It shall be our righteousness - The evidence that we are under the influence of the fear and love of God. Moses does not say that this righteousness could be wrought without the influence of God's mercy, nor does he say that they should purchase heaven by it: but, God required them to be conformed to his will in all things, that they might be holy in heart, and righteous in every part of their moral conduct.
1. On a very important subject in this chapter, it may be necessary to make some farther observations.
A most injurious and destructive maxim has lately been advanced by a few individuals, which it is to be hoped is disowned by the class of Christians to which they belong, though the authors affect to be thought Christians, and rational ones, too; the sum of the maxim is this: "Children ought not to be taught religion for fear of having their minds biased to some particular creed, but they should be left to themselves till they are capable of making a choice, and choose to make one." This maxim is in flat opposition to the command of God, and those who teach it show how little they are affected by the religion they profess. If they felt it to be good for any thing, they would certainly wish their children to possess it; but they do not teach religion to their children, because they feel it to be of no use to themselves. Now the Christian religion properly applied saves the soul, and fills the heart with love to God and man; for the love of God is shed abroad in the heart of a genuine believer, by the Holy Ghost given to him. These persons have no such love, because they have not the religion that inspires it; and the spurious religion which admits of the maxim above mentioned, is not the religion of God, and consequently better untaught than taught. But what can be said to those parents who, possessing a better faith, equally neglect the instruction of their children in the things of God! They are highly criminal; and if their children perish through neglect, which is very probable, what a dreadful account must they give in the great day! Parents! hear what the Lord saith unto you: Ye shall diligently teach your children that there is one Lord, Jehovah, Elohim; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: and that they must love him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might. And as children are heedless, apt to forget, liable to be carried away by sensible things, repeat and re-repeat the instruction, and add line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, carefully studying time, place, and circumstances, that your labor be not in vain: show it in its amiableness, excite attention by exciting interest; show how good, how useful, how blessed, how ennobling, how glorious it is. Whet these things on their hearts till the keenest edge is raised on the strongest desire, till they can say, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee!"
See the notes on Deuteronomy 4:9, and Genesis 18 (note), and Genesis 29 (note) at the end.
2. Without offense to any, I hope, a few words more may be said on the nature of an oath, in addition to the note, see Deuteronomy 6:13; (note). The matter is important, and perhaps not well understood by many.
The making an appeal to the Supreme Being, and calling him to witness and record, constitutes the spirit and essence of an oath. It is no matter in what form this appeal is made, whether by putting the hand under the thigh, as among the patriarchs; by the water of the Ganges, as among the Hindoos; on a surat or chapter of the Koran, as among the Mohammedans; on a Hebrew Pentateuch, as among the Jews; on the form of the cross, as among the Roman Catholics; kissing the New Testament, as among Protestants in general; or holding up the hand, and making affirmation, as among the people called Quakers; still the oath is the same, for the appeal is made to God. On this ground (and this is the true ground), the holding up of the hand in a court of justice, is as perfect, as substantial, and as formal an oath, as kissing the New Testament. Why then so many objections against taking an oath in a court of justice by any one particular form, when the same thing is done in spirit, essence, and substance, when God is called to witness and record, though the form be different? When God says, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by his name, he says, in effect, Thou shalt have no god besides me; thou shalt consider me the fountain of truth, the rewarder of righteousness, and the punisher of perfidy and wickedness. Swear by my name - bind thyself to me; take me for witness to all thy actions; and act in all things as having me continually before thine eyes, and knowing that for every act and word thou shalt give account to me in the day of judgment. Our Lord's command, Swear not at all, can never relate to an oath in a civil cause, taken according to the definition above given: profane and common swearing, with all light, irreverent oaths and imprecations, and all such oaths as are not required by the civil magistrate, in cases where the Lord is supposed to be witness, are certainly intended in our blessed Lord's prohibition. See on Deuteronomy 4:26; (note).
The Israelites were at the point of quitting a normal, life for a fixed and settled abode in the midst of other nations; they were exchanging a condition of comparative poverty for great and goodly cities, houses and vineyards. There was therefore before them a double danger;
(1) a God-forgetting worldliness, and
(2) a false tolerance of the idolatries practiced by those about to become their neighbors.
The former error Moses strives to guard against in the verses before us; the latter in Deuteronomy 7:1-11.
The command “to swear by His Name” is not inconsistent with the Lord‘s injunction Matthew 5:34, “Swear not at all.” Moses refers to legal swearing, our Lord to swearing in common conversation. It is not the purpose of Moses to encourage the practice of taking oaths, but to forbid that, when taken, they should be taken in any other name than that of Israel‘s God. The oath involves an invocation of Deity, and so a solemn recognition of Him whose Name is made use of in it. Hence, it comes especially within the scope of the commandment Moses is enforcing.
It shall be our righteousness - i. e., God will esteem us as righteous and deal with us accordingly. From the very beginning made Moses the whole righteousness of the Law to depend entirely on a right state of the heart, in one word, upon faith.
Opposition we shall have as we voice the message of the third angel. Satan will bring in every possible device to make of no effect the faith once delivered to the saints. “Many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 2 Peter 2:2, 3. But in spite of opposition, all are to hear the words of truth. 8T 199.1
The law of God is the foundation of all enduring reformation. We are to present to the world in clear, distinct lines the need of obeying this law. Obedience to God's law is the greatest incentive to industry, economy, truthfulness, and just dealing between man and man. 8T 199.2
The law of God is to be the means of education in the family. Parents are under a most solemn obligation to obey this law, setting their children an example of the strictest integrity. Men in responsible positions, whose influence is far-reaching, are to guard well their ways and works, keeping the fear of the Lord ever before them. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10. Those who hearken diligently to the voice of the Lord and cheerfully keep His commandments will be among the number who see God. “The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He hath commanded us.” Deuteronomy 6:24, 25. 8T 199.3
Our work as believers in the truth is to present before the world the immutability of the law of God. Ministers and teachers, physicians and nurses, are bound by covenant with God to present the importance of obeying His law. We are to be distinguished as a people who keep the commandments. The Lord has stated explicitly that He has a work to be done for the world. How shall it be done? Let us seek to find the best way and then perform the will of the Lord. 8T 199.4Read in context »
Had Israel obeyed the directions given them by Moses, not one of those who started on the journey from Egypt would in the wilderness have fallen a prey to disease or death. They were under a safe Guide. Christ had pledged Himself to lead them safely to the promised land if they would follow His guidance. This vast multitude, numbering more than a million people, was under His direct rule. They were His family. In every one of them He was interested (Manuscript 144, 1903). 1BC 1118.1Read in context »
“And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us.” The fear here spoken of it not a servile fear, but a godly fear. LHU 160.4Read in context »
The Old and the New Testament Scriptures need to be studied daily. The knowledge of God and the wisdom of God come to the student who is a constant learner of His ways and works. The Bible is to be our light, our educator. When we will acknowledge God in all our ways; when the youth are educated to believe that God sends the rain and the sunshine from heaven, causing vegetation to flourish; when they are taught that all blessings come from Him, and that thanksgiving and praise are due to Him; when with fidelity they acknowledge God, and discharge their duties day by day, God will be in all their thoughts; they can trust Him for tomorrow, and that anxious care that brings unhappiness to so many lives, will be avoided. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” FE 414.1
The first great lesson in all education is to know and understand the will of God. Take the knowledge of God with you through every day of life. Let it absorb the mind and the whole being. God gave Solomon wisdom, but this God-given wisdom was perverted when he turned from God to obtain wisdom from other sources. We need the wisdom of Solomon after we have learned the wisdom of One greater than Solomon. We are not to go through human wisdom, which is termed foolishness, to seek true wisdom. For men to learn science through man's interpretation, is to obtain a false education, but to learn of God and Jesus Christ is to learn the science of the Bible. The confusion in education has come because the wisdom and knowledge of God have not been honored and exalted by the religious world. The pure in heart see God in every providence, in every phase of true education. They vibrate to the first approach of light which radiates from the throne of God. Communications from heaven are made to those who will catch the first gleams of spiritual knowledge. FE 414.2Read in context »