Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Numbers 25". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ numbers-25.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Numbers 25". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Numbers 25:1. Shittim. An abbreviation of Abel-Shittim, “the meadow of the acacias.” It was situated in the plains of Moab, at the northern extremity of the camp of Israel.
Numbers 25:2. And they called, &c.; “i.e., ‘the daughters of Moab called’: the verb, and the ensuing ‘their,’ being in Hebrew, feminine.”—Speaker’s Comm.
Numbers 25:3. Baal-Peor is the Baal of Peor, who was worshipped in the city of Beth-Peor (Deuteronomy 3:29; Deuteronomy 4:46; Numbers 23:28), a Moabitish Priapus, in honour of whom women and virgins prostituted themselves. As the god of war, he was called Chemosh (Numbers 21:29). Keil and Del.
Numbers 25:4. Take all the heads, &c., i.e., Assemble them together.
Hang them. The “them” does not refer to “the heads of the people,” but to the guilty persons: these were to be first put to death (Numbers 25:5), and then, as an aggravation of their punishment, and as a warning to others, they were to be publicly hung up, which was done by impaling the body upon a stake or fastening it upon a cross.
The fierce anger of the Lord was manifested in the plague with which he visited the camp of Israel (Numbers 25:9).
Numbers 25:6. One of the children of Israel, &c. This was Zimri (Numbers 25:14).
A Midianitish woman,—“Cozbi, the daughter of Zur” (Numbers 25:15, and Numbers 31:8).
Weeping, &c. On account of the wrath of God which had smitten the camp with the plague.
Numbers 25:8. The tent, הַקֻּבָּה, not the ordinary tent. The word is only found here in the Hebrew Scriptures; it signifies arched or dome-shaped. From the Hebrew word, through the Arabic, the Spaniards derive their alcova, and we our alcove. Here the word denotes, the inner division of the tent, which was used as the sleeping room and apartment for the women in the larger tents of the upper classes.
Numbers 25:9. Twenty and four thousand. In 1 Corinthians 10:8, St. Paul gives the number as “three and twenty thousand.” In this he probably follows a tradition of the scribes, according to which, of the twenty-four thousand mentioned here, one thousand were put to death by the judges, leaving twenty-three thousand as the number of those who fell victims to the plague.
Numbers 25:11. Zealous for My sake. Rather, as in the margin, “Zealous with My zeal.”
Numbers 25:13. Made an atonement. The vengeance inflicted by Phinehas upon two of the most flagrant offenders was accepted by God as a propitiation (lit., a covering) for the sin of the people.
Numbers 25:17. Vex the Midianites. The Midianitish women seem to have been most active in tempting the Israelites. Moreover their wickedness “culminated in the shameless wantonness of Cozbi, the Midianitish princess.”
THE SIN OF ISRAEL AT SHITTIM, AND THE JUDGMENT OF GOD
(Numbers 25:1-5; Numbers 25:9)
I. The sin of the Israelites at Shittim.
“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people,” &c. (Numbers 25:1-3).
1. The sin itself. Many of the people accepted the invitation of the daughters of Moab and Midian to a sacrificial festival, and then engaged in the worship of Baal-peor, which was associated with, and partly consisted in, the most licentious rites. Their sin was two-fold:
(1) Spiritual fornication, or idolatry (Hosea 2:0).
(2) Physical fornication.
2. The origin of their sin. The counsel of Balaam was the accursed root from whence it sprang (Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14). Having found himself utterly powerless to curse them as a prophet or a magician, with hellish cunning he advised that others should reduce them to curse themselves by their sins (a)
3. The instruments of their sin. The daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:2), and the daughters of Midian (Numbers 25:17-18), were employed to tempt the Israelites. The Moabites and Midianites could not have vanquished the Israelites by the sword, but they speedily overcame them by the fascinations of their daughters.
4. The occasion of their sin. Two circumstances seem to us to have contributed to the success of the temptation.
(1) Their abode at Shittim. They were in the neighbourhood of sinful associations and corrupting influences. “Near a fire, a serpent, and a wicked woman, no man can long be in safety.” (b)
(2) Their lack of occupation. The Israelites were comparatively unemployed. Idleness leads to vice and mischief. (c)
II. The judgment of God upon the Israelites on account of their sin.
1. The judgment inflicted immediately by God. “Those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.” “They joined themselves unto Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their inventions, and the plague brake in upon them” (Psalms 106:28-29). As a punishment for their sin, the Lord sent among them this terrible pestilence. In some form or other, punishment ever follows close upon the heels of sin.
2. The judgment inflicted by Moses and the judges, by the command of God. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people,” &c. (Numbers 25:4-5). Concerning this punishment notice—
(1) Its nature—death. “Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-Peor.”
(2) Its publicity. “Hang them up before the Lord against the sun.” After death their bodies were to be made a public spectacle—a warning to others by indicating the evil of the sin and the severity of the wrath of God against the sinners.
(3) Its executioners. These are called “the heads of the people” (Numbers 25:4), and “the judges of Israel” (Numbers 25:5, and Exodus 18:25-26). It was their duty to maintain law and order, and to punish wicked doers, each one in his own jurisdiction (comp. Romans 13:1-4).
III. The lessons which we should learn from this portion of Israel’s history.
1. The secret of the security of the people of God. While Israel was faithful to Jehovah their God, they were perfectly safe. Neither the subtlety nor the strength of their enemies, neither earth nor hell, could hurt them, while they were true to their covenant with Him. “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good.” Their sins deprived them of the Divine protection, and brought down upon them the Divine anger. “None can prevail against the servants of God, except by tempting them to sin.” “By our own sins we are overcome.” Faith in God is the great condition of our strength and safety. Cleaving to Him by faith, we are inviolably secure.
2. The danger of those temptations which appeal to our self-indulgence or love of pleasure. In most cases ease and pleasure are more perilous to the spiritual life than toil and pain. The pleasures of sense are very prone to grow into the pleasures of sin. Many have been “allured through the lusts of the flesh” into the most grievous sins. (d)
3. The terribleness of the Divine anger. Calm, righteous, constant, and intense is the wrath of God against sin. Let no one deceive himself or dishonour God by imagining that, like some weak-natured man, He is too kind and indulgent to His creatures to be angry with them. With implacable hatred He hates sin. “The wrath of the Lamb” is unspeakably, inconceivably, terrible. “Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with his stroke,” &c. (e)
4. The solicitude with which we should guard against arousing this anger towards us. Sin calls it forth, therefore shun sin.
5. The earnestness with which we should seek the mercy and the protection of God. We need His mercy for the forgiveness of sins in the past, and His protection to keep us from sin in the future. “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.”
(a) Among the people who knew and discussed the events which befell the Israelites since their migration from Egypt, it must have been notorious that there had been signal punishments inflicted upon them for breaches of fealty to their King. Pondering this in his mind, the infernal sagacity of Balaam led him to conclude, that if they could but be seduced from their allegiance to their Divine King, the protection which rendered them invincible would be withdrawn, and they would be easily subdued by their enemies. This discovery he made known to the King of Moab before his departure, and it illustrates the character of the man, that be could form this device, and counsel the King to act upon it, just after his mouth had poured forth, even by constraint, eloquent blessings upon the people whose ruin he now devises. And all this was purely gratuitous; for his business with Moab was ended. He could not curse Israel; and be had incurred the anger, rather than secured the honours, of the King of Moab. He seems to have retired among the neighbouring people of Midian, close allius with Moab, until he should behold the results of the course which he had thus suggested and in which he seems to have induced the Midianites to co-operate. However dissatisfied with the result of their sending for him, the Moabites were still too deeply impressed with the notion of his superhuman sagacity not to pay the most heedful attention to his advice. This was in effect that the women should be rendered instrumental in seducing the Israelites to take part in the obscene rites of Baal-Peor.—John Kitto, D.D.
(b) As the Hebrews lay encamped in the plains of Moab, unsuspicious of the bad feeling of the Moabites and Midianites towards them, an intercourse gradually, and seemingly in due course, sprang up between the kindred nations. The daughters of Moab and Midian came to visit the women of Israel, and thus fell under the notice of the men. The men of Israel, also, new to a peopled country, and strange to a friendly intercourse with strangers, amused themselves and gratified their curiosity by visiting the towns and villages in the vicinity. This intercourse was perilous for them. Dazzled and bewildered by magnificent and seductive appliances of vice, to which in their simple wandering life they had been all unused, although their fathers had seen the like things in Egypt, they were prevailed upon by the idolators of Moab and Midian to take part in the riotous and lustful orgies of their gods. It does not appear to us that they meant to abjure their faith in Jehovah, or so much as adopted a belief in Baal Peor along with it. What they did was to participate in the licentions acts by which his votaries professed to honour him.—Ibid.
Albeit we cannot at all times forsake the familiarity of the unfaithful, yet we must ever abandon and abjure their unfaithfulness and ungodliness: we cannot ever refuse their company, but we must evermore renounce their impiety. Let us take heed that we embrace none of their sins. He that standeth farthest from a raging flame, is freest and farthest off from burning; he that walketh a great distance from the bank of the river, is safest from drowning. He that cometh not near places of infection, is surest to escape the danger. And as we are to beware of all their sins, so especially it behoveth us to be suspicious and fearful of those sins, unto which we know ourselves most prone and inclined. For they do most of all delight us, and those are they which will soonest overturn us, and bring upon us destruction of soul and body.—W. Attersoll.
(c) And was idleness think you nothing? Yes, yes, assure yourself, it is ever a chief agent in this business. Had our first mother been busy, she had not tattled with the serpent; and had they not been idle in Sodom, they had never fallen to that abomination; for idleness is mentioned as a means by the prophet (Ezekiel 16:49). Take idleness away, and Cupid’s bow casts the string: he will never do harm with all his arrows. Dost thou ask the question, how Ægistus became an adulterer? He was idle. David was idle on the top of the palace; and what followed? These Israelites are idle, and idle they tattle, and tattling they are invited to their sacrifice, invited, they go, and both spiritually and corporally they commit whoredom. A fearful fall in men so taught. But this is man’s weakness and woman’s strength.—Babington.
(d) Pleasures are of two sorts: some are simply unlawful, and not to be used at all, being directly contrary to the Word of God: such are the pleasures that carnal men take in eating till they surfeit, and in drinking till they are drunken; such are the pleasures that whoremongers take in adultery, fornication, and uncleanness. Others are of themselves indifferent, and in their own nature neither good nor evil, but according as they are used, as hunting, hawking, and other lawful recreations; and even these when they take up all our thoughts, and thrust better things out of the doors, are called thorns in the parable of the sower, as well as unlawful pleasures (Luke 8:14). There is nothing doth so much choke the Word of God as the pleasures of the flesh; nothing causeth us so soon to forget it; nothing maketh us so soon weary and loath to hear it, as the desire to follow and pursue after our delights; so that it standeth us upon to cut them up, and pull them out of the ground of our hearts.… We see many by experience, who in the days of tribulation have not given over their hold, but endured slanders, revilings, imprisonment, hunger, and thirst in a necessitous estate; yet have been overcome with peace, drowned with sensuality, and lulled asleep in carnal security … Whilst David wandered in the wilderness, was hunted out of holes by Saul, into which he was glad to escape to hide himself, and was trained up in the school of afflictions, he comforted himself in the Lord his God, he made Him his rock and refuge, he asked counsel of Him and followed His direction; but when he had rest from enemies, safety from dangers, deliverance from troubles, comfort from sorrows, and freedom from afflictions, he fell into horrible sins, both in the matter of Uriah, and in numbering of the people.—Attersoll.
(e) For illustrations on this point, see pp. 220, 221.
THE FLAGRANT WICKEDNESS OF ZIMRI, AND THE FERVENT ZEAL OF PHINEHAS
I. The flagrant wickedness of Zimri.
“And, behold, one of the children of Israel came,” &c. (Numbers 25:6).
1. The heinousness of his sin. Fornication in any one is a great and grievous sin, but in one of the chosen people its enormity is far greater than in others. They had a clearer revelation of God’s will; they enjoyed superior privileges; they were called to a higher and purer moral life than their heathen neighbours; hence fornication in them was far more heinous than in their neighbours (comp. 1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
2. The aggravations of his sin. His guilt was aggravated by—
(1) The position which he occupied. “The name of the Israelite that was slain with the Midianitish woman was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.” It was incumbent upon him to set an example of order and purity and loyalty to Jehovah. His partner in guilt, too, was a princess. Her name was “Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian” (comp. Numbers 31:8).
(2) The effroutery with which he sinned. Not content with sinning amongst the Midianites, he brought the woman into the camp of Israel, which Jehovah had commanded to be kept pure (Numbers 5:1-3). And this he did “in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel.” An utter absence of shame marked his vile conduct; he seems rather to parade than to hide his wickedness.
(3) The daring and defiant character of his sin. The wrath of God had gone forth and was smiting the people with the deadly pestilence: by his conduct he bids it defiance. The judges had been commanded to put to death the sinners: by his action he dares them to deal with him. He sinned presumptuously—“with a high hand” (comp. Numbers 15:30-31). (a)
3. The infamy of the sinners. “Now the name of the Israelite that was slain,” &c. (Numbers 25:14-15). Thus the names, the families, and the rank of the evil-doers are perpetuated. An immortality of infamy is theirs.
II. The fervent zeal of Phinehas.
“And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar,” &c. (Numbers 25:7-8).
1. Its character. “He was zealous with My zeal” (Numbers 25:11); “he was zealous for his God” (Numbers 25:13). “He abhorred the presumptuous wickedness of Zimri, as God abhorred it.” He was filled with holy indignation against one who so flagrantly sinned and so greatly dishonoured God. His holy zeal burned to arrest the progress of the sin, and to vindicate the honour of Jehovah. (b)
2. Its expression. On seeing the conduct of Zimri, he promptly seized aspear, and following the guilty pair into the inner apartment of the tent, he “thrust both of them through.” The authority of Phinehas to execute summary vengeance on Zimri and Cozbi has been challenged. The case presents itself to us thus: the outrageous sin of Zimri imperatively demanded stern and immediate punishment; and the nature of that punishment was already declared (Numbers 25:5). But they who should have inflicted it seem to have been sorrow-stricken, and made no attempt to deal with the offenders. Tears of grief and shame were natural; but surely at such a time stern and decisive action was the great need. The indulgence of sorrow should have been firmly repressed until the judgment of God had been executed. With rare discernment Phinehas perceived the treatment which should be dealt out to those atrocious sinners, and with zeal and courage equally rare he at once applied that treatment. The case was of exceptional flagrancy and enormity, and demanded exceptional treatment, and Phinehas administered that treatment. The “deed was its own justification. Its merit consisted in the evidence it gave that his heart was right before God. He risked his own life by dealing according to their deserts with two influential and defiant evil-doers.” (c) If his conduct needed apology we may well give it in the words of Bishop Hall: “God pardoneth the errors of our fervency, rather than the indifferences of our lukewarmness.” Moreover this act of Phinehas cannot without extreme unfairness be said to afford any countenance to “acts of private revenge, of religious persecution, or even of irregular public vengeance.” (d)
3. Its effect. “So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.… Phinehas hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel; … and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” The act of Phinehas was accepted by God as a national “atonement,” “covering,” or “propitiation.” By this act he publicly manifested—
(1) a right estimate of the sin;
(2) right feelings in relation to it;
(3) right action in relation to it—he endeavoured to make an end of it. It appears to us probable that it was because of these qualities in the action of Phinehas that God accepted it as “an atonement for the children of Israel.” The due administration of justice by magistrates and judges tends to prevent the judgments of God. If they are lax in dealing with vice and crime, God will sternly deal with them Himself.
4. Its reward. For this zealous action Phinehas was—
(1) Divinely commended. “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar,” &c. (Numbers 25:10-11, and Psalms 106:30-31).
(2) Divinely rewarded. “Behold, I give unto Him My covenant of peace,” &c. (Numbers 25:12-13). The covenant bestowed upon Phinehas was the confirmation to him and his posterity after him of the possession of the priesthood. “In accordance with this promise, the high-priesthood which passed from Eleazar to Phinehas (Judges 20:28) continued in his family, with the exception of a brief interruption in Eli’s days, until the time of the last gradual dissolution of the Jewish state through the tyranny of Herod and his successors.” Thus for his zealous action Phinehas was himself rewarded, and his posterity was blessed for his sake.
“Brave works for God win crowns. There is no merit in them. But the grace, which gives the will, and nerves the arm, and brings success, awards a recompense. Among earth’s happiest sons and heaven’s most shining saints, devoted labourers hold foremost place.”
“It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.” (e)
(a) For an illustration on this point, see pp. 280, 281.
(b) Zeal may be defined as the heat or fervour of the mind, by which its vehemence of indignation goes out against anything which it conceives to be evil, and its vehemence of desire towards anything which it conceives to be good. In itself it has no moral character at all. It is the simple instinct of energetic nature, never wholly divested of a sort of rude nobility, and never destitute of influence upon the lives and upon the characters of others.—W. M. Punshon, LL.D.
“He that is not zealous, doth not love.” Now right zeal acts, like fire, to its utmost power, yet ever keeping its place and sphere. If it be confined to the breast of a private Christian, whence it may not flame forth in punishing Truth’s enemies, then it burns inwardly the more for being pent up; and preys, like a fire in his bones, upon the Christian’s own spirits, consuming them, yea, eating him up for grief; to see Truth trodden under the feet of error and profanencs, and he not able to help it up—W. Gurnall.
(c) I think I could give my own life, if called to do so, for the cause of Christ and the welfare of men. Why, then, should I hesitate to denounce anything that is opposed to the cause of Christ? Why should I hesitate to inveigh against anything, however sacred it may be to others, which is injurious to the welfare of men? I will not fear to condemn any organisation, or any institution, that seems to me to stand in the way of God’s glory or man’s redemption. It is not personal bitterness that leads me to use severity. It is for men, and not against men, that I am inflamed and aroused. And my indignation is strong just in proportion as those for whom it is called out are weak and unable to defend themselves.—H. W. Beecher.
(d) Zeal is indeed a wonder-working grace. It scales the heavens in agonizing prayer. It wrestles with Omnipotence, and takes not denial. Who can conceive what countries, districts, cities, families, and men have sprung to life, because Zeal prayed! It also lives in energetic toil. It is the moving spring in hearts of apostles, martyrs, reformers, missionaries, and burning preachers of the Word. What hindrances it overleaps. What chains it breaks! What land it traverses! It girdles earth with efforts for the truth: and pyramids of saved souls are trophies to its praise.—H. Law, D.D.
(e) I know that the most of you are diligent in business. You never hear the ring of a guinea without being on the alert to earn it of possible. Your coats are off, and very likely your shirt sleeves are turned up when there is a chance of driving trade. That I commend; but oh! do let us have something like it in the service of Jesus Christ. Do not let us be drudging in the world, and drawling in the church; lively in the service of mammon, and then laggard in the service of Christ. Heart and soul, manliness, vigour, vehemence—let the utmost strain of all our powers be put forth in the service of Him who was never supine or dilatory in the service of our souls when they had to be redeemed.—C. H. Spurgeon.
(Outline of an Address.)
We can lay no claim to saintship without zeal. When wickedness grows defiant, as in the case of Zimri and Cozbi, then zeal, as in the example of Phinehas, must be bold and daring.
I. The source of godly zeal.
It is from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. It draws its vital force from the constant operations of the Spirit in the soul. Zeal is holy fire kindled in the heart. Coldness is barrenness, and ends in death. Jeremiah said: “I will speak no more in His name.” But silence was impossible. He exclaims: “But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones. I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” Grace in the heart must break forth. “I believed, therefore have I spoken.”
II. Godly zeal has its seat in the heart.
When David penned that beautiful Psalm relating to the majesty and grace of Christ’s kingdom, he began by saying: “My heart is inditing a good matter.” The ideas of fullness and fervour are both expressed. My heart is hot as if it had holy fire within. Zeal is not a mere thing of the brain or of intellectual power, but a reality from a sanctified heart. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes us like John, who was a burning and shining light.
III. Mark the object of holy zeal.
We are to be “zealous of good works.” Men are often deceived in this matter. There is a great deal of party spirit, and deadly persecution, which often goes under the name of Christian zeal. Zeal is a mixed passion of grief and anger, fervent love and holy desire, all fused together in one holy emotion of the soul, spending itself for the glory of Christ. It is the fervour of heavenly benevolence. It thirsts for Divine knowledge, seeks for fellowship with Christ, and labours with self-denial for His sake. Zeal travails in birth for the salvation of souls; is ready for every good work; creates opportunities of usefulness.
IV. True zeal is blended with knowledge.
Zeal without knowledge is like a blind man running on a narrow plank. This was the case with John (Luke 9:54-56). The zeal of Paul was wrong before his conversion. The Jews had zeal without knowledge when they rejected the righteousness of Christ in order to establish their own. Moses was rash when he broke the two tables on which the Law was written, because Israel had broken one. Minerva put a golden bridle upon Pegasus that he should not fly too fast. Blind zeal, as well as an offering without an eye, will both be rejected by God. To enlighten others we must have light ourselves.
V. Zeal is forgetful of itself.
Self-denial is an element of true greatness. Every grace must be strong for Jesus “and do exploits,” but this must be so especially with zeal. Paul in his perils, and Barnabas in the sale of his land, Bunyan in prison, and martyrs at the stake, Carey in India, Pierce in the pulpit, and Fuller in his travels for missions, are all worthy of imitation. Each of these men manifested forgetfulness of self. What more shall we say? “Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1).—The Study.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH MOVED THE ZEAL OF PHINEHAS
“He was zealous for his God.”
I. There was the enormity of their sin.
It included false doctrine and sinful practices, between which there is a closer connection than is always recognised.
II. There was the character of the instigator to the sin.
Balaam, “a strange mixture of a man,” whose character has been ably analyzed by Butler, Pye Smith, Arnold, and many others.
III. There was the extent to which the sin prevailed.
Among all classes. Logan on the Social Evil.
IV. There was the misery occasioned by the sin.
To the guilty, to their connections, to the community.
V. There was the dishonour done to God.
1. We should be zealous in religion.
2. Our zeal in contending against the sins of others should begin in zeal in contending against our own.—George Brooks.
THE PUNISHMENT OF THE TEMPTERS
The Lord here commands Moses to avenge the wrongs which the Midianites had done to the Israelites. It is not private revenge which is here enjoined, but the avenging of a great injury inflicted by one people upon another. The carrying out of this command is given in chap. 31. In that place the subject will be more fully considered: at present it will be sufficient to notice the following observations, which the text suggests:—
I. Sin, whether in the people of God or in His enemies, cannot go unpunished.
The Israelites, who had been seduced into sin, had been severely punished by God. And now, as was surely just, the Midianites who had been most active in seducing them, are to be punished also. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Vex the Midianites,” &c. Tempter and tempted, both had sinned, and both must be punished for their sin. When the child is punished for his sins, the stranger who has also sinned cannot hope to escape. “Judgment must begin at the house of God,” &c. (1 Peter 4:17). (a)
1. Here is warning to those who tempt others to sin. (b)
2. Here is warning also to those who yield to temptation. Tempters and temptations, howsoever seductive, cannot compel you to sin. If you yield to them, you will surely suffer loss, or chastisement, or judgment. (c)
(1) Avoid scenes of temptation and the society of tempters.
(2) Seek confirmation in the knowledge of the right and true, so that you be not deceived by temptations.
(3) Seek establishment in the practice of the right and true, so that you may the more successfully withstand and overcome temptations.
(4) Above all and in all look to God for help. (d)
II. Whatever tends to lead into sin should be viewed by the godly as an enemy to be contended against.
“Vex the Midianites, and smite them; for they vex you with their wiles.” Tempters and temptations often present themselves in very winning aspects; the most perilous influences are the most plausible; “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light;” but whatsoever would lead us astray must be resisted as an enemy. “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out,” &c. (Matthew 5:29-30). (e)
III. Under certain circumstances war is justifiable.
It is here commanded by God. “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Vex the Midianites, and smite them;” &c.
For notes and illustrations on this point, see pp. 18–20.
(a) For illustrations on The certainty of the punishment of sin, see pp. 89, 225, 318, 374.
(b) The art of seduction from the ways of truth and holiness, discovers the man to be both the child and scholar of the devil. And as wise and painful ministers of Christ, who turn many to righteousness, shall have double glory in heaven; so these subtle and more active agents of the devil, who turn many from the ways of righteousness, will have a double portion of misery in hell.—J. Flavel.
The drunkard enkindles his neighbour’s lust “putting the bottle to him.” O! what a base work are such men employed about! By the law it is death for any to set fire to his neighbour’s house; what then do they deserve that set fire to the souls of men, and that no less than hell-fire?—W. Gurnall.
For another illustration on this point, see p. 265.
(c) For an illustration on this point, see pp. 97, 98.
(d) There are temptations in life—temptations at every turning of the street—temptations in all the evolutions of daily circumstances, temptations that come suddenly, temptations that come unexpectedly, temptations that come flatteringly. There is no true, all-conquering, all-triumphant, answer to the temptations of the devil but this—God! Be deep in your religion, have foundations that are reliable, know your calling, and God will protect you when the time of battle and storm and flood shall come. He will do it, if so be we put our trust in Him.—Joseph Parker, D.D.
(e) In carrying out his tempting designs, Satan chooses such instruments as by relation or affection have deep interest in the persons he would gain. Some will kiss the child for his nurse’s sake, and like the present for the hand that brings it. It is not likely David would have received that from Nabal which he took from Abigail, and thanked her. Satan sent the apple by Eve’s hand to Adam. Delilah doth more with Samson than all the Philistines’ bands. Job’s wife brings him the poison: “Curse God and die.” Some think Satan spared her life, when he slew his children and servants,—though she was also within his commission,—as the most likely instrument, by reason of her relation and his affection, to lead him into temptation. Satan employs Peter the disciple to tempt Christ; at another time His friends and kinfolk. Some martyrs have confessed, the hardest work they met with was to overcome the prayers and tears of their friends and relations. Paul himself could not get off this snare without heart-breaking: “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?”—W. Gurnall.
And now, if it shall be allowed to stand for our excusing, that temptation came to us circuitously, veiled with the mask of virtue, then history has recorded few crimes that can be condemned. The business of our moral vigilance, and the test of our moral strength, is to penetrate the delusion, to tear off the mask, to recognize Satan even through his transformations. We should know our tempters as the sure instincts of innocent hearts know hypocrites, “through the disguise they wear.” Perhaps no tyrant, traitor, debauchee, or robber ever lived, who chose depravity for its own sake, or loved sin for its ugliness. If we are to be exculpated because temptation is cunning, oblique, crafty, then Herod was innocent, and Judas has been harshly judged; Nero is an injured man; Benedict Arnold has been misrepresented; and Jeffries and Rochester were rather sinned against than sinning. All our sins creep on us under concealment, creep on us circuitously. Our first lesson of resistance is to learn that Satan is a deceiver, transforms himself, looks an angel.—F. D. Huntingdon, D.D.