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Verses of Numbers 15

37

Numbers 15:37 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

DISCOURSE: 161
THE USE AND INTENT OF FRINGES ON THEIR GARMENTS

Num 15:37-41. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments, throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart, and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: that ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.

A VERY principal distinction between the Christian and Jewish codes is this; that our laws are given in broad, general, comprehensive principles; whereas theirs descended to the most minute particulars, even such as we should have been ready to conceive unworthy the notice of the Divine Lawgiver. There was scarcely any occupation in life, respecting which there was not some precise limit fixed, some positive precept enjoined. If they ploughed, they must not plough with an ox and an ass. If they sowed their ground, they must not sow divers kinds of seeds. If they reaped, they must not reap the corners of their field. If they carried their corn, they must not go back for a sheaf that they had left behind. If they threshed it, they must not muzzle the ox that trod it out. If they killed their meat, they must pour the blood upon the ground. If they dressed it, they must not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk. If they ate it, they must not eat the fat. If they planted a tree, they must not eat of the fruit for four years. If they built a house, they must make battlements to its roof. So, if they made a garment, they must put upon it a fringe with a ribband of blue. This last ordinance, it may be thought, like all the other ceremonies, being abrogated, is quite uninteresting to us. But, if we consider it attentively, we shall find it by no means uninstructive. It shews us,

I.

The end which we ought to aim at—

That, for which the use of the fringe was appointed to the Jews, is equally necessary for us; namely, to preserve continually upon our minds a sense of,

1.

Our duty to God—

[We are told to “walk in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” For this purpose we should have the commandments of God ever, as it were, before our eyes. It is not unuseful to have habitually some short portion of the word of God, some one precept or promise, for our meditation through the day, especially at those intervals when the mind has nothing particular to engage its attention. The expediency of such an habit appears from the text itself: for, if we have nothing good at hand for our meditations, “the eye and the heart” will furnish evil enough. In our unconverted state we uniformly, as God himself expresses it, “go a whoring after these:” our affections are estranged from God, and our thoughts from time to time fix on some vanity which our eyes have seen, or on some evil which our own wicked heart has suggested. How desirable were it, instead of having our minds thus occupied, to have them filled with heavenly contemplations; to be searching out our duty; to be examining our own hearts in relation to it; and to be inquiring continually wherein we can make our profiting to appear!]

2.

Our obligations to him—

[How strong and energetic are the expressions in our text respecting this! “I am your God: I have redeemed you in order that I might be so to the utmost possible extent: and I consider all that I am, and all that I have, as yours.” If these mercies, as far as they were vouchsafed to the Jews, deserved to be had in continual remembrance, how much greater cause have we to remember them; we, who have been redeemed, not from Egypt, but from hell itself; and not by power only, but by price, even by the precious blood of God’s only-begotten Son; and who have such an interest in God, that he not merely dwells amongst us, but in us, being one with us, as he is one with Christ himself [Note: Joh 15:5; Joh 17:21-23 and 1Co 6:17.]! Methinks, instead of finding it difficult to turn our minds to this subject, it may well appear strange that we can for a moment fix them upon any thing else. Were we day and night to “meditate on the loving-kindness of our God, our souls would be filled as with marrow and fatness, and our mouth would praise him with joyful lips [Note: Psa 63:3-6.].”]

The ordinance before us goes further still, and prescribes,

II.

The means by which we are to obtain it—

True it is that no distinctions in dress are prescribed to us: the ordinance in this respect is annulled. But, as a means to an end, the appointment of the fringe may teach us,

1.

To make a spiritual improvement of sensible objects—

[This was the direct intent of the fringes on their garments: they were as monitors, to remind the people of their duty and obligations. And why may not we receive similar admonitions from every thing around us? Has not our blessed Lord set us the example? For instance, What part of husbandry is there which he has not made a source of spiritual instruction? the ploughing, the sowing, the weeding, the growth, the reaping, the carrying, the winnowing, the destruction of the chaff, and the treasuring up of the wheat, are all improved by him in this view. There are some things also which he has expressly ordained to be used for this end. What is the water in baptism, but to remind us of “the answer of a good conscience towards God [Note: 1Pe 3:21.]?” What are the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, but to be signs to us of his body broken, and his blood shed, for the sins of the whole world? We acknowledge that those things only which he has appointed to be signs, are of necessity to be used as such; but we are at liberty to use every thing in that view; and so far from its being superstitious to do so, it is highly reasonable and proper to do it: it then only becomes superstitious, when it is rested in as an end, or used as a mean for an end which it has no proper tendency to effect. Some have been offended with the use of the cross in baptism: and if it were intended as any kind of charm, they might well be offended with it: but it is, as the Liturgy expresses it, “a token that hereafter the child shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified:” and, if it serve to impress the minds of the sponsors in that light, it is well: if it do not, the fault is not in it, but in them. The same may we say in reference to the names, the titles, and the habits that are in use amongst us. Our Christian name, as it is called, should never be mentioned without bringing to our remembrance him, “whose we are, and whom we are bound to serve.” The titles which are given to men, either on account of their rank in society, or of their consecration to the sacred office of the ministry, may well be improved for that end for which they were originally given; not merely to shew to others what respect was due to the individuals, but to shew to the individuals themselves what might justly be expected of them, and what their rank and office required: the one should maintain his honour unsullied; the other should be so heavenly in his deportment as to constrain all to revere him. In this view, the use of the surplice was doubtless well intended; and happy would it be if all who wear it were reminded, as often as they put it on, how pure and spotless they ought to be, both in their hearts and lives. The very sight of a lofty church should remind us, that we are temples of the living God; whilst the spire pointing upwards, may well direct us to lift up our hearts to God.

Let us not be misunderstood. We contend not for any of these things as necessary; but we learn from our text that they may be rendered subservient to a blessed end, and that it is our privilege to make every thing around us a step towards heaven.]

2.

To get the law itself written in our hearts—

[Whilst the fringes had in themselves a practical use, they were also emblematical of benefits which were to be more fully bestowed under the Christian dispensation. As a sign they are abolished: but the thing signified remains in undiminished force. What the thing signified was, we are at no loss to determine: it was, that the law, of which a visible memorial was to be worn by the Jews, was to be inscribed in lively characters on our hearts. To this effect Moses speaks repeatedly, when giving directions respecting those other memorials of the law, which were to be worn on the forehead, and on the neck, and arms: “These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes [Note: Deu 6:6-9.].” And again, “Ye shall lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul [Note: Deu 11:18-20. See also Pro 3:3.].” Hence the real design of God even as it respected them, and much more as it respects us, is evident. Moreover, God has promised this very thing to us, as the distinguishing blessing of the new covenant: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts [Note: Jer 31:33 with Heb 8:10.].”

Now this is the true way to attain that constant sense of our duty and obligations to God, which have been before mentioned. For, if his law be written on our hearts, we shall find the same disposition to meditate upon it, as a covetous man does to meditate upon his gains, and an ambitious man on his distinctions. It is true, the heart has more to struggle with in the one case than the other; but, in proportion as divine grace prevails, holy exercises will be easy and delightful.]

3.

To exhibit that law in our lives—

[The fringe was a distinction which shewed to every one of what religion they were. Thus there is a singularity which we also are to maintain: we are to be “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” If others will not walk with us in the narrow path of holiness, it is not our fault that we are singular, but theirs: we are no more blameable for differing from them, than Noah, Lot, Daniel, or Elijah, were for differing from the people amongst whom they lived. As to singularity in dress, it is rather to be avoided than desired. Our distinctions must be found only in the conformity of our lives to the word of God. Whilst the world are clad in gay attire, let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and be “clothed with humility:” yea, let us “put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” This is the way to honour God; and the more we strive to adorn our holy profession, the more peace and happiness we shall enjoy in it. In a word, holiness is our fringe: let us wear it: let us not be ashamed of it, but rather endeavour to “make our light to shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” Of course, I must not be understood to recommend any thing like ostentation: that is hateful both to God and man: but a bold, open, manly confession of Christ crucified is the indispensable duty of all who are called by his name: and “if we deny him, he will assuredly deny us.” I say then again, let us wear the fringe, and not indulge a wish to hide it. But let us be careful that “the ribband be of blue:” it must not be of any fading colour: our piety must be uniform in all places, and unchanging under all circumstances. We must be the same in the world as in the house of God. We must be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord;” and then we are assured, that “our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]


Verses of Numbers 15

37

Consult other comments:

Numbers 15:37 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Numbers 15:37 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Numbers 15:37 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Numbers 15:37 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Numbers 15:37 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Numbers 15:37 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Numbers 15:37 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Numbers 15:37 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Numbers 15:37 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Numbers 15:37 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Numbers 15:37 - The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Numbers 15:37 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Numbers 15:37 - The Complete Pulpit Commentary

Numbers 15:37 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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