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Make thee two trumpets of silver.
The law of the silver trumpets
Revelation is to man as a trumpet-call from heaven; hence the prophets are often told to lift up their voices like a trumpet. The human race is a grand army of immortals. The journey of life is a series of marches intended by the Captain of our salvation to terminate in heaven. But whether this journey will be successfully accomplished or not depends upon our faithfulness to the directions of our Divine Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. The law of the silver trumpets is the law of the nature, uses, and objects of Divine revelation, when it is seen and felt as the utterance of divine love, and the authorised guide and director of our journey to heaven.
1. And here we may remark how appropriate silver is as a correspondence to spiritual wisdom. It is white, brilliant, and precious. So is the spiritual meaning of the Word. Oh, may its sweet and silvery lessons be to us as dearest treasure! To teach us, then, that it is the spiritual sense of Divine revelation which is intended to guide us, guard us, and call us to heaven, the trumpets were made of silver.
2. They were two in number, but formed of one piece. The whole spirit of the Word is expressive of love to the Lord, and charity to man (Matthew 22:37-40). To represent this twofold character of the spirit of the Word, then, there were two silver trumpets, not one only. Yet they were both formed out of one piece. For, indeed, the truth that we should love our neighbour comes out from the grander truth, that we should supremely love the Lord. The Apostle John states this very clearly (1 John 4:21; 2 John 1:1). Another idea is intimated by this command to make them of one piece; that, namely, of the entire harmony of the spiritual sense of the Word with itself. It is bright and coherent everywhere. It is silver, all of one piece.
II. But let us turn now from the composition of the trumpets to their use.
1. They were to be used to call the people to the assemblies (verse 3).
2. They were to excite to, and direct the journey of the people (verses 5, 6).
3. They were to be sounded when an enemy appeared in their land to oppress them (verse 9).
4. They were to be blown on the days of rejoicing (verse 10). The first use of the trumpets, then, was to call the assemblies to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, there to hear the will and decisions of the Most High. In like manner we are called by the silver trumpets of the Word to assemble together in the name and in the presence of that glorified Divine Man who said (John 10:9). The whole spirit of the Word calls us to worship Him, and to learn of Him (Revelation 19:10). When we have been to the Lord Jesus Christ in worship, and to learn His will, we shall find the second use of the silver trumpets will be unfolded to us. We must march on. Regeneration is a journey in which we advance from state to state, as from stage to stage in outward travel. We begin in Egypt, we must reach Canaan. The silvery music will call us forward. The import of its sound is this, Arise, for this is not your rest, for the whole land is polluted (Isaiah 60:1). Arise, child of heaven, from the selfishness and darkness in which thou hast been enshrouded. Arise from the slavery and pollution of sin to the glorious liberty of the children of light. Move on. Next we are carried forward to the contemplation of the third use of the trumpets; to sound an alarm when the enemies within the land seek to oppress. We begin our regeneration by forsaking the grosser sins to which we have been accustomed, and we think we have left all that is offensive in the sight of heaven. We think we are wholly given up to God and goodness, and so we shall continue. Alas! we have in this but little conception of the wonderful nature with which we are endowed, or of the extent of the ramifications of evil. Each mind is a world in ruins. The soul is organised more astonishingly even than the body, and each organ or principle is more or less perverted. Were we left to ourselves, we might well turn back in despair, and die. But happily, what is impossible to man is possible with God. He can give us a new nature: He can give us the victory again and again: He can and will protect us. When, then, our internal enemies, the plagues of our own hearts, appear to us, and dispositions which we supposed were for ever done with are met again and again, let us not quail nor be dispirited. With Divine help we shall overcome them, and triumph until the last enemy is overthrown. But the Lord saves us by His Word. This is the lesson intended by the use of the silver trumpets which we are now considering. When, then, selfishness rises up in your lands to oppress you, go to the Divine Word, and hear its holy sound. Let its voice of love and mercy be heard in your spirit like the silvery tones of heavenly trumpets, and by its truth and power you will be saved. The last use of the trumpets was, that they should be blown on the days of solemn rejoicing. On our days of gladness we should see that all our feelings are such as are under the influence of the Holy Word. Were it not for sin, all our days, like those of heaven, would be days of gladness. The purification of our joys, then, is one of the great works of our regeneration. Let us blow with the silver trumpets on our days of gladness, and on our solemn days. There are states, which recur from time to time, of peculiar solemnity, when conscience is more than usually earnest with us: states of self-examination, states of solemn thought, states of recollection of mercies and blessings formerly received, states of self-dedication to high and holy objects; these are our solemn days. The period when we resolved to quit a period of evil, and entered upon our passover, or feast of unleavened bread; when we commenced the reception of the bread of heaven, though as yet to us tasteless, like unleavened bread; then comes the period when faith enables us, under its influence, to bring forth the first-fruits of a harvest of virtues and graces to be repeated for ever; and lastly, the feast of spiritual ingathering comes on, that matured state of the soul when charity rules in the heart, and perfect love casteth out fear. Blow with the silver trumpets over the solemn days. There are minor solemnities connected with the varied events of life which induce in thoughtful minds solemn states: the births, the marriages, and the deaths of those we love, the serious circumstances of our families and our country, all these make solemn days; let the spirit which rules over them be the spirit of love to the Lord, and charity to man. Blow the silver trumpets over the solemn days. There is mention made also of the beginning of the months, and as there is a perfect correspondence between outward nature and man’s spiritual and interior existence, there is a correspondence in this respect also. The months are the times which depend upon the moon; and the moon is the symbol of faith in the soul. As faith has its variations in the soul, sometimes being bright and luminous, at others dim and obscure, its changes are represented by those of the moon. The beginning of a month is therefore the commencement of a new state of faith in the soul, when, after being in obscurity, we enter into clear and holy light on things Divine. The tree of life is said to bear twelve manner of fruits--one for every month; implying that in every state of mind, and in every change of circumstances in our Christian life, we may receive from the Lord within the power of bringing forth the appropriate works of piety and justice. At the beginning of our mental changes, in the attainment of new views on subjects of faith, we should observe that they are in harmony with the essential principles of the spirit of the Word, of love to the Lord, and charity to man. Blow the silver trumpets in the beginning of the months. And, lastly, over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. Our offerings at this day are all spiritual. Yet are we as truly called upon to make them as were the Jews. Life consists of fixed duties, and free will efforts. Let both be performed in the spirit of devoted self-dedication, under the Divine spirit of the Holy Word. The silver trumpet must sound over our burnt offerings and our sacrifices of peace offerings, that they may be to us a memorial before the Lord our God. In conclusion, let us be grateful for the provision by our adorable Lord of the interior truths of His Word, the silver trumpets of heaven. Let us seek to find them by reading, by thought and meditation, until we have individually realised the promise of our heavenly Father and Saviour, “For iron I will bring silver.” When we have acquired the clear perception that all truth hangs upon the two grand laws of love to God and love to man, then let their silvery voice be heard over all the circumstances of our lives. Let them be heard calling us from Sabbath to Sabbath to the public worship of the Lord Jesus Christ--the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let them be heard directing our attention to Him in our morning and evening devotions. When we have attained light and strength in prayer, they ever call us to march on to progress. Let us go forward with a glowing, firm, and fervent will, and then strengthen and confirm our progress by the light of a full and active intellect. (J. Bayley, Ph. D.)
The trumpets of Providence
The sacred trumpets are still sounded; they still call men to worship, to festival, to battle. If we have lost the literal instrument, we are still, if right-minded, within sound of the trumpets of Providence. We do not now go out at our own bidding; we are, if wise, responding to a Voice, wherever we may be found. Look at the men who are pouring forth in all directions every morning; stand, in imagination, at a point from which you can see all the stations at which men alight; so present the scene to the fancy that you can see every little procession hastening to its given point of departure; then bring on all the processions to the various points of arrival; read the faces of the men; take in the whole scene. What action; what colour; what expression of countenance! And if we had ears acute enough to hear, what various voices are being sounded by every life; what tumult; what desire; what intersection of paths; what imminent collisions!--and yet the whole scene moves on with a kind of rough order all its own. What has called these men together--and yet not together?--the trumpet! Some have heard the trumpet calling to controversy. Many of these men carry bloodless swords; they are well equipped with argument; they are about to state the ease, to defend the position, to repel, to assert, to vindicate righteousness, and to claim compensation for virtue outraged; they are soldiers; they have mapped out the battlefield in private; all their forces have been disposed within the sanctuary of the night, and presently the voice of genius and of eloquence will be heard in high wrangling, in noble contention, that so the wicked may claim nothing that is not his own, and the righteous have the full reward of his purity. They are going to the political arena to adjust the competing claims of nations, or causes; war is in their eyes; should they speak, they would speak stridently, with clear, cutting tone, with military precision and emphasis; they would hold no long parley with men, for they mean the issue to end in victory. Others have heard no such trumpet: they have heard another call--to peaceful business, to daily routine, to duty, made heavy alien by monotony, but duty still, which must be done according to the paces and beatings of the daily clock. They cannot resist that voice without resisting themselves. And other men, in smaller bands--more aged men--men who have seen service in the market field, in the political field, in the field of literature--how go they? Away towards sunny scenes, quiet meadows, lakes of silver, gardens trimmed with the patience and skill of love. They are men of leisure, men in life’s afternoon. The sunbeam has been a trumpet to them; hearing it, they said, Who would remain at home to-day? All heaven calls us out, the great blue arch invites us to hospitality in the fields and woods, and by the riverside. All men are obeying a trumpet; the call is addressed from heaven to earth every morning. We may have outlived the little, straight, silver trumpet, turned up at the ends; but the trumpet invisible, the trumpet of Providence, the call of Heaven, the awakening strain of the skies--this we cannot outlive: for the Lord is a Man of war, and must have the battle continued: the Lord is a Father, and must have the family constituted in order; the Lord is a Shepherd, and must have the flocks led forth that they may lie down in the shadow of noonday. The trumpets were to be sounded by the priests. The pulpit should be a tower of strength to every weak cause. Were every Sabbath day devoted to the tearing down of some monster evil--were the sanctuary dedicated to the denunciation, not of the vulgar crimes which everybody condemns, but the subtle and unnamed crimes which everybody practises, the blast of the trumpet would tear the temple walls in twain! There are trumpets which call us in spiritual directions. They are heard by the heart. They are full of the tone of persuasion--that highest of all the commandments. The heart hears the trumpet on the Sabbath day. The trumpet that could sound an alarm is softened in its tone into a tender entreaty, or a cheerful persuasion, or a promise of enlarged liberty. Everything depends upon the tone. The trumpet may be the same, but the tone is different. We cannot take up the trumpet of the great player and make it sound as he made it. What is it, then, that plays the trumpet? It is the soul. If we knew things as we ought to know them, we should know that it is the soul that plays every instrument, that sings every hymn, that preaches every discourse that has in it the meaning of God and the behest of Heaven. The same trumpet called to festival and to war; so the gospel has two tones: it calls lovingly, sweetly, tenderly; and it sounds an alarm, making the night tremble through all its temple of darkness, and sending into men’s hearts pangs of apprehension and unutterable fear. There is another trumpet yet to sound (1 Corinthians 15:52). The trumpet is not lost, then; it is in heaven, where the Ark of the Testimony is, where the Shekinah is, where the Tabernacle of God is. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The institution of the silver trumpets
It sets forth, in the most distinct manner possible, that God’s people are to be absolutely dependent upon, and wholly subject to, Divine testimony, in all their movements. A child may read this in the type before us. The congregation in the wilderness dared not assemble for any festive or religious object until they heard the sound of the trumpet; nor could the men of war buckle on their armour, till summoned forth by the signal of alarm to meet the uncircumcised foe. They worshipped and they fought, they journeyed and they halted, in simple obedience to the trumpet call. It was not, by any means, a question of their likings or dislikings, their thoughts, their opinions, or their judgment. It was simply and entirely a question of implicit obedience. Their every movement was dependent upon the testimony of God, as given by the priests from the sanetuary. The song of the worshipper and the shout of the warrior were each the simple fruit of the testimony of God. The silver trumpet settled and ordered every movement for Israel of old. The testimony of God ought to settle and order everything for the Church now. That silver trumpet was blown by the priests of old. That testimony of God is known in priestly communion now. A Christian has no right to move or act apart from Divine testimony. He must wait upon the word of his Lord. Till he gets that, he must stand still. When he has gotten it he must go forward, but is not by aught that strikes the senses that our Father guides us; but by that which acts on the heart, the conscience, and the understanding. It is not by that which is natural, but by that which is spiritual, that He communicates His mind. If the ear is circumcised, you will assuredly hear the silver trumpet. Till that sounds, never stir: when it sounds, never tarry. This will make all so clear, so simple, so safe, so certain. It is the grand cure for doubt, hesitancy, and vacillation. It will save us from the necessity of running for advice to this one and that one, as to how we should act, or where we should go. And, furthermore, it will teach us that it is none of our business to attempt to control the actions or movements of others. Let each one have his ear’ open, and his heart subject, and then, assuredly, he will possess all the certainty that God can give him, as to his every act and movement, from day to day. Our ever gracious God can give clearness and decision as to everything. If He does not give it, no one can. If He does, no one need. (C. H. Mackintosh.)
The silver trumpets
The silver trumpets sent a piercing note. So should the gospel herald utter aloud the gospel news. Away with timid whisper, and a stammering tongue. Note, the trumpets were of one piece. So is the gospel message. It knows no mixture. 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 mere closely marked.
1. 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.
2. They give command to march. The Bible warns that earth is not our rest. We live a stranger-life. We occupy a moving tent. We hold a pilgrim-staff.
3. 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. Until the victor’s crown is won, unflinching combat must go on.
4. In the grand feasts they cheer the worshippers around the bleeding victims. While the altar streams, and happy crowds look on, the heavens resound with these exulting clangs. The precept is obeyed (Psalms 81:1). Believer, thus, too, the gospel teaches you to joy--to joy with heart abounding with melodious praise, when you in faith contemplate, and in worship plead, the meritorious death of Christ. (Dean Law.)
The silver trumpets, or the relation of the gospel ministry to the seasons and services of the Christian life
1. The trumpets and their use were commanded by God. He blesses men, saves men by the use of the means which He has appointed.
2. 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.
3. 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 unmistakably clear (1 Corinthians 14:7-8.)
4. The trumpets were to be blown at different seasons and for different purposes--for conventions, for journeyings, for battles, for festivals, &c. 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. The ministry of the gospel should draw men together, even as the silver trumpets convened the assemblies of Israel.
II. For summoning the people to advance. 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,” &c. (Philippians 3:13-14).
2. In personal and collective usefulness. He should incite both individuals and Churches to more diligent and devoted services in the cause of Christ.
III. For encouraging the people in battle. Like the priests with the silver trumpets the minister of the gospel should--
1. Encourage Christians to battle against evil.
2. By inciting them to trust in God. He gives the victory.
IV. For suitably observing seasons of special interest.
1. Seasons of joy. “In the days of your gladness ye shall blow with the trumpets,” &c. 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,” &c. There are many solemn days in life--days of mental conflict, of spiritual darkness, of social bereavement, &c. 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,” &c. (W. Jones.)
The silver trumpets
We have here directions concerning the public notices that were to be given to the people upon several occasions--by sound of trumpet. In a thing of this nature one would think Moses needed not to have been taught of God, his own reason might teach him the convenience of trumpets; but their constitution was to be in everything Divine, and therefore even in this matter, as small as it seems. Moses is here directed--
I. About the making of them They must be made of silver; not cast, but of beaten work (as some read it); the matter and shape no doubt very fit for the purpose. He was now ordered to make but two, because there were but two priests to use them; but in Solomon’s time we read of an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets (2 Chronicles 5:12). The form of these trumpets is supposed to be much like ours of this day.
II. Who were to make use of them. Not any inferior person; but the priests themselves, the sons of Aaron (Numbers 10:8). As great as they were, they must not think it a disparagement to them to be trumpeters in the house of God; the meanest office there was honourable. This signified that the Lord’s ministers should lift up their voice like a trumpet, to show people their sins (Isaiah 58:1), and to call them to Christ (Isaiah 27:13).
III. Upon what occasions the trumpets were to be sounded.
1. For the calling of assemblies (Numbers 10:2). Thus they are bid to blow the trumpet in Zion, for the calling of a solemn assembly together, to sanctify a fast (Joel 2:13). Public notice ought to be given of the time and place of religious assemblies, for the invitation to the benefit of ordinances in general. “Whoever will, let him come.” Wisdom cries in the chief places of concourse. But that the trumpet might not; give an uncertain sound, they are directed, if only the princes and elders were to meet, to blow only one of the trumpets; less should serve to call them together who ought to be examples of forwardness in anything that is good. But if the body of the people were to be called together, both the trumpets must be sounded, that they might be the farther heard. In allusion to this, they are said to be blessed that hear the joyful sound (Psalms 89:15), i.e., that are invited and called upon to wait upon God in public ordinances (Psalms 122:1). And the general assembly at the great day will be summoned by the sound of the archangel’s trumpet (Matthew 24:34).
2. For the journeying of the camps; to give notice when each squadron must move, for no man’s voice could reach to give the word of command. Soldiers with us, that are well disciplined, may be exercised by beat of drum. When the trumpets were blown for this purpose they must sound an alarm (Numbers 10:5), a broken, quavering, interrupted sound, which was proper to excite and encourage the minds of people in the marches against their enemies; whereas a continued equal sound was more proper for the calling of the assembly together (Numbers 10:7). Yet when the people were called together to deprecate God’s judgments we find an alarm sounded (Joel 2:3). At the first sounding, Judah’s squadron marched; at the second, Reuben’s; at the third, Ephraim’s; at the fourth, Dan’s (Numbers 10:5-6). And some think this was intended to sanctify their marches; for this was proclaimed by the priests, who were God’s mouth to the people, not only the Divine orders given them to move, but the Divine blessing upon them in all their motions. He that hath ears let him hear that God is with them of a truth.
3. For the animating and encouraging of their armies when they went out to battle (Numbers 10:9). “If ye go to war blow with the trumpets”; signifying thereby your appeal to Heaven, for the decision of the controversy, and your prayer to God to give you victory; and God will own this His own institution, and you shall be remembered before the Lord your God. God will take notice of this sound of the trumpet, and be engaged to fight their battles; and let all the people take notice of it, and be encouraged to fight His; as David, when he heard a sound of a going upon the tops of the mulberry-trees. Not that God needed to be awaked by sound of trumpet, no more than Christ needed to be awaked by His disciples in the storm (Matthew 8:25), but where He intends mercy it is His will that we should solicit for it. Ministers must stir up the good soldiers of Jesus Christ to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil, by assuring them that Christ is the Captain of their salvation, and will tread Satan under their feet.
4. For the solemnising of their sacred feasts (Numbers 10:10). One of their feasts was called the feast of trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-24). And it should seem they were thus to grace the solemnity of all their feasts (Psalms 81:3), and their sacrifices (2 Chronicles 29:27), to intimate with what joy and delight they performed their duty to God, and to raise the minds of those that attend the services to a holy triumph in the God they worshipped. And then their performances were for a memorial before God; for then He takes pleasure in our religious exercises when we take pleasure in them. Holy work should be done with holy joy. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
Significance of the silver trumpet
It is the voice of Him who came preaching peace, the proclamation of those of whom the prophet speaks (Isaiah 52:7). For just as the two silver trumpets entered into every part of Israel’s life, and their varied notes were always adapted to Israel’s wants and position, so it is with the gospel. Its awakening power, its soothing promises, its sanctifying influence, is meant to consecrate every act of our lives, and move every thought of our hearts. Did the sound of the silver trumpets call the slothful or backsliding Israel to the tabernacle of the congregation, either to hear the will of God announced by Moses, or to worship? So does the voice of Jesus in the gospel invite us into the presence of God. It says to the slumbering heart, “Awake, thou that sleepest,” &c. It says to the fearful and desponding, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace,” &c. It says to the backsliding and to the guilty conscience, “Return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thy iniquity.” It says, again, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” &c. Did the sound of the silver trumpets bid Israel arise and follow the pillar of fire and cloud which went before them? So does the voice of Jesus bid us arise and journey onward. When our hearts are entangled by the secret influences of the world--when we begin to take up our rest in the love of the creature--then there is a still small voice full of warning, “Arise ye, and depart, for this is not your rest; it is polluted.” Whensoever we rest contented with low attainments, losing sight of Him to whose image we ought to be conformed, the silver trumpets sound, bidding us press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. As, too, Israel of old was called to engage in warfare with their enemies and God’s, and one use of the silver trumpets was to summon them to preparation and to the field of battle, so has the Israel of God now a great conflict to engage in--a conflict with enemies seen and unseen, and the unseen more powerful than the seen. Yet, how seldom do we realise as we ought the greatness of the conflict, and the power of our spiritual enemies! and, consequently, we are too often off our guard. Hence it is that the silver trumpets are needed to summon us to the conflict. We require to be summoned to “endure hardness,” as good soldiers of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3), that we may not, like Israel of old, turn back in the day of battle, but may feel and exclaim with David (Psalms 18:32; Psalms 18:34-35). And, once more, were the silver trumpets needed to consecrate all Israel’s offerings, that they might be a memorial before the Lord? Oh, still more is it the gospel of Christ that does and can consecrate all acts of life and of worship! It is the word, too, of the gospel which explains to us the means of approach to God, and, still more, prepares our hearts for that communion. We should listen to the sound or the silver trumpet in every act of life, in every prayer, and over every offering. With this everything will become a memorial before the Lord. (G. Wagner.)
The trumpet gospel:
One of the good doctors whom I often heard in my boyhood had a voice like the distant rolling of thunder. He exchanged pulpits with a neighbour, whose voice was peculiarly effeminate. It was a little voice, and withal quite musical. The doctor returned to his own congregation for the evening service. Arising in his place, he commenced with this preface, “My friends, you have to-day heard the gospel through a silver trumpet; but to-night you must hear it through a ram’s horn.” Alas! how many are charmed with the silver trumpet! Sweet morsels, drops of honey-dew, like globules of sugar-coated opiates, form the only compound suited to their taste. “Peel it, pare it, smooth it, trim it!” is their cry, “take away from it those distorted and hideous features! Fashion it, form it, compound with it some thrilling narrative, some pleasant story, and we will receive it.” In other words, make it anything but the plain simple gospel, and it may become palatable. We have advanced to a strange pass in our tastes touching the gospel of the Son of God. (Buffalo Christian Advertiser.)
Took their Journeys out of the wilderness.
Israel’s journey through the wilderness an emblem of the Christian’s state on earth
While we are in this world we are passing through a wilderness, and our removes in it are only from one wilderness to another. The men of this world will dislike the comparison because the world is their portion, their all. But those whose chief business and governing desire is to get to heaven, and who have their conversation there, will acknowledge the emblem to be just, will dwell on it with pleasure, and derive instruction from it. This world is like a wilderness, as--
1. It is an uncomfortable state.
2. It is a dangerous state: dangerous to the Christian’s virtue and peace, to the life and health of his soul, which are the main things that he regards and pursues.
3. It is an unsettled state, subject to continual changes and alterations. We enter on new relations in life, and promise ourselves much from them, but still it is a wilderness: if we have new pleasures we have new cares and sorrows, and if we double our joys we double our griefs too. In every stage of the wilderness we leave some of our friends behind us, the prey of the universal destroyer death, and we find the rest of the journey more tiresome and dangerous for want of their assistance and company. Some are confined long in the wilderness, beyond the usual period of human life. Sometimes they think themselves near the country for which they are bound, and then, like Israel, they are turned back again, and have many more years to wander. Their burdens grow heavier and their pleasures less, and nothing in the wilderness can support them; nothing but religion and the hope of getting to Canaan at last.
1. Let us be thankful that we have so many comforts in the wilderness.
2. Let us be patient and contented under the evils of it. And for this plain reason, because it is sin that hath turned the world into a wilderness.
3. Lot us earnestly seek and hope for the presence of God with us in this wilderness, and that will be everything to us.
4. Let us rejoice in the views of the heavenly Canaan, and diligently prepare for it. (J. Orton.)
The cloud rested.--
The resting and the rising of the good
I. The people of God are sometimes called to remain, as it were, stationary for a time in this life.
II. Though the people of God may appear to remain stationary for a time, yet there is no permanent settlement in this world.
III. Both the restings and the risings of the people of God are ordered by him.
IV. The people of God, whether resting or marching, are protected by him. 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. (W. Jones.)
Rest a while
“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 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? (J. Parker, D. D.)
Rest time 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.)
The standard of the camp.
The Divine standard to be maintained
There are few things in which we are more prone to fail than in the maintenance of the Divine standard when human failure has set in. Like David, when the Lord made a breach upon Uzza, because of his failure in putting his hand to the ark, “He was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (1 Chronicles 13:12). It is exceedingly difficult to bow to the Divine judgment, and, at the same time, to hold fast the Divine ground. The temptation is to lower the standard, to come down from the lofty elevation, to take human ground. We must ever carefully guard against this evil, which is all the more dangerous as wearing the garb of modesty, self-distrust, and humility. Aaron and his sons, notwithstanding all that had occurred, were to eat the meat offering in the holy place. They were to do so, not because all had gone on in perfect order, but “because it is thy due,” and “so I am commanded.” Though there had been failure, yet their place was in the tabernacle; and those who were there had certain “dues” founded upon the Divine commandment. Though man had failed ten thousand times over, the word of the Lord cannot fail: and that word had secured certain privileges for all true priests, which it was their place to enjoy. Were God’s priests to have nothing to eat, no priestly food, because failure had set in? Were those that were left to be allowed to starve, because Nadab and Abihu had offered “strange fire”? This would never do. God is faithful, and He can never allow any one to be empty in His blessed presence. The prodigal may wander, and squander, and come to poverty; but it must ever hold good that “in my Father’s house is bread enough and to spare.” (C. H. Mackintosh.)
God would have order observed among His people at all times
When Christ our Saviour intended to feed the multitude that had continued with Him to hear His word, He commanded His disciples to make all sit down in ranks by hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40), so that He would have all things, even the most common, done in order. For all disorder came into the world by Satan, and his chief employment is to make a breach into that order which God hath established. He shuffleth and mingleth all together, and seeketh to disturb and destroy what he can, and how he can. Again, order is a means to preserve every society; the want of it threateneth ruin to every society. This serveth, first, to reprove such as keep not their places, but break out of order, and will not be held within the compass that God hath set them. Every man hath his bounds set him, and is enclosed in them as in a circle, which he may not pass. No man hath any promise of blessing when he keepeth not the order God hath set him. Secondly, acknowledge from hence that the Church is a blessed company, it is the very school of good order, wherein all things are done in number, weight, and measure. When Balaam had seen the goodly order of this host of God, as the valleys that were spread forth, as gardens by the river’s side, as the trees which the Lord had planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters, he cried out in admiration of this comely, decent, and seemly order, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel! “For who is it that ruleth in the Church? and who is it by whom it is guided? Is it not God, who is the God of order? No confusion cleaveth or can cleave to Him, He is not the God of confusion, He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). He hath set an order among all His works. Thirdly, when we see this order interrupted in the works of God, know that it cometh not of God. Acknowledge therein the corruption of man and the work of Satan. Fourthly, whensoever we cannot sound the depth of God’s works nor judge of them as we ought, when we see to our appearance much out of square, as soldiers out of their squadrons, we must not condemn the works of God, but accuse our own blindness and ignorance, “Forasmuch as God hath made all beautiful in his season” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). When we behold how the wicked prosper for the most part, and are of great power (Psalms 37:35), and on the other side the godly all the day long plagued and chastened every morning (Psalms 73:14), we are ready to misjudge and misdeem of these works of God. Howbeit, the ways of God are not as our ways. This is therefore our weakness in judgment. Thus also was Jeremy troubled (Jeremiah 12:1-2), and no less the prophet Habbakuk (Habakkuk 1:13). This which we esteem to be a confusion is indeed no confusion; and that is in order which we suppose to be out of order. For God is a God of long suffering, who “Will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies” (Nahum 1:2), and therefore is the prophet (much perplexed in spirit) willed to wait by faith the issue that God will make,” For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3). Lastly, from hence every man must learn to do the duties of his own calling. God hath set every man in a certain calling. We are apt, indeed, to break out into the callings of other men, as if we were pinned up in too narrow a room. This made Solomon to say, “I have seen servants on horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.” And as God hath set every man in a calling, so must every man wait and attend upon that calling, whether it be in the Church, or in the family, or in the commonwealth. (W. Attersoll.)
Moses said unto Hobab . . . Come thou with us.
A generous proposal
I. First, then, what are the characteristics of a true church as it is pictured by Israel in the wilderness? We might prolong the answer to this question with many minute features, but it will be unnecessary to do more than give you a simple broad outline.
1. The people in the wilderness were a redeemed people. They had been redeemed by blood and redeemed by power. So, all the true members of God’s Church understand what the blood of sprinkling means. They have enjoyed a passover through it. 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. Thus they have also been redeemed by power, and no one has any right to think himself a member of Christ’s Church unless by faith he has seen himself redeemed by blood, and in his experience has also been redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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. This is not their rest. Here they have no continuing city.
3. Israel in the wilderness was a people walking by faith as to the future, for if you remember, the words are, “They were going to the place of which the Lord said, I will give it to you.” And such are God’s people now. As for joys to come, they have not tasted them, but they are looking for them, because God has promised them.
4. These people, also, as to their present circumstances were walking by faith. It was not merely faith which sang to them of Canaan, but it was faith that 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. So also 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.
5. These people found, wherever they went, that they were surrounded by foes. So will you find it if you are a child of God. All places are full of snares. Events, prosperous or adverse, expose you to temptation. All things that happen to you, though God makes them work for good, in themselves would work for evil. While here on this earth the world is no friend to grace to help you on to God.
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?
2. Take the words as significant of the manner in which Churches should invite suitable persons to come among them as private members. Are there not those who go in and out merely as visitors worshipping with you, who have never joined hands with you in covenant? They meet with you as mere hearers, under the same ministry, but they have not identified themselves with the brotherhood to sit down and feast with you at the table of the Lord. To such as these the proposal may be made, and the welcome proffered.
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, and we will do thee good.” Not “come and join our Church,” not “come and be members,” not “come and put on a profession of faith.” 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, come on pilgrimage to the better country; forsake the pursuit of vanities, lay hold on eternal life; waste not all your thoughts upon the bootless cares of time, think about the momentous matters of eternity. Why will you be companions of those who are upon the wrong side, and whose cause is the cause of evil? Why will you remain an enemy to God? We, by God’s grace, have cast in our lot with Christ and with His cause; we desire to live to His glory. Come and cast in your lot with us--that is, believe; that is, trust a Saviour slain; that is, put your soul into the custody of Christ the Intercessor; that is, press forward through a life of holiness on earth to a home of happiness in heaven. “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.”
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 it good. I am sure it will, for I speak from experience; and if I were to call upon many hundreds in this house they would all bear the same testimony, that union with the people of God has done them good.
1. The Church of God may say this, first, because she can offer to those who join with her good company.
2. “Come with us,” the Church of God may say, “and you shall have good instruction,” for it is in the true Church of God that the doctrines of grace are preached, the Person of Christ is extolled, the work of the Spirit is magnified, &c.
3. “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good,” in the best sense, for thou shalt feel in our midst the good presence of God.
4. “Come with us” again, for you shall participate in all the good offices of the Church. That is to say, if thou wilt cast in thy lot with us, if there be prayer thou shalt have thy share in it. We will pray for thee in thy trouble, and trial, and anguish.
5. But the good that Hobab was to get was not only on the road. The main good he got was this--he went into the promised land with God’s people. So, the main blessing that you get from being united with the invisible Church of Christ, through being part and parcel of the body of Christ, is reserved for the hereafter.
IV. Lest we should be found mere pretenders, let all of us who belong to Christ’s church take care to make this argument true. I speak to many who have long been joined to the visible Church of God, and I put this interrogatory to them--How have you carried out this silent compact which has been made with the friends of Christ? You have promised to do them good; have you fulfilled your pledges? I am afraid few of us have done good to our fellow Christians up to the measure that we might have done, or that we ought to have done. Some professors, I fear, have forgotten the compact altogether. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
True pilgrim life
1. The life of all is a pilgrimage.
(1) Life as a journey is constant. There is no pausing a moment; whether asleep or awake we are moving on.
(2) It is irretraceable. We cannot go back a step.
(3) It is resistless.
2. But whilst the life of all is a pilgrimage, all are not taking the same course, and moving to the same destination. Morally there is a true and a false pilgrimage. We take the text to illustrate the life of a true pilgrim.
I. It is a life to a glorious destiny. The true Canaan of humanity is moral perfection. The true soul marches on through life not in quest of some outward good, as did the Israelites of old, but in quest of holiness.
1. It is the gift of God.
2. It is a motive for exertion.
II. It is a life of social benevolence.
1. The language of a true life is that of invitation. “Come with us.”
2. The spirit of a true life is that of kindness. “We will do thee good.”
III. It is a life under the benediction of heaven. God has spoken good concerning all the holy and the true; all who are the genuine disciples of His Blessed Son. What has He said to them?
1. That they are His friends.
2. That He is always with them.
3. That He has mansions prepared for them in the future. (Homilist.)
The journey to heaven
I. The Christian’s destination. He is not at home on earth, but is a stranger and a pilgrim. He desires something better, and this desire is not to be disappointed. Heaven is something promised. The prospect is delightful.
II. The Christian’s journey. Heaven is not only a place we desire, but one to which we are rapidly advancing. Travelling does not mean a quiescent state of ease and rest; it means active exertion. The different stages of Christian life do not represent simply advancing age, but the attainment of higher degrees of Christian character and perfection.
III. The Christian’s desire--that others should accompany him. More especially is this the case as regards relations and friends. It is his duty to invite them. It is part of his Christian work. Well may he be eloquent when a matter of so grave importance is in the balance. Let us seek company as we journey to heaven. It will be better for us here and hereafter. (Preacher’s Analyst.)
The believer’s journey
I. The place of every true believer’s destination.
II. The means he is adopting to arrive at it.
III. The call which he would fain address to all his unconverted neighbours. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
Moses and Hobab
The historian does not think it worth while to tell whether Moses’ attempt to secure the help of a pair of sharp Bedouin eyes succeeded or failed, but passes on to describe at once how “the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them to search out a resting-place for them,” and how “the cloud was upon them when they went out of the camp.” He would teach us that it mattered little whether Israel had Hobab or not, if they had the ark and the cloud.
I. There are times and moods in which our forward look brings with it a painful sense of the unknown wilderness before us. It is a libel on God’s goodness to speak of the world as a wilderness. He has not made it so; and if anybody finds that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit,” it is his own fault. But still one aspect of life is truly represented by that figure. There are dangers and barren places, and a great solitude in spite of love and companionship, and many marchings and lurking foes, and grim rocks, and fierce suns, and parched wells, and shadeless sand wastes enough in every life to make us quail often and look grave always when we think of what may be before us. Who knows what we shall see when we top the next hill, or round the shoulder of the cliff that bars our way? What shout of an enemy may crash in upon the sleeping camp; or what stifling gorge of barren granite--blazing in the sun and trackless to our feet--shall we have to march through to-day?
II. We have here an illustration of the weakness that clings to human guides. There are a thousand ways in which our poor weak hearts cry out in their sense-bound unbelief for visible stays to lean upon, and guides to direct us. In so far as that is a legitimate longing, God, who never “sends mouths, but He sends meat to feed them,” will not leave us to cry unheard. But let us guard against that ever-present weakness which clings tremblingly to creatures and men for help and guidance, and, in proportion as it is rich when it possesses them, trembles at the prospect of losing them, and is crushed and desolate when they go. Do not put them as barriers between you and God, nor yield your own clearness of vision to them, nor say to any, “Be to us instead of eyes,” nor be over anxious to secure any Hobab to show you where to camp or how to march.
III. The contrast which is brought into prominence by the juxtaposition of this section and that which follows it, makes emphatic the thought of the true leader of our march. God always goes before His people. No doubt in all our lives there come times when we seem to have been brought into a blind alley, and cannot see where we are to get out; but it is very rare indeed that we do not see one step in advance, the duty which lies next us. And be sure of this, that if we are content to see but one step at a time, and take it, we shall find our way made plain. The river winds, and often we seem on a lake without an exit. Then is the time to go half-speed, and, doubtless, when we get a little farther, the overlapping hills on either bank will part, and the gorge will open out. We do not need to see it a mile off; enough if we see it when we are close upon it. It may be as narrow and grim, with slippery black cliffs towering on either side of the narrow ribbon of the stream, as the canons of American rivers, but it will float our boat into broader reaches and onward to the great sea. Do not seek to outrun God’s guidance, to see what you are to do a year hence, or to act before you are sure of what is His will; do not let your wishes get in advance of the pillar and the ark, and you will be kept from many a mistake, and led into a region of deep peace.
IV. Our craving for a human guide has been lovingly met in the gift of Christ. His life is our pattern. Our marching orders ,re brief and simple: follow your Leader, and plant your feet in His footprints. That is the sum of all ethics, and the vade mecum for practical life. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
An earnest entreaty
I. Christianity is an elevating force, filling the soul with purity and love. In this text it is exhibited in all the charms of its simplicity and power. “Come with us, and we will do thee good.” On a cold day one autumn I happened to be speaking to a farmer where three roads met, and we saw sitting in the hedge side a half-starved melancholy man, to whom we said, “You look pale and ill, my friend.” He replied, “ My wife and children are in the workhouse. I have sought work up and down in Manchester and have failed to find it. One has told me to go there, another to go yonder; and I came out here to see if any farmer might perhaps find me work in his fields.” The good man at my side clapped his hand on the poor fellow’s shoulder and said, “Come with me; I will give you some breakfast and then I will find you work to do.” That kindly invitation and promise is an inspiration of Christianity. It is not “Go here,” or “go there”; but “come with us, and we will do you good.” We need a human sympathy that shall prompt us to do to others as we would have them do to us. We should imagine the feelings of others, and treat them as we should like to be treated ourselves were we in their position.
II. The christian life is an invitation. IS not the Christian like the sun that shines away the darkness? The petals of the flowers are closed up during the night, but when the sun shines upon them they open themselves to receive from his rays beauty and fragrance. So the Christian is a clear shining light in the night of the fog of sin. Even as Christ was the light of the world, so is every Christian a brilliancy.
1. Come first with us to the bar of conviction.
2. Come with us to the door of repentance.
3. Come with us to the seat of mercy.
4. Come with us, and we will lead you to the fountain for uncleanness.
5. Come with us to the Cross.
6. Come with us to the marriage of the Lamb with your soul.
III. The christian life is a trackway of beneficence, “We will do thee good.” The Christian shall be doing good all the days of his life. Let Christians join themselves in a huge co-operative society for beneficence. And, sinners, come with us, and we will do you good. Come and help us to help each other. (W. Birch.)
The heavenly Canaan
I. The great object which is sought by the church of God. “We are seeking heaven, and its perfect felicity we hope ultimately to realise.
II. The invitation presented by the church of God to them that are without. “Come with us and we will do thee good.”
III. Let me show what will be the issue of the acceptance of this invitation, Most cheering is the assurance that is given unto those who go with God’s people of a positive blessing. “We will do thee good,” said Moses to Hobab, “for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” Now I am very anxious just to set before you this truth, that no person can be found who loves God, and who has accepted the invitation to associate with His people, without being a gainer thereby. (T. W. Aveling.)
The Christian journeying to the promised land
I. Thy place spoken of in the text is Canaan, a type of heaven, that far-distant but better country which all the Israel of God have ever regarded as the scene of their blessedness and their home.
1. A much-wished-forplace.
2. A promised place.
3. The free gift of God.
II. The conduct of the Christian with regard to this place. It is evident that this heavenly country has little or no influence on mankind in general. We profess to believe that there is such a land somewhere in the universe, but we think and act just as though it could nowhere be found. If heaven were to be blotted out from the creation, or if an impassable gulf were to be fixed between it and the earth, our dispositions, our affections, and our conduct, would, in too many instances, remain the same as they are now. But this promised land has a real and abiding influence on the people of God. They seek it; they travel towards it.
1. To be journeying to heaven implies an actual entrance into the path which leads to it.
2. To be journeying to heaven implies also perseverance in seeking it.
3. We are warranted to infer that if we are journeying to heaven, we have not only kept in the road which leads to heaven, but have actually made a progress in it; that, instead of declining we are growing in grace; that we are gradually becoming more and more meet to be partakers of heaven, the nearer we draw to it.
4. There is implied also in journeying to the heavenly Canaan, a fixed determination to arrive there. The expression intimates decision of character; a willingness to sacrifice everything, so that the soul may be saved and heaven won.
III. In thus prosecuting his journey to heaven, it is evident that the christian must necessarily separate himself from many of his brethren, with whom he would otherwise have contentedly associated. But although he is constrained by the command of his God and the very nature of the work in which he is engaged, to come out from among the ungodly, he does not consider himself as unconnected with them, nor does he cease to regard them as brethren.
1. If we regard this invitation as the advice of the Christian traveller to his fellow-sinners around him, it implies that be has a sincere and earnest desire to bring them into the path of heaven, which he has himself entered.
2. The invitation of Moses intimates also that the Christian is tenderly concerned for the spiritual welfare of his fellow-travellers, as well as for the repentance and salvation of the wandering sinner.
3. We may infer, lastly, from this invitation, that if we would ever reach the kingdom of God, we must join ourselves now to the people of God. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The Christian invitation
I. God’s people are travelling to the celestial Canaan.
1. The journey--
(1) Commences in the day of conversion.
(2) Is continued by the soul advancing in the knowledge and love of God.
(3) Terminates at death.
2. The place to which they are journeying. This is the celestial Canaan; which is--
(1) A land of rest.
(2) A land of riches and prosperity.
(3) A land prepared for and promised to God’s spiritual Israel.
II. God’s people feel it their duty to invite others to journey with them to the promised land. Hence they say, “Come thou with us,” &c.
1. That there are many who are not in the way to this goodly land.
2. That there is room and freedom for more in the way to heaven.
3. That God’s people are anxious that others should join them in their way to heaven.
4. God’s people use their influence to prevail with those around them to accompany them to heaven. They practically invite them, by amiableness of disposition, sweetness of temper, righteousness of life; and thus allure them by the excellencies they manifest, and constrain them to glorify our Father who is in heaven.
III. God’s people have good reasons to assign why those around should go with them to the goodly land. The reasons in the text are two: “We will do you good”; and, “The Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” The first is a human reason, and therefore limited. The second is a Divine reason, and unlimited.
1. There is the promise of benevolent help.
2. There is the good declaration of God concerning Israel. “The Lord hath spoken good.” What has He not said? Has He not given the most precious promises and the most gracious assurances?
1. The present state of God’s people. It is a journeying state. This is the time of their toil and suffering.
2. The happiness of God’s people. Children of God, heirs of eternal life, expectants of the glory that shall be revealed.
3. The true wisdom of those who are without. To accompany God’s people on their heavenly pilgrimage. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The invitation of Moses to Hobab
I. God’s Israel have a direct object in view, thus described, “The place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” By God’s Israel I mean literally the posterity of Jacob, and spiritually all genuine Christians, who are “Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile.” The object which God’s ancient Israel had in view was Canaan; this is described as a place, and on several accounts it was highly desirable. Heaven is the glorious object on which God’s spiritual Israel have fixed their attention. Canaan was highly prized by the Jews--
1. As it was the end of their journey. Heaven is the termination of the Christian’s journey. The dangers of: that terrible wilderness, through which Israel passed, were but faintly typical of the spiritual dangers to which believers are exposed; and if Israel rejoiced at the possession of Canaan, with what exultation will Christians enter their heavenly inheritance, when their toils will be finished and their conflicts closed!
2. It was a country amply stored with provisions. But with all the enconiums bestowed upon Canaan, how low it sinks in comparison with that “better country,” to which we are journeying! This is indeed a land without scarceness. Here will be no lack of anything. Here every wish shall be gratified, and every desire be crowned with enjoyment.
3. It was long and repeatedly promised.
4. It was to be gratuitously bestowed. All God’s blessings are gifts.
II. God’s Israel are tending towards that object.
1. Commenced by the command of God.
2. Continued under His immediate guidance.
3. Marked by His miraculous and gracious care.
III. That God’s Israel are solicitous to secure companions for their journey. “Come thou with us,” &c.
1. Piety prompts them to say this. They long to bring back to God His immortal offspring, and to recover to “the great Shepherd of the sheep,” the souls for whom He died; and they say, “Come thou with us,” &c.
2. Benevolence excites them to say this. Religion inspires the most ardent attachment to God, and breathes the purest benevolence to men.
3. Self-interest induces them to say this. God’s Israel are not only capable of doing good to, but of receiving good from their fellow-travellers.
IV. God’s Israel enjoy the divine commendation. “The Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.”
1. Concerning the country to which Israel are tending (Psalms 87:3; Revelation 21:23-26).
2. Concerning the way in which Israel are journeying. It is called a right way (1 Samuel 12:23); a good way (Jeremiah 6:16); a perfect way (Psalms 101:2); a way of holiness (Isaiah 35:8); a way of peace (Luke 1:79); a new and living way (Hebrews 10:20); and a way in which there is no death (Proverbs 12:28).
3. Concerning the succours afforded them in the way. Many things are necessary for travellers. Light to see the way (Proverbs 4:18); a consciousness of being in the right way (Isaiah 30:21); a guide to instruct us in the way (Psalms 32:8); provision for the way (Psalms 132:15); strength to walk in the way (Isaiah 40:29-31); and a never-failing Friend to lead us forward in the way (Isaiah 42:16).
4. “The Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel”--In the titles by which they are designated, such as children of God, sons of God, heirs of God, kings and priests unto God.
In the figures by which they are compared: God’s husbandry, God’s building, God’s heritage, sheep of God’s pasture, a royal priesthood, a spiritual house, a crown of glory, and a royal diadem, &c.--In the promises to which they are entitled; these include all things (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
1. The happiness of God’s people.
2. The work of God’s people.
3. The honour of God’s people.
4. The security of God’s people. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
I. What God said to Israel (see Exodus 6:6-8).
II. What Moses said to Hobab.
1. An invitation.
2. A promise. “Good.”
3. An argument. Lord has spoken, not man.
4. An entreaty. Leave us not.
5. An appeal. “Thou knowest,” &c.
6. An inducement. Equal share promised.
III. What Hobab said to Moses. “I will not go.” Six deterring things.
1. His own land.
4. With strangers. Alien race; other habits.
5. Poor prospects.
What would become of him should Moses die, or if invasion should fail? All find emphatic expression--“I will not go.” But Moses pleads long, earnestly, willingly. Hobab yields. House of Raguel. A lot in Canaan--Jael. Rechab. Saved from doom of Midian.
IV. What I have to say to you. Same message from God. Six things--
1. “Israel.” Politically disbanded; exists spiritually; the seed of Abraham; the children of the promise; the Church of Christ.
2. “Good.” Freedom from moral Egypt. Divine layout. Life; guidance; aid from God. Inheritance in the Canaan of holiness and heaven.
3. “Come.” Cast in your lot with us. Turn back on Midian. It is doomed. Follow our Moses, Jesus, Captain of our salvation.
4. “Leave us not.” I too would entreat, beseech, persuade. We want you; your company; your help. The love of Christ constraineth us.
5. “We will do,” &c. We can. By prayer, brotherhood, mutual aid, and cheer. Going home.
6. “I pray thee.” This with my heart upon my lips, and longing for your soul. Come! Come! Come!
V. WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY TO ME. You may say--
1. “I will not go.” If Midian is your home Midian’s doom is yours.
2. “I will follow by and by.” By and by leads to house of Never.
3. “I will think about it”--which means, “I will forget it.”
4. “Are you Israel?” Go tell John the things, &c.
5. “I will go with somebody else.” Be quick, and God go with you.
6. “I will go with you for,” &c. Preacher’s prize; your peace; Jesus’ glory.
VI. What God will say to us both. I cannot answer. The day will declare it! (J. Jackson Wray.)
Moses and Hobab
The spirit displayed by Moses is displayed by every Christian man. His words also may be adopted. These words suggest--
I. Settled convictions. “We are journeying,” &c. How pleasant this assurance. Do you possess it?
1. Remember the time when you had not this assurance. It was a time of uncertainty--fearfulness.
2. Remember the way in which you obtained this assurance. It was after strong convictions, earnest cries, transporting joys, then came this sweet assurance.
3. Notice the great advantages of this assurance. In a rough road, dark night, &c.
II. Probable inconveniences. Persons on a journey do not expect the comforts of home. They may have--
1. Unpleasant weather. The hail and sleet of persecution. The cold snow of poverty. The fog of doubt.
2. Unpleasant conveyance. The means of grace are like vehicles to help us on. Some have to trudge on nearly all the way, others get a lift now and then. Some in comfortable carriages-good doctrine; others in tumble-down--broken springs, So.
3. Unpleasant companions. The world an inn. In the house. Shop. Church.
4. Unpleasant accommodation. The body is the tabernacle or house in which the soul dwells. Many have sickly, weak bodies, and dwell in much poverty. Never mind. We are journeying.
III. Constant progress. We cannot settle down either--
1. In the joys of home and kindred.
2. In the joys of Christian society.
3. In the joys of gospel ordinances. This should teach us--
(1) To look upon everything with the eye of travellers.
(2) To make everything subservient to our journey. The place of our abode. Our business. Our friendships.
(3) To rejoice over those who have finished their journey. They have simply got home before us.
IV. Pleasant prospects. We have in view--
1. A land of freedom.
2. A land of friendship.
3. A land of holiness.
4. A land of happiness. (The Study.)
The profitable journey
I. God hath spoken great and good things concerning the future state of his people.
II. Believers are now on their journey to take possession of this heavenly country; “We are journeying,” said Moses to Hobab, “to the promised place.”
III. Travellers to Zion should invite and encourage others to accompany them; as Moses said to Hobab, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.” Moses was related to Hobab; and certainly our relations have the first claim to our pious regards (Romans 9:1-3; Romans 10:1). And there are several methods in which we may try to do this.
1. By inviting them to hear the gospel faithfully preached.
2. We may promote the salvation of others by serious and affectionate conversation. We readily converse with our neighbours on the news of the day, whether it be good or evil. Why should we be backward to tell them the best news that ever reached our ears--the good tidings of the gospel, “ that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners”?
3. The heads of families must endeavour to do good to their households by maintaining family-worship.
4. We may promote the salvation of the rising generation by giving encouragement to Sunday-schools, and other plans for the religious education of children. Some may assist them by subscribing towards their support; and others by their personal help.
5. The distribution of religious tracts is another method in which we may easily invite many around us to come and unite with us, that we may do them good.
6. But all these means must be accompanied with prayer.
7. Above all, and together with all, let our holy, blameless, and useful lives recommend the ways of religion to men. Improvement: What influence have all the good things which God has promised in His gospel had upon us? He has set before us His well-beloved Son; and in Him, pardon and peace, holiness and heaven: all we can want to make us happy in time, happy in death, happy to all eternity. Are we drawn by these cords of love? Are we induced to forsake the sins and vanities of the world? Have we set out on our journey towards heaven, determined to be fellow-travellers with the people of God? or do we hesitate? (G. Burder.)
The Christian journey
I. Direct your meditations to the representation given in the text of all the true Israel of God; they are journeying to the place of which God has spoken.
1. Consider their setting out in the journey, and how this is begun.
2. Journeying to the goodly land of promise implies perseverance and progress in the Divine life.
3. That our journeying to Zion implies difficulties encountered, resisted and overcome. These may be expected, and will be experienced.
II. We proceed now to some illustration of the animating motive which encourages heavenly travellers to hold on their way, which motive is contained in the last part of the text, “For the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” The Father of mercies has made with us an everlasting covenant, well-ordered in all things, and sure. The Saviour of mankind has purchased for us a kingdom which fadeth not away. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier and our Comforter, and graciously undertakes to prepare us for the business and the bliss of heaven. Neither the legions, nor all the powers of hell, can prevent us from inheriting with the saints in light. The time, manner, and all the circumstances of our death, are arranged by unerring wisdom, and by infinite love. Again, all the promises recorded in the sacred volume, pertaining to the life which now is, and to immortal happiness beyond the grave, are yea and amen in Christ, and are ours through Him. All the threatenings recorded in the same Scriptures are transferred to our glorious Surety, and cancelled as to us. The God of glory is our perpetual defence; the Lamb in the midst of the throne our perpetual Friend; angels our kindred, and heaven our home.
III. The affectionate and salutary counsel which travellers to Zion address to others: “Come with us, and we will do thee good.”
1. This implies a sincere concern for the salvation of our kindred and companions.
2. This affectionate address implies also a full conviction, that it never can be well with those who have not their portion with God’s children, who worship Him not in spirit, and who rejoice not in Christ Jesus.
3. Again, this language intimates the full persuasion that there is room for the most ignorant, estranged, and hopeless of their kindred, companions, and relatives. (A. Bonar.)
1. His invitation shows faith’s happy state. It is a mirror reflecting the features of calm trust. Full faith has eagle-eye. It penetrates all earthly mists. It gazes steadily on Zion’s highest light. Its true affections centre round a purer scene. So daily it moves forward. And nightly realises that an upward step is made. We are journeying unto the promised place. What is this place? Faith gazes--it ever gazes with increasing rapture: but it fails fully to describe. It is rest; perfect purity; joy; sure; the gift of God.
2. This invitation shows that faith is aggressive. “Come thou with us.” Each heaven-set plant strives for expanse. True grace has one sure sign: it longs and labours to communicate its wealth. A saving view of Christ slays self--relaxes every icy band--widely extends embracing arms, and yearns to multiply delights. When the heart burns the life must labour. (Dean Law.)
The invitation of Moses to Hobab:
I. The people of God are travelling to the heavenly Canaan.
1. The place itself.
(1) The place of rest.
(2) The place of purity.
(3) The place of unbounded wealth.
(4) The place of unceasing enjoyment.
2. The journey.
II. It is the duty of christians to invite others to journey with them. So Moses acted.
III. The reasons assigned for a compliance with this request.
1. The promise of mutual good.
2. The Divine regard for the Church.
IV. The manner in which this invitation may be received.
1. Some give a direct negative, as Hobab did at first; “I will not go.” The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God. Some, like Ephraim, are joined to idols, and cannot give them up. Is this your answer? “I will not go.” Then you must perish in the wilderness.
2. Some are deterred by pride and shame. They think the people of God beneath them; or what will the world, their present companions, say, if they profess Christ?
3. Some are deterred by the trials of the way. God will be your guide, and He will support you in the severest trials.
4. Some are convinced of the necessity and importance of this journey to heaven, but they procrastinate, like Felix; “Go thy way,” &c.
5. Some are willing to go, but have not counted the cost. This was the case with many of Christ’s followers, who set out, but turned back, and walked no more with Him (John 6:66).
6. A few have resolved to go. Like Ruth, nothing shall hinder them. The good work has commenced in their souls. The people are willing in the day of Christ’s power. They will go, and like Paul, they count all things but loss, &e. (Ruth 1:16; Hebrews 11:25-26). (Helps for the Pulpit.)
Promise of good
I. Some of those good things God has spoken. He says to every Christian as to Jacob, “I will surely do thee good.”
1. He has called them to sustain gracious relations towards Him.
2. He secures to them special privileges.
3. He unfolds before them glorious prospects.
4. He enables them in the faith of all this to achieve noble exploits.
II. Some of the good things which god has actually done for them. Not words but deeds, might without presumption be said to be the Divine motto.
1. He has emancipated them from a most bitter dominion of sin and death.
2. He has enlightened them with saving wisdom.
3. He has watched over them. The pillar of cloud, only an emblem. “The hairs of thy head.” “Fear not, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
4. He accounted their enemies His own. Egyptians, Philistines, Syrians, Babylonians.
1. Let this subject endear the Saviour.
2. Let it stamp vanity upon all the world deems great.
3. Let it encourage prayer and high expectation.
4. Let it prompt to holiness of heart and life. (Homiletic Magazine.)
I. A position is assumed. It was assumed by Moses, that the people of whom he had the care occupied a position, in regard to God and in regard to their own welfare, which was essentially favourable, and in which it was eminently desirable to participate. The same truth must be assumed by and in regard to Christians-those who live under the economy of new covenant mercy. And this will be vindicated by observing that Christians live in the actual enjoyment of Divine favour, and that they possess the prospect of invaluable blessing in the future.
II. An invitation is presented. Moses offered the invitation to his relative that he would go with them, and thus be the companion of their course; as in the preceding verse he says, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good”; “Leave us not, I pray thee.” The invitation, we repeat, is presented, in a sense answering to the spirit of their vocation, by Christians to men who hitherto have been living apart, as votaries of sin and of the world.
1. In the name of Christians we say, we invite you to believe their principles. Those principles relate not merely to the elementary truths concerning the being, the government and the attributes of God--they relate to the Divine character and mission of Him whose name we bear, Christ Jesus, the Son of God; they relate to the expiatory sacrifice He has offered for human sin, by expiring upon the Cross; they relate to the imputation of the merit and righteousness embodied in that sacrifice, through faith, as the only efficacious cause of justification and acceptance before the Father; they relate to the agency of the Holy Spirit, in His renewing grace, as requisite to apply the work of mediation to the human soul; and they relate to the duty of obedience and holiness, as the only satisfactory proof of an interest in the work of redemption and of the hope which that redemption is intended to inspire and to secure. Now these various principles are to be sincerely and cordially believed; their presence or absence decides the character and the prospects of men for ever.
2. While we invite you, on behalf of Christians, that you will embrace their principles, we invite you also that you will associate with their communities.
3. We also invite you in the name of Christians, that you will engage in their employments.
III. An assurance is pledged. The emphasis of the expressions before us will be found singularly powerful and interesting. “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.” And this assurance may be taken in two departments. There is an assurance from Christians, and there is an assurance by Christians, for their God.
1. Christians pledge the assurance for themselves, that to those who go with them they will render all the assistance in their power. “What goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.” “We will endeavour to render you participators of all our supports and enjoyments; so that you shall be found entirely as we are, both in the possessions of the present and in the prospects of the future.”
2. Christians pledge the assurance for God. We believe that the moment when your decision occurs will be the moment of your ample and unreserved introduction to all the immunities of the Christian life. There is no process of discipline or preparatory trial, there is no hesitation and there is no delay; the moment when your faith is placed on the great Messiah, and when the resolution of your heart under Divine grace is taken, to devote yourselves to His honour, at that moment all that Christianity can vouchsafe to you is, from the Source of Christianity, your own. (J. Parsons.)
Come with us
Whither? Israel was going quite through the wilderness into Canaan, the land of promise. Israel of the spirit is going through earth and time to heaven. When the Church says “Come thou with us” to any who are hesitating and undecided, her face is heavenwards, her movement is in that way; she holds in her hand the roll of promise, the map of “ the better country, even the heavenly,” and sees her own title to possession written there as with the finger of God. To that country her steps are all directed; into that country she is moving her ranks, as regularly as the morning dawns, as quietly as the night darkens. With the rolling of the years, with the numbering of the weeks, and even with the striking of the hours, she throws her wearied travellers into eternal rest and safety. We see the part of the company that is bright, and strong, and active, but there is always a more illustrious part of it, which we do not see, away somewhat in the distance before us, and passing in silence, through sickness, and by the dim ways of death, into the good land of immortal life and glory. And there is no time for divided purposes, for lingering delays, “Come with us,” quickly come, lest you should be down to the dark river long before you think; lest your eternal home, the place you are going to, should flash out upon you, and lest it should be, to your surprise and grief, a very different home from that which you are idly hoping to reach. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Good to be with the good
“Come with us and we will do you good.” It is good to be with the good. A thousand nameless gifts and precious influences are reciprocated, given and regiven, and enhanced, as they circulate among the faithful. “We will do thee good” is no vain boast; it is the everyday experience of the saints of God in fellowship, of the soldiers of God in conflict, of the sons of God on the way through the wilderness to their home. To be with a person in spirit-friendship is to get, in a measure, what he has in him to give away, be it good or evil, glory or disgrace. You must be changed in a degree into the same image, whatever that image may be. The effluence of his life will flow into yours, and of yours into his. The sublimest action of this principle is when the disciple is with the Master, giving nothing, but receiving all, and then men take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus. But it is really the action substantially, of the same principle when the company of His followers, standing well together in their fellowship, and going step by step in their march, are able thus to promise to all whom they invite, “We will do you good.” It is good to be with the good. It is good to be aiming after goodness. The Christian recompense begins as soon as the Christian endeavour begins. (A. Raileigh, D. D.)
Keeping good company
I think it is fair to notice that there was a little in the circumstances of the time to help Hobab to say “No” For Moses had to say, “We are journeying.” They did not look at their best; all was in confusion; God’s people here below never do look at their best. You know how vexed you are if some particular friend comes and calls when you are in all the uproar and confusion of a removal. You would say, “Oh, dear me! I hope this won’t have a damaging effect; I hope there won’t be any inferences drawn from this higgledy-piggledy condition of things.” And I think Moses felt it. I feel it as the spokesman for Israel to-day, pleading with any who have not yet come to join themselves to Israel, who have not come into the camp, into the household of faith. I anticipate your objection. You may well say as Hobab perhaps further thought. “Well,” he might think, “I do know a little about these Israelites, and I know more than what is good about them. So far as I have been able to see during the past year, they are a mixed lot.” And so they were. And I have to make much the same admission as regards Christians. I do not want to spoil my case with any “halter-between-two-opinions,” by doing what recruiting-sergeants in the old days were given to, viz., telling lies--for that is the plain English of it. I shall not speak the language of exaggeration. You find fault with us from the outside, and I admit it. You say, “Why should I come?” There are, it may be, points of character on which worldlings, so far as you have met them, are superior to Christians whom you have met. More’s the pity; but I admit it. We are ofttimes a sorry lot, a miserable crowd with our bickerings, and fightings, and jealousies. We please not God, and are contrary to all men; but--but--but take us at our worst, there is a side of us that never can be exaggerated. There is a side of us, and a thing in us, for the sake of which I would advise our keenest critic to rub his eyes and look again ere he gives us up. And remember, besides, that if I choose, I can turn your argument. It is easy for you to turn round to us; it is easy for Hobab to turn to me and say, “What Christians we are,” and that he has found us a stupid lot, and so on. But may I not say, Are you a great deal better? Come along, and show us an example. It is not really fair to stand outside and criticise--take a turn along the road with us for a mile or two. Many a man has had great objections to being a Christian, and has discovered many faults in the Israelites so long as he was a Midianite. But when he crossed over from Midian into Israel, and tried to keep his own eyes on the pillar of cloud, and tried to rule his own conduct according to the law and the sacrifices, his head hung a bit lower, and he had less to say about his neighbours. He had glimpses within that he would never have had otherwise; of great ravines, and chasms of imperfection; tremendous face-blanching possibilities of evil revealed in himself that have made him sing to a more gracious tune, if they have not made him sing dumb altogether. So I come back: “Come thou with us.” I feel as though I were like a dear mother I saw down, I think, at King’s Cross, not long ago. She was standing with one foot on the carriage-board, and the other foot on the platform, and she was arguing evidently with her wayward boy. “Come back, come; you will be better at home; every one is waiting for you.” But he hummed and hawed, turned this way and that way, looked every way but into his mother’s face, and was most uncomfortable and uneasy. And sorry am I to add that the last I saw was the conductor coming hurrying along; there was a kiss and an embrace between mother and son, and then they parted, she to step into the train, and he to go away back, as he answered, “I will not go.” Very like just where Moses was with Hobab, and where I am with some of you. I want you to come, I long for you to come. I know you can raise many difficulties and objections. Like that lad, you like the freedom; like Hobab, you like a desert life. But even although you should say, “No,” still I shall look to see you changing your mind, like Hobab. For, later on in Scripture, we have evidences that he afterwards repented and went. Let me go on with my text. “We will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” Will that do? We are only journeying, we have not arrived; but we have the promises of God. Yes; and we have something to show, we have our own tale to tell. We are redeemed, at any rate; we are a ransomed lot; and when you are piling together all the disparaging adjectives you can gather to describe us, don’t forget the others. There is a ransomed look about us, unless we utterly belle the deepest and truest things in us. We are no longer slaves. True, we are not what we ought to be, but we are saved sinners. We have got that to begin with, and “we are journeying” for all the rest. We are taking God at His word, and hitherto the dullest of us, if you push him hard, is compelled to say the Lord has been, at least, as good as His word. Now, will you come? “And he said, I will not go; but I will depart to my own land, and to my own kindred.” Poor Hobab I Many have been kept back in that way: “ mine own land, mine own kindred.” Now, how would you like it if to-night I brought the argument to a point by saying I dispute the word “mine” you have no land, you have no kindred? Hobab, you are using words that you have no right to use in any absolute sense of possession--“Mine own land, mine own kindred.” That is a word that this world won’t allow, not to speak of God’s Word. But, Hobab, if you want true possessions, if you want true wealth, a real portion, that even death will not destroy (death will only usher you into a more abundant sense of the possession of it), then come with us. Don’t look back to Midian; don’t look back to Sodom; don’t cast longing, lingering looks behind. Look forward. See what Christ offers you, and come. You lose nothing that would be for your good: “No good thing will God withhold from them that walk uprightly.” And if you have to lose; if, from a worldly point of view, from the point of view of selfishness, and self-will, and your own unhallowed ambitions--if you have to lay things on the altar, then you are a blessed man--that is the path of life, and not of death. “He that loveth his life shall lose it; he that hateth his life (he that seems to fling it away) shall find it unto life eternal.” And Moses pleaded with him further, and said, “Leave us not, I pray thee,” &c. Pardon me if I am urgent with you; let me plead with you. You can be of use to us. Will that draw some of you? We want you, frankly and freely. Are you imaginative, musical, poetical, literary? Are you a good financier? Have you certain qualities that mark you off specially as a father, or as a mother, or as a wife, or as a friend? Come with us; we need you, you will be of use to us. It is one of the sweet things about Israel that God wants every kind of person. Then come. We are journeying, we are a going concern, we are moving on, onward and upward; no stop, no stay. Nothing can resist our progress; from night to morning, from morning till night, the one thing in God’s universe that moves is His Israel; and every step is a step upward, and every fall is a fall forward. We are on the winning side, all that is enduring is with us. Come, oh, come! (John McNeill.)
The state of mind in Moses which prompted this invitation
These words afford us more than one glimpse into Moses’s state of mind. More than forty years had now elapsed since he had “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” What enabled him to make this difficult choice? The apostle tells us, “faith.” But faith is a grace that does not stand alone. It soon becomes the parent of other graces. God has told us what He is; and it is the characteristic of faith to rest in Him as a present God--to enjoy Him as an all-sufficient and present portion. But God has spoken about His people s future--told them not only what He is, but what He will be to them. He hath spoken “good concerning Israel.” These promises kindle and sustain “hope.” The heart is enlarged with the joyful anticipation of things to come. Moses’s invitation to Hobab shows that “hope” was one, it may be the prevailing, characteristic of his state of mind at this time. There was something, too, in his outward circumstances which might give an impulse to this expansive feeling. Hitherto they had been marching almost away from the land of promise; now their steps were turned, and they were about to move in a direct line for it. This had no effect whatever on the minds of the carnal and discontented Israel; present inconveniences and trials completely thrust all the promises out of their minds. But Moses pondered the promise; he anticipated the “good which God had spoken concerning Israel.” Hope rose high in his expecting heart, rendering more bearable the heavy burden which he had to carry--a disobedient and gainsaying people. Why is it that our hearts do not abound more in hope? Is it not that they are not occupied enough with God’s promises? That they do not realise, as Moses did, the good which God hath spoken concerning Israel? We live too much in the present or the past, and not enough in the future. Hope, then, was a feature of Moses’s spirit. But another is very apparent in this invitation to Hobab--his holy benevolence. He was anxious that one related to him, though not of Israel, should share in the “good” promised to Israel. And this is the more beautiful, when we bear in mind that Israel of old was not called to impart to others the truths which they had been taught. The Church of the Old Testament was not in any sense, to use a common expression, a “missionary Church.” Its duty was to keep the oracles of God, and to live in complete separation from all the other nations of the earth: so that Moses went beyond the spirit and requirements of the law when he gave utterance to the benevolent desire of his heart, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for God bath spoken good concerning Israel.” But we who live in the latter times, when the fulness of Divine love has burst through the barriers which for a time confined it, when the gracious command has been given, “Preach the gospel to every creature,” we ought to say, by the holiness of our lives, by the sympathy of our hearts, by the words of our lips, to those around us, “Come with us, and we will do thee good.” We see this compassionate love in Paul (Romans 10:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:8). We see it in the beloved John (3 John 1:4). But, most of all, we see it in Jesus, the fountain of all grace--“For when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” And how full of love are His repeated invitations-” Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” “Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” Oh, we ought to be more like-minded with Jesus; and if we realised more the good which God has spoken concerning Israel, we should surely desire that relations and friends might “come with us”; that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same He might do to them. (G. Wagner.)
The religion of the promise
If we are honest and genuine in our Christian believing, these words are as true for you and me as they were for Moses and his Israel. We, too, are on a journey. For us to-day, just as really as for them in days of old, the stimulus continues to be simply this--a promise. Heaven cannot be demonstrated. We simply take God’s word for it. The Christian religion is emphatically the religion of the promise. In heathen religion, the threat predominates over the promise. But in the glad faith that boasts the name of gospel, the promise predominates over the threat. Christians are men with a hope, men who have been called to inherit a blessing. The complaint that the progress of human knowledge has made it difficult to think and speak of heaven as believing men used to think and speak of it, is a complaint to which we must briefly refer. Let me observe, then, that while there is a certain grain of reasonableness in this argument for silence with respect to heaven and the things of heaven, there is by no means so much weight to be attached to it as many people seem to suppose. For after all, when we come to think of it, this changed conception of what heaven may be like is not traceable so much to any marvellous revolution that has come over the whole character of human thought since you and I were children, as it is to the changes which have taken place in our own several minds, and which necessarily take place in every mind in its progress from infancy to maturity. But let me try to strike closer home, and meet the difficulty in a more direct and helpful way. I do it by asking whether we ought not to feel ashamed of ourselves, thus to talk shout having been robbed of the promise simply because the Father of heaven has been showing us, just as fast as our poor minds could bear the strain, to how immeasurable an area the Fatherhood extends. The reality and trustworthiness of the promise are not one whir affected by this revelation of the vastness of the resources which lie at His command who makes the promise. Instead of repining because we cannot dwarf God’s universe so as to make it fit perfectly the smallness of our notions, let us turn all our energies to seeking to enlarge the capacity of our faith, so that it shall be able to hold more. It may turn out, who can tell? that heaven lies nearer to us than even in our childhood we ever ventured to suppose; that it is not only nearer than the sky, but nearer than the clouds. Be this as it may, the reasonableness of our believing in Christ’s promise, that in the world whither He went He would prepare a place for us, is in nowise impugned by anything that the busy wit of man has yet found out or is likely to find out. That belief rests on grounds of its own, and, far from forbidding, it encourages us to let our ideas of the fulness, the extent of the blessing promised, expand more and more. We need have no fear that, so long as we are in the flesh and on tile earth, our acquaintance with the realities of heaven will ever outrun the capacity of the Bible language about heaven to express what we may have discovered. On the contrary, let us make more and more of these great and precious promises of God. Let us resolve to think oftener of the place of which the Lord has said that He would give it us. There is no period of life from which we can afford to spare the presence of this heavenly hope. We need it in youth, to give point and purpose and direction to the newly-launched life. It would be a strange answer to give from a ship just out of the harbour’s mouth, in reply to the question, “Whither bound?”--“Nowhere.” But not in youth only is belief in this ancient promise of God a blessing to us. We need it in middle life. We need it to help us cover patiently that long stretch which parts youth from old age--the time of the fading out of illusions in the dry light of experience; the time when we discover the extent of our personal range, and the narrow limit of our possible achievement. We need it then, that we may be enabled to replace failing hopes with fresher ones, and neither falter nor sink under the burden and heat of the day. Above all, shall we find such a hope the staff of old age, should the pilgrimage last so long. (W. R. Huntington, D. D.)
The Christian life a journey
I. We are to view the Christian leaving the world behind him. We do not mean by this that he is to go out of the world. He may remain in it, and perform with diligence all the duties of his station, but he must give up the spirit, the tastes, the habits of the world; he must use the world without abusing it, and “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.”
II. We are to view the Christian with the cross on his back. It may appear unwise to lay a cross upon a man that is journeying, because it is apparently burthensome; but there is this difference between a temporal journey and the spiritual one: the cross does not enfeeble, it only makes us sensible of the weakness that exists. Indeed, in this journey it is generally found that he whose cross is the heaviest makes the greatest progress. With the cross on his back the Christian is less liable to wander. It keeps him steady in the right way. It is true that “no chastening for the present is joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.” The cross which the Christian carries is not selected by himself, but it is appointed by God. Sometimes it is outward affliction; sometimes inward temptations, as is best suited to the character and circumstances of the individual.
III. The Christian journeys with the bible in his hand. When a man sets out on a journey, he procures a book or map of the road, and directs his course accordingly. It is not enough that he intends or desires to go right, he must be regulated by his guide. If you were travelling through a strange country, and you knew not the various turnings and windings of the road, how anxiously would you look to your map, to see if you were right; particularly if there were certain marks by which you might know whether you were in the appointed track. The maxims of the world may deceive you; the reasonings of your own mind may perplex you; even the experience of professed Christians, being unscriptural or unsuitable, may mislead you; but “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
IV. In the spiritual journey the Christian has Christ at his side. Throughout the way, all the strength that is received is from His fulness. “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” Christ continually sustains the believer’s soul. There are times with the most eminent Christian when the brightness is dimmed and dangers are multiplied; “when the soul is much discouraged because of the way.” In such seasons nothing but a view of Christ can cheer the soul. None ever travelled this road without feeling a humbling sense of his own weakness in the spiritual conflict. He has at times fallen, but a look at Christ, even if fallen, while it humbles, encourages.
V. The christian pilgrim keeps heaven in his view. Both the pains and the pleasures of the way stir up his heart to think of it, He hastens on, regardless of the accommodations by the way, so that he may but reach his home at last. With him the idea is not that of mere release from suffering, but of being brought to the permanent enjoyment of that Saviour with whom he has walked by faith. On this his mind is bent, nor will he be fully satisfied till that blessed time arrive. Application:
1. To you who are going quite another road. What do you expect at the end of it? You hope to be saved at last. On what are your expectations founded?
2. I would invite the young to commence this journey. It is true that the world has its pleasures, and they are placed before you in an alluring point of view; but they are deceitful. Religion has its pleasures, and they are solid and durable.
3. A word of encouragement to those who are on the road. Be grateful that while so many are travelling on in the broad road, you have, through grace, been brought to walk in this heavenly path. Gird up the loins of your mind--take up your cross cheerfully and follow Christ. (J. G. Breay, B. A.)
Persuasives and promises to pilgrims
I. A picture of the Christian’s pilgrimage. That wilderness wandering, so deeply indented with marks of Divine intervention, so resplendent with proofs of a present God, who went before them, cleaving the sea and the flood for them, subduing their enemies round about, is a varied type of the Church in the world.
1. The first lesson lying on the surface is that which relates to bearing testimony for Christ. There should be no hesitation about a Christian, as if he were afraid to say he was on the way to heaven. His speech or silence; his activity or quiet submission to the Divine will; his work and his worship, should boldly declare “whose he is, and whom he serves.”
2. A second lesson taught us here is one of mutual forbearance. Though all Christians are journeying to the one place, there is a wide diversity of experience, of capacity, of attainment. No two human faces are alike; and it may be safely affirmed that no two conversions are in all respects the same, and no two Christians, however close their affections and sympathies, “grow in grace” at the same rate, or in dependence on the same supplies.
II. A powerful pleading with others to join the pilgrim in his progress. There is a true ring in these words. Moses knew whom he had believed, and trusted his heavenly Father implicitly.
1. His invitation is founded on the Divine precept: “The Lord hath said I will give it you.” It was a poor nomadic life after all--the tribes were living in the desert--if there had been no goal to which their aspirations and their movements tended. But the word of the Lord was a sure word on which to hope. With Divine leadership, pioneering and providing, defending and protecting, and a glorious inheritance at the end of the pilgrimage, there was everything to quicken, stimulate, and strengthen. Our condition is very like theirs, for we have not yet come “to the rest and the inheritance which God is to give to us,” but we are on the way.
2. It is founded on a rich promise: “The Lord said I will give it you,” and “the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” As God promised Canaan to the tribes, so has “He opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers” by Jesus Christ. What though a wearisome pilgrimage lie between us and the heavenly rest, though dangers, enemies, fears manifold, are in the way, in nothing shall we be ashamed. All good is promised and not evil, what is good for body and soul, solid, enduring good, “the good part that shall not be taken away,” even when life departs. Canaan was the ultimate embodiment of that good to ancient Israel, as heaven and eternal felicity with Christ are to us. But those of them that were true saints and pilgrims would have a foretaste of Canaan beforehand, as we too have of heaven upon earth. What was good for Hobab in the wilderness cannot be bad for us here, with heaven in reversion.
3. The invitation contains an earnest persuasive--“Come with us.” True religion seeks to propagate itself by communicating its goodness to others. Persuasion and compulsion are the natural opposites of each other. The one entices, allures, woes, with sweet attention and magnetic influence: the other drives with mechanical force. Persuasion is that spirit of the gospel such as came from the living lips of Jesus when He said, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest”--that love which many waters could not quench, nor many floods drown. Who has not heard the fable of the sun and wind striving which of the two would compel a traveller to put off his cloak, the sun being the victor? Men will be led when they refuse to be driven. It is the love that plies persuasions, strengthened by incentives, and beautified by promises of the summum bonum, the supreme good to be got by coming over the line and coming out from the world, that conquers. (J. Blair.)
The start from Sinai
I. Moses’ proposal During their stay at Sinai, it is probable that deputations from neighbouring tribes visited the people, and amongst them was this chieftain of a tribe closely related to Moses by marriage. Hobab, we are told, was the son of Reuel, the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law. Of course, he knew the country well, every foot of it, where the springs lay, and the pastures, and the safest, shortest routes, and so Moses approached him with the request that he would go with them, to give them the benefit of his practical knowledge. “Leave us not, I pray thee, forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou shalt be to us instead of eyes.” This request was, of course, most natural. Moses was a very lonely man, and it was pleasant to have one, bound to him by a blood affinity, to unburden himself to, in any special crisis. At the same time, it was at variance with the general custom, which even then must have commenced strongly to assert itself, of Israelite exclusiveness. There must have been a strong reason that prompted this invitation. And shall we not find it in that instinctive shrinking of the human heart from the strange and unknown way? How well to have a Hobab who knows the ground! We seek our Hobabs in the advice of sage, grey-haired counselors; in the formation of strong, intelligent, and wealthy committees; in a careful observance of precedent. Anything seems better than a simple reliance on a unseen guide. Now, in one sense, there is no harm in this. We have neither right nor need to cut ourselves adrift from others, who have had special experience in some new ground on which we are venturing. God often speaks to us through our fellows; they are His ministers to us for good. But there is also a great danger that we should put man before God; and that we should so cling to Hobab, as to become unmindful of the true Guide and Leader of souls. How often God is compelled to isolate us from human voices.
II. The failure of Hobab and the divine substitute. The desert chieftain was by no means enamoured of the proposal of his great relative. Several considerations may have weighed with him. It was only a month before that Aaron and his sons had been set apart for their sacred work, and the fire of God had fallen on their dedicatory sacrifices. For some violation of the sacred ritual, for personal misconduct whilst engaged in their ministry, the two young priests had been stricken dead, and Aaron forbiddin to weep. This must have struck an awful fear through the camp. Shortly after this another incident occurred. The son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, had blasphemed the holy name of God, and cursed in the midst of conflict with a man of Israel. The blasphemer had been stoned. The result of it all was that in reply to Moses’ request, he said bluntly, “I will not go, but I will depart unto mine own land and to my kindred.” Moses still further entreated him, but whether he succeeded or not is doubtful, though there are some reasons for thinking that the second request prevailed, because the descendants of the Kenite are numbered amidst the chosen people. But it would seem as if his aid was rendered needless by the provision of guidance immediately promised. Up to this moment the position of the Ark had been in the midst of the host in front of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, but hence-forth it went three days’ journey in front of the people, “to seek out a resting-place for them.” The Lord Himself had become Director and Guide, and all that Israel had to do was to keep at a distance sufficiently wide to enable them to reap the fullest benefit of its advance guard. Thus God Himself superseded the proposal of Moses by an expedient which more than met their needs. What consolation there is to each of us, in realising the spiritual truth underlying this historical fact! We have to pass into the untried and unknow, and know not the way we should take. Some have to go alone. Some with the memory of companions that once went at their side, but whom they will see no more in this life. But amid all Jesus is with them, and goes before them, whether for war or rest. He never will forsake nor leave them. The Lord Jesus is the true Ark of the Covenant, who has gone before us through the world and death, through the grave and the last rally of the hosts of darkness to the glory. We have but to follow Him. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Where are you going? -
When friends and neighbours meet in the streets or roads, the commonest question is, Where are you going? All kinds of answers are returned; one is going on an errand of business, another of pleasure; one is going to wealth and success, another, with broken fortunes and blighted hopes, is going to the grave, which holds all that was most dear to him on earth. “Where are you going?” What wonderful answers we should get if we asked that question of the first fifty people only whom we met! But however different those replies would be, Gods people ought to be able to give one and the same answer - “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” We know not through what dangers, difficulties, and trials; we know not for how long our journey shall be; we know not what will befall us on the way, but we have set our faces steadfastly to go to the promised land, to Jerusalem, which is above, to the Paradise of God, “the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)
A beautiful picture this! full of modern questioning--a very pattern of inquiry and invitation in a gospel sense. Can we honestly invite men to join us on our life-march? Consider the question well. Do not involve others in grievous and mournful responsibilities. Do not entreat men to leave what is to them at least a partial blessing, unless you are sure you can replace that enjoyment by purer and larger gladness. Can we honestly, with the full consent of judgment, conscientiousness, and experience, invite men to join us in the way which we have determined to take? If not, do not let us add the murder of souls to our other crimes. Do not let us, merely for the sake of companionship, involve in ruin innocent men. What is our life-march? To what place are we journeying? Who laid its foundation? Who lighted its lamps? Who spread its feast? What is its name? Be careful how you ask people to go along with you. First lay down a basis of sound wisdom. “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you.” If that be the first sentence, or part of it, the sentence may end in the boldest invitation ever issued by love to the banquet of grace and wisdom. But let us have no adventuring, no foolish or frivolous speculation in life; let us speak from the citadel of conviction and from the sanctuary of assured religious confidence. Have we such a view of the end as may make us independent of immediate trials? When we invite men to join us on the Christian pilgrimage, it must be on the distinct understanding that we are ruling the present by the future. This is precisely the logic of Moses: “We are journeying unto the place.” The end was indicated--the goal, the destiny of the march; and that was so bright, so alluring, so glowing with all hospitable colour, that Moses did not see that to-morrow there was to be a battle, or seeing it, already passed the warfield like a victor. We must draw ourselves forward by taking firm hold of the end--in other words, we must have such a conception of life’s destiny as will invigorate every noble motive, stir every sacred passion, and make us more than conquerors in all war and conflict. This was the reasoning of Moses, this was the reasoning of Paul, this was the practice of Christ; and we are not yet advanced enough in true wisdom to modify the terms or readjust and redistribute the conditions. Moses did not invite Hobab to join merely for the sake of being in the company; he expected service from Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite. He said, Thou knowest the ground so well that thy presence will be of service to us; experience will assist devotion; we are willing to march; we know nothing of the processes of the way; thou understandest the whole country; come with us and be as eyes unto us. Moses showed leadership even there; it was the invitation of a soldier and a legislator and a wise man. Eyes are of inexpressible value in the whole conduct of life; to be able to see, to take note of, to recognise--the man who can do this is rendering service to the whole Church. So we invite men to come with us that they may render service according to their opportunity and capacity. (J. Parker, D. D.)
An invitation to Christian fellowship
I. As A certain scriptural duty. Every reasonable person, conscious of accountability to God, will seriously inquire, What is the duty enjoined upon me by my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Judge? To the Bible we therefore appeal, while considering the subject of fellowship with Christ’s followers.
1. That it is our duty fully to unite with Christians is evident from the Scriptural representations of the followers of Christ. Among the instructive representations which clearly imply their union is that of a house or building (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 3:11). In a building, the foundation and the other various necessary parts are united, in order to form a useful edifice: and Christians are built upon Christ, and united to each other, “as lively stones, built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Christ’s followers are next set forth as a household, a united family. They are designated “the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), “the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19), and “the house of God,” in which Paul taught Timothy “how to behave” (1 Timothy 3:15). Christians are also represented as “one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:5). They “’are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
2. The certain duty of full union with Christians is clearly taught by the Scriptural history of Christ’s followers. It is evident from this record that when persons received Christ as their Saviour they embraced His people as their people. They gave themselves first to Him, and then to His followers according to His will (2 Corinthians 8:5). When Saul of Tarsus was converted, he appears to have thought joining the united Christians as certainly his duty, as trusting in Christ their Saviour. “He not only preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus,” but on coming to Jerusalem, where there was a Christian Society, he at once “essayed to join himself to the disciples,” who were afraid to receive him, until Barnabas testified that he had become a Christian. This narrated conduct of inspired men clearly teaches that Christian fellowship ought to be sought and manifested by all professing Christians.
3. The Scriptural obligations of Christ’s followers certainly imply the public union of those who bear His name.
(1) Our solemn obligation to confess Christ before men cannot be fully discharged unless we are publicly identified with His disciples, and thus share His reproach and His honour, His pain and His pleasure.
(2) The obligations which we owe to ourselves cannot be fulfilled without union with Christ’s followers. The blessings of salvation are freely offered in the gospel; but experience and observation assure us that they can neither be fully obtained, nor long retained, without fellowship with those who would assist us to secure their enjoyment. And even where a most promising state of grace has been manifested, if persons have “forsaken the assembling of themselves together” in Christian communion, the blooming work has been blasted, the heavenly offspring has been destroyed, and the hopes of the Church have been painfully disappointed. Numerous facts, doubtless, caused Mr. Whitefield to remark:--“ My brother Wesley acted wisely. The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labour. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”
(3) The obligations which Christians owe to each other cannot be observed without” the fellowship of which we speak. Christ’s disciples are required to have the same care one for another (1 Corinthians 12:25); to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15-16); to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2); to walk in love as Christ has loved them (Ephesians 5:2); to be like-minded (Philippians 2:2); to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16). How is it possible, without public, intimate, and frequent fellowship, to discharge these enjoined, mutual duties?
(4) The obligations which Christians owe to the world cannot be performed without our public union. How can true Christian ministers be raised, and called, and sent forth by means of Christian Churches, unless such Churches are formed? If Christians really stand forth as Christ’s chosen witnesses, and go forth as His servants to claim and save the world, they must unite for the accomplishment of these objects.
II. Highly advantageous.
1. This union raises us to fellowship with the best of society.
2. Public union with Christ’s followers would prove a powerful preservative from sin.
3. The union of which we speak would furnish you with a most desirable sphere of usefulness. This powerful motive was presented to Hobab when Moses showed the individual assistance which he might afford for the general good (Numbers 10:31). Every rightly-disposed person will not live to please or serve himself merely; but, seeking God’s honour, and using his influence for the benefit of his generation, will hail with gladness the facilities for increased usefulness which may be presented in connection with Christ’s active followers.
4. Christian union would entitle you to an interest in the special prayers of Christ and His followers.
5. Communion with Christians will be attended with a share in Christ’s most gracious regard. We do not say that this Christian union will ensure heaven; but we do affirm that if you truly trust in Christ, and are united in His name, you will have such an interest in His regard as no individual who neglects thus to profess Him can Scripturally claim. Christ is not only round about His united Churches, but the glory in the midst of them (Zechariah 2:6; Psalms 46:5; Isaiah 12:6). They are, and ever will be, favoured with His most gracious presence.
III. Earnestly invite you to full fellowship with Christ’s followers. “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.”
1. Abandon forbidden fellowship with sinners. These will soon perish in their sins. Separate yourself, therefore, from them, that you perish not in their company (Numbers 16:26).
2. Let all sin, as well as the company of sinners, be forsaken. Be not an Achan in the camp, nor a Simon in a Christian society; but let your hands be clean, and your heart right in the sight of God. Thus guard against substituting a religious profession for inward and outward holiness.
3. As God’s unworthy servants, and relying upon His promised grace, we engage to do you good. How many in that glorious multitude have received good in our connection?
4. This invitation is given, and this promise is made, personally. “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.” We invite yea who are more learned than most persons, having enjoyed superior advantages. Be to others what Hobab was to Israel, “instead of eyes.” You who are not so learned as others, but whose attainments are painfully limited, we do not despise, Be not proudly ashamed because you are not so well informed, and so able to speak, as many with whom you are invited to unite. To you who are rich, and increased in earthly goods, we say, Come with us, and we will do you good. Perhaps you are tempted to look upon the poor in our societies, and then around you in the circle of respectable worldly persons who are your equals, and your natural heart may suggest, “I cannot associate and be one with those poor persons, and thus sink in public estimation, and sacrifice opportunities of still rising in society.” Before you yield to such suggestions, remember Him who was surrounded by heaven’s highest inhabitants, and receiving their loudest praises; yet He stooped, and for your sake became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). From the poor in this world we turn not away, but offer you the right hand of fellowship. You have no place among the children of rich men, but you may have a place among God’s children. To the aged, pained by the past, and dreading the future, we respectfully say, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good.” Oh, that you had come sooner, that you might have done good as well as received good! But come now. End your days in the Christian fold. Finish life with Christians and as a Christian. With one accord our language is, “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord hath said, I will give it you.” The inheritance is sufficient for all. It is offered to all. Part of our company have entered that better country, and are now before the throne. With this fixed purpose to “travel to the mount of God” ourselves, and with the prospect of there joining the general assembly and Church of the first-born, whom shall we pass and leave behind to perish? (Wright Shovelton.)
God’s goodness to His people
A German, converted at one of the military stations in America, seemed overwhelmed with surprise and gladness as he contemplated God’s gracious goodness to him. He was overheard one day praying, “O Lord Jesus, I didn’t know you were so good.”
The solicitude of the godly
I have seen birds sitting on the boughs and watching while other birds were feeding below. They would hop from twig to twig, and look wistfully down upon them; then, gathering courage, they would spring from their perch and back again, and finding that it did not hurt them, they would at last join the outmost circle, and feed with the others. How many faces I have seen in these galleries, wearing a wistful look as they gazed down upon us while we were celebrating this ordinance of communion. May God give all such wings, that they may fly down and be among His people, and partake with them of heavenly food! (H. W. Beecher.)
The beginning of the heavenly journey
Some who see men hurrying along at noon towards the various prayer-meetings, say, “It’s a fever which must have its way, and then it will subside.” They see a young man going to the meeting, and think it nothing to excite interest. They do not know that that young man had come up to a point where, if nothing had occurred to save him, he would have been bound over to destruction at the very next step. They do not see, in some far-distant village, the mother or the sister praying and weeping for him--no sound of a father’s groan is heard--none of these things; the petitions that for years have assailed the heavens, both day and night, do not cling about the youth as he walks the street; but that prayer-meeting God made to answer the desire of the parents, and to bring salvation to the son. And eternity will show that the young man’s walking towards that place of prayer was the beginning of his march to heaven. (H. W. Beecher.)
Preparing for the journey
A poor blacksmith, bending with age and weakness, was passing through a country village: he stopped at a good woman’s cottage, and rested himself on the railing before the door. The pious dame came out, and the weary traveller remarked that his time here would be short; he was always ailing: he added, “Ah, Nanny! I shan’t be long for this world, I reckon!” She thought of his words, and replied, “Well, John, then I hope you’ll prepare for your journey!” The blacksmith passed on, and his call was soon forgotten by Nanny; but that simple sentence was impressed on his memory by the Spirit of God, never to be erased. He pondered it while walking home, and soon consumption laid him on a bed of pain. Again and again did he think about “the journey,” and about being “prepared” for it. He began to pray, and all around him were continually hearing the old woman’s advice. No pious friends were near to converse with him, but it is confidently believed that the aged sinner was led to look to the Saviour through the simple incident related above. Almost his last breath was spent in thanking God that the good old woman ever warned him. (Christian Miscellany.)
Rejoicing in the promises
I went to see a dear aged Christian woman who is a member of the Church of which I am the pastor. She was lying physically helpless, but no one had called to light the fire that day; the black grate with the whitish-grey ash of yesterday’s fire still in it made the room look desolate and cold. Turning towards the bed, I saw that the dear child of God was weeping, and thought it was from hunger and loneliness; but I was mistaken, for she had spent the morning reading the precious promises of God, thus forgetting all earthly considerations in looking forward to the bright hereafter. “Oil,” she said in her Scotch way, “I can soop (sweep) them (the promises) up like diamonds.” (J. Munro.)
When the ark set forward . . . and when it rested.
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 the earth. Albeit that they had no habitation except their tents, yet it is true of Israel in the wilderness that they always had an habitation. Do you not remember the song of Moses:--“Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.” Wherever they were, God was their dwelling-place. This, too, is true of the entire Church; always wandering, yet never far from home; unhoused, yet always in palaces; sometimes destitute, afflicted, tormented, and yet always clothed, always rich, always feasting to the full; deserted, yet not alone; forsaken, yet multiplied; left, yet still abiding with Him that filleth all in all We might carry the parallel out still further, but it is enough to remark that, 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. Let but her silvery trumpet sound, and the echo shakes the vaults of hell. Let but her warriors unsheath their sword, and their enemies fly before them like the thin clouds before a Biscay gale. Her path is the pathway of a conqueror: her march has been a procession of triumph. Wherever she hath put her foot, the Lord hath given her that land to be her heritage for ever. Now, let me show how this war-cry has really been heard of God and has been fulfilled to all His people. Turn ye to this book, this book of the wars of the Lord. Wherever His Church has gone and He has risen up, have not His enemies been scattered? Methinks, in a spiritual sense, when Luther first bowed his knee, the Church began to chant, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered.” When Knox in Scotland upheld the glory of Jesus’ name, was it not once again, “O God arise, let them that hate Thee flee before Thee”? When Whitefield and Wesley, seraphic evangelists of Jesus Christ, went through this land, was not this the very song of Israel, “O God, arise, and let Thine enemies be scattered”? And shall it not be ours to-day? Let but God go forth with our arms; let Him but speak through our ministers; let Him but dwell in our elders; let Him but make the bodies of our Church-members His temples, and His enemies must be scattered, and they must consume away. I can well conceive that such a prayer as this well befits the tongue of a minister who lands as the first herald of the Cross in some barbarian land. Those brave men who risk all for Christ, not counting their lives dear unto them that they might finish their course with joy--methinks when they as pioneers for Christ bear the ark in the midst of the wilderness, they could not breathe a better prayer for themselves, and you and I cannot do better than put it up for them now, “Rise up, Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered; let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.”
II. Now take the text in its reference to Christ. Ah! methinks the sorrowing Church, when they beheld their Lord dragged by cruel men to judgment, when they heard Him accused and slandered, when they saw Him mocked and spit upon, must have considered the battle to be a defeat. The tears must have stood in their eyes when they saw that He who was to be the Deliverer of Israel could not deliver Himself. Was it not the day of bell’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. Even when the Master was laid in the tomb, and had to sleep there His three days as Jonah in the whale’s belly, 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, and let Thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.”
III. What message has this text for us, and how may we use it? “Rise up, Lord! O God the Father, rise up! Let Thy purposes be accomplished! O God the Son, rise up; show Thy wounds, and plead before Thy Father’s face, and let Thy blood-bought ones be saved! Rise up, O God the Holy Ghost, with solemn awe, we do invoke Thee! Let those that have resisted Thee give way I Come, Thou, melt Thou the ice; dissolve the granite; let the adamantine heart give way; cut Thou the iron sinew and bow Thou the stiff neck! Rise up, Lord, Father, Son, and Spirit, we can do nothing without Thee; but if Thou wilt arise, Thine enemies shall be scattered, and they that hate Thee shall flee before Thee.” Will you and I go home and pray this prayer by ourselves, fervently laying hold upon the horns of God’s altar? I charge you do not neglect this private duty. Pray for your children, your neighbours, your families, and your friends, and let your prayer be--”Rise up, Lord; rise up, Lord.” Pray for this neighbourhood; pray for the dense darkness of Southwark, and Walworth, and Lambeth. And oh! if you cannot pray for others because your own needs come so strongly before your mind, remember, sinner, all thou needest is by faith to look to Christ, and then thou mayest say, “Rise up, Lord; scatter my doubts; kill my unbelief; drown my sins in Thy blood; let these Thine enemies be scattered; let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Church in motion and at rest
I. The church in motion, the Church militant.
1. This camp composed of Israel, is distinguished from the enemies around it. Though we are in the world, we are not to be of the world; though we are surrounded with Anakims and Canaanites, we are still to maintain the purity of the visible Israel of God, our being upon the march is a circumstance calculated to hinder the ungodly from joining us to a great degree.
2. It is marching through a wilderness of woe to a land of promise. Is their way long? Is their journey weary? Are their trials great? Are their enemies numerous? Do they often halt, and think they are upon the verge of Canaan, and that the next mandate of their Sovereign will be to enter in; and are they disappointed by finding that there are many other halting places, and many a weary journey lying between them and the Canaan of their rest? Yet are they moving toward it--at last the command will be heard by this individual, and the other tribe, to cease their wanderings, and to enter into glorious and eternal rest.
3. It is under the guidance of the Mediator. It is certainly not worse off now than it was then. Christ is our Guide.
4. When His Church moves forward, God rises up on its behalf. Every progressive movement of the Church of Christ, as well as of the individuals who compose it, is, in fact, directed and dictated by the Spirit of God.
5. The movement of the Church ought to be always, and upon the whole, progressive.
6. This progress will and must be attended with the defeat of the Church’s enemies. We can win no ground except we win it from the foe; we cannot advance a single footstep in our onward journey except as we beat our enemies back.
7. The Church’s triumphant march shall end in the complete destruction of all the enemies of God.
II. The church at rest. We have seen it moving forward to that rest, and we have noticed that it sometimes enjoys temporary seasons of refreshment by the way, in different halting-places as it passes through the wilderness; and experiences the Divine protection and direction. But this rest is only tasted here below, and the foretaste of it is but designed to quicken the appetite of the people of God for their rest in glory.
1. As one feature of that rest, we observe, that there the true Israel shall be recognised, and the words shall be heard circulating through the happy host, “Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.” There, notwithstanding their multitudes, not one intruder shall be found to have entered in; there nothing shall enter that will destroy or that will even disturb in all God’s holy mountain. However the mixed multitude may accompany us by the way, there must be a separation at the Jordan of death.
2. At that glorious period the Israel of God shall consist of thousands and thousands.
3. They shall then have triumphed gloriously. Enemies no more shall trouble them; the sound of war shall be a sound unheard; there shall be no more conflict with temptation, no more struggles with indwelling sin. Oh, to think of Canaan’s rest only in this point of view! Believer, what a happy, what a heavenly rest it will be! (W. H. Cooper.)
Moses, the mouth of the congregation, lifts up a prayer, both at the removing and at the resting of the ark. Thus their going out and coming in were sanctified by prayer; and it is an example to us to begin and end every day’s journey, and every day’s work with prayer.
1. Here is his prayer when the ark set forward: “Rise up, Lord, and let Thine enemies be scattered” (Numbers 10:35). They were now in a desolate country, but they were marching towards an enemy’s country; and their dependence was upon God for success and victory in their wars, as well as for directions and supply in the wilderness. David used this prayer long after (Psalms 68:1); for he also fought the Lord’s battles. Note--
(1) There are those in the world that are enemies to God, and haters of Him. Secret and open enemies; enemies to His truths, His laws, His ordinances, His people.
(2) The scattering and defeating of God’s enemies is a thing to be earnestly desired and believingly expected by all the Lord’s people. This prayer is a prophecy. Those that persist in rebellion against God are hastening towards their own ruin.
(3) For the scattering and defeating of God’s enemies, there needs no more but God’s arising. When God arose to judgment, the work was soon done (Psalms 76:8-9). “Rise, Lord, as the sun riseth to scatter the shadows of the night.” Christ rising from the dead scattereth His enemies (Psalms 68:18).
2. His prayer when the ark rested (Numbers 10:36).
(1) That God would cause His people to rest. So some read it, “Return, O Lord, the many thousands of Israel; return them to their rest again after this fatigue.” Thus it is said, “The Spirit of the Lord caused him to rest “ (Isaiah 63:14). Thus he prays that God would give Israel success and victory abroad, and peace and tranquility at home.
(2) That God Himself would take up His rest among them. So we read it, “Return to the thousands of Israel”; the ten thousand thousand, so the word is. Note--
1. The Church of God is a great body; there are many thousands belonging to God’s Israel.
2. We ought in our prayers to concern ourselves for this body.
3. The welfare and happiness of the Israel of God consists in the remaining presence of God among them. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
Protection and peace
There are here two prayers for different occasions: one for active life, the other for quiet rest. In both cases they are suitable and blessed.
I. We have God fighting our battles. His enemies are ours, and He will identify our struggles with His:
1. So far as we are going in the way of His commands.
2. So far as our actions are identified with His will. If we are fighting for our own will, our own ambition, our own ideas, we cannot say, “Scatter Thy enemies.”
II. We have God protecting our periods of rest.
1. “He slumbereth not nor sleepeth,” and “to Him the darkness is as the day.”
2. He never wearies nor is tired; hence there is nothing to hinder or prevent His constant care. (Homilist.)
The Church and its enemies
I. The church of God has had enemies in every age. This is accounted for by--
1. The favours they received. God has set His heart upon His people. This creates envy, which soon grows into opposition and mischief.
2. The principles they professed.
3. The expectations they cherished.
II. The enemies of the church are considered the enemies of God.
III. When God rises up to judgment, the destruction of his enemies is easy, terrible, and complete.
IV. The constant abode of God with his church is an object of their supreme desire,
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 reconciliation with God. (G. Clayton, M. A.)
The true soldier’s convoy
I. God himself hath many enemies.
II. As God hath enemies, so sometimes he sleepeth to all their enmity.
III. Though God sleepeth and they work, yet there is a time when they shall be scattered; and when God ariseth they are scattered.
IV. Our prayers awaken God.
V. When the people of the land go forth to war, God’s people should go forth to prayer. (W. Budge, M. A.)
The rising and the resting prayer
I. The rising prayer. Here is confession, that Israel’s onward path was thronged with foes. It is so still, and so will always be. There is no hour when sword and shield may hang unused. Next Moses feels that his own might is nought; vain are his counsels, powerless is his arm. Therefore to God he flees. “Rise up, Lord.” So now, if God’s right hand be not our help the tide of foes must bear us down. But God is moved by importunities of faith. “Rise up, Lord,” is a cry which brings all heaven to aid. It puts sure victory on the wing. Observe here how the prayer of faith yearns for God’s glory. “Let Thine enemies be scattered.” These enemies hate God. They would impede the progress of His truth. They would extinguish His Word’s light. They would cast down His righteous rule. Can faith sit still and see Him thus dethroned? Oh, no! It agonises with desire that He would vindicate His holy cause uphold His honour, and add trophies to His name. “Rise up, Lord, and let them that hate Thee flee before Thee.”
II. The resting prayer. The going forts would have been ruin except the Lord moved in the front. The rest will be no rest unless the Lord return Prayer called Him to precede their steps. Prayer calls Him to abide around their resting teats. Vast was the multitude. But what are numbers without God? His presence is their power, their peace, their joy, their glory, their strength, their fortress, their shield, and their repose. They know it, and they cry, “Return, O Lord.” (Dean Law.)
Israel’s hymn of rest
I. As we meditate upon these words we are reminded generally of the exercises of evening devotion. We connect this sentence with every individual who formed a part of that mighty host: we fancy that we hear these words whispering from the lips of every one as he enters his tent, and as he folds himself for rest. And then we connect it with the families, the tribes of the people, the groups of kindred, remote and intimate, in that singularly constituted nation, which, you know, consisted of one race--all were brothers by blood. And we connect it, further, with the congregation at large--the sum total of that great multitude that was numbered in the registration, Israel’s Book of Life, as it was called. And so the sentence leads us to think of evening worship in three ways--in the closet, in the family, in the church.
II. We are led to penetrate into that which forms the meaning, and essence, and spirit of the exercises of praise and prayer, at eventide, and at all times. We are brought immediately by prayer into the presence of God; we come into immediate contact and communion with His gracious Spirit! “Rise up, O Lord; let Thine enemies be scattered.” There is significancy in that expression, “Rise up, O Lord!” And so there is in this other expression, equally figurative--“Return, O Lord.” “Rise up, O Lord!” “Return, O Lord.” Now, such expressions are properly explained as indicating, not an absolute fact in God’s dealings, but in the perception and apprehension of God by man: not a Divine dispensation, but a human consciousness. God did not leave Israel in the day’s march, no, not for an instant. We speak sometimes of the returning sunrise, and we speak sometimes of the returning sunset: but the fact is, that we return to them, and not they to us. The fact is, that it is the earth that is turning, and it is the sun that remains the same. And as it is with the sun, so it is with regard to God. Absolute change in us produces relative change in Him. As we cease to think of Him, apparently He leaves us; as we return to Him in thought, desire, and purpose, He seems to return to us in actual presence. The process is ever taking place in the history of spiritual consciousness. God and man meet when man prays to God as the day is over. God and His people hold communion as the shades of evening close in upon us at our evening devotions.
III. The text suggests to us the thought of the peacefulness, and the security, and the joy of those to whom god thus returns.
IV. We turn to this evening hymn again, and we observe that it is very large-hearted--it is thoroughly Catholic. Here Moses takes up into that great heart of his the interests of all Israel--“the many thousands of Israel.” Earnestly should we pray for ourselves, and with equal earnestness should we identify ourselves with the interests of others, and pray for them. An individual consciousness of moral individuality will be as a growing tree; it will be rooted in the heart, but up will it grow, and out will the branches shoot in this direction, and in that. The heart will be as a fountain, and there will come ever forth the bubbling waters, but they will flow, flow, flow, on and on, in irrigating streams, that will reach a thousand hearts. So let us throw thorough catholicity into our devotion.
V. Last of all, we think of this hymn as what may be called the evening hymn of life. The last night will come, and we shall lie down to sleep in the grave! and oh! how beautiful then to be able, by faith, to lift up our hearts to heaven and say, “Return, O Lord, return unto me! I will return unto Thee! At the end of my life-long journey, my weary spirit would find rest in Thee! Receive me to Thyself.” And while this prayer is offered by us on our own behalf, we are to take heed of the whole Israel of God, and pray, as we are passing out of time into eternity, that the love and care which we have so richly enjoyed, may be vouchsafed to those who follow us. (J. Stoughton.)
“Return, O Lord,” &c.
I. The subjects of this prayer. “Israel.” What the thousands of Israel are not doing for themselves let us do for them. Let us make increasing prayers at the throne of Divine grace, that the veil may be taken away from their hearts, that, under the covenant of the blessed gospel, they may realise the promise of the Spirit unto the Churches(Revelation 2:17). The thousands of Israel, tracing back their history, who were they? Looking at their present condition, what are they? And making castings into the future, what shall they be?
1. Who were they? They were the nation chosen from all the families of the earth, set apart (like the one day in seven) for the peculiar manifestation of the Divine attributes and glories.
2. Looking at their present condition, what are they? After struggling through persecutions, the fiercest and most appalling, after being the one common curse and hissing of nations, divided amongst themselves by deadly antipathies, after their long and many trackings of tears and of blood, through all countries and lands, what are they now? Still shorn of their glories; still a by-word and a mockery; still the dispersed, the wandering, and the outcast.
3. But in our castings into the future, what shall they be?
II. The nature of this prayer. Moses beheld the awful state of the people, as described in the first verse of the next chapter; and therefore he prayed to the Lord. And now the cloud of the Lord is before the Israelites; and now in the midst of them is the ark of the new covenant: and yet, as described in that verse, they are filled with sinful complaining, and the fire of the Lord is burning amongst them and consuming them; the just judgments of God are upon their heads because of their unbelief, and pride, and obduracy; and they are sinking beneath the fierceness of His anger. In this their condition it is the great business of Christ’s Church to pray over them, that the Lord “return to the many thousands of Israel”--that by the manifestation of His Holy Spirit He show them the darkness of their natural minds--that by the strength of His Spirit He bring down their arrogancy to the dust--that by the penetrating influence of His Spirit He open a way into their hearts, that they may receive Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation. (T. J. Judkin.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Numbers 10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29