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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

After divers ceremonial institutions, God here returns to the enforcement of moral precepts. The former are still of use to us as types, the latter still binding as laws. We have here, 1. The sacred authority by which these laws are enacted: I am the Lord your God (Lev. 18:1, 4, 30), and I am the Lord, Lev. 18:5, 6, 21. “The Lord, who has a right to rule all; your God, who has a peculiar right to rule you.” Jehovah is the fountain of being, and therefore the fountain of power, whose we are, whom we are bound to serve, and who is able to punish all disobedience. “Your God to whom you have consented, in whom you are happy, to whom you lie under the highest obligations imaginable, and to whom you are accountable.” 2. A strict caution to take heed of retaining the relics of the idolatries of Egypt, where they had dwelt, and of receiving the infection of the idolatries of Canaan, whither they were now going, Lev. 18:3. Now that God was by Moses teaching them his ordinances there was aliquid dediscendum—something to be unlearned, which they had sucked in with their milk in Egypt, a country noted for idolatry: You shall not do after the doings of the land of Egypt. It would be the greatest absurdity in itself to retain such an affection for their house of bondage as to be governed in their devotions by the usages of it, and the greatest ingratitude to God, who had so wonderfully and graciously delivered them. Nay, as if governed by a spirit of contradiction, they would be in danger, even after they had received these ordinances of God, of admitting the wicked usages of the Canaanites and of inheriting their vices with their land. Of this danger they are here warned, You shall not walk in their ordinances. Such a tyrant is custom that their practices are called ordinances, and they became rivals even with God’s ordinances, and God’s professing people were in danger of receiving law from them. 3. A solemn charge to them to keep God’s judgments, statutes, and ordinances, Lev. 18:4, 5. To this charge, and many similar ones, David seems to refer in the many prayers and professions he makes relating to God’s laws in the Ps. 119. Observe here, (1.) The great rule of our obedience—God’s statutes and judgments. These we must keep to walk therein. We must keep them in our books, and keep them in our hands, that we may practise them in our hearts and lives. Remember God’s commandments to do them, Ps. 103:18. We must keep in them as our way to travel in, keep to them as our rule to work by, keep them as our treasure, as the apple of our eye, with the utmost care and value. (2.) The great advantage of our obedience: Which if a man do, he shall live in them, that is, “he shall be happy here and hereafter.” We have reason to thank God, [1.] That this is still in force as a promise, with a very favourable construction of the condition. If we keep God’s commandments in sincerity, though we come short of sinless perfection, we shall find that the way of duty is the way of comfort, and will be the way to happiness. Godliness has the promise of life, 1 Tim. 4:8. Wisdom has said, Keep my commandments and live: and if through the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the body (which are to us as the usages of Egypt were to Israel) we shall live. [2.] That it is not so in force in the nature of a covenant as that the least transgression shall for ever exclude us from this life. The apostle quotes this twice as opposite to the faith which the gospel reveals. It is the description of the righteousness which is by the law, the man that doeth them shall live en autoisin them (Rom. 10:5), and is urged to prove that the law is not of faith, Gal. 3:12. The alteration which the gospel has made is in the last word: still the man that does them shall live, but not live in them; for the law could not give life, because we could not perfectly keep it; it was weak through the flesh, not in itself; but now the man that does them shall live by the faith of the Son of God. He shall owe his life to the grace of Christ, and not to the merit of his own works; see Gal. 3:21, 22. The just shall live, but they shall live by faith, by virtue of their union with Christ, who is their life.