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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Numbers 26

 

 

Verses 63-65

DISCOURSE: 178

PERISHING OF THE ISRAELITES IN THE WILDERNESS

Numbers 26:63-65. These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab, by Jordan near Jericho. But among these there was not a man of them whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai: for the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

THE Israelites in some respects had an advantage over us, inasmuch as they had the most stupendous miracles wrought before their eyes: but we have an incomparably greater advantage over them, in seeing the accomplishment of many prophecies relating to them, and the design of God in his diversified dispensations towards them. The miracles would strike the senses more forcibly for a little time; but the accomplishment of prophecy commends itself to our judgment, and operates with more permanent effect. The event before us, for instance, carries an irresistible conviction with it to every reflecting mind. The Israelites had been numbered in the wilderness of Sinai [Note: Numbers 1:1-3.]: but for their sin at Kadesh-barnea, where they refused to go up and possess the land, they were doomed to die in the wilderness [Note: Numbers 14:28-30.]. Two exceptions alone were made, Caleb and Joshua, who had boldly testified against the wickedness of the people on that occasion, and encouraged them to maintain a confidence in their God. Now the time for entering into Canaan was nearly arrived; and Moses and Eleazar were commanded to number the people again, and to ascertain, for the instruction of the nation at large, the perfect accomplishment of this prophecy. Accordingly, it was ascertained by minute investigation, and it is here distinctly affirmed for the benefit of the whole world. The fact that is here asserted, is often mentioned in the New Testament for the benefit of the Church at this day: and it is in this particular view that we shall insist upon it. It was intended to shew us,

I. That sinners derive no security from their numbers—

[There is a conceit in the minds of men, that God can never condemn so many as they see to be walking in the ways of sin: and though they cannot but acknowledge, that the lives of a few religious persons are far more agreeable to the Scriptures than those of the generality of mankind, yet they deem it presumptuous in these to imagine themselves in a safer state than others. As for the distinctions which are made in the word of God, the promises of life to the godly, and the threatening of death to the ungodly, they are accounted of but little weight: men’s own surmisings, however groundless, are made to outweigh the plainest declarations of Holy Writ. Here then the matter has been put to a trial. The whole nation of Israel had offended God, and were to be excluded from the promised land: but two individuals, who had withstood the torrent of iniquity, were to have the honour and happiness of entering into Canaan. Now on the borders of that land the people are numbered a second time; and after a complete survey of every tribe, it is declared, yea twice declared, that “not a man” against whom the judgment had been denounced, had survived. Thus it will assuredly be in the eternal world. Men are now told that the unrighteous shall not enter into heaven: but, because they constitute the great mass of mankind, they doubt whether the threatening will be executed: nevertheless, when a scrutiny shall be made of those who shall be at the right hand of God, there will not be found a man, no, “not a man” whom God in his word had consigned to another place. The “broad and frequented road will be found to have led to destruction;” nor will so much as one have attained to life, who did not “enter in at the strait gate, and walk in the narrow way [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.].”]

II. That no outward privileges or professions will save them—

[In this view in particular is the destruction of the Israelites proposed to our consideration in the New Testament [Note: Jude, ver. 5 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 and Hebrews 3:17-19; Hebrews 4:1.]. Their privileges were exceeding great, and they could boast of having experienced the most marvellous interpositions of the Deity in their behalf. But were they therefore saved? Yea, was not God so offended with them, that he even “sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest?” To what purpose then is it that we have been baptized into the name of Christ; that we have his word in our hands, his presence in our assemblies, his promises on our lips? To what purpose is it that we have “eaten spiritual meat, and drunk spiritual drink,” at his table, if we are yet children of disobedience? Were the Jews rejected for their unbelief? So shall we be, if we have not that “faith, which purifies the heart.” If “Christ be not formed in our hearts,” so as to make us “partaken of a divine nature,” “the labour bestowed upon us will be in vain.” We must “live by faith on the Son of God,” and “walk as Christ himself walked,” or else we shall never find admission into his rest. Nor is it by “running well for a season,” but “by a patient continuance in well-doing,” that we shall attain eternal life. We must both begin well, and “endure unto the end,” if ever we would be counted worthy of that heavenly kingdom.]

III. That the divine judgments, however long delayed, will overtake them at last—

[Though at first, when sent back into the wilderness, the people confessed their sins with apparent contrition, they soon relapsed into their former habits; and probably, after a season indulged, a hope, that they should succeed as well as those to whom the promises had been made. This is the way of sinners: “because judgment is not executed speedily upon them,” they think it never will. “The scoffers in the last days will say, Where is the promise of his coming?” But God assures us, that “the judgment of sinners now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” God had respect to the posterity of Israel, when “he suffered their manners in the wilderness forty years:” he had a chosen seed who were yet in their loins, and who were in due time to enjoy that inheritance, which their fathers had despised. “He gave them also space for repentance,” that they might not be excluded from heaven itself. Thus “is he long-suffering towards us also, not willing that any of us should perish, but that we should come to repentance and live.” But we deceive ourselves, if we think that he will never call us into judgment: on the contrary, he will require at our hands every talent he has entrusted to us, and increase our punishment in proportion to the mercies we have abused. O that those who are more advanced in life would contemplate this! that they would “account the long-suffering of God to be salvation,” and not make it the occasion of a more aggravated condemnation!]

IV. That no one of God’s faithful servants shall ever perish—

[At this numbering of the people, Caleb and Joshua were found alive, though all the rest were dead: so exactly had death executed its commission! Of six hundred thousand offenders, not one had escaped its dart: but the two who had “followed the Lord fully,” remained unhurt. This shews how certainly the promises of God shall be fulfilled to every believer. Be the numbers of the Lord’s people ever so few, they shall not be overlooked: though the whole universe be sifted and blown away as chaff, “not the smallest grain of true wheat shall fall upon the earth [Note: Amos 9:9.].” They have many and powerful adversaries; but “none shall pluck them out of their Father’s hand.” “It is not His will that one of his little ones should perish.” They may be so weak in faith as to indulge many fears of the issue of their warfare; but God himself pledges his word, that “they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life.” Be not discouraged then, believers, because ye are few, or weak, or despised, or beset with enemies all around; for the word of Christ to you is, “Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Only “commit your souls to God in well-doing, as into the hands of a faithful Creator,” and he will “preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Numbers 26:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/numbers-26.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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