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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Numbers 10:1-10. Instructions for signalling the movements of the camp are properly inserted here as one of the necessary preliminaries for the march which was about to commence.
Numbers 10:2. Two trumpets. “The trumpet (khatsotserah) was a straight instrument, differing in this respect from the curved horn or cornet (keren, shophar); yet the latter is frequently rendered ‘trumpet’ in the A. V., when the two instruments are not mentioned together. The Jewish trumpet is described (Joseph. ‘Ant.’ iii. 12.6) as ‘a little less than a cubit in length; the tube narrow, a little thicker than a flute, and just wide enough to permit the performer to blow it; while it terminated, like other trumpets, in the form of a bell’ ”.—Speaker’s Comm.
At this time only two trumpets were ordered. Two only were required, inasmuch as they were to be used only by the priests, of which at this time there were only two. When there were more priests there were also more trumpets. Comp. 1 Chronicles 15:24; 2 Chronicles 5:12.
Numbers 10:3. The blowing of both the trumpets was the signal for convening the great assembly, composed of all the representatives of the entire congregation, viz., the heads of families, the princes of the tribes, the elders, judges, et al.
Numbers 10:4. The blowing of one trumpet only was the signal for a more select assembly, composed merely of the heads of the clans and the princes of the tribes.
Numbers 10:7. Expositors are not agreed as to the difference between the signal for assembly and the signal of alarm. Henry, Trapp, et al, hold that the alarm was a broken, quavering, interrupted sound; and the signal for assembly a continued equal sound. Keil and Del. and the Speaker’s Comm. propound the opposite view: that for an alarm a long continuous peal was to be blown, and for an assembly short sharp notes. Dr. A. Clarke suggests that the alarm consisted of short, broken, sharp tones, terminating with long ones, blown with both the trumpets at once. It is perhaps impossible to determine which of these interpretations is correct.
Numbers 10:9. The trumpets were blown by the priests in war as an expression of the dependence of Israel on the help of God. (Comp. ch. Numbers 31:6; 2 Chronicles 13:12; 2 Chronicles 13:14.)
Numbers 10:11. This verse is the beginning of the second great division of the book. The preparations for the march being completed, the camp is broken up, and they set out on their march to Canaan.
Numbers 10:12. The cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran. This statement seems to be made by anticipation, as we find that the desert of Paran was the third station: Kibroth-Hattaavah being the first, and Hazeroth, the second (ch. Numbers 11:35; Numbers 12:16). Notes on “the wilderness of Paran” will be more suitable on ch. Numbers 12:16, than in this place.
And here, at the beginning of the journeyings, we may as well mention the difficulties of tracing them accurately, especially after the arrival in the desert of Paran. For, as Mr. Hayman observes, “we have not merely to contend with the fact that time has changed the desert’s face in many parts, and obliterated old names for new; but we have beyond this, great obscurity and perplexity in the narrative. The task is, first, to adjust the uncertainties of the record inter se, and then to try and make the resultant probability square with the main historical and physical facts, so long as the latter can be supposed to remain unaltered. Besides the more or less discontinuous form in which the sacred narrative meets us in Exodus, a small portion of Leviticus, and the greater part of Numbers, we have in Numbers 33:0 what purports at first sight to be a complete skeleton route so far as regards nomenclature; and we further find in Deuteronomy a review of the leading events of the wandering—or some of them—without following the order of occurrence, and chiefly in the way of allusion expanded and dwelt upon. Thus the authority is of a three-fold character. And as, in the main narrative, whole years are often sunk as uneventful, so in the itinerary of Numbers 33:0, on a near view great chasms occur, which require, where all else bespeaks a severe uniformity of method, to be somehow accounted for. But, beyond the questions opened by either authority in itself, we have difficulties of apparent incongruity between them; such as the omission in Exodus of Dophka and Alush, and of the encampment by the Red Sea; and, incomparably greater, that of the fact of a visit to Kadesh being recorded in Numbers 13:26, and again in Numbers 20:1, while the itinerary mentions the name of Kadesh only once”.
We shall endeavour to offer some hints on these difficulties as they arise in our course; but it seemed desirable to call attention to their existence at the beginning of the march from Sinai.
Numbers 10:13. And they first took their journey, etc. “Rather, ‘And they journeyed’ (or set forth) ‘in the order of precedence according to (i.e., established by) the commandment of the Lord,’ etc. The meaning of the Hebrew word for ‘first’ seems determined by its use in the following verse, where it applies to the camp of Judah going before the rest. This order of precedence is described in Numbers 10:14-28.”—Speaker’s Commentary.
Numbers 10:14. According to their armies. “Cf. Numbers 1:3. There were three tribal hosts in each camp; and each tribe had, of course, its sub-divisions”.—Ibid.
Numbers 10:17. When the tabernacle was taken down the Gershonites and the Merarites set forward with the materials of which it was composed, so that at the place of the next encampment they might set it up again, before the arrival of the Kohathites (who followed after, Numbers 10:21) with the sacred vessels, etc. So that during the march, the place of the tabernacle, in the midst of the host, was represented by the sacred furniture of the sanctuary, in charge of the Kohathites.
Numbers 10:29. Hobab, the son of Raguel, etc. There is some uncertainty as to the relation of Hobab to Moses. Here he would seem to be the son of Moses’ father-in-law. But in Judges 4:11, he is spoken of as “the father-in-law of Moses”. The preponderance of evidence seems in favour of his being the brother-in-law of Moses. The Hebrew word translated “father-in-law” may be used to express any relation by marriage. Raguel, or Reuel, who was also named Jethro, was the father-in-law of Moses (Exodus 2:18; Exodus 3:1). He had departed from the camp of Israel previous to their arrival at Sinai (Exodus 18:27); whereas Hobab obtained a settlement with them in the land of Canaan (compare Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11). Moreover the request of Moses that he would accompany them as their guide seems to imply that he was a younger man than the father-in-law of Moses must have been at this time. We conclude that Hobab was the son of Reuel or Jethro, and consequently the brother-in-law of Moses.
Numbers 10:31. Thou mayest be to us instead of eyes. “Hobab may have been of great use to the Israelites, with respect both to guiding their parties to wells and springs in the desert, and to giving them notice where they might find fuel. But besides this, the sacred history expressly mentions several journeys undertaken by detachments of the Israelites, while the main body remained still: so in chap. 13 we read of a party sent out to reconnoitre the land of Canaan; in chap. 20 of the messengers sent from Kadesh to the King of Edom; in chap. 31 of an expedition against the idolatrous Midianites; of some little expeditions in the close of chap. 32; and more journeys of the like kind were, without doubt, undertaken, though they are not particularly recounted. Moses, foreseeing this, might well beg Hobab to accompany him, not as a single Arab, but as the prince of a clan to supply conductors for these detached parties, while the body of the people, and the cloud of the Lord continued stationary”.—Harmer.
THE SILVER TRUMPETS, OR THE RELATION OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY TO THE SEASONS AND SERVICES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Let us notice the following preliminary points:
First: The trumpets and their use were commanded by God. He enjoins their use as means to secure order and progress. He blesses men, saves men by the use of the means which He has appointed.
Second: The trumpets were to be blown by the priests. Every Christian is now a priest; but the ministers of the Gospel are especially the heralds of the Divine messages: it is especially incumbent upon them to blow the silver trumpet of the Gospel.
Third: The trumpets were to be blown in accordance with clear and well-understood instructions. When they were to blow one trumpet only, and when they were to blow both; when the short, sharp, broken notes, and when the long and continuous peal—these things were clearly explained and enjoined. There was to be no uncertainty as to the meaning of the signals. The meaning of the sounds of the Gospel trumpet should be equally and unmistakeably clear. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 14:7-8.)
Fourth: The trumpets were to be blown at different seasons and for different purposes—for conventions, for journeyings, for battles, for festivals, etc. In this we have an illustration of the Relation of the Gospel Ministry to the seasons and services of the Christian life. We proceed to offer some hints on the analogy. The silver trumpets were used—
I. For the calling of assemblies.
“Use them for the calling of the assembly. And when they shall blow with them”, etc., Numbers 10:3-4. In the assemblies of the Church of Jesus Christ for conference, or instruction, or worship, the ministry of the Gospel should be heard. The Word of God has a clear and precious relation to the peaceful engagements of holy worship. In such seasons the Christian minister should lead the people into the green pastures of spiritual instruction, and by the still waters of pure refreshment. The ministry of the Gospel should draw men together, even as the silver trumpets convened the assemblies of Israel. (a)
II. For summoning the people to advance.
“Use them for the journeying of the camps. When ye blow an alarm, then the camps”. etc. (Numbers 10:5-6.) The Christian minister is required to summon the people to arise and “go forward” in their upward pilgrimage. He summons them to advance—
1. In personal holiness. He exhorts them to “follow on to know the Lord”, to “grow in grace,” to “forget those things which are behind,” etc. (Philippians 3:13-14.) It is his to
“Allure to brighter worlds, and lead the way.” (b)
2. In personal and collective usefulness. He should incite both individuals and churches to more diligent and devoted services in the cause of Christ. The true Gospel ministry will never allow the Church to sink into an inglorious and indolent rest; but as with the blast of a trumpet will rouse it to continuous effort and to interminable progress.
III. For encouraging the people in battle.
“And if you go to war in your land against the enemy,” etc., Numbers 10:9. “Great force is in the sound of instruments, of any sort, to stir up both courage and cheerfulness in the hearers of them.” But these trumpets were blown to express their dependence upon God, and to inspire their faith in Him. Like the priests with the silver trumpets the minister of the Gospel should—
1. Encourage Christians to battle against evil. Many are the motives which he may employ for this purpose, e.g., the righteousness of the warfare, the glory of the great Leader, the certainty of victory, etc. (c)
But, as the priests with the silver trumpets, so the Christian minister is to encourage Christians in their battle against evil—
2. By inciting them to trust in God. He gives the victory. We conquer through Him. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” “Above all taking the shield of faith,” etc. “Fight the good fight of faith,” etc.
“The world cannot withstand
Its ancient Conqueror;
The world must sink beneath the hand,
That arms as for the war:
This is our victory!
Before our faith they fall;
Jesus hath died for you and me;
Believe, and conquer all.”
IV. For suitably observing seasons of special interest.
“Also in the day of your gladness,” etc. (Numbers 10:10). Here are three seasons specified at which the trumpets were to be blown, and to which Christianity has a relation and a ministry.
1. Seasons of joy. “In the days of your gladness ye shall blow with the trumpets,” etc. The Gospel aims at the consecration and promotion of human gladness. “That My joy might remain in you, and your joy might be full.” “Rejoice in the Lord alway.” “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “Believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” The Gospel forbids no pure delight, but hallows and increases it.
2. Seasons of solemnity. “In your solemn days ye shall blow with the trumpets,” etc. There are many solemn days in life—days of mental conflict, of spiritual darkness, of social bereavement, etc. In such days the hopeful and helpful sounds of the Gospel trumpet are peculiarly precious.
3. Closing and commencing seasons. “And in the beginnings of your months ye shall blow,” etc. “The return of, the new moons was announced by the sounding of the silver trumpets; and in this way provision was made for keeping up a knowledge of the end and commencement of each month.” And as one period of time comes to an end, and we look back upon its opportunities and privileges gone for ever, and gone when we, alas, how often! have made but little use of them, that Gospel which tells of free and full forgiveness is very precious. And as we look forward to periods of time which are yet in the future, with their manifold and serious possibilities, the voice of that trumpet which announces “Grace to help in time of need,” and strength proportioned to our day, is most gladly welcomed by us.
To all the varying scenes and circumstances of life the Gospel ministry, like the silver trumpets, has an important and beneficent relation.
And we have a twofold intimation that God would bless this institution of the blowing of the silver trumpets. “Ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.… That they may be to you for a memorial before your God. I am the Lord your God.”
If He blessed even the blowing of trumpets, when performed in obedience to Him, will He not much more bless the ministry of the Gospel of His Son?
(a) The trumpet was the sacred joyful bound in old Palestine, the silver trumpets blown by the priests of the sons of Aaron. The trumpet proclaimed the opening of the year, the trumpet proclaimed the commencement of the sabbatical year, the trumpet proclaimed the year of Jubilee that was kept by the Israelites, the feast of trumpets, and the tone of the trumpet mingled with their most solemn feasts and domestic scenes:
“Then rose the choral hymn of praise,
The trump and timbrel answered keen,
And Judah’s daughters poured their lays,
The priests and warriors’ voice between.”
Conceive such an evening as this in that delightful land; it is the evening of the sixth day, our Friday; the sky is peaceful, it is the wilderness; among those crags are the foes of Israel’s race; there is the tabernacle; there is the cloud about to yield to the fire; a star or two has already appeared; reverently waiting and expecting, the labourers are reposing from their day’s toil; the sun is setting, and darkness approaching. Hark! hark! this is the peal of the silver trumpet over the was, and the tool is dropped; instantly all labour ceases—and it is more, it is the commencement of the sabbatical year! Yonder Philistines may put their own interpretation on it, and say, Their sabbath is begun; but we can say “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound.”—E. P. Hood.
Amazing is the power of sound; it searches the soul more than vision; it vibrates and reverberates—sound more immediately and more deeply penetrates. Nothing presented to the eye tingles along the blood like things presented to the ear. Sound thrills in a wood at night, in loneliness and darkness; the fall of leaves, the stir of creatures in the grass, and a thousand nameless sounds, stir the feeling of mystic awe. Sight is finite; the imagination plays more freely among sounds—the forms are unshaped—the powers are more abiding. Memory—attention—seems to take a deeper hold upon the things presented in sound than in sight. And hence the preacher is a trumpet. The birth of the Society of Friends was in this wise: George Fox was one of the most stirring trumpets of the Church; in the power he possessed by his holy earnestness to rouse men he shows in an eminent manner what “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” may be. And Whitefield was such a trumpet. Men heard and trembled. A mysterious fearfulness shook the souls of listeners; it must have been as when the prophet stood on the mount, and the Lord passed by in the wind, and the earth quake, and the fire, and broke in pieces the rocks; they were the announcements of danger, and wreck, and death.
There are trumpets—they startle and surprise, indeed; but even the trumpet has another purpose; it marshals into order, it becomes motive, beneath its inspiring strains men fall into ranks and march, and it becomes not merely a blast—a breath—its tones fall into the harmonies and melodies of other instruments. Ibid.
(b) If a man would be a Christian after Christ’s type of Christianity, he must aim at making progress continually. His life must be a continual endeavour from the well to the better, from the better to the best. The summit of his attainment of yesterday must be the starting-point for his venture of to-morrow. He must not go to his rest upon the reputation of old victories, or beneath laurels won so long ago that they have absolutely faded from their greenness by the lapse of time. Every morning of his life must light him to a fresh battle-field; every evening of his life must set upon some vanquished lust or slain desire. He must fix his eye on Jesus, and long and strive to be like him. He must trample upon every sin, and he must exhibit every grace which was formerly lacking, until he stands out as the new creature in Christ Jesus the Lord. Brethren, this must of necessity be the aim of every Christian’s life. He must grow if he would live. If he would ascertain his sense of the Divine favour, he must constantly aim at conformity to the Divine image. Nothing short of perfection must be the ideal standard after which we aim. In the world around us the selectest models are uniformly chosen. The young sculptor, and the embryo poet, are thrilled with high exultation; but it is to wield a Phidias’s mallet, or to sweep a Homer’s lyre. The young soldier gazes at reverent distance upon some hero of a hundred fights; but it is that he may be brave and honoured as he. Visions of fame and fortune flit before the young aspirant’s eye, only to be embodied in some renowned statesman, or some wealthy millionaire. And why are all these models chosen, but that each, in his own sphere, may reach or approximate perfection? Worldlings would scorn to aim at a mark less high, or to set before them a standard inferior to themselves. Let them shame you. Christians, into a holier ambition to-day.—W M Punshon, LL.D.
(c) Give me to feel that the strongest will win; that he who has most arm will have most wealth and most enjoyment generally in life; give me to feel that the weakest must go to the wall, however good he be, and I cease to be a man; I lose many of the qualities which redeem men from the utmost vulgarity and bestiality! But tell me that the highest strength is spiritual, that the noblest power is the power of ideas, the power of love; give me to feel that God is watching the battle, and that eventually. He will make right victorious, and instantly I start my life from new centres, I am controlled by new and higher considerations.—Joseph Parker, D.D.
THE SILVER TRUMPETS
“Make thee two trumpets of silver.”
We see God’s all-pervading care. He directs all things for His people’s weal. Their least arrangements are arranged in heaven. Each little matter on the earthly stage is offspring of decree. There are no trifles in a soul’s career. Make conscience of each trivial event. It has an influence on eternity. When God appears to order two Silver Trumpets for the camp, surely He stamps all little things with magnitude.
The material must be silver. Emblem of rare purity. Compare Psalms 12:6; Psalms 93:5. Ministers should precede with silver brightness. The flock should follow, as silver without alloy.
Draw nearer to the camp. Two priests are seen. Each blows a Silver Trumpet. Light falls hence on the office of God’s ministers. Their voice should sound with trumpet-clearness through the flock. They are entrusted with God’s message to a fallen world.… The Silver Trumpets sent a piercing note. So should the Gospel-herald utter aloud the Gospel news. Let statements be clear, as the sun without one cloud—pellucid as the crystal stream—distinct as the un-muffled trumpet’s voice.
The Trumpets were of one piece. So is the Gospel-message. It is not partly works. Christ is All. No diverse metal soiled these Trumpets. No intermingling error should soil pulpits.
The type, moreover, fixes attention on the Christian as a worshipper—a pilgrim—a warrior—a son of joy. For let the occasions on which these Trumpets sounded be now more closely marked.
I. They call the people to God’s sanctuary.
It is a Gospel-ordinance, that worshippers should throng the holy courts—that public prayer and praise should reverence the glorious name. A saintly congregation is an antepast of heaven. The faithful meet to honour God. They honour and are honoured. They come in faith, and they depart in peace. Think not that such assemblage is superfluous. Doubtless God is not linked to means. He can bless in solitude, and hear in the secluded closet. But it has pleased Him to order public worship. His commands are always gain. Faith hears, obeys, and finds obedience to be wealth.
II. They give command to march.
Christians are portion of a marching host. Earth is not our rest. We live a stranger-life. We hold a pilgrim-staff. Our home is far away. Let all be ready for departure. Death should not find a Christian unprepared. When it appears let there be no tremor—no surprise—no work unfinished. The Gospel’s Silver Trumpets ever cry, Arise, Depart. Come up hither.
III. They sound for war.
The life of faith is one incessant fight. Beneath the Cross a sword is drawn, of which the scabbard is cast far away. The foes are many—mighty—wily—restless. They are without—around—within. Count, if you can, the hateful legions who compose hell’s hosts: they all rush at the soul. Survey the world—its snares, etc. Behold the heart, and all its brood of lusts and raging passions. The Gospel-trumpet ever cries, Battle is near. Stand firm. Resist. But when the Gospel calls, it promises sure triumph. It gives an armour wrought of God. It points to a Captain, beneath whose banner no warrior was ever slain. Believer, hear, and go forth in hope, etc.
IV. In the grand feasts they cheer the worshippers around the bleeding victims.
The precept is obeyed; “Sing aloud,” etc. (Psalms 81:1.) Believer, thus, too, the Gospel teaches you to joy, when you in faith contemplate, and in worship plead the meritorious death of Christ. My soul, obey, remember Calvary, and pour forth music of delight.
The Gospel-trumpet is now within your hearing. But it is prelude of another clang (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Are you prepared? If you heed now the Gospel-trumpet calling you to Him, you will hear then the last-day trumpet calling you to glory.
It is faith’s happiest hour when it goes forth in spirit to intermingle in the fast-coming scene (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).
This trumpet soon will sound. Bless Jesus—and fear not.—Henry Law, D.D.
THE RESTING AND THE RISING OF THE GOOD
These verses suggest—
I. That the people of God are sometimes called to remain, as it were, stationary for a time in this life.
For nearly twelve months Israel remained in the desert of Sinai, without making any advance, as regards locality, to the Promised Land. In our individual lives there are sometimes seasons of quiet and rest, in which we live our life and work our work without any apparent change: no sickness seizes us reminding us of our mortality; no great loss or sharp sorrow shakes our tabernacle or tells us of our pilgrim state; no disturbing influence reaches us, crying, “Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest.” In our family life occasionally there are similar occasions; when there is a long exemption from the visitations of death, and the strokes of affliction and grief seem far removed, and no great change takes place in the home circle. And in the larger circle of our friends, events sometimes move on serenely for months without any shock; and our pleasant intercourse is not interrupted by any trumpet-call to march onward. These are seasons of quiet rest and precious privileges. And even as the sojourn at Sinai was for wise and most important ends, so these seasons of rest have their sacred uses and obligations: in them we have lessons to learn for ourselves and services to render to others, which cannot well be accomplished in anxious and laborious times. (a)
II. Though the people of God may appear to remain stationary for a time, yet there is no permanent settlement in this world.
The Israelites made a long halt in the desert of Sinai; but it was only a halt; it was not a settlement. Pauses in the march have their use; and when that use is accomplished, orders to resume the march are at once given. Abiding rest is not in this world. The home of the soul is not here. The longest season of tranquillity and repose is at length broken. The most protracted life has its end. We are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (b)
III. That both the restings and the risings of the people of God are ordered by Him.
“The cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. And the children of Israel took their journeys,” etc. The rising of the cloud was the Divine signal for their departure; the resting of the cloud, for their encampment. “Thou leddest Thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” “And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” And God is still the Guide of His people. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” (See our notes on Numbers 9:17-23). (c)
IV. That the people of God, whether resting or marching, are protected by Him.
In the cloud which preceded them on the march, and overshadowed them in their encampments, the Lord was present for their protection. God is the Guardian of His people. “God our shield”. “In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion,” etc. “Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Compare Psalms 91:1-13; Psalms 121:0. (See our notes on Numbers 9:17-23.) (d)
Learn, in conclusion, to—
1. Gratefully appreciate and diligently use the seasons of quiet rest in life.
2. Remember that, however long and grateful a rest may be granted unto us, we are only pilgrims here. Be ready to arise and depart when the cloud arises.
3. Follow the guidance of God.
4. Trust the protection of God.
(a) “Rest a while!” Why, it is a mother’s word; she says to her little weary child who has toddled itself out of breath, “Rest a while.” It is the word of a great, generous, noble-hearted leader of men. He says, “My company must have rest. I know I am sent to gain victories and conquests, and to work great programmes; but in the meantime my over-worked men must have rest.” It is a gentle word. Where do you find such gentleness as you find in Jesus Christ? Joseph Parker, D.D.
Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. Look at the mower on the summer’s day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets. He pauses in his labour—is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone, and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink, rink-a-tink—Is that idle music? Is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe! But he is sharpening his tool, and he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him. Even thus a little pause prepares the mind for greater service in the good cause. Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must every now and then repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service. To tug the oar from day to day, like a galley-slave who knows no holidays, suits not mortal men. Mill streams go on and on for ever, but we must have our pauses and our intervals. Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission? Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the very sea pauses at ebb and flow; earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintry months; and man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigour or grow prematurely old. It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run we shall do more by sometimes doing less.—C. H. Spurgeon.
(b) “Strangers and pilgrims.” That is the Christian view of life. Christians are all travellers, through a country they cannot stay in; travellers, blessed be God, towards a home, but all travellers; some seemingly going through swiftly, buoyantly, with a high head and an open eye; some foot-sore, jaded, sleepy; some with a chariot of fire, as if the horses of God were whirling them onwards before the eyes of an admiring Church; splendid saints, the tune of whose worship goes manly. Some heavy-hearted, heavy-limbed, but still crawling onwards, feeling, perhaps, no less than the others that here they have no continuing city, but that they seek one to come. Limping by the wayside, but still creeping humbly and bravery on.—Harry Jones, M.A.
(c) A journey may be the outcome of an inspiration. “There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will.” I feel life to be most solemn when I think that inside of it all there is a Spirit that lays out one’s day’s work, that points out when the road is on the left, and when it is on the right, and that tells one what words will best express one’s thought. Then is God nigh at hand and not afar off. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” And thus, too, men are misunderstood: they are called enthusiastic, and are said to be impulsive; they are not “safe” men; they are here to-day and gone to-morrow, and no proper register of their life can be made. Of course, we are to distinguish between inspiration and delusion, and not to think that every noise is thunder. We are not to call a “maggot” a “revelation.” What we are to do is this: We are to live and move and have our being in God; to expect His coming and long for it; to be patient and watchful; to keep our heart according to His word; and then we shall know His voice from the voice of a stranger, for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” If God be our supreme consciousness He will reveal His providence without cloud or doubtfulness. I think it can be proved that the men who have done things apparently against all reason have often been acting in the most reasonable manner, and that inspiration has often been mistaken for madness. I feel that all the while you are asking me to give you tests by which you may know what is inspiration, you have little or nothing to do with such tests,—you have to be right and then you will be sure to do right—Joseph Parker, D.D.
(d) I do not think of the pillar of cloud as being simply a column of smoke arising from the centre of the Tabernacle; it was such, but besides that it covered the whole camp as a vast canopy or pavilion, so that in the great and terrible wilderness they fainted not under the burning heat of the sun, but this pillar of cloud interposed a friendly shade, so that they passed through the wilderness beneath the wings of God. At night their encampment would have been like a great city wrapped in darkness, but the pillar of fire supplied them a light far superior to that which glows in London or in Paris through the art of man; that great flaming pillar lit up every habitation, so that in point of fact there was no night there. They were always sheltered by God, both by day and by night. If they strayed away from the camp for a little time in the heat of the sun, they had only to come flying back, and there that emblem of the present God became their shelter; or at night, if they wandered for awhile, that vast blazing lampion conducted them back again to their place of rest. So it is with us. In nights of trouble and grief, the fire of Divine comfort glows within us, the precious promises are round about us and we rejoice in the Holy Ghost, the Comforter; and when by day we travel over this burning wilderness to the rest appointed, God interposes perpetually the sweet presence of His love to screen us from the sharper sorrows of the world, that we may still, while walking onward to heaven behold the shield of heaven uplifted above our heads.—C. H. Spurgeon.
ASPECTS OF HUMAN PILGRIMAGE
These verses suggest the following remarks.
I. That human pilgrimage should be prosecuted in accordance with Divine directions.
“And they first took their journey according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.” The march proceeded in the order prescribed in chap. 2. In the pilgrimage of life the directions of God should be faithfully followed. This will appear if we consider—
1. The infinity of the knowledge of God. He knows us altogether and perfectly; He knows the road which we have to travel, and the events which await us, and the circumstances through which we must pass in the future. The minutest circumstances cannot be hidden from Him, and the greatest event He fully comprehends. He has the knowledge which is necessary for efficiently directing our path through life.
2. The depth and tenderness of God’s interest in man. He exercises the kindest care towards every man. There is not a creature in the world but is cared for by Him. And man, who is at the head of His creations in this world, is the object of His special regard. Comp. Matthew 6:25-34. His kind interest in us affords a guarantee that in directing our path through life He will ever aim at the realization of our best interests.
3. The supremacy of God’s authority over man. He has a right to issue commands for our guidance. As our Creator and Sustainer, and especially as our wise and kind Father, His authority over us is most absolute and sacred. When they were condemning Socrates for teaching the people their duties to God, he replied, “O ye Athenians, I will obey God rather than you; and if you would dismiss me and spare my life on condition that I would cease to teach my fellow-citizens, I would rather die a thousand times than accept the proposal.” How much more should we recognise and bow loyally to His authority! “He shall choose our inheritance for us.” “Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel.” His appointments concerning us are always infinitely wise and kind. (a)
II. In human pilgrimage the arrangements and provisions for Divine worship should be matters of primary concern.
“And the Tabernacle was taken down, and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set forward, bearing the tabernacle.… And the Kohathites set forward, bearing the sanctuary: and” (the Gershonites and Merarites) “did set up the tabernacle against they came.” Thus it was arranged that the Tabernacle should in every encampment be erected in readiness to receive the Ark and the most holy things. The arrangements for the worship of the Lord were regarded as of the first importance. In like manner we find that wherever Abraham pitched his tent, “there he builded an altar unto the Lord” (see Genesis 12:7-8; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 13:18). The conduct of these ancient saints in this respect is—
1. A rebuke to many nominal Christians, who in their changes of residence make the arrangements and provisions for worship a very inferior consideration. (b)
2. An example to all Christians who contemplate a change of residence. (c)
III. In human pilgrimage the most reverent care should be exercised in relation to sacred things.
“And the Kohathites set forward bearing the sanctuary.” Their station was in the midst of the host: thus the most holy things, of which they had charge, were in the place of the greatest safety and the highest honour during the march. Here is an example for us. Let things around which tender and precious memories cluster be highly esteemed and jealously guarded; let things dedicated to sacred uses be reverently regarded and piously cared for.
IV. In human pilgrimage the weak and the wandering should be tenderly cared for.
“And the standard of the camp of Dan set forward, the rearward of all the camps,” etc. The squadron of Dan came last, and was called the rearward or gathering host (Joshua 6:9, margin) because they gathered up those who lagged behind—the lame, the faint, and the feeble—and took care that none were lost or left behind. God is solicitous for the salvation of the weak and the wandering. Our Lord is careful to lose none of His followers (John 17:12). “He gathers the lambs with His arm, and carries them in His bosom, and gently leads those that are with young.” “He has compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way.” In like manner “we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,” and to strive to restore the erring. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one,” etc.
In our pilgrimage let us diligently cultivate this spirit of loyal obedience and reverent worship towards God, and of kind ministries towards our fellow men.
(a) You are to consider that the position which you occupy is, all things considered, the most advantageous that you could possibly have occupied for doing the utmost that you are capable of doing for the glory of God. Suppose the mole should cry, “How could I have honoured the great Creator if I could have been allowed to fly!” it would have been very foolish, for a mole flying would have been a very ridiculous object, while a mole fashioning its tunnels and casting up its castles is viewed with admiring wonder by the naturalist, who perceives its remarkable suitability to its sphere. The fish of the sea might say, “How could I display the wisdom of God if I could sing or mount a tree like a bird!” but you know a fish in a tree would be a very grotesque affair, and there would be no wisdom of God to admire in fishes climbing trees; but when the fish cuts the wave with agile fin, all who have observed it say how wonderfully it is adapted to its habitat, how exactly its every bone is fitted to its mode of life. Brother, it is just so with you. If you begin to say, “I cannot glorify God where I am, and as I am,” I answer, Neither could you anywhere if not where you are. Providence, which arranged your surroundings, appointed them so that, all things considered, you are in the position in which you can best display the wisdom and the grace of God.—C. H. Spurgeon.
(b) Men make choice of a home without making any inquiry as to the religions state of the neighbourhood. They do not care how poor the church is if the farm be good. They will give up the most inspiring ministry in the world for ten feet more garden, or a paddock to feed an ass in. They will tell you that the house is roomy, the garden is large, the air is balmy, the district is genteel, and if you ask them what religious teaching they will have there, they will tell you they really do not know, but must inquire! They will take away six children into a moral desert for the sake of a garden to play in; they will leave Paul or Apollos for six feet of greenhouse! Others, again, fix their tent where they can get the best food for the heart’s life; and they sacrifice a summer house that they may now and again get a peep of heaven.—Joseph Parker, D.D.
(c) The good man’s Tent and Altar go together. You might summarise much of a good man’s life in this brief sentence,—“He pitched his tent, and built an altar.” As the one was necessary for the body, so was the other necessary for his soul. There are, however, many tents now which are unaccompanied by an altar. Man is oftentimes more anxious about his tent than about his altar. Not so with the good man. His altar is his chief joy. He communes there with God. Across the altar he catches glimpses of heaven. Upon his altar angels drop blessings from their wings of light. When he is stained with guilt or weary with sorrow, he draweth nigh to his altar, and rises forgiven and strong. It is a poor man that has no altar. Nay, ’tis not a life, it is mere existence. The altar is the link which connects the human worshipper with the adoring seraphim. The whole of the reverent intelligences of the universe meet around the altar. All our Graces are strengthened and beautified by worship. Faith inhales new life, hope gains clearer vision, joy learns some new song to cheer the hours of pilgrimage and toil. If you take care of the altar, God will take care of the tent. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”—Ibid.
AN EXEMPLARY INVITATION
Let us consider:
I. The Journey.
“We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” It was—
1. A journey to a glorious destiny. Canaan was a goodly and a glorious land (Deuteronomy 8:7-9). To this land the Israelites were advancing. All men are journeying; but it is to be feared that many are travelling on a dreary road with a dreadful ending. Not so the Christian: he is travelling to the spiritual Canaan. Frequently Canaan is regarded as a type of heaven; but it is rather a type of the spiritual privileges and high calling of the Christian. We are journeying to perfection of character. We go forward to the rest, not of outward security, but of inward harmony. We advance not to any material inheritance, but to the inheritance of spiritual perfection—to love, holiness, peace, joy, etc. This is the surest guarantee of heaven; this is heaven. (a)
2. A journey to an assured destiny. “The Lord said, I will give it you.”God hath promised us the inheritance. True, there are many foes to be cast out before we can enter upon it; base lusts, evil passions, besetting sins, have to be conquered before we attain our high calling; but God hath assured us of victory. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” “A glorious Church not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,” etc. “Exceeding great and precious promises are given unto us; that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature.” Perfection of character is perfect blessedness. Holiness, the heaven of the soul, is the gift of God, and is promised by Him to all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ. He cannot deny Himself; His word cannot pass away. “All the promises of God in Jesus Christ are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”
II. The Invitation.
“And Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us.”
1. The spirit of true religion is social and benevolent. The child of God is not content to travel alone to the place which God promised to give him; but invites others to accompany him, saying, “Come thou with us.” I cannot understand the piety of the man who possesses the grace of God himself, and believes that they who do not possess it will be lost, and yet makes no effort to save them. Such conduct is inconsistent, selfish, utterly unchristian. The true Christian knows that God has declared that He “will have all men to be saved;” and He longs, prays, and works for the salvation of others. Godliness enkindles in the soul the most kind and generous emotions. (b)
2. The exercise of this spirit should be first directed to those who are most closely related to us. Moses invited Hobab, his brother-in-law. Next to our own spiritual well-being we should seek that of our own kindred,—parents that of their children, the husband that of his wife, etc. The principle is clearly taught by our Lord and His Apostles (see Mark 5:19; Luke 8:38-39; Luke 24:47; 1 Timothy 5:4). (c)
III. The Inducements.
Moses holds out to Hobab two inducements to accompany them,—
1. The benefits he would receive. “We will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.… And it shall be if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee”. We have here,—
(1) An Assurance—(α) That they would do him good. The Christian pilgrim can do good to his fellow-pilgrims by kindly companionship. Brotherly sympathy and fellowship are helpful. By presenting a good example we can also do good. How great is the influence of example! And, when it is good, how strong it is to correct the imperfect and the wrong! and to stimulate and strengthen to the doing of the right! By prayer also we can do good to our fellow-travellers. The prayers of a truly Christian man are perhaps the greatest boon that one man can confer upon another. “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.” (β) That he should share in the goodness of God to them. “What goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.” And what great goodness the Lord had led them to expect He would do for them! He leads us to expect even higher and richer blessings. He promises to supply our needs “Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.” “No good thing will He withhold,” etc. “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need,” etc. In our journey the manual will not fail, etc. He will guide and protect us. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go;) will guide thee with Mine eye”. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” “God is our refuge and strength,” etc. He will accompany and sustain us all the way. “My presence shall go with thee,” etc. “Lo, I am with you always,” etc. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” “My grace is sufficient for thee,” etc. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” He leads us to expect a glorious future. He calls us to a higher standard of character than that to which the Israelites attained, and to a more glorious inheritance than theirs. They had only a very faint hope beyond Canaan and the present life; but we look for “an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled”, etc. Wherefore, “Come thou with us,” &c. We have here—
(2). The ground of this assurance. “For the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” Our faith and hope rest in the sure promises of the faithful and unchangeable God. Are we not warranted then in saying as an inducement to others to join us, “We will do thee good”? (d)
2. The benefits he would confer. The hope of deriving benefit did not prevail with Hobab: he said unto Moses, “I will not go; but I will depart to mine own land, and to my kindred.” Then Moses tried to persuade him with this inducement, that his presence would be a benefit to them: “he said, Leave us not I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.” Hobab appears to have been an “experienced Bedouin sheikh, to whom Moses looked for the safety of his cumbrous caravan in the new and difficult ground before them. The tracks and passes of that ‘waste howling wilderness’ were all familiar to him, and his practised sight should be to them ‘instead of eyes’ in discerning the distant clumps of verdure which betokened the wells or springs for the daily encampment, and in giving timely warning of the approach of the Amalekites or other spoilers of the desert.”
What a vast amount of good many who are outside the pale of the Church, yet not out of sympathy with the Christian religion, might do, if they would but “heartily come with us”! As wise counsellors in the business affairs of the Church; as visitors of the sick, the ignorant, and the spiritually destitute; as Sunday-school teachers, and in many other ways, they could render invaluable service to the cause of Jesus Christ among men. Apply this motive to the young, to the undecided, to the almost persuaded.
With what company are you prosecuting your life-journey? To what destiny are you advancing? “Come with us, and we will do thee good;” &c. In our own name, in the name of the Church, and in the name of our gracious Lord, we heartily invite you, “Come with us,” &c.
(a) Man must go. It in not a question of whether we will go or not go, that is determined for us—we must go. Every man is accomplishing a journey, going through a process. No man is standing still. The infact is going on towards youth; youth is advancing towards the stature and strength of manhood; and man, in the summer of his prosperity and honour, is going on towards the sere leaf, and towards a land of darkness as darkness itself. Men must go on, then. The only question is—How? Man may either with God or without Him.—Joseph Parker, D.D.
(b) These happy disciples were now united Is conversion, and each one was made the instrument of blessing the other. Philip and Nathanael, Andrew, Peter, and John cooperated with Christ, and with the work of the Holy Spirit. It was a most delightful, simple, thorough, hearty work of Christian love. Friends began with friends, relatives with relatives. Presently we see the circle enlarging, but here it is small and distinctly visible. Each rising wave is apparent, and we see how it spreads, each circleing ripple on the lake of love, before there are so many of them, and so vast and deep and widening, that we can no more trace them but as one common impulse, one grind heaving and waving in the mighty sea. In this simple early life of Christianity, every infant missionary impulse of sympathy and love is visible, and can be counted First come John, Andrew, and Peter, then Philip, then Nathanael; and then the wave that starts at Bethabara from the person of Christ, spreads all over Galilee and Judea, and then over the world. It is a missionary wave, and here is the very life of Christianity, the very essence of discipleship, and the very way of the world’s evangelization. Nothing can be more beautiful than the working of this principle of the socialism of grace, the social principle and power of Christianity. It is a sympathising, impulsive, progressive, diffusive life. It is the leaven of the world, which will work till the whole is leavened. And it works, where it works at all, with an accumulating, accelerating tendency and power.—G. B. Cheever. D.D.
(c) In their first coming to Christ themselves, they brought others with them (John 1:40-46). It was a delightful example of the practical, social, sympathizing, working power and tendency of true piety, and of the direction and manner in which it works.…
Return to thine own house, and tell thy friends and relatives how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had mercy on thee. It seems there was no need of this command of Christ in the case of Andrew; his own heart led him in that very way, and it was a lovely development of character in him. No doubt he was thinking of his brother all the way to the dwelling of Jesus, and no sooner had he and John arrived with Christ, and entered the house, to abide with Him that day, than he thought within himself, I must go and find Peter first, and we will be here together.—Ibid.
(d) Where I am, there shall My servant be. They are great words, words of infinite weight of meaning,’ words of transcendent inconceivable glory, words covering up an eternal and exceeding weight of glory. Where Christ is, there God is, and God’s infinite love and happiness are revealed in Christ. Where Christ is, there heaven is, and the source and fountain of heaven’s light and glory. Where Christ is, there all good things are, all the holy, loving beings of the universe, concentrated and circled in adoring ranks around Him, the visible Centre of their bliss, the Author of their holiness. Now of all this glory Christ says, in the midst of it, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He speaks also of His disciples and servants as partakers of His own joy; and the welcome of His servants is even this: Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord! The joy of thy Lord! What a heaven of glory and blessedness is contained in that one expression! The joy of thy Lord! Who can measure its degree, who can conceive or fathom the infinite depth of its greatness, the infinite intensity of its bliss? And yet that is the joy that awaits every faithful follower and servant of the glorious Redeemer; the Redeemer’s own joy, a thing no more to be measured or fathomed than the actual infinitude of God. They shall be with Him where He is, they shall behold His glory, they shall enter into His joy. For that joy, set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down for ever at the right hand of the throne of God. There the saints shall walk with Him in glory, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, received to the possession of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who are faithful unto death; who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.…
Now let it be remembered that all this consummation is connected indissolubly with every thought and effort of the saint’s life. Every victory that through Divine grace the Christian gains over sin and temptation, every labour done for Christ, every prayer of faith, every patient bearing of Christ’s cross, is a pledge that the soul is advancing to that consummation in glory. Every co-operation of the children of God with Christ, is a pledge that Christ is working in them and with them, preparing them for this mighty revelation, when they are to shine out like the sun in the firmament, at His coming, His appearing, His kingdom. O, what an inducement to a life of holiness is here, what animating encouragement to every effort, and what in Suite obligation for such effort laid upon the soul.—Ibid.
A GENEROUS PROPOSAL
“Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.”
The people of Israel in the wilderness were a type of the Church of Christ. The invitation here given was such as may be given to those who are proper subjects for communion with the Christian Church.
I. What are the characteristics of a true church as it is pictured by Israel in the wilderness?
1. The people in the wilderness were a redeemed people. They had been redeemed by blood and redeemed by power. All the true members of God’s Church understand what the blood of sprinkling means. They have been redeemed by blood; and the Holy Spirit has entered into their hearts, and made them hate their former sins, has delivered them from the dominant power of their inward corruptions, has set them free and brought them out of the bondage of sin.
2. The Israelites were a people who were passing through a land wherein they found no rest, neither did they desire any, for they were journeying to another country, the promised land, the Canaan. Now, here is another description of the true Church of God. They are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world. Here they have no continuing city.
3. Israel was a people walking by faith as to the future. “They were going to the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” They had never seen it; no one had come from it to tell them of it (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). We walk by faith as Israel did of old.
4. These people, also, as to their present circumstances were walking by faith. Faith told them of the manna which fell day by day, and the water which flowed from the rock, which stream followed them in their journeyings. In this world the Christian man has to live by faith upon God as to present things. As to temporal necessities he must cast all his care on Him who careth for us: but especially as to all spiritual supplies the Christian has no stock of grace. He has no minor spring within himself in his old nature. He has to look for everything that can sustain his new life to God, even the Father, who hath promised not to forsake him.
5. These people found, wherever they went, that they were surrounded by foes. In the wilderness the Amalekites were against them. When they crossed into the Promised Land all the inhabitants of Canaan were up in arms against them. So, I think, will you find it if you are a child of God. You will have to fight continually. Till the last step you take it will be a conflict, and you will never be able to sheathe your sword until you are in the bosom of Christ.
II. It is the duty of the Christian Church to invite suitable persons to join with it.
1. As you read, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good,” say if these are not the terms in which any church should invite a suitable pastor to unite with it. I have always felt that they have a better application to a pastor than they have to the people; for it is said of Hobab, “Thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes.” It was inviting a really efficient helper, who would be of great service to the Israelites, to come and cast in his lot with them. So should a church expect to find in its pastor one who may guide them, etc. Their invitation should come in this way, not only, “Come thou with us, that we may get good out of thee”—that is one design—but it should also be, “Come with us, that we may do thee good, that we may hold up thy hands,” etc.
2. The words are significant of the manner in which churches should invite suitable persons to come among them as private members. It is the duty of every child of God to be associated with the Christian Church, and surely it is part of our duty to instruct others to do what the Lord would approve of. Do not, therefore, hesitate to say to such as serve and fear the Lord, “How is it that you remain outside of the visible Church? Come thou with us,” etc.
Let it be spoken persuasively. Use such reasoning as you can to prove that it is at once their duty and their privilege.
Do it heartily. Give a hearty, loving, warm invitation to those whom you believe to be your brethren and sisters in Christ.
Do it repeatedly, if once will not suffice. Hobab said he thought he would depart to his own land and his kindred, but Moses returned to the charge, and says, “Leave us not, I pray thee.”
3. Let me call your attention to a certain sense in which Christian men may address this invitation to all that they meet with. “Come thou with us,” etc. Not “come and join our church,” etc. You cannot say that to any but to those in whom you see the fruits of the Spirit, but you may say, and you ought to say, to all persons of all classes on all sides, “Come away from the seed of evil doers, cast in your lot with the people of God; leave the world,” etc.
III. The main argument—the most powerful incentive we can ever use is—that association with the Church of Christ will do those who enter into it good.
1. The Church of God may say this, because she can offer to those who join with her good company. “We will do thee good,” for we will introduce you to the goodly fellowship of the saints, to a section of the general assembly and Church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, and whose work of faith, patience of hope, and labours of love are so spread abroad throughout the world, even where their memory is forgot, that we need not to speak anything.
2. “Come thou with us,” and you shall have good instruction. The teaching of the Church shall do thee good; thou shalt hoar those glorious doctrines which shall build thee up in thy most holy faith.
3. “We will do the good” in the best sense, for thou shalt feel in our midst the good presence of God (see Matthew 18:20).
4. “Come with us,” for you shall participate in the good offices of the Church. If there he prayer thou shalt have thy share in it. In the true Church of God there is sympathy. If there be anything to be found in ordinances, thou shalt have a share of that good thing. If our fellowship be with Christ, thou shalt have a share in it. We invite thee to a pure brotherly fellowship, etc.
6. But the good that Hobab was to get was not only on the road. He must have got a good deal of good on the road, etc. You shall get good on the road. But Hobab went into the Promised Land with God’s people (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11). So, the main blessing that you get from being united with the invisible Church of Christ is reserved for the hereafter.
IV. Let all of us who belong to Christ’s Church take care to make this argument true.
How have you carried out this silent compact which hat been made with the friends of Christ? “Come thou with us, and we,” etc.
1. You say this to the poor members of the Church. Has God prospered you? If thou knowest a brother in Christ whose need is pressing, open thine hand wide unto him; do him good in this respect.
2. You old members of the Church have virtually promised to do good to the young members; will you not try to do so?
3. Some of your fellow Christians are faint-hearted; they always look on the black side, etc. Do them good (Isaiah 35:3-4).
4. Some amongst your number will be backsliders. Watch over them (Galatians 6:1).
5. Some in the Church may be ignorant. Hide his shortcomings and help his progress.
6. There may be some who are in a good deal of trouble. If you never owned him a friend before, be to him a friend now.
God grant us to be one with Christ, and to be one with His people, in time and in eternity.—C. H. Spurgeon.
“COME THOU WITH US, AND WE WILL DO THEE GOOD.”
“Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.”
This passage expresses the essential spirit of Judaism. There are those in the Church who believe that God’s express aim in Judaism was to keep the Jewish people as separate from the world as possible; to keep them, like Noah, in an ark, while He plagued and punished the world at His will But I maintain, on the contrary, that Judaism was always genial to the stranger who would adopt its belief, and accept its blessings. From the evil which was in the world God was minded to keep the Jewish people free at any cost. From idolatry and its attendant pollutions He sought to deliver them, inasmuch as idolatry in the long run inevitably leads to national decline and death. To the stranger, the foreign person, or nation, who would dishonour its beliefs and trample on its blessings, Judaism was stern as Fate, and pitiless as Death. There was no weak pity for nations which had become so corrupt as to become inevitably corruptive, just as there is no weak pity in society for abandoned criminals now. How utterly, hopelessly, awfully profligate the Canaanitish nations were is narrated in Leviticus 18:24-30. The Jews were simply God’s executioners here, and the same doom, they are plainly warned, awaited them if they suffered themselves to be tempted into the same sins.… I am persuaded that the more carefully the spirit of the dispensation is studied, the more plainly will it appear that it is expressed in our text. From Moses to Zechariah, it is a cry to the nations, not to rot in their own corruption,, “COME THOU WITH US, AND WE WILL DO YOU GOOD.”
1. And this leads me to lay down this general principle—
God’s privileges, the gifts which He bestows, and the advantages which He confers on some, are never intended to be exclusive.
God calls all, He calls you. The banquet is spread for all, it is spread for you. The message is pressed on all, it is pressed on you.
It is a condition of high privilege—of great, eminent, glorious joy and hope. But if any man say, “these privileges and hopes are mine, because I am happy enough to belong to a sealed number, to which poor sinners are not called, who are not privileged like me,” he wrongs God, he wrongs God’s great Love, in his thoughts. If God gives to one man advantages which He denies to another, it is that the first may be His minister to bring that other to share in His joy. Unless a Church or a Christian be attracting men, ever saying to them by look, voice, manner, hand, “Come with us and we will do thee good,” it is simply doing what the Jews did, causing the name of God to be blasphemed.
II. The invitation, “Come with us and we will do thee good.”
1. Come with us to the house of God, I believe that God never gave to man a more blessed boon than the day of rest. But like all God’s other gifts, just in proportion to its preciousness is it despised and profaned by those to whom its ministries are most important, and its benediction most large and complete. It is not a law of the Sabbath which you are breaking, but something which it is yet more terrible to sin against, God’s loving and gracious counsel, in creating for you a day of rest, and guarding it as man cannot guard it by the most elaborate positive laws. I want you to feel how good the ordinance is, and to love it for its goodness, and to love the Lord who gave it, and who guards it by His Spirit in the Church.
Read Genesis 2:1-3. From what did God rest? From activity? Surely not; but simply from creation; from what under human conditions is conceived of as the toil of production. Comp. John 5:16-17. God rested; but His rest was the sustaining of the Creation, the upholding of the order, beauty, and fruitfulness of the world. And man is to rest in his measure like God—a rest of joyful, holy activity; the activity of that which is highest and most God-like in him; not the rest of a brute sleeping lazily before a fire. Man is a spirit, and man’s spirit rests only in communing with God, and doing the Father’s mission.
A God-fearing man, who gathers his household around him for prayer, and goes up with them to the house of God to worship and get fresh strength for the work of life, belongs at once to a higher class, Life means more to him and to his. Work means more, and produces more. Higher faculties are in play within him, higher joys and ends are within his reach … Come with us to the house of God. Learn with us wherein the true rest of a man’s spirit consists, what it is which lightens life’s burdens, soothes its sorrows, sanctifies its discipline, and crowns its labours.
2. Come with us to the word of truth. I will suppose that sickness has entered your home. There is a fair young child, the darling of your heart, the little thing whose voice always welcomed you home at night, whose prattle never failed to cheer you as she sat on your knee by your fireside at tea. Death has marked her. Day after day you come home, and miss the familiar welcome; you steal up to the bedside, and watch with an agony, whose measure none can guess at, the swift progress of the destroyer. At length the moment of the last struggle comes. One choking gasp—perhaps the word “Father,” “Mother,” seemed to form on her lips, and it is over. She lies there, fair as a lily, and as perishing; soon you have to bury her out of your sight. Tell me, will it hurt you then to open your Bible and read there that the glorious King of Heaven, the King who reigns in the world into which your darling has passed—said once when a man upon earth, “Suffer little children to come unto Me,” etc.? Would it be a dark thought, that He who took them in His arms and blessed them, has there gathered your little lamb in His arms, and folded her in His bosom, with a tenderness which casts even yours into the shade?
Or, let us say you have fallen into trouble. All around you is dark, and the prospect darker still; will it hurt or help you to open your Bible, and read the words of a man whose case was still darker, and, to a human eye, more hopeless than yours (Psalms 42:7-11)? Or those words of the great Apostle on the meaning and end of the discipline we endure (Hebrews 12:3-11)? Or, it may be that the dear companion of your pilgrimage, the sharer of all your joys and sorrows through long and faithful years, lies dead at length; and you must write “There I buried Rachel,” in your way-book of life, and go sadly, tearfully, through the rest of your journey alone. I think that if she died in faith, in the faith and hope of the Gospel, in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection, these words will come home to your spirit with a strange grandeur and power as you stand by her new-made grave (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Or when you yourself grow old and weary, and see the form of the angel of death advancing, will it depress and distress you to read, “The Lord is my shepherd,” etc. (Psalms 23:0)? There is no condition, there are no circumstances, for which blessed words are not to be found in that Book—words such as no mere man could speak to you. Come with us to the word of truth.
3. Come with us to the living Saviour.… One who can cure the disease of sin, renew the heart, reform the nature, kindle within the spirit the love of God, of truth, of purity, and inspire the hope of heavenly glory. For this the Lord came, wrestled, suffered, died, etc. (Hebrews 7:24-25). Come with us to the living Saviour; come and listen to His message of mercy; come, stand before the cross on Calvary, look on Him, whom you, too, have pierced, and mourn, and hear for yourself the blessed words, “Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.”
4. Come with us to our Father’s home on high. The life struggle will soon be ended. It will soon seem but a slight matter to you how you struggled through. It is said of Paul’s companions, “Some on boards, some on broken pieces of the ship … they all escaped safe to land.” It is a picture of the life-course of how many noble and faithful ones … Oh! the rapture of the moments when the feet first feel the touch of that blissful shore! The peril, the darkness, the battle, the anguish behind us for ever; before us, etc.
Come with us to Him who is “The Way.” No man cometh unto the Father, or to His love, but by Him. Come with us to the Cross—no Cross, no Crown. Come with us to the battle—no battle, no victory. Come with us to the school of discipline—no suffering, no glory. “Come with us and we will do you good,” etc—J. Baldwin Brown, B.A.
ON THE MARCH
The Israelites are departing from Sinai, and are marching on towards the Promised Land.
I. The immense number on the march.
Moses speaks of them as “the many thousands of Israel.” Margin, as in Heb.: “ten thousand thousands.” In all there were about two-and-a-half millions of persons: an immense multitude to be marching through the desert. The greatness of the number of this pilgrim host illustrates the countless multitude of the redeemed of the Lord. Some men of small souls and narrow creeds have represented the number of the saved as comparatively small, an elect few only, and that of the lost as terribly large. Very different is the representation of the Sacred Scriptures. “God so loved the world,” etc. Christ “died for all.” “Many shall come from the east and west,” etc. “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” “A great multitude, which no man could number,” etc. (a)
II. The bitter opposers of the march.
The Israelites had powerful foes to encounter and vanquish before they could possess the Promised Land. Of these enemies Moses speaks in our text: “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered,” etc.
1. The enemies of this marching host are also the enemies of the God of the host. Moses in his prayer says, “Thine enemies.” When Saul persecuted the early Christian Church, our Lord appearing to him, demanded, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.” The Church is confronted and opposed by enemies to-day,—“the devil and his angels;” the world which is led by him; and the lusts and passions of our carnal nature, oppose our heavenward march. Conflict is a condition of progress. We must fight if we would advance. The Lord accounts our enemies as His; combats them as His; and aids us that we may successfully meet and battle with them.
2. That the opposition of the enemies arises from deep-rooted aversion to God. Moses speaks of them as “them that hate” God. The spirit of Satan and the spirit of the world is still hostile to God, and to His people also in proportion to their loyal devotedness to Him. “If the world hate you,” said our Lord, “ye know that it hated me,” etc. (John 16:18-19). “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world.” “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” Mark the awful depravity which is involved in this. How unspeakably terrible to hate truth, righteousness, and love! How much more terrible to hate Him who is infinite Truth and Righteousness, and Love! to bate the Supremely Holy and Kind! The Church of Christ is opposed now by enemies who are inveterate in their hatred to God, and to the people of God. (b)
III. The victorious Leader of the march.
1. Their Leader was Divine. “The Ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them.” Keil and Del.: “Jehovah still did as He had already done on the way to Sinai (Exodus 13:21-22): He went before them in the pillar of cloud, according to His promise (Exodus 33:13-14), on their journey from Sinai to Canaan; with this simple difference, however, that henceforth the cloud that embodied the presence of Jehovah was connected with the Ark of the covenant, as the visible throne of His gracious presence, which had been appointed by Jehovah Himself. To this end the Ark of the covenant was carried separately from the rest of the sacred things, in front of the whole army; so that the cloud which went before them floated above the Ark, leading the procession, and regulating its movements and the direction it took in such a manner that the permanent connection between the cloud and the sanctuary might be visibly manifested even during their march.” The Lord Himself led them in all their journeyings. He is still the infallible and gracious Leader of His people.
2. Their leader was victorious. He had, as it were, but to arise and the enemies were scattered, and fled in dismay. The enemies of the Church are unable to stand before “the Captain of our salvation.” When He leads us onward we march to certain victory. “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (c)
3. His lead was earnestly desired. Moses prayed for it: “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered,” &c. The prayer implies the consciousness of weakness and inability. Moses and the hosts of Israel were not sufficient of themselves to cope with their enemies. And as we look upon our foes to-day we may adopt the language of Jehoshaphat: “WE have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.”
IV. The abiding Presence of God on the march.
“And when it rested, he said. Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.” On the march the Lord in the symbol of His Presence went before them, and when they encamped He abode with them. The presence of the Lord continued with them.
1. The welfare of the Church of God depends upon His presence in their midst. “Apart from Me,” said Christ, “ye can do nothing.”
2. The continuous Presence of God is promised to His Church. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” “He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” (d)
3. The continuous presence of God should be sought by the Church in earnest prayer. The promise of His presence should prove a basis of confidence and an encouragement to prayer.
1. Let the enemies of the Lord submit themselves to Him. “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,” etc.
2. Let every member of the pilgrim-host seek to realize constantly the victorious and blessed Presence of the Lord.
(a) When these words are set before us as descriptive of the heavenly state, it can hardly fail but that the first thing on which the mind shall fasten will be the expression—“a great multitude, which no man could number.” It is so in regard of parallel sayings—“In My Father’s house are many mansions”; and, “many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” “A great multitude”!—“many mansions”!—“many shall come”! But what are many in the Divine arithmetic? Doubtless, thousands, and tens of thousands—yea, an innumerable company. Many are the worlds scattered through immensity—who shall reckon them? Many are the leaves of the earth’s forests—who shall compute them? Many are the grains of sand on the sea shore—who shall count them up? Neither may we think to compass the multitude that St. John saw before the throne and before the Lamb. Indeed, he tells us this, when he adds, “which no man could number”. But it is a comforting thing to be told that “a great multitude”—not great on a mere human estimate, but great on a Divine—shall press into the inheritance purchased by Christ’s blood. Then, not only is heaven no narrow, no contracted spot; but, on the contrary, spacious enough for myriads upon myriads of happy beings. But these myriads upon myriads shall be there; the vast expanse shall not stand empty, but shall be occupied by a rejoicing and adequate assembly! It is a refreshing thing to look away for a moment from the strife and uncharitableness of human systems and conclusions, each dispensed to narrow heaven within its own pale and party, to behold a multitude such as no man could number, entering by the gate into the everlasting city. There is something unspeakably cheering in the contrast between the representation furnished in our text, and that derived from the exclusive systems of miscalled theology. If heaven ware to be peopled according to the estimate of self-opiniated sects; if human judgments were to settle who shall be priviled to find place within its precincts; not “many,” but few; it may be very few would constitute the celestial assembly.… I kindle at the thought of there being a great multitude in heaven, A great multitude! There is room for us! A great multitude! There will be no deficiency without us. We can be spared. The loss will be ours! but, O! what a loss!—Henry Melville, B.D.
(b) Our field of conflict is different from that on which men oppose each other. It comprises the whole unseen realm. All the secret roads, and paths, and avenues, in which spirits dwell, are filled with a great invisible host. These are our adversaries. And they are all the more dangerous because they are invisible. Subtle are they. We are unconscious of their presence. They come, they go; they assail, they retreat; they plan, they attack, they withdraw; they carry on all the processes by which they mean to suborn or destroy us, without the possibility of our seeing them. When, in physical warfare, the enemy that is over against us establishes the line of a new redoubt, we can see that; and when a new battery is discovered, a battery may be planted opposite to it; but no engineering can trace these invisible engineers or their work. And there is something very august in the thought that the most transcendent powers in the universe, that fill time and space, are removed from the ordinary sight and inspection of men.—H. W. Beecher.
(c) Just when the battle was about to turn with the Ironsides, and the Cavaliers were coming on with one of Rupert’s hot charges ready to break the line, and the brave old Ironsides were half inclined to turn, up came the General, old Noll, riding on his horse, and they passed the word along, “’Tis he, boys! here he comes!” and every man grew into a giant at once; they stood like iron column, like walls of granite, and the Cavaliers as they came on broke like waves against rocks and dashed away, and were heard of no more. It was the presence of the man that fired each soldier. And so it is now with us. We believe in Jesus Christ. We know that He is with His Church. He was dead, but rose again. He has gone to heaven, but His Spirit is with us,—King of kings and Lord of lords is He. If He seems to sleep in the midst of our ship, yet He sleeps with His hand on the helm, and He will steer the vessel rightly; and now the love that we boar His name steers our souls to holiness, to self-denial, to seek after God, to make full proof of the faith and fellowship of the Gospel, to seek to become like God, and to he absorbed into God that He may be all in all. This is what was wanted—a stimulus potent enough, under God’s grace, to break through the barriers of sin.—C. H. Spurgeon.
Is the strife long and hard? Long and hard it would be, to be ever defeated. But Christ shall lighten it for thee. He will bear it in thee; He will bear thee over it, as He will bear thee over the molten surges of this burning world. Christ will go before thee. He saith unto thee, “Follow Me, and where I am, there shall thou be with Me” “Follow thou Me” “Be of good cheer-, I have overcome the world” “If Christ be for us, who shall be against us”? Safely mayest thou fight, who art secure of victory. And thou art safe, if thou fight for Christ, and with Christ, Only give not way. If defeated, be the humbler, and rise again; begin again, and pray to persevere. If thou succeed, give “thanks to Him who giveth us the victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And He will, by His Blood, intercede for thee; He will, by His grace, fight in thee; He will keep thee unto the end, who Himself crowneth, and is crowned, in all who are faithful to His grace.—Dr. Pusey.
(d) It is one of the fundamental things in godliness to know and realize the continual presence with us of the great Unseen Spirit. A thousand foes beleaguer my soul, and lie in wait, and assault it through the gases of sense, A thousand fears rise up in my path to terrify me, and a thousand smiling joys to seduce and allure me. But to be as seeing Him who is invisible—what a defence against fear! What a perennial, full-flowing spring of joy and strength and calmness and purity! How it sustains the soul in trouble, whether in the fierce, tumultuous storm-blast, or in the slow years of weary sorrow, creeping on with sluggish pace! There is a little garret room—I recall what I have seen—with a single window looking out to the smoke and chimneys of a great city. The marks of poverty are abundant in its worn and scanty furniture. A few sickly flowers are in the window, testifying to the longing which never deserts even the most afflicted, to have but a glimpse of Nature’s sweet face, or but the edge of her smile. There is a rough couch in the room, and a thin, pale, wasted woman lies upon it. For years she has scarcely risen from that bed. For years she has been subject to wasting pain. Her friends are seldom with her; they are poor, and cannot afford the luxury of constantly attending her. But her long trouble has not soured her. Her room is perhaps the happiest and lightsomest in the whole city. Go in upon her when you may, you find the same calm contentment, the same sweet, chastened look, the same quiet, all but celestial peace. Poor caged bird, she sings to God as gladly as the dark at heaven-gates. If one could take down the words she utters and the tone in which they are uttered—if one could tell the heavenly thoughts that are unspoken, and that give the celestial calmness to that marble brow, the world might learn the blessed joy and power of a sense of God’s constant nearness. “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast holden me by my right hand.”—James Culross, AM., D.D.
I think I shall be warranted in using the text in three ways:
I. This has been the watchword of the Church of God in all ages.
The people of God in the wilderness were the picture of God’s Church upon earth. We are strangers and foreigners upon earth; we are pilgrims and sojourners as all our fathers were. Here we have no abiding city. “We seek a city that hath foundations,” etc.
Albeit that they had no habitation except their tents, yet is it true of Israel in the wilderness that they always had an habitation. (Comp. Psalms 90:1.) Wherever they were, God was their dwelling place. God’s wings were always over them; He carried them all the days of old, and they did really rest and dwell in Him. This, too, is true of the entire Church; always wandering, yet never far from home; unhoused, yet always in palaces, etc.
In another point the people of God in the wilderness were the picture of the Church of Christ. Wherever they marched, when God went before them, they marched to victory. Even so hath it been with the Church of God in all ages; her march has been that of one who is fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. Her path is the pathway of a conqueror; her march has been a procession of triumph. Let me show how this war-cry has really been heard of God and has been fulfilled to all His people.… Shall not this be our song to-day? Let but God go forth with our armies; let Him but speak through our ministers; let Him but dwell in our elders; let Him but make the bodies or our Church members His temples, and His enemies must be scattered, and they must consume away.
Quietly, for the edification of each Christian, let me remark that this prayer will suit your personal difficulties. Have you been in conflict lately? Can you not deliver yourself? Pray, “Rise up, Lord,” etc. Do your doubts prevail? Has your faith suffered an eclipse? Say, “Rise up Lord.” All that is wanted in the darkest night to clear it away is for the sun to rise. Are you serving God in some particular work where many are seeking to undo all that you can accomplish? Has the Lord commanded you to some special work, and do friends discourage and enemies abuse? This prayer may suit you, “Rise up Lord.” His uprising is enough, etc.
II. We shall now take the text in its reference to Christ.
Scripture is the best expounder of Scripture. The diamond is not to be cut except with a diamond. The sixty-eighth Psalm informs us that the moving of the Ark, from the lower place to the city of David, was typical of the ascending of Christ into heaven. How dense must have been the gloom over the fearing hearts of the Church when they saw their King, their Head dragged away, and nailed ignominiously to the tree, and how dead must all their hopes have been when at last He bowed His head and gave up the ghost! Was it not the day of hell’s triumph, the hour of earth’s despair, the moment of heaven’s defeat? No; it was the reverse of all this. That moment when Christ died, He gave the death-blow to all His enemies. If the Church had had faith, they might have come early on the dawn of the first day in the week, and standing outside the tomb, they might have begun to sing, “Rise up, Lord,” etc.
He rises, and in that moment sin dies. The resurrection of Christ was God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice. “He rose again for our justification.” Nor was sin alone that day scattered. Did not all the hosts of hell flee before Him? When He rose, blank despair sat on the face of every fiend. Where was that day the boast of death? Had Christ remained in the jaws of death, then had the redeemed remained the bond slaves of death too; but He lives. Blessed are they that sleep, for they shall rise too.
Nor was this all. After Christ had thus risen you will remember that He rose again. He rose from the grave to earth—He next rose from earth to heaven. (Comp. Psalms 24:7-10.) On, on He rides; having scattered for ever all His enemies; having put all things under His feet, and being crowned King of kings, and Lord of lords.
III. What message has this text for us, and how may we use it?
C. H. Spurgeon.
THE CHURCH AND ITS ENEMIES
The Almighty is here represented under two very different characters; as a God of terror, and as a God of grace.
I. That the Church of God has had enemies in every age.
This is accounted for in three ways:
1. The favours they received. God has set His heart upon His people; He bestows much on them, and expects much from them. This creates envy. Joseph’s brethren hated him because he was the favourite. This evil principle soon grows into opposition and mischief.
2. The principles they professed. They were the only true principles; they worshipped the only true God, and therefore their conduct condemned all other modes of worship—all idolatry, and those sins which the nations committed.
3. The expectations which they cherished. These were deemed vain. Are these to become universal conquerors? Come, let us rise up against them, and destroy them. And does not this bear a resemblance to the good in the present age? Have they not enemies? Are they not a chosen people? Are not their principles peculiar, and their expectations large? The Church not only has outward enemies, but she has civil discords, inward commotiens, secret foes.
II. That the enemies of the Church are considered the enemies of God.
The Church is intimately connected with God’s dealings in a providential and merciful way, for He is near to His people (Deuteronomy 32:10; Isaiah 63:9). He sustains tender and intimate relations to the Church, hence her foes become His.
III. That when God rises up to judgment the destruction of His enemies is easy, terrible, and complete.
The Divine Being is here spoken of as rising up to judgment; this is figurative language, but indicates peril and alarm. But let us consider the second part of the prayer.
1. That when God is represented as proceeding to acts of justice, it intimates that He is departing from the ordinary course of His dispensations. Judgment is His strange work. He is said to come out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth. He takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner.
2. That the aggregate number of the Lord’s people is by no means inconsiderable. I have no sympathy with that spirit which would straiten the gate already straight. Some unduly limit the number of Israel:
(1) Because the limits of their observation are contracted.
(2) Because the people of God are widely dispersed and scattered.
(3) Because their own prejudices often un-Christianize those whom God designs we should encourage.
(4) Because we do not know how many Christians are concealed in the grave.
IV. That the constant abode of God with His Church is an object of their supreme desire.
“Return, O Lord.”
1. Let us learn from this passage the condescension and grace of God in that He will dwell with us.
2. Let each of us inquire whether we are amongst the many thousands of Israel.
3. What comfort should this give to the Church amidst her many trials.
4. This subject affords to the enemies of the Church a motive for seeking re-concilation with God.—George Clayton. From “The Homiletic Quarterly.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Numbers 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19