The term, “take heed” (“shamar” in Hebrew) occurs 29 times in the Old Testament. Out of this number, 25 relate to the Lord’s warning to His people, Israel. In the original, “shamar” has the idea of “setting up a hedge (as with thorns); guarding; attending to; being watchful or circumspect”.
Let us consider some of these references in their context, that we may draw precious lessons from them:
o “And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death” (Exodus 19: 12)
At Mount Sinai, the Lord commanded Moses to “sanctify” the people that He might speak to them (Ex 19: 10). They were to “be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai” (Ex 19: 11). Besides bodily purification and spiritual preparation (vv 10, 15), the people were specifically warned to stay clear of Mount Sinai because of God’s holy presence there (vv 12-13).
“Take heed to yourselves” stresses the personal responsibility of watchfulness – “that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it.” The mount where God’s presence was manifested was “holy ground” (Ex 3: 5). Offenders would face swift and sure judgment – “whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death”. What a sober warning!
Our God is pure, holy and righteous. He will never allow anything to pollute His sanctity. The Lord will deal severely with those who trifle with His holiness. This was clearly demonstrated in God’s swift judgment upon Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who “offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not” (Lev 10: 1). For presuming upon God and abusing their priestly office, Nadab and Abihu paid with their lives (Lev 10: 2).
Brethren, let us not take God’s holiness lightly. The apostle Paul reminds us in Hebrews 10: 31 – “For it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Rather, let us fear Him and serve Him with clean hands and pure hearts.
o “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee” (Exodus 34: 12)
Moses’ warning in this verse was in the context of Israel’s subsequent possession of the Promised Land of Canaan. As God’s chosen people, Israel must not “make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land” - “lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee”. Instead of forming alliances with them – which would draw them to follow their sinful and idolatrous practices (Ex 34: 14-16) – they were to “destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves” (v 13).
God’s Word commands us to separate from non-believers lest we be ensnared by their worldly values and ungodly influences (II Cor 6: 14 - 7: 1). This means we should not have close personal or business relationships with them. May we take heed to this command to honour the Lord in all our relationships.
o “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deuteronomy 4: 9)
It is significant that the Israelites were warned three times in Deuteronomy Chapter 4 to “take heed” (vv 9, 15, 23). The Lord knows the sinful tendency of men – to “forget the things which thine eyes have seen”. We often forget the goodness and grace of God. Our hearts are easily turned away from Him to walk in our own wilful ways. Graciously, the Lord warned His people not only to be watchful over their souls, but to instruct their children to love God and to fear Him.
God is concerned for our families, especially our children. As Christian parents, let us faithfully teach them God’s Word. Begin by setting up a family altar. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes a day to worship the Lord together. Resolve to be a godly example at home so that our family members can be encouraged to walk in the ways of the Lord. (… to be continued)