Verses 1-5 The people are called upon to declare why they were weary of God's worship, and prone to idolatry. Sin causes the controversy between God and man. God reasons with us, to teach us to reason with ourselves. Let them remember God's many favours to them and their fathers, and compare with them their unworthy, ungrateful conduct toward him.
Verses 6-8 These verses seem to contain the substance of Balak's consultation with Balaam how to obtain the favour of Israel's God. Deep conviction of guilt and wrath will put men upon careful inquiries after peace and pardon, and then there begins to be some ground for hope of them. In order to God's being pleased with us, our care must be for an interest in the atonement of Christ, and that the sin by which we displease him may be taken away. What will be a satisfaction to God's justice? In whose name must we come, as we have nothing to plead as our own? In what righteousness shall we appear before him? The proposals betray ignorance, though they show zeal. They offer that which is very rich and costly. Those who are fully convinced of sin, and of their misery and danger by reason of it, would give all the world, if they had it, for peace and pardon. Yet they do not offer aright. The sacrifices had value from their reference to Christ; it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. And all proposals of peace, except those according to the gospel, are absurd. They could not answer the demands of Divine justice, nor satisfy the wrong done to the honour of God by sin, nor would they serve at all in place of holiness of the heart and reformation of the life. Men will part with any thing rather than their sins; but they part with nothing so as to be accepted of God, unless they do part with their sins. Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God's commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but love to himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard, in this? Every thought within us must be brought down, to be brought into obedience to God, if we would walk comfortably with him. We must do this as penitent sinners, in dependence on the Redeemer and his atonement. Blessed be the Lord that he is ever ready to give his grace to the humble, waiting penitent.
Verses 9-16 God, having showed how necessary it was that they should do justly, here shows how plain it was that they had done unjustly. This voice of the Lord says to all, Hear the rod when it is coming, before you see it, and feel it. Hear the rod when it is come, and you are sensible of the smart; hear what counsels, what cautions it speaks. The voice of God is to be heard in the rod of God. Those who are dishonest in their dealings shall never be reckoned pure, whatever shows of devotion they may make. What is got by fraud and oppression, cannot be kept or enjoyed with satisfaction. What we hold closest we commonly lose soonest. Sin is a root of bitterness, soon planted, but not soon plucked up again. Their being the people of God in name and profession, while they kept themselves in his love, was an honour to them; but now, being backsliders, their having been once the people of God turns to their reproach.