the First Week of Lent
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Charles Spurgeon's "Morning & Evening"
“O keep my Soul and deliver me.”
Wonderful audacity! Yesterday they fled in terror while they saw the earth open and swallow up the rebels, and now they, themselves, break out into revolt, and charge Moses with murdering those whom the Lord, himself, so justly executed. Is there any bound to human sin? Lions and tigers may be tamed, but man breaks off from all restraint, and follows his own devices, despite every warning and instruction.
Numbers 16:44 , Numbers 16:45
This was the second time in which the Lord had spoken thus to his servants, and a second time they fall upon their faces in reverent but earnest intercession. They pleaded for those very people who were up in arms against them; such is the true love of God’s ministers. Never will they give sinners up while they have breath in their bodies.
His spiritual soul could see what others could not, for he perceived that danger was near. Those who have had communion with God possess a sensitiveness unknown to others. Moses bade Aaron hasten, and, indeed when men are dying, we must make no delay in our efforts to save them. Lord, help us to fly on the wings of love.
He stood as a champion, blocking the pathway of the destroyer. He came to the front of the danger, as though he would either die with the people, or else if he lived, they should live. Was it not bravely and kindly done of Aaron thus to stand in the gap for his enemies? What a noble type he was of the Lord Jesus, who interposed on our behalf!
Who slew all these? Or rather, what slew them? Was it not sin which is a murderer from the beginning? Sin will slay us also unless we are sheltered behind our great High Priest.
By such a terrible event of judgment, and such a wonderful miracle of mercy connected with Aaron’s priesthood, one would think that the question of his right to the sacred office would be settled for ever beyond all dispute, and yet it was not so. How set on mischief sinners are! Sin is ingrained in our very nature. Alas! alas! Let us, by faith, see our Lord Jesus standing between his living people and dead souls, waving his censer, and keeping off death from all his believing ones. He is our shield from the destroying plague of sin and all the powers of evil. His sacred person bars the way. Vengeance cannot smite those to whom the Lord’s Anointed is a shield. Happy they who have Jesus to stand before them. On one side all is ruin, on the other all is safely. On which side of Jesus are we at this hour? Are we with the living in him, or are we numbered with those who are without him, and consequently are condemned already? Lord save us, or we perish.
Jesus the merciful and true,
Between the dead and living stand;
The numerous dead, the living few,
Who now divide this sinful land.
Now in our midst, great Priest, appear,
For sin thou hast atonement made,
Present the incense of thy prayer,
And let the plague of sin be stayed.
“I have exalted one chosen out of the People.”
To settle for ever the vexed question as to the priesthood, the Lord arranged a solemn ordeal to which none could object, and which all would admit to be decisive.
Rods were the ensigns of government, the sceptres of the rulers. To submit the sceptre of each tribe to the Lord was a symbolical presentation of all their claims to him. All the rods were alike dead and dry, and it remained with the Lord to choose which he pleased, and quicken it into life and verdure.
Owing to the destruction of Korah, the Levites were not divided as to who should be their claimant for office, but unanimous that Aaron should stand for them.
God has a right to choose his own servants, and he will do so whether we will agree therewith or not. He gives life and fruitfulness to his chosen servants, and either silences the jealousies and fault-findings of the people, or else visits the murmurers for their offence.
A miracle indeed! Here was not only life, but an instant and perfect fruitfulness, not caused by the season, but suddenly brought forth by the divine power! Surely this is the best proof of a divine call to the Lord’s work. Naturally barren, as men are, the grace of God makes his ministers fruitful unto God, through abiding in his secret presence, and thus they are known among the Lords people as the ordained servants of the Lord.
This miraculous proof was meant to prevent future disputes, lest they should provoke God beyond all bearing.
Moses was a wise man, but he did not follow his own opinion. His wisdom lay in complete obedience to God.
Numbers 17:12 , Numbers 17:13
Not long could they be without some wicked complaint or another. This time they make light of their sin, and cry out against the severity with which their insolence had been repressed. It was time they had found fault with themselves rather than with the just judgments of God; but, indeed, it is very hard to bring Israel, or any of us, to true repentance.
From this whole passage let us learn that Jesus, our great High Priest, has life in himself, and brings forth soul-saving fruit, which neither the law nor the prophets could do hence he is proved to be the true priest of God. If we also would have life and fruit, we must be vitally united to him, for apart from him we are withered branches only fit for the fire.
Jesus, we own thee priest alone,
Thou only canst for sin atone;
Thy sacred rod ends all the strife
Thou only hast eternal life.
Nor life nor fruit elsewhere is found,
Death sways his barren sceptre round;
But thou hast come new life to give,
And, joined to thee, our spirits live.