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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Numbers 27



Verses 15-21



Numbers 27:15-21. And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him, after the judgment of Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.

WHEN great and good men are taken away, we are apt to suppose that their places cannot be adequately supplied. But God “has the residue of the Spirit,” and can raise up instruments at any time to carry on his gracious purposes in the world. When Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot, his servant Elisha was ready to imagine, that all the stay and support of Israel was removed; “My father, my father! the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” but Elijah’s mantle fell upon Elisha. Thus, when Moses had received God’s final decision respecting his dying in the wilderness, it seemed as if the nation of Israel would be left as sheep without a shepherd: but God, in answer to the prayer of Moses, appointed one to succeed him, who fulfilled his trust as well as Moses himself could have done.

The points for our present consideration are,

I. The concern of Moses for the people committed to him—

The last forty years of his life he had spent entirely in their service: and now that he could superintend them no longer, he was anxious that a successor should be appointed by God himself; that so all occasion for rivalship might be cut off, and all discord and anarchy be prevented. In this he acted,

1. As a true patriot—

[Patriotism is a virtue which all public men affect, but which very few possess. Selfishness is by far the more prevailing character. Many, when they can hold the reins of government no longer, would rather be succeeded by one of moderate talents, whose inferiority should cause regret for their departed worth, than by one of transcendent abilities, whose eminence should eclipse their virtues, and cause their services to be forgotten. A regard for their own credit would outweigh their desire for the public weal. Besides, the generality of patriots exert all their influence to aggrandize their own families; and appoint to places of trust and honour, not those whom in their consciences they think most fit for the office, but those who from family or party considerations will most confirm their power, or perpetuate the honour of their name. The very reverse of all this was displayed in the conduct of Moses. He was fearful lest the people should have any reason to regret his loss. He was anxious that a person should be selected and qualified by God himself; that so the administration of their affairs might be conducted to the greatest possible advantage. And though he had children of his own, he placed them in no peculiar situation either or church or state; but left them to occupy the humbler post of common Levites, whilst Aaron’s children succeeded to the priesthood, and one of another tribe was nominated as his successor in the government. Moreover, the manner of evincing his concern for the people’s welfare, was such as is little known to modern patriots; he evinced it not by declamatory harangues, but by praying to God for them. Happy would it be, if those who in this day make such professions of zeal in the service of their country, would manifest it before God in their secret chamber, entreating HIM to direct their counsels and prosper their endeavours! To secure his direction and blessing for those in power, would be a better proof of patriotism, than to be aiming incessantly at their subversion and ruin.]

2. As a faithful minister—

[Moses presided over Israel, both as a Church, and as a Nation: and he shewed the same regard for their spiritual, as for their temporal, interests. He well knew, that the appointment of a truly religious governor would equally conduce to their good in both respects. Hence he prayed, that God would set one over them, who should “go in and out before them,” leading them by his example, as well as directing them by his authority: and though doubtless this might principally refer to the wars which they were about to wage, yet it certainly comprehended also every part of the governor’s office, whether civil or religious. Such is the prayer which every pious minister must offer, when he finds the time of his dissolution drawing nigh. He must not be satisfied with having discharged his own duties conscientiously, but must “labour earnestly for them in prayer,” desiring to have his flock committed to one, who shall watch over them with diligence, and minister unto them with fidelity; one, who will not merely direct them aright, but will go before them in the way, as the eastern shepherds were wont to do. In this he must manifest his resemblance to the Saviour, who “had compassion on the people, because they were as sheep having no shepherd [Note: Matthew 9:36.]:” in this too he must follow the footsteps of the Apostles, who strove, both by oral and written communications, to perpetuate the effect of their labours [Note: Acts 20:25-32; 2 Peter 1:12-15.].]

How pleasing and acceptable this intercession was, we see in,

II. The gracious provision which God made for them—

Here, as in ten thousand instances, God answered without delay the petitions presented to him—

1. He selected a suitable person for the office—

[“Take Joshua,” says he, “a man in whom is the Spirit.” Yes, such are the magistrates and ministers whom God appoints: he selects those in whom are suitable qualifications for the post assigned them, or, at least, persons whom he himself will fit for their office. A talent for government is implied in this expression, but it implies also real piety; which is absolutely requisite for a due discharge either of the magisterial or ministerial office. None can act for God, who do not act from him, that is, by grace received from him: and consequently, none can make the best use of their authority, who are not taught by the Spirit to use it for the furtherance of religion, and for the glory of God. O that such persons were universally selected to manage the concerns both of church and state! We might hope for a far richer blessing on the nation at large, and far infinitely greater good to the Church of Christ, if such persons, and such only, were invested with the sword of magistracy, or the pastoral staff. At all events, both magistrates and ministers may learn from hence, what qualification they should chiefly seek, for a profitable discharge of their respective offices.]

2. He prescribed the mode of his ordination to it—

[“Set him before Eleazar, and before all the congregation,” said the Lord; “and lay thine hand upon him, and give him a charge in their sight, and put some of thine honour upon him;” that is, invest him now, before thy death, with a part of thine own authority; that all, seeing whom I have chosen, may acknowledge him as their governor, and render a willing obedience to his commands. This mode of ordaining Joshua was calculated to answer every end that could be wished. It effectually prevented all competition, and strengthened his hands for the arduous employment that was assigned him: and we may well suppose that Joshua would be deeply impressed with these ceremonies, and long retain a remembrance of the charge given him, confirmed as it was by an additional charge from God himself [Note: Deuteronomy 31:7-8; Deuteronomy 31:14-15; Deuteronomy 31:23.]. Nor is this mode of appointing Joshua uninstructive to us; for, a similar mode of consecrating persons to divine offices has ever since obtained in the Church of God. The deacons who were first ordained by the Apostles, to superintend the temporal concerns of the Church. were set apart in this way [Note: Acts 6:3; Acts 6:6.]: and both priests and elders were afterwards consecrated with nearly the same forms [Note: 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 14:23.]. And may we not hope that similar effects are still produced on the minds of many at their solemn consecration to the work of the ministry? We have no doubt they are: and, on the Ember-days, which are especially set apart for praying to God in behalf of those who are to be ordained, a still richer blessing would rest upon them; and the imposition of hands be accompanied with a more abundant communication of the Holy Spirit to their souls [Note: Compare Deuteronomy 34:9 with 2 Timothy 1:6.].]

3. He promised him all needful assistance in it—

[It must of necessity be, that in the government of that people many cases would arise, wherein he would need direction from above. Moses had on such occasions enjoyed immediate access to the Deity. But another mode of communication had been fixed by God for all succeeding governors. The Urim and Thummim (which import light and perfection) were in the breast-plate, which was worn by the high-priest; and by means of that breast-plate, God, in some way unknown to us, revealed his will. To Joshua he particularly promised, that he would communicate to him in this way all needful information: so that, whatever difficulties might arise, he should have infallible means of ascertaining the mind of God. Doubtless that method of obtaining instruction is now at an end: but the prayer of faith will yet prevail, so that God’s ministers and people shall not seek his race in vain. If they truly desire his direction, they shall be preserved from any important error, and be guided into all necessary truth: “The meek he will guide in judgment; the meek he will teach his way.”]

From this subject we may clearly learn,

1. The blessedness of the Christian church—

[How happy were the Jews to have such an intercessor as Moses, and such a governor as Joshua! Follow Joshua in his course, from the moment of his appointment to the moment of his death: what a series of victories, till he had conquered the land, and distributed it according to the divine purpose! But if we envy the Jews their divinely-appointed head, what objects of envy must we be, who have the Lord Jesus Christ himself for our Head! He is the true Joshua, to whom “the Spirit is given without measure [Note: Isaiah 11:2-3; John 3:34.].” He also is made “Head of the Church,” and is “ascended up on high, that he may fill all things;” and through him the very weakest of his people shall be “more than conquerors.” Let us then “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” and not doubt but that “he will bruise Satan under our feet shortly.”]

2. The duty of advancing in every possible way its best interests—

[If we be magistrates or ministers, our duty is proportionably difficult, and our responsibility proportionably awful. O that all who have been placed in such offices, felt as they ought the obligations that are upon them! Let ministers in particular, who have a far greater charge than that of magistrates committed to them, give themselves up wholly to the execution of their trust. Let them fear lest the blood of those who die in their sins, be laid to their charge. And let them so fulfil their ministry, that they may give up their account with joy, and not with grief.]


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Numbers 27:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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