THE SERVANT DEVOTING HIMSELF TO HIS MASTER’S SERVICE
Deu_15:16-17. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee, (because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee,) then thou shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever.
THE work of redemption was typified, not only by stated proclamations of liberty every fiftieth year, which was called the year of jubilee, but also by provision that all Hebrew servants, for whatever cause they had become bond-men, should be liberated from their bondage after the expiration of six years. But it would sometimes happen that a person might be so well pleased with his situation as not to wish to leave it, but to prefer it before that to which he was entitled. For such cases particular provision was made by God himself; and a very singular rite was appointed for the ratification of his purpose: on declaring before a magistrate that he chose to continue his master’s bond-servant, his master was to bore his ear through with an awl to the door or door-post; and the servant could never afterwards claim his liberty till the year of jubilee.
We should not have ventured to annex any great importance to this ordinance, if the inspired writers themselves had not led the way. But we apprehend that they refer to it as a type; and in that view we conceive it deserves peculiar attention. We shall endeavour therefore to point out to you,
Its typical reference—
It is well known that our Saviour, as Mediator between God and man, was the Father’s servant [Note: Isa_42:1; Joh_12:49.]: in this capacity he set himself wholly to do the Father’s will [Note: Joh_4:34.]; and never for one moment admitted so much as a thought of relinquishing his service, till he could say, “I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do.”
Let us briefly notice this at the different periods of his humiliation—
[At his incarnation.—When the fulness of time was come, and the season had arrived when he must assume our fallen nature in order to execute the work assigned him, though he must empty himself of all his glory, and leave his Father’s bosom, and “make himself of no reputation, and take upon him the form of a servant,” and be “made in the likeness of sinful flesh,” and bear all the infirmities (the sinless infirmities) of our nature, he would not go back from the engagements which he had entered into with his Father, but condescended to he born of a virgin, and to become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He loved the work he had undertaken; he delighted in the prospect of glorifying his Father, and saving our ruined race; and accounted no condescension too great for the accomplishing of this stupendous purpose.
At the time of his sufferings and death, he still persisted in his resolution to do and suffer all that was necessary for our redemption. He often forewarned his disciples of the precise sufferings which he was to endure: and when one of the most highly favoured among them endeavoured to dissuade him from his purpose, he reproved him with great severity [Note: Mat_16:21-23.], determining never to recede till he had completed the work which he had engaged to perform. When, under the pressure of inconceivable agonies, his human nature began, as it were, to fail, he still maintained his steadfastness; “Not my will, but thine be done.” Had it pleased him, even when apprehended by his enemies, or hanging on the cross, to terminate his sufferings before the time, he might have had legions of angels sent for his deliverance [Note: Mat_26:53-54.]: but he would not suffer the cup to pass from him till he had drunk it to the lowest dregs.]
All this, it may be said, is very true; but what relation has it to the point before us? We answer, that this steadfastness of his in performing engagements, which without any necessity on his part he had undertaken, was the very thing typified in the ordinance we are now considering—
[The Psalmist expressly speaking of Christ’s appointment to make that atonement for sin which the Mosaic sacrifices only prefigured, says, (in allusion to the ordinance before us,) that God the Father had “opened, or bored, the ears” of his servant [Note: Psa_40:6-8.]. And St. Paul, citing that very passage, quotes it, not in the same precise words, but according to their true meaning: “Sacrifice and burnt-offering thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me [Note: Heb_10:5-7.].” Moreover both the inspired writers go on to mark in the strongest terms the determination of heart with which the Messiah should fulfil, and actually did fulfil, the inconceivably arduous task which he had undertaken [Note: Note the varied expressions; “Lo, I come: I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” These, applied as they are to the whole of the Messiah’s humiliation, (Heb_10:8-10.) mark strongly his determination as grounded upon love. The circumstance of the Septuagint translation of the 40th Psalm containing the same words as the Apostle quotes, proves nothing either for or against the point in hand. We apprehend that some early transcriber of the Septuagint, from a deference to St. Paul’s authority, altered that translation to make it agree with his words: for we have no reason to think that the Seventy would have presumed to paraphrase that part of the Psalm, instead of translating it; and we are certain that they could not have paraphrased it in that manner (unless by express revelation for that purpose), because they neither had, nor could have, sufficiently clear views of the Gospel, to mark its deepest mystery in so precise a way.].]
Trusting that we have not been guided by fancy in our interpretation of this type, let us inquire into,
The practical instruction to be deduced from it—
As a civil ordinance, it seems to have been well calculated to instill into the minds both of masters and servants a strict attention to each other’s happiness and welfare, so that neither of them might ever wish for a dissolution of their mutual bonds. (And O! that our present consideration of it might be so improved by all who sustain either of those relations!) But, as a typical ordinance, it must, in its practical improvement, have a wider range.
Our blessed Lord has not only redeemed us to God by his blood, but has also “set us an example, that we should follow his steps.” Hence it is evident that we should,
Love the service of our God—
[We should not account any of “his commandments grievous,” or say concerning any precept of his, “This is an hard saying.” He himself has told us that “his yoke is easy, and his burthen is light:” and in our Liturgy we acknowledge “his service to be perfect freedom.” Such was the language of David: “O how I love thy law!” and again, “I esteem thy commandments concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” Let it “not then be of constraint that you serve him, but willingly and of a ready mind.” And if you foresee difficulties and trials in your way, be not ashamed; but give up yourself unreservedly to God, and adopt the language of the Messiah himself, “Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart ”— — —]
Adhere to it steadfastly to the latest hour of your life—
[Many reasons might have operated on the mind of a
servant to prevent him from perpetuating his bondage. He might fear an alteration in the behaviour of his master, and comfort himself with the idea of liberty. In like manner we may paint to ourselves many trials that may be avoided, and many gratifications that maybe enjoyed, by declining the service of our God. But let no considerations operate upon your minds: you shall lose no gratification that shall not be far overbalanced by the comfort of a good conscience; nor suffer any trial, which shall not be recompensed with a proportionable weight of glory in a better world. You are not likely to lose more than Paul; yet he says, “What was gain to me, that I counted loss for Christ; yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of him.” You are not likely to suffer more than he: yet he says, “But none of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself.” Thus let it be with you: “Be not weary in well-doing;” but “cleave unto the Lord with full purpose of heart:” “Be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in his work:” “Be faithful unto death, and he shall give you a crown of life”— — —]
Those who have already declined from the Lord’s ways—
[I ask not what sufferings you have avoided, or what pleasures you have gained. This only will I ask; Are you as happy as you were? I am content to put the whole to the issue; and to abide by the decision of your own conscience. I know that though a conscience may be seared, a soul cannot be happy that departs from God. O think what a Master you have slighted; and say, “I will return unto my first husband, for then it was better with me than now.”]
Those who are doubting whether to devote themselves to God or not—
[Many there are who, seeing the necessity of serving God, are contriving how they may do it with the least risk or trouble to themselves. They are thinking to “serve both God and Mammon.” But this is impossible, because the two services are opposite and inconsistent. Let us not however be misunderstood. We may, and must, fulfil our duties in the world, yea, and fulfil them diligently too: but God alone must be our Lord and Governor. He will not accept such a measure of our affection and service as the world will deign to allow him; but says, “My son, give me thy heart,” thy whole heart. Every interest of ours, and every wish, must be subordinated to his will. Determine this then with yourselves, that you will be his, wholly and for ever. Let your ears be bored to his door-post: and let, not your actions merely, but your very thoughts, be henceforth kept in a willing captivity to him. “If Baal be God, serve him: but if the Lord be God, then serve him.”]
Those who profess themselves his willing and devoted servants—
[Shew to the world that his service is a reasonable and a delightful service. Let not the difference between you and others be found merely in some foolish peculiarities, but in a holy, heavenly conversation. And be not mournful and dejected, as if God were an hard master; but “serve him with gladness and joyfulness of heart,” that all around you may see the comforts of religion, and know, from what they behold in you, that the Church militant and Church triumphant are one; one in occupation, and one in joy.]