Verses of Exodus 23


Exodus 23:13 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)


Exo 23:13. In all things that I have said unto you, be circumspect.

IF we were about to prosecute a journey through an extensive forest, where the path was exceeding intricate, where we were in hourly danger of treading upon serpents and scorpions, and where there were declivities so steep and slippery that it was almost impossible but that we must fall down some tremendous precipice, we should feel it necessary to get the best information, and to use the utmost caution in all our way. Such is really our state: in our journey towards heaven we may easily mistake the road; and, even when we are walking in it, we are encompassed with so many dangers, and obstructed by so many difficulties, that we need to exercise continual vigilance and circumspection. Hence, in tender love to us, our heavenly Guide puts us on our guard, and says, “In all things that I have said unto you, be circumspect.”
In discoursing on these words we shall consider,


The injunction—

It is our duty and our happiness to have all our actions conformed to the mind and will of God: but, in order to this, we must attend diligently to the matter, the manner, and the end of them:—


The matter—

[Notwithstanding we have the written word, which, when duly followed, will suffice to direct our conduct; yet we must have a very considerable knowledge of the Scriptures, and a well-regulated mind, in order to ascertain clearly the will of God. It not unfrequently happens that one duty seems to interfere with another; as when a work of mercy calls for a violation of the Sabbath, or a command of an earthly parent militates against the command of God. In the former case we are to “prefer mercy before sacrifice:” in the latter, we must “obey God rather than man:” but how to discriminate aright at all times, is very difficult: and a well-intentioned person may grievously err, if he do not bring his actions to the touch-stone of God’s word, and determine, through grace, to regulate them according to that standard [Note: Act 26:9-11; Gal 2:13 and Joh 16:2.].]


The manner—

[It is by no means sufficient that the matter of our actions be right, for they may be so debased by the manner of performing them, as to be rendered hateful in the sight of God. Prayer is a duty plainly enjoined: but if it be cold and formal, or offered with an unbelieving heart, it will find no acceptance with God: in vain do persons worship God in such a manner [Note: Mat 15:7-9.] ; they shall receive nothing at his hands [Note: Jam 1:6-7.]. Nothing could, have been more pleasing to God than David’s attempt to bring up the ark to Mount Zion, after it had been at least fifty years in a state of obscurity: but David was inattentive to the manner in which God had appointed the ark to be carried; he put it on a new cart, instead of ordering it to be borne upon the shoulders of the Levites; and therefore God manifested his displeasure against him, and against all the people, by striking Uzza dead upon the spot for presuming to touch the ark [Note: 1Ch 15:13.]. We ourselves are not satisfied to have our commands obeyed, unless a due attention be paid also to the manner of executing our will; much less therefore will God be pleased, if we be not as studious to “serve him acceptably,” as to serve him at all.]


The end—

[Our end or motive in acting determines more than any thing the quality of our actions. Not that a good end will sanctify a bad action; but a bad end will vitiate every action connected with it. If, for instance, in our religious services we seek the applause of men, we must expect no reward from God: the gratification of our pride and vanity is all the reward that such polluted services can obtain [Note: Mat 6:1-5; Mat 6:16.]. In the account which is given us of Jehu, we find that the very same action, which was rewarded on account of its outward conformity with God’s command, was punished on account of the base principle by which he was influenced in performing it. He did well in extirpating the seed of Ahab, and was rewarded for it to the fourth generation [Note: 2Ki 10:30.]: but forasmuch as he was actuated by vanity and ambition, the blood which he shed was imputed to him as murder [Note: 2Ki 10:16 with Hos 1:4.]. Nor is there any thing more common than for even religious persons to mistake the path of duty through an inattention to their own spirit. The disciples doubtless thought themselves under the influence of a commendable zeal, when they would have called fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan village; as did Peter also, when he cut off the ear of Malchus. We should therefore be peculiarly cautious with respect to this, lest by the mixture of any selfish motive or base affection we offend Him, whom it is our desire and endeavour to please.

God having prescribed rules for a just ordering of our whole spirit and conduct, we must, “in all things that he has said unto us, be circumspect.”]

The importance of this injunction will appear, while we consider,


The reasons of it—

Surely it is a necessary injunction, and no less reasonable than necessary: for,


The same authority exists in every commandment—

[It is God who issued a prohibition of adultery and murder: and it is the same Almighty Being who forbids us to entertain a selfish wish or covetous desire [Note: Jam 2:10-11.]. Shall we then acknowledge his authority in our actions, and disregard it in our principles? Shall we think ourselves at liberty to deviate from any part of his revealed will? If so, we cease to act as his creatures, and become a God unto ourselves.]


Without circumspection we cannot perform any duty aright—

[We cannot find out the real motives of our actions without daily self-examination, and earnest prayer to God for the teachings of his Spirit. However simple the path of duty may appear, there are ten thousand ways in which we may depart from it. And, as long as our hearts are so deceitful, and we have such a subtle adversary striving to mislead us, we shall be in perpetual danger of mistaking our way. If therefore we would serve God aright in any thing, we must be circumspect on every thing.]


An inattention to smaller duties will lead to a violation of the greatest—

[Who shall say, where we shall stop, if once we begin to trifle with God? Eve little thought to what she should be brought by only listening to the suggestions of the tempter: nor did David foresee what would result from the wanton look which he cast on Bathsheba. It was on account of the danger arising from the smallest approach to sin, that God, in the words following our text, forbade his people even to “mention the name” of a heathen deity: and on the same account he requires us to “abstain from the very appearance of evil.” And if we will not “watch in all things,” we shall soon have to eat the bitter fruit of our negligence: yea, it will be well, if from walking in the counsel of the ungodly, we do not soon stand in the way of sinners, and at last sit in the seat of the scornful [Note: Psa 1:1. Every word in this verse rises in a climax: “walk, stand. sit;” “counsel, way, scat;” “ungodly, sinners, scornful.”].]


The greater our circumspection, the more shall we adorn our holy profession—

[There are multitudes on the watch to find out the smallest faults in those who profess religion; and to condemn religion itself on account of them. But a circumspect walk “cuts off occasion from those who seek occasion;” and “by well-doing we put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” It can scarcely be conceived what an effect the conduct of religious people has upon the world, either to recommend religion to them, or to harden them against it. Should not this then make us circumspect? Should we not be careful that we “give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully?” Should we not endeavour to “be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves?” Let us then “so make our light to shine before men, that they may be constrained to glorify our Father that is in heaven.”]


The whole of our conduct will be reviewed in the day of judgment—

[The most secret springs of action will be brought to light in that awful day, and “the counsels of the heart be made manifest [Note: 1Co 4:5; Ecc 12:14.]:” God will weigh, not our actions only, but our spirits [Note: Pro 16:2.]. “Men judge according to appearance; but He will judge righteous judgment.” If this consideration will not make us circumspect, what can we hope to prove effectual? O that we could bear in mind the strictness of that scrutiny, and the awfulness of that decision!]


Those who ridicule the circumspection of others—

[To what end has God commanded us to be circumspect, if we are not to regard the injunction? Do you suppose that you are to annul his commands, and to establish rules of conduct that are contrary to his? Or, if you are presumptuous enough to do so in reference to yourselves, do you think that you are to prescribe for others also? You affect to pity the Lord’s people as weak enthusiasts: but know that you are the true objects of pity, who can rush blindfold in such a manner to your own destruction. Yes; over such as you the Saviour wept: and if you knew your guilt and danger, you would weep for yourselves. Repent, ere it be too late: for, however wise you may imagine yourselves to be, the time is coming when you will change your voice, and say, “We fools counted their life madness [Note: Wisd. 5:4.].” Take care that you yourselves be righteous enough, before you ridicule others as “righteous over-much.”]


Those who, in spite of scoffers, are endeavouring to please their God—

[Blessed be God, who enables you to stem the torrent, and to serve him in the midst of a wicked world! But, be on your guard against that scrupulosity, which makes those things to be sins which are no sins; and that superstition, which makes things to be duties which are no duties. Be as careful of adding to the word of God as of detracting from it. Let the different parts of Scripture be compared with each other: and learn your duty not so much from any detached passage, as from a collective view of all those passages which may reflect light upon it. Nevertheless in doubtful matters, you will do well to lean to the safer side.
Yet while you are thus circumspect yourselves, do not presume to judge others. Things may be right in others, which would be wrong in you; and right in you under some circumstances, which under different circumstances would be highly improper. Do not then bring others to your standard, or try them at your bar: “it is to their own Master that they must stand or fall.”
Lastly, let not your circumspection fill you with self-preference and self-esteem. However accurately you may walk, there will be still enough to humble you in the dust. You must to your latest hour go to Jesus as the chief of sinners, and seek acceptance with God through his blood and righteousness.]

Verses of Exodus 23


Consult other comments:

Exodus 23:13 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Exodus 23:13 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 23:13 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Exodus 23:13 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Exodus 23:13 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Exodus 23:13 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 23:13 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 23:13 - Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Exodus 23:13 - Geneva Bible Notes

Exodus 23:13 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Exodus 23:13 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 23:13 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Exodus 23:13 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Exodus 23:13 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Exodus 23:13 - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Exodus 23:13 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Exodus 23:13 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Exodus 23:13 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)