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Rewards for Obedience


You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no carved images or pillars, and you shall not place figured stones in your land, to worship at them; for I am the L ord your God. 2You shall keep my sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the L ord.

3 If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, 4I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. 6And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land. 7You shall give chase to your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. 8Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 9I will look with favor upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you; and I will maintain my covenant with you. 10You shall eat old grain long stored, and you shall have to clear out the old to make way for the new. 11I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you. 12And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13I am the L ord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

Penalties for Disobedience

14 But if you will not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, 15if you spurn my statutes, and abhor my ordinances, so that you will not observe all my commandments, and you break my covenant, 16I in turn will do this to you: I will bring terror on you; consumption and fever that waste the eyes and cause life to pine away. You shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down by your enemies; your foes shall rule over you, and you shall flee though no one pursues you. 18And if in spite of this you will not obey me, I will continue to punish you sevenfold for your sins. 19I will break your proud glory, and I will make your sky like iron and your earth like copper. 20Your strength shall be spent to no purpose: your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

21 If you continue hostile to me, and will not obey me, I will continue to plague you sevenfold for your sins. 22I will let loose wild animals against you, and they shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock; they shall make you few in number, and your roads shall be deserted.

23 If in spite of these punishments you have not turned back to me, but continue hostile to me, 24then I too will continue hostile to you: I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25I will bring the sword against you, executing vengeance for the covenant; and if you withdraw within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven, and they shall dole out your bread by weight; and though you eat, you shall not be satisfied.

27 But if, despite this, you disobey me, and continue hostile to me, 28I will continue hostile to you in fury; I in turn will punish you myself sevenfold for your sins. 29You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars; I will heap your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols. I will abhor you. 31I will lay your cities waste, will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing odors. 32I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who come to settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33And you I will scatter among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword against you; your land shall be a desolation, and your cities a waste.

34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its sabbath years. 35As long as it lies desolate, it shall have the rest it did not have on your sabbaths when you were living on it. 36And as for those of you who survive, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues. 37They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand against your enemies. 38You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall devour you. 39And those of you who survive shall languish in the land of your enemies because of their iniquities; also they shall languish because of the iniquities of their ancestors.

40 But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their ancestors, in that they committed treachery against me and, moreover, that they continued hostile to me— 41so that I, in turn, continued hostile to them and brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42then will I remember my covenant with Jacob; I will remember also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43For the land shall be deserted by them, and enjoy its sabbath years by lying desolate without them, while they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they dared to spurn my ordinances, and they abhorred my statutes. 44Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, or abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them; for I am the L ord their God; 45but I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the L ord.

46 These are the statutes and ordinances and laws that the L ord established between himself and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses.


3. If ye walk in my statutes. We have now to deal with two remarkable passages, in which he professedly treats of the rewards which the servants of God may expect, and of the punishments which await the transgressors. I have indeed already observed, that whatever God promises us on the condition of our walking in His commandments would be ineffectual if He should be extreme in examining our works. Hence it arises that we must renounce all the compacts of the Law, if we desire to obtain favor with God. But since, however defective the works of believers may be, they are nevertheless pleasing to God through the intervention of pardon, hence also the efficacy of the promises depends, viz., when the strict condition of the law is moderated. Whilst, therefore, they reach forward and strive, reward is given to their efforts although imperfect, exactly as if they had fully discharged their duty; for, since their deficiencies are put out of sight by faith, God honors with the title of reward what He gratuitously bestows upon them. Consequently, “to walk in the commandments of God,” is not precisely equivalent to performing whatever the Law demands; but in this expression is included the indulgence with which God regards His children and pardons their faults. The promise, therefore, is not without fruit as respects believers, whilst they endeavor to consecrate themselves to God, although they are still far from perfection; according to the teaching of the Prophet, “I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him,” (Malachi 3:17;) as much as to say, that their obedience would not be acceptable to Him because it was deserving, but because He visits it with His paternal favor. Whence it appears how foolish is the pride of those who imagine that they make God their debtor, as if according to His agreement.

The restriction of the recompense, which is here mentioned, to this earthly and transitory life, is a part of the elementary instruction of the Law; for, just as the spiritual grace of God was represented to the ancient people by shadows and images, so also the same principle applied also both to rewards and punishments. Reconciliation with God was represented to them by the blood of cattle; there were various forms of expiation, but all outward and visible, because their substance had not yet appeared in Christ. For the same reason, therefore, because so clear and familiar an acquaintance with eternal life, and the final resurrection, had not yet been attained by the Fathers, as now shines forth in the Gospel, God for the most part shewed forth by external proofs that He was favorably disposed to His people or offended with them. Because now-a-days God does not openly take vengeance on sins as of old, fanatics infer that He has almost changed His nature; nay, on this pretense, the Manicheans 207207     “Through him (Manes) Christianity was to be set free from all connection with Judaism.” — Neander’s Church Hist., (Rose’s Transl.,) vol. 2, p. 145. “The theological error which naturally and immediately flowed from these principles, (i.e., the principles of Dualism,) was the entire rejection of the authority of the Old Testament. In respect to this question, Manes was compelled by his adoption of the oriental philosophy to reject the theosophy of the Jews.” — Waddington’s Hist. of the Church, vol. 1 p. 154. imagined that the God of Israel was different from ours. But this error springs from gross and disgraceful ignorance; for, by not distinguishing His different modes of dealing, they do not hesitate impiously to cut God Himself in two. The earth does not now cleave asunder to swallow up the rebellious: 208208     “Comme Core, Dathan, et Abiram.” — Fr. God does not now thunder from heaven as against Sodom: He does not now send fire upon wicked cities as He did in the Israelitish camp: fiery serpents are not sent forth to inflict deadly bites: in a word, such manifest instances of punishment are not daily presented before our eyes to make God terrible to us; and for this reason, because the voice of the Gospel sounds much more clearly in our ears, like the sound of a trumpet, whereby we are summoned to the heavenly tribunal of Christ. Let us then learn to tremble at that sentence, which banishes all the wicked from the kingdom of God. So, on the other hand, God does not appear, as of old, as the rewarder of His people by earthly blessings; and this because we “are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God;” because it becomes us to be conformed to our Head, and through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of heaven. Thus, the greater are the adversities that oppress us, the more cheerfully it behooves us to lift up our heads, until Christ shall gather us into the fellowship of His glory, and to pursue the course of our calling for the hope which is set before us in heaven; in a word,

“denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:12, 13.)

I admit, indeed, the truth of what Paul teaches, that “godliness” even now has “the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8;) and assuredly believers already taste on earth of that blessedness which they shall hereafter enjoy in its fullness. God also inflicts His judgments on the ungodly in order to remind us of the last judgment; but still the distinction to which I have adverted is obvious, that since God has opened to us the heavenly life in the Gospel, He now calls us directly to it, whereas He led the Fathers to it as it were by steps. For this reason Paul elsewhere teaches, that believers are afflicted in this world as

“a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that they may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which they also suffer, seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense,” etc. (2 Thessalonians 1:5, 6.)

In short, let us no more wonder that the Israelites were only attracted and alarmed by temporal rewards and punishments, than that the land of Canaan was to them a symbol of their eternal inheritance, in which, nevertheless, they confessed themselves strangers and pilgrims; from whence the Apostle correctly concludes, that they desired a better country. (Genesis 47:9; Psalm 39:12; Hebrews 11:16.) And thus the wild absurdity of those is refuted, who suppose that the Fathers were contented with perishable felicity, as if God merely gorged them in a tavern. 209209     “This discussion, which would have been most useful at any rate, has been rendered necessary by that monstrous miscreant Servetus, and some madmen of the sect of the Anabaptists, who think of the people of Israel as they would do of some herd of swine, absurdly imagining that the Lord gorged them with temporal blessings here, and gave them no hope of a blessed immortality.” — Institutes, B. 2. ch. 10. sect. 1. Cal. Soc. Trans., vol. 1, p. 501. Still the distinction which I have noted remains, that God manifested Himself more fully as a Father and Judge by temporal blessings and punishments than since the promulgation of the Gospel.

4. Then I will give you rain in due season. He might in one word have promised great abundance of food, but, that His grace may be more illustrious, the instruments are mentioned which He employs for its supply. He might give us bread as He formerly rained down manna from heaven; but in order that the signs of His paternal solicitude may be constantly before us, after the seed is sown, the earth requires rain from heaven; and thus the order of the seasons is so regulated that every day may renew the memory of God’s bounty. For this reason rain is mentioned, and the increase of the fruits of the earth; and the continued succession of thrashing, the vintage, and sowing-time, indicates a very abundant supply of corn and wine. For, if the harvest be small, there will not be much work to occupy the husbandman; and, if the vintage be light, hence also will arise an unsatisfactory period of leisure. But when God declares that from harvest to sowing-time they shall have constant employment, He bids them expect a fruitful year, as immediately follows, “ye shall eat your bread to the full.” And since no prosperity can be gratifying without peace, He says that they shall be quiet and free from all disturbance. And this must be carefully observed that, so unpalatable are all God’s blessings without the seasoning of tranquillity, nothing is more wretched than inquietude. The sum is, that for the true servants of God not only is there food laid up with Him, but also its peaceful and pleasant enjoyment, since it is in His power and will to drive far from them all annoyances. Still these two things do not seem altogether consistent with each other, that there shall be none to make them afraid, and that they shall subdue their enemies, so that 210210     The oversight of ten for five here is scarcely worth noticing. ten shall suffice to chase a hundred; for of what use would their military strength be if there were no enemies to trouble them? But if we may take the latter sentence disjunctively, there will be no absurdity, viz., if it should happen that war be brought against them, they should fight successfully. Still the easiest solution of this difficulty is, that it soon afterwards was necessary for them to contend with a great multitude of enemies, in order to obtain possession of the land. We gather from the accommodation by the Prophets of this peculiar blessing of a secure and tranquil life to the kingdom of Christ, that the promises, which from the nature of the Law were of none effect, are still useful for believers; for, when God has reconciled them to Himself, He also liberally bestows upon them what they have not deserved; and yet their obedience, such as it is, is also rewarded.

9. For I will have respect unto you 211211     Literally, “I will turn myself to you.” God is said to “turn Himself” to the people, whom He undertakes to cherish and preserve; just as also when He forsakes those who have alienated themselves from Him, He is said to be turned away from them. Hence the common exhortation in the Prophets, “Be ye turned to me, and I will be turned to you;” whereby God reminds us that He has not promised in vain what we here read. Therefore the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, to confirm His covenant towards them by watching for their safety. Hence, too, we are also taught, that when we depart from God, His covenant is made void by our own fault; wherewith Jeremiah reproaches the Israelites. (Jeremiah 31:32.) In order, therefore, that God’s covenant should remain firm and effectual, it is not only necessary that the Law should be engraven on our hearts, but also that He should add another grace, and not remember our iniquities. When He says, “Ye shall eat old store,” He again magnifies their abundance; for, whereas scarcity compels us to make immediate use of the new fruits, so it is a great sign of abundance to bring forth old wheat from the granary, and old wine from the cellar. The continuance of His bounty is represented in the end of the verse, where He says that there shall be no place for the new fruits, unless they empty their store-houses; because 212212     This last sentence omitted in Fr. it might happen that, after a year of scarcity, all their storehouses should be empty, and there would be no new corn to succeed in place of the old.

11. And I will set my tabernacle among you. He alludes, indeed, to the visible sanctuary in which He was worshipped; still He would shew them that it should be effectually manifested, that He had not chosen His home amongst them in vain, inasmuch as He would exert His power by sure proofs to aid and preserve them. In a word, He signifies that the sanctuary would not be an empty sign of His presence, but that the reality should correspond with the sign; and this He further confirms in the next verse, where He says that He would “walk among” them. For as yet they had not arrived at their place of rest, and therefore had need of Him as their Leader, in order that their journey might be prosperous. Although He does not say in express terms that they should be spiritually blessed, still there is no doubt but that He lifts their thoughts above the world when He promises that He would be their God; for this expression, “I will be your God,” contains, as Christ interprets it, the hope of eternal immortality; because He is the fountain of life, and “not the God of the dead.” (Matthew 22:32.) The true and solid felicity, then, is now promised, which was typically represented. For this reason David, although he greatly magnifies the earthly blessings of God, yet, by the conclusion which he adds, demonstrates that he did not stop short with them;

“God’s mercy (he says) shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, to length of days.” 213213     See Margin A.V. (Psalm 23:6.)

And elsewhere, when he had said that they are happy, to whom God abundantly supplies all things (needful, 214214     Added from Fr. ) presently adds, as if in explanation,

“Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.”
(Psalm 144:15.)

Finally, He recalls to their recollection that He had been their Deliverer, that they may assuredly gather from what was past, that the flow of His grace would be continuous, if only they themselves do run the course unto which He had called them.

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