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Pitch by his own standard.
The marshalling of Israel, and its lessons
I. They all dwelt in tents; and when they marched carried all their tents along with them (Psalms 107:4). This represents to us our state in this world.
1. It is a movable state; here to-day and gone to-morrow.
2. It is a military state; is not our life a warfare?
II. Those of a tribe were to pitch together, every man by his own standard. It is the will of God that mutual love and affection, conerse and communion, should be kept up among relations. Those that are of kin to each other should, as much as they can, be acquainted with each other, and the bonds of nature should be improved for the strengthening of the bends of Christian communion.
III. Every one must know his place, and keep in it. They were not allowed to fix where they pleased, nor to remove when they pleased; but God quarters them, with a charge to abide in their quarters. It is God that appoints us the bounds of our habitation, and to Him we must refer ourselves (Psalms 47:4); and in His choice we must acquiesce, and not love to flit, nor be as the bird that wanders from her nest.
IV. Every tribe had its standard, flag, or ensign, and it should seem every family had some particular ensign of their father’s house, which were carried, as with us the colours of each company in a regiment are. These were of use for the distinction of tribes and families, and the gathering and keeping of them together; in allusion to which the preaching of the gospel is said to lift up an ensign, to which the Gentiles shall seek, and by which they shall pitch (Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 11:12). God is the God of order, and not of confusion. These standards made this mighty army seem more beautiful to its friends, and more formidable to its enemies. The Church of Christ is said to be as terrible as an army with banners (Song of Solomon 6:10).
V. They were to pitch about the tabernacle, which was to be in the midst of them, as the tent or pavilion of a general in the centre of an army. They must encamp round the tabernacle--
1. That it might be equally a comfort and joy to them all, as it was a token of God’s gracious presence with them (Psalms 46:5). The tabernacle was in the midst of the camp, that it might be near to them; for it is a very desirable thing to have the solemn administration of holy ordinances near us, and within our reach. The kingdom of God is among you.
2. That they might be a guard and defence upon the tabernacle and the Levites on every side. No invader could come near God’s tabernacle, but he must first penetrate the thickest of their squadrons. If God undertake the protection of our comforts, we ought in our places to undertake the protection of His institutions, and stand up in defence of His honour, and interest, and ministers.
VI. Yet they were to pitch afar off, in reverence to the sanctuary, that it might not seem crowded and thrust up among them; and that the common business of the camp might be no annoyance to it. They were also taught to keep their distance, lest too much familiarity should breed contempt. But we are not ordered, as they were, to pitch afar off; no, we are invited to draw near, and come boldly. The saints of the Most High are said to be round about Him (Psalms 76:12). God by His grace keeps us close to Him. (Matthew Henry, D. D.)
Israel typical of the Christian Church: -
I. The one israel.
1. Their real oneness of descent. The children of Abraham.
2. Their original condition. All bondsmen.
3. Their Divine deliverance. Brought out of Egypt, &c.
4. In one Divine covenant. Promises, &c.
5. Journeying to the one inheritance.
6. Under one command.
See how this all applies to the Church of the Saviour. All the children of God by faith, all heirs, all pilgrims, all of one covenant, one Saviour, &c.
essentially one; one in Christ Jesus.
II. The various tribes.
1. Their different names. Necessary for distinction--recognition.
2. Their different positions in the camp. See next chapter. East side, Numbers 2:3; south side, Numbers 2:10; west, Numbers 2:18; north, Numbers 2:25.
3. The various tribes were in one general accord and union. All one religious confederacy, absolutely one, worship one, &c.; in perils one, in warfare one, in prospects one.
III. The special directions to the different tribes.
1. Each tribe had their own standard or banner to distinguish it from the rest. No order without.
2. Each man was to be by his own standard. Not a wanderer; not a visitor to all; but his own fixed, legitimate position.
3. Thus the duties of every tribe would be regarded and fulfilled.
4. Thus the interests of all would be sustained.
IV. Spiritual lessons.
1. We see now the denominational tribes in the kingdom of Christ. Christians of different conditions, education, training, leaders, &c.
2. Christians have a special interest in their own camp.
3. To devote themselves to these is the first duty and privilege. Just as families are constituted, so churches.
4. All the various denominational camps constitute the one Church of the Saviour. Only one Israel, one body, one army, &c. For particular purposes, every man by his own camp; for general purposes, all acting in conjunction and harmony. (J. Burns, D. D.)
The marshalling of the people: -
1. God Himself delights in order.
2. The importance of order is recognised in human affairs.
3. This order was probably divinely institated as a means to peace and unity.
II. Variety. Each camp had its own characteristic standard. And each tribe and each father’s house had its own distinctive ensign. Monotony is not a mark of divinity. Variety characterises the works of God, Countries differ in their climates, conformations, productions, &c. The features of landscapes differ. Trees, flowers, faces, minds differ. With one spirit there may be many forms.
III. Unity. All the tribes were gathered “about the tabernacle of the congregation,” as around a common centre. They had different standards, but constituted one nation.
1. The dependence of all on God. All the tribes looked to Him for support, provision, protection, direction, &c.
2. The access of all to God. The tabernacle was the sign of the presence of God with them.
3. The reverence of all towards God. They were to pitch “over against the tabernacle.” Probably the tribes were two thousand cubits from it. Cf. Joshua 3:4. They were thus to encamp around the sacred place, that no stranger might draw near to it; and the Levites were to encamp near the tabernacle on every side, that the people themselves might not draw too near to it, but might be taught to regard it with respect and reverence.
IV. Security. The tabernacle of God in the midst of the camp was a guarantee of their safety. His presence in their midst would tend to--
1. Quell their fears. He had wrought marvellous things on their behalf in the past: He was ever doing great things for them. Then why should they quail before any danger or enemy?
2. Inspire their confidence and courage. It should have given to them the assurance of victory in conflict, &c. (Numbers 10:35-36). Distance from God is weakness and peril to His Church.
Nearness to Him is safety and power. Living in vital union with Him all-conquering might is ours. Conclusion--
1. Learn sincerely and heartily to recognise as members of the Christian Israel all who have the Christian spirit, however widely they may differ from us in forms and opinions.
2. Think less of our isms and more of Christ’s Church; less of theological and ecclesiastical systems, and more of Christ’s gospel; less of human authority and patronage, and more of the Lord Jesus Christ. (W. Jones.)
Why God assigns to every tribe his place and order:
The causes of this dealing of God toward His people are three: one in respect of Himself, another in respect of Israel, the third in regard of the enemies of them both, of God and His people.
1. The cause respecting God is, that they and all other might see what a wise God they serve. If they, professing the knowledge and service of the true God, had wandered up and down in the wild and waste wilderness, in such troops of men, in a confused manner, not knowing who should go before, nor regarding who should follow after, the name of God would have been dishonoured, His wisdom impaired, and His glory diminished. He leaveth them not to themselves, but assigneth to each tribe his proper mansion, to take away from them all confusion, and to cut off all matter of contention. For except He had established as by a law the order that should be observed among them, and thereby decided all questions that might arise touching priority, many hurly-burlies and heart-burnings would be entertained, and part-takings would be nourished; which being kindled at the first as a little spark of fire, would afterwards break out into such a flame as would spread further, and in the end hardly be quenched.
2. They are mustered and marshalled into an exact and exquisite order, to dismay and terrify their enemies, as also to confirm and encourage their own hearts. Great is the force of unity, peace, and concord. One man serveth to strengthen and establish another, like many staves bound together in one. Many sticks or staves joined in one bundle are not easily broken; but sever them and pull them asunder, they are soon broken with little strength. Thus the case standeth in all societies, whether it be in the Church or Commonwealth, or in the private family. If our hearts be thoroughly united one to another, we need not fear what man can do unto us; but if we be at war between ourselves, we lie open to our enemies to work us indignity whatsoever. (W. Attersoll.)
God’s delight in order: -
1. God is the God of order, not of confusion. As He hath order in Himself, so He commandeth and commendeth an order to be used of us.
2. All wise men will order their affairs with wisdom and discretion, and will dispose of them with seemliness and comeliness. An expert captain that goeth against his enemies will keep his soldiers in good array, whether he march or retire. If he fly out of the field out of order one is ready to overthrow another, and all are left to the mercy of his adversary.
3. The Church is not a confused multitude shuffled together, where no man knoweth his place or his office, and one encroacheth upon another; but it is the house of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. Now in a house well ordered is to be seen the master as the ruler, and the family subject to his government, every one employing his proper gifts, and no man usurping the place and calling of another. If this be to be seen in our private houses, how much more must we conceive this of the Church of God, which is the house that He hath builded, the mountain of the Lord which He hath prepared, and the peculiar people which He hath chosen?
1. Learn from hence to acknowledge an exquisite order in all God’s words and works above and beneath, in heaven and on earth.
2. This reproveth such as know no order, but bring in all confusion and disorder in Church or commonwealth; these have nothing to do with God, but are the children of the devil, that hath transformed them into his image and likeness. For from whence are seditions and confusions but from our own lusts, enflamed and kindled from his furnace?
3. Seeing God requireth orderly observation of His ordinances, we learn this duty, that we must be careful to observe it and practise it with a due regard of His commandment. This is the general rule that the apostle commendeth unto us (1 Corinthians 14:1-40). (W. Attersoll.)
The camp of Judah was to set forth first, the camp of Reuben was to set forth in the second rank, the camp of Ephraim was to go forward in the third rank, the camp of Dan was to go hindmost with their standards. Judah first, Reuben second, Ephraim third; these terms are arithmetical and may be accepted without murmuring; but the next term is more than arithmetical--the camp of Dan “hindmost.” That seems to be a word of inferiority and of rebuke. Had the numbers been--first, second, third, fourth, the arithmetic would have been complete; but to be hindmost is to be further behind than to be merely fourth; it is to have the position marked so broadly as almost to amount to a brand of tribal degradation. Faith in the Divine appointment could alone secure religious contentment under such circumstances. This is as necessary to-day, in view of the distribution of men, with their various gifts and their endlessly varied vocations. What is the astronomical force that so whirls society around an invisible centre as to sink the mountains into plains and lift up the valleys to a common level? Order is but another word for purpose, or another word for mind. This mechanism was not self-invented or self-regulated; behind this military table of position and movement is the God of the whole universe. It requires the whole Trinity to sustain the tiny insect that trembles out its little life in the dying sunbeam; even that frail heart does not throb by having some small portion of the Divine energy detached to attend to its affairs. Dan was to go hindmost. The hindmost position has its advantages. It is a rule in the higher criticism that a critic on looking at a picture shall first look for its beauties. We ought, surely, to look so upon the picture of Providence, the map of human life, the marvellous academy of society. The greater the statesman, the greater the responsibility he has to sustain; the greater the genius, the more poignant its occasional agonies; the more sensitive the nature, the more is every wound felt, the more is every concussion regarded with fear. The foremost soldiers will be in battle first; we who are hindmost may have only to shout the hosanna of victory. This age is the hindmost in procession of time; is it therefore the inferior age? The nineteenth century comes after all the eighteen; but it therefore comes on the firmer ground, with the larger civilisation, with the ampler library, with the more extended resources; it comes with a thousand-handed ability because it is the hindmost of the days. Take this view of all circumstances, and life will become a joy where it has long been a pain; our very disqualifications in one direction may become qualifications in another. In the Old Testament and in the New Testament there was some regard to specialty of gift, to definiteness of position; having lost that regard we have lost power. You do not say the clock is an excellent timekeeper, but no use at all as a musical instrument. You do not take up a trumpet and say, a finer instrument was never made to call men to feast or to battle, but it is utterly useless if you want it to tell you the time of day. Every man in his own place, in his sphere. The great question is not in what regiment we are, but rather, are we in the army of Christ--whether with Judah first, with Reuben second, with Ephraim third, or with Dan the hindmost tribe? To be in the army is the great consideration. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Satisfied with one’s own position:
Many would do well to learn the lesson taught in an old parable. “I don’t know,” said the turnstile one day, in a reflective mood, “I don’t know that I ought to have thought so ill of my lot, and to have fretted over it as I have done. ‘Tis true a turnstile has plenty of worry, as I have truly proved; worry and whirl all the day long I Nobody will ever pass without giving a turnstile a swing round; and whoever returns, ten to one but he gives the turnstile a whirling twist the other way! Indeed, I have said that I wouldn’t wish to any one, whether friend or foe, the life of a poor turnstile. No. But then, as that old wheel of the waggon said yesterday, mine’s a pleasant life and a favoured lot compared with his. If I have to turn round, he has the same; and whilst he has the burden of the cart, there is beside the weight of the load it carries pressing on him, and I have no encumbrances. So, on the whole, perhaps I’d better try and be satisfied; that is, as satisfied as I can afford to be, with so many turns about as must in my situation naturally come to my lot.” (Biblical Museum.)
The camp: -
1. The tents. They stand to-day; to-morrow sees the cords relaxed, the fastenings removed, and a vacant place. My soul, from Israel’s tents you learn how fleeting is life’s day! Press then the question, When I go hence, is an abiding mansion mine?
2. The order. Let Israel’s camp be now more closely scanned. What perfect regularity appears! Rule draws each line. Our God delights in order. Is it not so in every Christian heart? When Jesus takes the throne, wise rule prevails. Disturbing lusts lie down. Is it not so in Christian life? There is no tangled labyrinth of plans--no misspent diligence--no toll without a purpose.
3. The position. All these tents share one grand privilege. They all have common focus. As the planets circle the sun, so these surround the sanctuary. God is the centre. They form the wide circumference. And from each door one sight--the holy tent--is visible. God in Christ Jesus is the centre, the heart, the life, the strength, the shield, the joy of His believing flock.
4. The standard. A standard floats above each tribe. Beneath the well-known sign they rest, and by its side they march. Believers have an ensign too. The banner over them is Jesu’s love (Solomon Song of Solomon 2:4). The standard is a pledge of safety. Beneath it there is sweet repose. Beside it there is misery. (Dean Law.)
The most prominent banner:
It is narrated that when, in the time of the Crusades, the lion-hearted Richard I. of England, the Emperor of Austria, and the King of France were jointly waging war against the valiant heathen, Saladin, a jealousy sprang up in the camp between England and Austria, and one morning the British banner was found lying in the dust on St. George’s Mount--a distinguished point on which it had long waved--and the banner of Austria was planted in its stead; impetuous Richard, who was confined to his tent through severe illness, no sooner heard of it than he strode forth alone, and before the assembled hosts hurled Austria’s ensign to the ground, and caused the lion once more to take the prominence, remarking, “Your banners may be arranged around mine, but must never take its place.” So may it be in our preaching. Let the Lion of the tribe of Judah alone have the prominence. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God the centre:
For more than fifty centuries men watched the starlit sky, noted the changes of the planets, and endeavoured to discover the laws which governed their movements; they took careful observations, made elaborate calculations, and yet the law of the harmony of the heavens remained a mystery. The stars were still supposed to follow fantastic circles which no rule of science could explain: their orbits formed a labyrinth of which the most learned failed to find the clue. One day a man of genius said, “The sun, and not the earth, is the centre from which the worlds must be regarded.” At once the harmony appeared; planets and their satellites moved in regular orbits; the system of the universe was revealed. God is the sun and the true centre of the spiritual world; only in the light in which He dwells can the destinies of man be truly read. (Eugene Bersier.)
Effectiveness of unity:
Pliny writes of a stone in the island of Scyros, that if it be whole, though a large and heavy one, it swims above water, but being broken it sinks. So long as the Church keeps together nothing can sink it. “A thousand grains of powder, or a thousand barrels scattered, a grain in a place, and fired at intervals, would burn, it is true, but would produce no concussion. Placed together in effective position they would lift up a mountain and cast it into the sea. Even so the whole Church, filled with faith and the Holy Ghost, will remove every mountain and usher in the jubilee of the redemption.”
Lessons from our national banner
When the Union Jack flies to the breeze the meaning is that what is under it is British property, and is a sort of challenge to touch that property. Every country had a flag. In old times very little did for a flag. One great nation had simply a wisp of straw on a pole, and another power in the East had but a blacksmith’s apron. The Union Jack was their flag, and its composition was very simple. It was not made at all; like all the best things in this world, it grew. At first, in the thirteenth century, there was nothing but a single cross-one straight horizontal line and another perpendicular line. That was the cross of St. George, and it was introduced by Richard of the Lion-heart on his return from the Crusades. When away fighting in Palestine he came to know about St. George, whom he installed as his patron saint, took for his battle cry, and emblazoned on his flag. When England and Scotland were united under James I. of England, that monarch added the Scottish cross, and called the flag the Union Jack. That was his own name, as he usually signed it in the French way, Jacques. Two centuries later the Irish flag was placed on the top of the other two. The Union Jack was thus made up of three crosses, each being laid on the top of the other as each country came into the Union. These were the emblems of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick--the patron saints of the three countries. First, there was St. George. “George” originally meant a cultivated piece of ground, and parents in thus christening their children meant to say, “Would that God would make this little boy a garden of God!” They could desire nothing better than to be gardens of God. They must be gardens--they must allow themselves to be sown in--and they had to in their choice either to produce good or evil. Every good thought was a good seed. Now let us think a little about St. Andrew. There never was a live apostle in Scotland, but some one thought the bones of St. Andrew would do the Scots some good. So they were brought to St. Andrews, and that was the beginning of what was at one time the greatest city in Scotland. Andrew meant manly. Why was the object of the Brigade said to be the promotion of true manliness? Was it not as opposed to false manliness? Every one despised those who tried to be men before their time. Little was known about St. Patrick. He was carried away captive from Scotland to Ireland when a boy, and after obtaining his liberty he so pitied the people of Ireland that he went back to try and do them good. It was well for them to remember St. Patrick. Now, what did the flag teach them? It was a union--a Union Jack. It had been the strength of the British army all through, and it was owing to it that the English, Scotch, and Irish had fought side by side and helped one another. What they had to learn was the strength of union. The Cross led to victory. The Cross meant death to Christ, and the death of Christ meant that One came from heaven to die for them that they might be God’s children. Under which flag would they determine to serve? Under that of Christ, which led to happiness, or under that which assuredly would lead to misery and ruin? The greatest disgrace that could befall a man was the forsaking of his own flag to serve under another. To act thus was to be a traitor to his king. It was the worst thing possible not to yield themselves to Christ. Let them not try to serve Christ and some one else. Let them make up their minds and resolve that they would henceforth fight for what was good and do what was good. (Prof. Marcus Dods, D. D. , Sermon to Boys’ Brigade.)
The camp of Judah.
The encampment of Judah
I. The tribe. “Judah” signifies praise. “Now will I praise the Lord,” said his mother Leah at his birth (Genesis 29:35). Thus is the spiritual Judah established and made a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:7), to the glory of God of whom it is born and made. This whole family in heaven and earth is named and appointed to be a continual praise to the glory of the omnipotent grace of Jehovah. Kings and priests as they all are, is not each “a brand plucked out of the fire”? (Zechariah 3:2).
II. Their encampment. “Judah shall encamp.” But in what form and order? Upon this we have only to say, with respect to the spiritual Judah, that the mystical Cross of their great High Priest embodies itself in all their stations and movements, gives shape to all their hopes and expectations, directs and regulates their prayers, praises, and exertions. Whatever they attempt or whatever they enjoy is conformed to the Cross.
III. The direction in which the camp is situated. Judah shall encamp toward the sun-rising. Such too is the cheerful situation of the beloved people; they have the evening behind them, and the morning in their eye. All are looking towards the rising day, towards the Day-star from on high.
IV. Judah’s encampment toward the sun-rising was to be with his banner. Banners gave the signal for the people to march; they were painted upon hills and eminences, that they might be seen at a distance, and straightway the hosts marched towards and gathered round them. So it is with our banner of the Cross. It is a magnet of irresistible attraction. Wherever it is lifted up, there is a movement, an excitement, a stir, and the elect of God gather around it with exultation or with weeping.
V. Judah’s host. How astonished should we be, what mingled terror and great joy would surprise us, if suddenly those covering angel-hosts, which encompass the spiritual Israel, were to burst the veil which renders them invisible to mortal eyes, and come forth at once into full view! Some in this world have been favoured to behold a portion of those invisible squadrons which always attend the children of God. Judah’s host is the heavenly band of “watchers,” who are sent forth to minister to the safety and welfare of those who shall be heirs of salvation.
VI. The name of Judah’s captain is Nahshon, son of Amminadab. This name truly belongs to the Prince of the host, the Captain of our salvation. Nahshon signifies experience; and who is so experienced in conflict as He who was made perfect in sufferings, and having spoiled principalities and powers, overcame death, and opened to us the gate of everlasting life! Who is so experienced a captain as He, whose unslumbering pastoral care has been exercised for ages in behalf of His people! Who is so experienced in the tumult and alarm of war as He, against whom the infatuated and cold-hearted world have been bearing arms day and night for so many centuries I And who is so accustomed to triumph as He, who is making all such enemies His footstool and everywhere abides last upon the field! Appropriate therefore to Him is the name of Nahshon. He is also as truly in character “the son of Amminadab.” For this name, which signifies “My people are a willing gift,” directs our thoughts first to God the Father, as freely giving to Christ all who will ever come unto Him, and as making them also willing in the day of His power. (F. W. Krummacher, D. D.)
Aspects of honour
I. Honour wisely conferred.
II. Honour in relation with duty and responsibility.
III. Honour as connected with parental influence,
IV. Honour as related to future greatness.
Jacob had predicted that Judah should be the ruling tribe; he promised to Judah a kingdom and sovereignty. Ages more were to pass away before the prediction was fulfilled; but the honour now conferred on the tribe would encourage faith in its predicted destiny. Its natural tendency would be to stimulate them to--
1. Believe in their destiny.
2. Work for their destiny.
3. Wait for their destiny.
Let every privilege conferred upon us increase our assurance of the splendid honours which await us hereafter. (W. Jones)
The camp of the Levites in the midst.
The Tabernacle in the midst of the host
I. The reasons for placing the tabernacle after this manner.
1. God doth hereby admonish them, that they should always have Him before their eyes, lest they should forget His worship or offend Him with their sins (comp. Leviticus 26:11-12).
2. He had respect indifferently unto all the tribes. If any others had pitched their tents farther than from the Tabernacle, they would have quarrelled and complained that they had been contemned and despised.
3. The Levites were hereby put in mind of their duty, and therefore are lodged about it.
II. The uses of placing the tabernacle after this manner.
1. It assureth us that God will ever be in the midst of us, and settle His rest and residence among us (comp. Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekiel 27:27).
(1) God is joined unto us in the person of His own only Son Emmanuel--i.e., God with us. We are made members of His body (see Matthew 28:20).
(2) We have with Him the preaching of the gospel, whereby God is, as it were, brought down to reside and remain among us.
(3) We have the promise of His presence and the seals thereof in His sacraments, whereby we are at one with Him, and He with us (see Galatians 3:27; John 6:54-56; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
(4) When we come together in the Church to call upon His name He is near unto us, and most familiar with us (see Matthew 18:20).
(5) He dwelleth among us whensoever He preserveth us from evil and delivereth us from our enemies.
2. It serveth to teach us to what end God hath instituted civil states and commonwealths in this world--to wit, to be stays and props to the Church, that the people of God may assemble together in peace and quietness.
3. It serveth to conclude the full and final happiness of the faithful, which is begun in this life, but shall be consummated in the end of this world. (W. Attersoll.)
They pitched by their standards.
Contentment and obedience
I. Contentment with the divine appointment.
1. We are incompetent to determine our own place and duty.
(1) Our ignorance.
(a) Of ourselves;
(b) of the future.
(2) Our proneness to self-indulgence.
2. We have ample grounds for confidence in the determinations of God for us.
(1) His knowledge.
(2) His wisdom.
(3) His kindness.
II. Obedience to the divine commands.
1. All God’s commands are binding, because they are all right.
2. All God’s commands are benevolent. Obedience is blessed as well as binding. (W. Jones.)
The two banners:
We can easily guess how in days of ancient warfare the standard was of much practical use. When it moved forward, then the warriors took up sword and shield and also advanced. When it halted, then they prepared to encamp around the station of their own particular standard. The devices of these old flags suggested a kind of primitive heraldry, and they knew where at once to find their loaders, or to rally for the last desperate defence! As in thought we float along the stream of history, we recall the brazen eagles of Rome, clasping which the legionaries took that solemn oath of fidelity which taught to the soldiers of Jesus that word “Sacrament,” which to us means so much! Then we may remember how the cloak of St. Martin became the standard of the Frankish host, or how the sacred banner of mediaeval France was the renowned “Oriflamme.” In England’s history, too, we have the story of the great car which, surmounted by three flags, was the central point of the bloody “Battle of the Standard”; or we may sorrowfully think of that sad day when our country was torn asunder by internal strife, and the unfortunate Charles, king and martyr, raised his royal standard on a stormy day on the Castle Hill at Nottingham, and which was that very day blown down by the furious blasts--a sad and ominous beginning, which proved too truly prophetic. Lastly, there flashes across our memory that familiar story of Nelson ordering the flag of old England to be nailed to the mast, which has become a proverbial expression for pluck and resolution! But these legends of old times have for the Christian a lesson. There is a great conflict going on around us, a spiritual warfare of most real and eternal significance. Between the Church, which is the army of Christ, and the dark hosts of hell, the struggle seems daily to wax hotter and become more intense. The leaders on either side display their banners. “That of Satan,” says an old writer, “is set up in the market-place of Babylon. It is inscribed with the alluring words, ‘riches,’ ‘pleasures,’ ‘honours’; but these inscriptions are not to be trusted. Were they rightly inscribed they would assuredly bear instead, ‘impiety,’ ‘idolatory,’ ‘impurity,’ ‘injustice,’ and ‘hatred against God.’ But these true names he conceals with a dazzling magic, so that men are caught unawares by his false promises!” Under the standard of the Evil One are gathered together and assembled by him both evil spirits and bad men. These he sends forth throughout the whole world, that they should deceive and ruin the souls of men. To each of his adherents he gives a banner, a net, arid chains. The flag that they may allure, the net that they may capture, the fetters that they may bind fast their captives. But see on yonder side. From that dark valley, up those steep slopes, there comes a mighty host. Many drop off, many fall back, but still they pour on upwards. The sunlight of heaven rests on their helms, and before them comes borne aloft a mighty banner. It is the Standard of Jesus. Eighteen hundred years ago it was set up in the valley of humiliation at Jerusalem. Now He, the King of Humility, the Prince of Peace, is in the midst of His people, whose ranks He gazes on with loving eye. On His banner there is written, in letters of light and truth, the words, “repentance,” “a Christian life,” “paradise,” “heaven!” Our Lord Jesus also sends His ministering servants throughout the world--angels, apostles, priests, and all who seek the saving of men’s souls and the welfare of their bodies; bidding them teach the emptiness of earthly treasures, the true riches of penitence and faith; and that they should instruct all to persevere with patience till the golden gates are in view. The soldiers of Jesus advance, holding on high His banner, knocking at the door of all hearts, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is nigh”; “Take My yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest.” These invitations are given in various ways, and by different methods; sometimes by good thoughts infused by the Divine Spirit into the soul, sometimes by useful words and pious writings, sometimes by good examples. Through all these ways and channels the Saviour speaks to us. They who listen, they who obey, follow His standard. Thus, with many alternations, the great battle goes forward, with its separate host on either side and its two standards. Under which will you fight? (J. W. Hardman, LL. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Numbers 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29