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This Chapter contains the account of the journeying of Israel from Egypt to Canaan; and once more the LORD'S command is repeated, that the people be sure to drive out the Canaanites from the land.
As Moses wrote the goings of Israel, by the express appointment of the LORD, we may venture to pronounce this Chapter to be a very interesting Chapter. And as no event in history, in the annals of any one nation, is or can ever be so truly worthy notice, from the constant succession of miracles, which accompanied the LORD'S Israel through every stage of their eventful journey: it certainly merits the Reader's attention the more. And was it not, on this account that the HOLY GHOST was pleased to give it in charge to Moses particularly, to mark down the several stages of the way, that the people in perusing over the same, might call to mind the wonderful mercies of the LORD, who had fed, and sustained, and led, so great an army forty years together, through an inhospitable, barren wilderness. But, my soul, while looking at Israel's journey, call to mind thine own. How hath a gracious GOD led thee through the several spiritual as well as temporal stages of thy pilgrimage! And how hath JESUS, and his HOLY SPIRIT, marked thy way all the stages through. Surely with little less than a series of miracles from beginning to end. Reader! compare these things with your own experience, and then say whether mercy and goodness hath not been following of you all the days of your life. Psalms 23:6 .
If the Reader will count the number of the different routes and stages of Israel, he will find the number amount to two and forty. It began from the borders of Egypt, and extended as far as the plains of Moab. Reader! nothing can be more improving than for the truly pious believer to mark down the memorandums in his own experience of the LORD'S gracious dealings all the way that he hath led him through the wilderness, to show him what is in his heart. Deuteronomy 8:2 .
It is worthy observation, that while the LORD is taking such especial care of Israel, his first-born, the LORD is compelling the Egyptians to attend the funerals of their first-born. Reader! never forget distinguishing grace. Psalms 89:27 .
I connect into one and the same point of view, the whole forty-two stages of Israel, because that one and the same general observations meet us through everyone of them. Let the Reader, however, remark with me the shortness of their stages; their continual movements; their still removing, however, wherever they went, in a wilderness-state; their retrograde motions backward and forward; and yet all the while under the direction of the pillar of cloud, and protected by the pillar of fire: and when the Reader hath made his own observations on the history of Israel, let him beg grace from the LORD to discover how much the stages of Israel resemble the present stages of the LORD'S Israel, in all their spiritual journeyings. Are not the movements of the faithful continually in this present life, from one state to another; and sweet the streams of that river they meet with by the way, which makes glad the city of our GOD? And yet whenever they move, is it not like Israel of old, from one part of the wilderness to another? The best is but a wilderness state, and full of wilderness dispensations. But, blessed be a covenant GOD in JESUS, amidst all the ups and downs, the backward and forward goings of his people, GOD the HOLY GHOST is still, as the pillar of cloud, guiding them on; and the LORD JESUS, as the pillar of fire, protecting and surrounding them with his love. Yes, dearest LORD, wherever, or however, the path of thy people may be, in the way thou leadest them, it is still the right way to the city of habitation. Psalms 107:7 .
It is worthy our closest observation, how frequently in the sacred word, those precepts of totally destroying every vestige of the enemy, is mentioned. And the reason is told us; GOD is jealous of his honour-jealous of the affections of his people. And when we call to mind that an everlasting and irreconcilable opposition subsists between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the whole is explained. Deuteronomy 7:25-5.7.26 .
MY soul! pause here, and behold the wonderful love of GOD to his people. Behold, what a series of hazardous journeys, as they must have appeared to human nature, and impossible ever to have been accomplished by flesh and blood, unprotected by the LORD, were GOD'S Israel brought through. Call to mind, in rehearsing these two and forty stages of their pilgrimage, what a train of miracles accompanied them, more or less, at every stage. Traverse, in idea, the inhospitable regions of uninhabited desolate places the LORD led them through, for forty years together, during the whole of which space their garments waxed not old, neither were their feet swollen, and surrounded as they were with beasts of prey, and fiery flying serpents, and scorpions. And behold the people at the close of their journey, as many in number at least, and as healthy, as when they first set out; and will not every beholder be prompted to exclaim, what hath GOD wrought! But while beholding Israel of old, forget not, my soul, to contemplate the true Israel of GOD now. Is not our JESUS carrying home his church through the wilderness? Are not his people in continued movements? Are they not exercised with the same wilderness dispensations? And is not JESUS himself always with them, driving out every enemy before them, and continually manifesting himself to them otherwise than he doth to the world? Oh! my soul, search diligently for thine own personal interest and part in this history; and do thou be continually inquiring for the evidences of thy journey in the spiritual warfare of JESUS, until the LORD shall have accomplished thy wilderness state, and shall bring thee home to Canaan, to behold his glory, and dwell with him forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Numbers 33". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent