Here is a repetition of several appointments made before, especially relating to their solemn feasts. When they had made the calf, they proclaimed a feast in honour of it; now, that they might never do so again, they are here charged with the observance of the feasts which God had instituted. Note, Men need not be drawn from their religion by the temptation of mirth, for we serve a Master that has abundantly provided for the joy of his servants: serious godliness is a continual feast, and joy in God always.
I. Once a week they must rest (Exod. 34:21), even in earing time, and in harvest, the most busy times of the year. All worldly business must give way to that holy rest; harvest-work will prosper the better for the religious observance of the sab 4a47 bath-day in harvest-time. Hereby we must show that we prefer our communion with God, and our duty to him, before either the business or the joy of harvest.
II. Thrice a year they must feast (Exod. 34:23); they must then appear before the Lord, God, the God of Israel. In all our religious approaches to God, we must eye him as the Lord God, infinitely blessed, great, and glorious, that we may worship him with reverence and godly fear, as the God of Israel, a God in covenant with us, that we may be encouraged to trust in him, and to serve him cheerfully. We always are before God; but, in holy duties, we present ourselves before him, as servants to receive commands, as petitioners to sue for favours, and we have reason to do both with joy. But it might be suggested that, when all the males from every part of the country had gone up to worship in the place that God should choose, the country would be left exposed to the insults of their neighbours; and what would become of the poor women and children, and sick and aged, that were left at home? Trust God with them (Exod. 34:24): Neither shall any man desire thy land; not only they shall not invade it, but they shall not so much as think of invading it. Note, 1. All hearts are in God’s hands, and under his check; he can lay a restraint, not only upon men’s actions, but upon their desires. Canaan was a desirable land, and the neighbouring nations were greedy enough; and yet God says, “They shall not desire it.” Let us check all sinful desires in our own hearts against God and his glory, and then trust him to check all sinful desires in the hearts of others against us and our interest. 2. The way of duty is the way of safety. If we serve God, he will preserve us; and those that venture for him shall never lose by him. While we are employed in God’s work, and are attending upon him, we are taken under special protection, as noblemen and members of parliament are privileged from arrests.
III. The three feasts are here mentioned, with their appendages. 1. The passover, and the feast of unleavened bread, in remembrance of their deliverance out of Egypt; and to this is annexed the law of the redemption of the first-born, Exod. 34:18-20. This feast was instituted, Exod. 12:13; and urged again, Exod. 23:15. 2. The feast of weeks, that is, that of pentecost, seven weeks after the passover; and to this is annexed the law of the first-fruits. 3. The feast of in-gathering at the year’s end, which was the feast of tabernacles (Exod. 34:22): of these also he had spoken before, Exod. 23:16. As to those laws repeated here (Exod. 34:25, 26), that against leaven relates to the passover, that of the first-fruits to the feast of pentecost, and therefore that against seething the kid in his mother’s milk in all probability relates to the feast of in-gathering, at which God would not have them use that superstitious ceremony, which probably they had seen the Egyptians, or some other of the neighbouring nations, bless their harvests with.
IV. With these laws, here repeated, it is probable all that was said to him when he was before upon the mount was repeated likewise, and the model of the tabernacle shown him again, lest the ruffle and discomposure, which the golden calf had put him in to should have bereaved him of the ideas he had in mind of what he had seen and heard; also in token of a complete reconciliation, and to show that not one jot or tittle of the law should pass away, but that all should be carefully preserved by the great Mediator, who came not to destroy, but to fulfil, Matt. 5:17, 18. And in the close, 1. Moses is ordered to write these words (Exod. 34:27), that the people might be the better acquainted with them by a frequent perusal, and that they might be transmitted to the generations to come. We can never be enough thankful to God for the written word. 2. He is told that according to the tenour of these words God would make a covenant with Moses and Israel; not with Israel immediately, but with them in Moses a mediator. Thus the covenant of grace is made with believers through Christ, who is given for a covenant to the people, Isa. 49:8. And, as here the covenant was made according to the tenour of the command, so it is still; for we are by baptism brought into covenant, that we may be taught to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded us, Matt. 28:19, 20.