zeal for our highest good. “I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" is the fitting preface to all his commandments. “O that there were such a heart in them that they would fear
me and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and their children forever,” is the tender plea by which He commends the law to our affection and respect.
THE THANKSGIVING RITUAL
The order of worship, so minutely detailed in Ch. XXVI, is very rich in suggestions as to the spirit of all true worship. It is primarily a ritual of thanksgiving—the form prescribed for the worship of God by an offering, a beautiful and dignified ceremony for the direction of the individual worshiper. It is one of the few forms of worship that are distinctly personal. The priest has no part in it except to receive the gift and set it down before the altar. Then the worshiper makes his confession, expresses his thanks, and formally offers his gift and worship in the simple but beautiful formula beginning with "A Syrian ready to perish was my father” and ending “And the Lord hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land which Thou, O Lord, hast given me.” Ch. XXVI:5-10.
The whole service, in action and in words, is a model of propriety, of good taste, and of devotion that has never been surpassed in all the ritual of any age. The gladness of the spirit that suffuses it is extended in the closing verse of its direction, "And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you."
This ritual of thanksgiving was concluded, or supplemented, by a prayer of purgation-a declaration of his stewardshipwhich every man was to make at the end of
year. When the fruits of his fields were gathered and all his tithes and offerings paid, then he is directed to say before the Lord his God. "I have put away the hallowed things"—the things
belonging to God—"out of my house, and also have given them unto the Levite and unto the stranger, and to the fatherless, and to the widow according to all thy commandment which thou has commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them.” Then he is to offer this prayer. "Look down from thy holy habitation. from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the ground which Thou hast given us, as Thou swarest to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey."
And on this follows the blessing, “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and that thou shouldest walk in his ways and keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and hearken unto his voice: And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be a peculiar people unto Himself, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments: to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, for a praise, and for a name, and for an honor; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken."
The mutual dependence of the nation upon the individual and the individual upon the nation is wonderfully well revealed in all these ordinances. The promises are all, like the promise made to Abraham, personal, national, and universal. The ritual of worship is largely national, conducted by an ordained priesthood for and in behalf of all Israel, wherever they may be scattered abroad through all the earth: nevertheless the individual was taught to stand in an immediate relation to God, to commune with Him in his own right, to confess his sins, and to give thanks for himself, without the intervention or mediation of any one whatsoever. The dignity and solemn ceremony of their public worship as conducted at the tabernacle was not allowed to displace the more intimate devotions of the individual, nor was the vicarious service of the official priesthood allowed for one moment to be substituted for the personal
sacrifice of a clean heart and a right spirit.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God” is the motif of all worship, and love is absolutely and exclusively a personal act.
In the social order established by Moses when the Priest Nation was organized at Mt. Sinai, very definite provision was made for the religious training of the people. Not only were the ordinances of worship prescribed, and an elaborate ritual provided, but a permanent arrangement was made to provide a priesthood who should have charge of everything pertaining to their religious instruction and worship.
The whole tribe of Levi was segregated from the people and assigned to this office. In the distribution of the land which the nation was to possess, this tribe was to have no share. Approximately one-twelfth part would properly fall to them, and, since they were excluded, it was but fair that some equitable system should secure to them a just share in the fruits and income of the land.
It is not necessary for the present purpose that we inquire very closely into the regulations that were made for their support. It must suffice to notice that an elaborate system of tithes and offerings was ordained, by which both their religious service and the ministering priests were maintained.
By this arrangement the priests were freed from worldly cares and avocations, and enabled to devote their time and energies exclusively to the duties of their office. We cannot imagine a scheme that would be more effective to secure the permanence of their religious instruction and their worship.
In order that the service which they ministered might be regarded with the respect and reverence due to its importance, those who ministered it were set apart and consecrated with impressive ceremonies. Great care was exercised to emphasize
the dignity and sacredness of the office, that the solemn services of worship might not be undertaken lightly nor unadvisedly, but soberly, discreetly, and in the fear of God. The ritual for the consecration and ordination of Aaron and his sons, as given in Ex. XXVIII and xxix, is one of the most elaborate and impressive in all religious history. Much of it is symbolic of religious truth; all of it is effective to express the dignity and sacredness of the office.
In Deuteronomy the distribution of the various functions of the priestly offices seems to be taken for granted, as already familiar; but we find them charged not only with the strictly religious duties, such as the conduct of worship, but also with some judicial functions and public instruction, both in things religious and in the laws and ordinances.
Just what portion of the tribe of Levi was charged with the strictly priestly functions, by what system it was determined just who should hold the office of priest, and what distinction was made between priests and Levites is not clearly stated. It seems probable that much of such detail was left to the convenience and necessity of their changing circumstances. But the essential features of the priestly office were unchanged from the time of Moses to the time of Christ. This office was the most essential feature of their social and religious order; and, while the priests often failed to honor their office, and often shared the general decline in loyalty to God, they have, on the whole, a record of faithful service that is greatly to their credit. The penalty that one incurs is always in proportion to the degree of dignity and responsibility of his position. It is right and proper that the criticism and denunciation of the inspired prophets and of our Lord should be specially severe against the priests. "For the priests' lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts."
The defection of the priests was therefore not only a per