Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
this, viz. to employ the Hebrews as his ministers of destruction.
I. CONSIDER MEN AS ELECTED BY GOD TO OFFICE AND TO SERVICE. We may safely suppose that every nation fulfils some propose foreseen by God - perhaps appointed thereto by him. Possibly every man, though he may not rise to the realization of God's highest ideal, yet may fulfill some inferior purpose of God. The Hebrews had a very special honor conferred on them. They were chosen unto holiness, chosen to be the ministers of God's righteousness. The glory was eminent, and the Jews failed to reach it. The Most High God condescended to enter into closest alliance with Israel, deigned to be called their God, and took their interests into his care. So long as they kept his commandments, lie kept his covenant. His faithfulness was an infinite quantity, but it was conditioned by Israel's obedience. No evidence was lacking to Israel touching the friendly protection and help of Jehovah. Their loyalty as subjects was met cordially by his favor as Sovereign. Their admitted weakness was met by the Divine strength, Their poor, shallow love was met and recompensed by his rich affection.
II. THE GROUNDS OF GOD'S CHOICE.
1. This is declared negatively. It was not on the ground of their numbers or their strength. That strength and magnitude of the nation were the effect of God's choice, not its cause. They were not chosen because of superior holiness, but with a view to make them holy, some reason there is for God's choice, but that reason is not often revealed. Possibly it is too recondite for man's understanding, or the further pursuit of the inquiry might divert him from practical obedience.
2. It is stated positively that this choice was the outcome of love. There must have been the potency, perhaps the promise, of good in the Hebrews, in order to attract the love of God. If there was no positive wickedness, God would delight in them as the product of his own skill. His gracious dealings hitherto had been in respect of the oath made to their fathers. God's great love to Abraham had perpetuated itself in his seed. Who can measure what a life of blessing each one of us may communicate to generations yet unborn? Divine grace in us is not terminal.
III. THE DESIGN OF GOD'S CHOICE - GENERAL AND SPECIAL. The general design was Holy character. Choice to office and to honor depended on attainment of character. Holiness is the highest perfection of man, therefore the highest design of God. Holiness is a far higher acquisition than wisdom or strength. The seven nations of Canaan were greater and mightier than Israel, yet those nations fell before the holy people. Purity shall eventually displace power. Right is genuine might. Holiness has, by Divine appointment, an everlasting tenure. The design of God's choice of Israel was also special, viz. to overturn idolatry. The general vocation included the special. To be holy would necessitate conflict with sin. Light must contend with darkness. Opposite principles must contend for the mastery. The holier we become, the more resolute will be our battle with idolatry. We shall feel towards it, and act towards it, as God does. For us to live (if we be God's consecrated sons), and for us to oppose idolatry, is identical. "No peace with sin" is our loyal motto.
IV. THE REALIZED RESULTS OF THE DIVINE CHOICE. Already the Hebrews had obtained a signal triumph over the Egyptians, as the proof of God's gracious intentions towards them. That triumph was singular, surprising, and complete, he, who could secure such a triumph for Israel, could give them easy conquest over any adversary. They knew how to touch the secret springs of success. The pathway to renown was open. There was scarcely room for a doubtful issue, for from a greater foe God had already delivered them.
V. THE HONOR CONVEYED IN THIS CHOICE, VIZ. TO BE CO-WORKERS WITH GOD. God would cast out the seven nations of Canaanites, therefore the Hebrews must smite them. God would deliver them up, therefore Israel was to destroy them. In every step they were to be coadjutors with God. We are not to suppose that the Canaanites were passively slaughtered. In every case they provoked severity of treatment. So completely had the idolaters identified themselves with idolatry, that, to destroy the latter, Israel had to destroy the former. When God, the Great Proprietor of all, imposes a command upon us, however repulsive to our own feeling, it would be flagrant disloyalty on our part, yea, gross sin, to disobey. Punishment by the sword cannot be a more unrighteous act than punishment by cholera or by plague; and if men admit the justice of the one, they should also of the other. Human pity must sometimes be kept in abeyance.
VI. GOD'S DESIGNS, IF NOT FOLLOWED, VISIT MEN WITH DESTRUCTION. The alternative of not executing God's high commission was appalling. If any false sentiments of pity diverted them from the plain path of duty, the Hebrews would have become partakers of idolaters' sins. Any concession or compromise with the Canaanites would be (and in fact was) fatal to themselves. Can one touch pitch and not be defiled? The slightest connivance with the abomination would be a moral poison. They too would be accursed. For God will not endure to be trifled with. To his friends he is infinitely gracious, and blesses, for their sakes, their posterity; but his foes he repayeth to their face. We have to make our choice between complete devotement to God's cause and complete destruction. - D.
I. AS A JUST JUDGMENT ON PEOPLES WHOSE INIQUITIES CRIED FOR VENGEANCE. The doomed nations had been long borne with (Genesis 15:16). Their iniquities were of a kind and degree of enormity which imperatively called for a Divine interposition (Leviticus 18:27, 28; Deuteronomy 9:4). This was the true ground of God's dealings with them, and furnishes a sufficient answer to all cavils. The destruction of the comparatively innocent with the guilty may be explained in part by the existence in the offspring of the hereditary evil of their race. How often, under the Divine government, do we see illustrations of the same principle - the temporal consequences of transgression overflowing on those related to the transgressor! The lesson taught is God's inflexible determination to punish evil. There can be no ultimate toleration of sin in God's universe. It must be judged, rooted out, and the sinner who identifies himself with it destroyed.
II. AS A CLEARING FROM IDOLATRY OF THE LAND OF GOD'S ABODE. Not only could the practice of idolatry not be endured, but even its unhallowed monuments must not be permitted to remain, polluting with their presence the land of God's habitation - the peculiar seat of his majesty, the place of his holiness. Every trace of these impure worships must be swept away (ver. 5). The lesson taught is God's hatred of idolatry. It is a secondary matter that the gods are of wood and stone, and the worship one of altars, groves, and pillars. There is the formal idolatry of heathenism, and there is the less-avowed, but not less real, idolatry of hearts which have set up rival objects to God in their secret places-which have substituted the creature, in some form of it, for the Creator. The forms are as numerous as ever were the idols of heathen temples. A man may be an idolater of reason; he may worship art; he may bow at the shrine of mammon (Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 5:5); his god may be the praise of men; he may fling himself to be crushed before the worse than Juggernaut car of fashion; he may be a votary of lewdness. The worship may be avowed, or hidden away in secret desires and imaginings. It may be rendered in the most diverse places - in the laboratory, at the desk, in the art studio, in home circles, on the broad stage of public affairs, in the saloons of gay society. The real point of importance is that it is of the nature of idolatry, and that God abhors it and declares it to be incompatible with his residence in the heart. "The idols he shall utterly abolish" (Isaiah 2:18).
III. AS A PROTECTION TO THE ISRAELITES THEMSELVES. The tolerated presence of idolatry in Canaan would have been to the Israelites an irresistible temptation (ver. 4). We are taught:
1. To seek our friendships and alliances elsewhere than among the ungodly.
2. That it is our duty, not only to avoid occasions of sin, and to keep as far out of harm's way as possible, but to labor for the entire removal from our midst of what experience shows to be a deadly snare (Isaiah 57:14). Finally, severe as these commands are, we see reflected in them the three principles which, under widely different forms of manifestation, are to this hour to regulate the relation of God's servants to the evil of the world.
1. No toleration of it (Matthew 5:29, 30).
2. No communion with it (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
exterminate the seven nations they would find there. This is their commission. The invasion is to be conducted upon this principle. And here let us notice -
I. NATIONS, LIKE INDIVIDUALS, MAY BECOME INCORRIGIBLE. There can be no doubt that sin tends to a final and incorrigible condition if the Divine mercy is not accepted and allowed to exercise its undermining power. These nations of Canaan were manifestly in this hopeless, utterly ruined state. God regarded them as beyond redemption, and their continuance would only prove pestilential. It is well for individuals, as well as nations, to realize this sad possibility.
II. GOD HAS EVERY RIGHT TO REMOVE INCORRIGIBLES FROM THE EARTH, AS Creator, he has given them every advantage and chance. But the deceitful heart has spurned admonition and mercy. The result is that there is nothing left for them but to be cut off righteously, and that without remedy. But the propriety of extermination should be determined by the Lord himself (cf. Dr. Mozley's ' Old Testament Lectures,' No. IV., on 'Exterminating Wars').
III. THE ISRAELITES WERE SENT INTO CANAAN TO ESTABLISH THE TRUE WORSHIP OF GOD. They were not to be ashamed of their religion, but to establish it, and to allow nothing to interfere with it. As Abraham had entered Canaan centuries before as the promulgator of a new religion, so his descendants were to enter into the Promised Land with the view of establishing the religion of Abraham in spite of all possible opposition. They were not ordinary but religious emigrants.
IV. THE SPARING OF THE CANAANITES WOULD ONLY ENDANGER THEIR RELIGIOUS FAITH. Some people think they may associate with irreligious people, and even marry them, in the hope of bringing them to a better way of thinking. The plea is generally one got up in the interests of self-pleasing instead of duty. But such hopes are generally disappointed; and the Apostle Paul warns us distinctly against the temptation (2 Corinthians 6:14). Now, the Israelites were warned against making any covenant with the Canaanites or showing any mercy towards them. Association would only lead to apostasy on the part of Israel. It would be allowing the pestilence to propagate itself. The alternative for Israel was "Exterminate these incorrigible sinners, or by their seductions they will lead you on to your destruction at the hands of a just God" (ver. 4).
V. EXTERMINATION MAY CONSEQUENTLY, IN SOME OASES, BE THE ONLY COURSE CONSISTENT WITH THE DIVINE HONOR AND THE INTERESTS OF HIS KINGDOM. If people have a right to preserve themselves from a physical pestilence, have they not an equal right in the case of moral pollutions? Besides, the clear direction of God vindicates the whole procedure as right as well as wise (cf. Jellett's 'Moral Difficulties of the Old Testament,' p. 38; also Dr. Arnold's 'Sermons on Interpretation of Scripture,' p. 31). - R.M.E.
1 Corinthians 7:39. That marriage should be only in the Lord is evident -
I. FROM THE TRUE IDEA OF MARRIAGE. Two individuals unite their lives, and enter into a fellowship the most intimate possible - to what end? Surely that their natures may be raised to greater perfection, and that they may be better enabled to attain the ends of their existence. This implies a certain harmony of disposition, an essential accordance in the views taken of life and its duties. It is a union, as One has said, not merely between two creatures, but also between two spirits. But what communion, it may be asked, can exist in spiritual respects between two persons severed from each other in the deepest principles of their lives?
II. FROM A REGARD TO THE DIVINE BLESSING. Where one partner is irreligious, the blessing cannot rest upon the home in the same degree as where both are "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). Believers are to "agree" as touching what things they shall ask (Matthew 18:19). Variances even in godly households result in prayers being "hindered" (1 Peter 3:7). How much sadder the case of a home, so-called, where husband and wife stand so far apart that they cannot unite in prayer at all! And who that values God's blessing would willingly enter into a relation which inevitably stints and limits it?
III. FROM THE DANGER ACCRUING TO SPIRITUAL LIFE. The danger is not imaginary (1 Kings 11:3). Where spiritual life is not destroyed, as we may hope that often it is not, yet nothing but harm can come from an association in every respect adverse to it. How intolerable to a spiritual mind to endure "the blight of all sympathy, to be dragged down to earth, and forced to become frivolous and commonplace; to lose all zest and earnestness in life; to have heart and life degraded by mean and perpetually recurring sources of disagreement" (F. W. Robertson)! This is the species of living death to which unequal yoking not infrequently leads. The effects on offspring are also to be considered. Yet such marriages are rushed into, and, in the prevalent anxiety to make marriage the stepping-stone to wealth and social position, seem likely to become increasingly numerous. Would that men were wise, that they understood these things l - J.O.
Romans 12:2). In virtue of the same holiness, he is bound to unite with others in a sacred crusade against its evil.
II. THE GRACE OF OUR ELECTION. (Ver. 7.) This puts another powerful weight into the scale. Standing in so close and honorable a relation to God, the believer is bid look to the rock whence he is hewn, and the hole of the pit whence he is digged. Who made him to differ? Whence this mercy shown peculiarly to him? We need not press texts on election in favor of any special theory. Sufficient that every believer is willing to confess, as regards his own salvation, that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Romans 9:16). An elective purpose comes to light in his spiritual history (Ephesians 1:4, 5). When tracing his salvation to its source, he is constrained to say, "God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4, 5). All this implies special obligation to God's service.
III. THE NIGHT OF OUR REDEMPTION. (Ver. 8.) The redemption from Egypt, with its tragic accompaniments and mighty signs and wonders, was but a faint type of the greater deliverance which God has now wrought for his Israel in Christ. We are entitled to put the greater for the less, and to plead the stronger claimers which the redemption from sin and wrath establishes on the redeemed soul. The cost of our salvation is Christ's blood. What return can we conceivably make exhaustive of our obligations to Father and Son for so great a sacrifice? - J.O.
selection of the Jews. The leading principles of the Divine administration are here set before us. The following points may be noticed: -
I. THE JEWS WERE SELECTED NOT ON ACCOUNT OF ANY NATIONAL SUPERIORITY. Moses tells them that, numerically, they were the fewest of all people. It was not numerical strength, nor national advantages of any kind, which induced God to select them.
II. THEY WERE SELECTED BECAUSE GOD CHOSE TO SET HIS LOVE UPON THEM. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people... but because the Lord loved you." It was sovereign love which is its own reason. And, in the last resort, it is to this we must come. We can give no better account of the matter than that God chose to do it.
III. THE DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT WAS THE PROOF OF HIS SOVEREIGN LOVE. Hereby he kept his promise made to their fathers, and fulfilled his own gracious purpose. The series of judgments, the outcome of his mighty hand, which proved how infinitely stronger it was than the hand of Pharaoh, while severe to Egypt, were love-tokens to Israel.
IV. THE CHOICE OF ISRAEL WAS WITH A VIEW TO THEIR BEING A HOLY PEOPLE AND A SPECIAL PEOPLE UNTO THE LORD. Electing love extended to a nation or a people is really a Divine investment. The result is the holiness and consecration of the people. It is this holiness, this sense of consecration, which proves the electing love of God. And this is all the more intense when it is seen clearly that God's love is manifested, not on the ground of national or personal merit, but as a matter of free grace. And, doubtless, the Jews proved themselves a special people, although far from a perfect people. They were the custodians of the holy oracles for ages. They showed, and they still show, wonderful linguistic and other qualifications. All this, let us believe, is due to that grace and Divine development through which, as a nation, they were permitted to pass. The practical application of this subject is surely this:
1. To receive God's mercy under an abiding sense that it is undeserved.
2. To cultivate the sense of obligation to God for his undeserved mercy, which it is intended to foster.
3. And to realize the consecration of spirit through which all that is noble in human life comes. God saves us that we may serve him. He shows us his loving-kindness that we may become through it "a peculiar people, zealous of good works." - R.M.E.
I. A LESSON IN GOD'S GOODNESS. In putting Israel into possession of the land of promise after so long a period of waiting, and at the cost of so much miracle, God gave the nation an irrefragable proof of his covenant-keeping faithfulness. How many difficulties, to the human eye, stood in the way of the fulfillment of that promise! And by what nice adjustments of providence, and what a subtly linked succession of events, was the fulfillment at length brought about! Israel had to be taken down to Egypt, there preserved till it grew and multiplied, passed through the iron furnace of affliction, brought up again with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm, conducted and provided for in the wilderness, legislated for and organized, strengthened to overcome its enemies. At what an expenditure of wisdom and power was all this accomplished! And how much forbearance and tenderness had to be shown to the people themselves in the course of their rebellious history! Faithfulness was thus emblazoned on every part of God's dealings with them. Another and greater promise, which hung still longer in suspension, has been fulfilled in the coming of that "Seed" in whom already all families of the earth are beginning to be blessed (Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:16). This fulfillment, above all, demonstrates that Jehovah, he is God, the faithful God, keeping covenant with them that love him.
II. A LESSON IN GOD'S SEVERITY. (Ver. 10.) That had been taught to Israel by many passages in their own history. They had seen God's judgments upon Pharaoh. They had experienced his severity in the plagues, etc., which had swept their own camp in punishment of disobedience. They had witnessed a whole generation turned back to perish in the wilderness. The lesson was now to be taught them by the destruction of these wicked nations. And as if to burn it more deeply, and forever, into their minds and consciences, the sword of execution was put into their own hands. The two lessons need to be read together. God's severity, divorced from the discoveries of his grace, might appear to the on-looker harsh and cruel, whereas, as Bible history shows, judgment is "his strange work" (Isaiah 28:21). On the other hand, the remembrance of his severity is needed to prevent the abuse of his goodness (Romans 11:22). - J.O.
love him, and also to those that hate him. Those who love him will have his mercy unto a thousand generations; those who hate him will have their hatred returned. He will repay such to their face. Let us look at the Divine veracity in the two aspects of blessing and of judgment.
I. GOD'S GRATITUDE FOR MAN'S LOVE. God has a love of sovereignty, as we have just seen, which has no reason but itself; and he has also a love of gratitude for love shown to him. It is of this Moses here speaks. It is thus expressed elsewhere: "I love them that love me." And here notice -
1. When we love God we try to keep his commandments. This is exactly what Christ, incarnate Love, claimed. "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Love is the spirit in which Law should be kept, and through which Law becomes blessedness.
2. Obedience secures blessing. God promised Israel certain temporal blessings: increase of the nation and fertility of soil and increase of their flocks and herds. And, in the rude age in which they lived, it was needful to encourage them by such very sensible signs. This is not so needful now. The blessing comes now in more spiritual ways, but still it comes in the wake of obedience. Answers to prayer are still doubted by men who doubt God's existence and reign, but they are most thoroughly believed in by believers. The blessing comes to those who look for it.
3. It is expected to characterize generations. For this is the greatest blessing of all when the succeeding generation grows up true to God. It is this form of the Divine faithfulness which is most sought - that even to a "thousand generations" they may remain true to him.
II. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS WRATH AT MAN'S HATRED. Under a righteous government, hatred should have its retribution just as well as love its reward. So is it with God. Men may hate him, and when he repays them to their face they are getting only their due. God is as faithful in his threatenings as in his promises. Why should he not be so? And his hatred can have but one issue-destruction! How needful, then, to lay down the arms of our rebellion l If our hard hearts cherish any hatred towards him, the sooner we repent of this the better, and take refuge in his love. He waits to be gracious; but, should we despise his mercy and still do him the injustice to hate him, we must prepare for encountering his righteous wrath. - R.M.E.
I. OBSERVE THE DISCOURAGING ASPECTS OF THE UNDERTAKING.
1. Their adversaries were more numerous than they. The adhesion of numbers to a particular side naturally excites enthusiasm. Yet, in war, unless order and discipline be maintained, mere numbers have contributed to defeat.
2. The Canaanites were actually in possession. They could, therefore, choose their military positions, and felt that they were fighting for their altars and their homes.
3. The Hebrews were the subjects of internal fears. Their fathers had actually refused to fight with the giant races of Canaan, and had turned back again into the desert. The habit of fearless courage was not suddenly engendered: it was a growth.
4. The Hebrews had also a lingering lust for the costly things devoted to idolatry. To suppress their own concupiscence was as arduous as to withstand the Amorites. Hence, on many occasions, their hearts counseled compromise and alliance.
5. They could anticipate only tardy results. If there had been the prospect of swift progress of triumph - the rapid march from victory to victory - they could have braced themselves up for a brief campaign. But they knew that slow processes of siege, with its privations and exposures, were essential. God had forewarned them that he would not drive out the heathen suddenly, lest other evils should ensue. They had to contend with their own impatience.
6. The necessity for extermination added to the difficulty of the war. If, when the Canaanites had suffered defeat in two or three pitched battles, the Hebrews had been permitted to accept a surrender and make them tributaries, their task had been comparatively easy. But the command of Jehovah was unmistakable: Israel was bound to destroy their foes, "with a mighty destruction," till they were consumed. So neither can we have peace until every sin within us is completely annihilated.
II. OBSERVE THE ENCOURAGING ASPECTS OF THEIR WORK.
1. God's immeasurable might. The visible features of the undertaking were depressing enough; but faith could discover an invisible Ally, who was more than a match for all opposition. If we can only realize that God is on our side, we shall be confident of victory.
2. God's past deliverances should assure us for the future. What an unchanging God has done for us, he can and will do again. Omnipotence is never exhausted. It is impossible for God to be inconsistent with himself.
3. God's plain promises of help. If we can only be absolutely sure of a promise from God, we may set at defiance every fear, and calmly face every foe. "He is not a man, that he should lie."
4. Proofs that God is even now present. "The Lord thy God is among you." If we would only rub off from our eyes the drowsiness of unbelief, we might see the tokens of God's presence on every side - the footprints of his feet, as he leads our way. The Good Shepherd always goes before his sheep.
5. In God's service the meaner forms of life often become efficient allies. The locusts have been commissioned to do service for God. In Egypt, flies and lice formed a brigade in his army. So now also wasps and hornets were sent out as sappers and miners to prepare Jehovah's way. Let no insignificant helper be despised!
III. THE LARGE REWARDS OF FAITHFUL SERVICE.
1. The rewards were based on Divine equity. If we keep his precepts, he will keep his covenant. A singular thread of equity runs through all God's dealings. History supplies a thousand examples. We may find fresh ones daily in our own observation.
2. The rewards are various and ample. They embrace the present and the future. To be the conscious object of God's love is a rich reward; and the smile of God will make all our ways to prosper. Large and rapid increase has been, from the Creation, a mark of Jehovah's favor. "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth."
3. The rewards are distinctive. Not only do they impart a large measure of personal enjoyment, but they are known and recognized by others as the rewards conferred by God. They make men conspicuous among their fellows. "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." As our work and warfare are spiritual, so are our rewards spiritual also. Our reward, as conquerors over sin, is manifold, generous, enduring, satisfying. God will surely distinguish between the righteous and the wicked - between him that serveth him well, and him that serveth him not. In honor, they shall be as the antipodes asunder. - D.
I. TEMPORAL PROSPERITY IS A LEGITIMATE OBJECT OF DESIRE. Otherwise it could not be named as part of the blessing, nor could the hope of it be held out as an encouragement to the obedient. We naturally desire to see our affairs prospering. We justly rejoice in the prosperity of our nation. We are glad when trade is brisk, wages good, the comforts of life diffused through the different orders of society. But:
1. Prosperity is to be desired only in subordination to higher ends (Matthew 5:33).
2. Only in so far as it is good for us (3 John 1:2).
II. TEMPORAL PROSPERITY, IN SUCH MODES AND DEGREES AS GOD SEES BEST, IS AN EFFECT OF THE DIVINE BLESSING. Godliness has promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:10). It naturally tends to prosperity. Religion teaches men to be sober, righteous, and godly (Titus 2:12). It condemns idleness, waste, dishonesty, and the whole series of vices which wreck health, squander property, and destroy confidence. Where religion prevails, men will be industrious, conscientious, orderly, and reliable. But, in addition to this natural tendency of religion to prosperity, there rests on the good man's lot what is distinctively spoken of as the Divine blessing. This will mingle itself with all he has and with all he does. It gives him favor in the eyes of men (Genesis 39:21). It opens up his way for him (Psalm 37:5). It protects him from injury (Psalm 37:33, 39). It overrules all events and influences, so that they work for his good. This is forcibly illustrated in the text, where blessing is represented as descending on the home, on the products of the land, on flocks and herds, on the bodily life, etc. The counterpart of the blessing is the curse (ver. 15). The wicked often prosper, but it is prosperity unblessed and unenduring. - J.O.
I. A NATURAL FEAR. (Ver. 17.) Like disheartening feelings may assail ourselves in presence of the strong spiritual opposition to be encountered in seeking to win the world for Christ. Our enemies are neither weak nor few; we will do well not to underrate them. The larger part of the globe is yet unoccupied by Christianity. Heathen systems are in possession, supported by the combined influences of tradition, custom, prejudice, and superstition, and presenting an apparently impregnable front to the thin ranks of their assailants. At home, how much of the Christianity is merely nominal! and how much of it is corrupted! We live in days of intense worldliness. The skeptical spirit, likewise, is pronounced and active. Brain and pen power of the highest order is enlisted in its service. Unbelieving science, infidel philosophy, rationalism in the Church. The press is a tower of strength to anti-Christian views of life and duty. While, at the other end of the social scale, the multitudes are sunk in indifference and vice. How are all these enemies to be overcome? May we not fear that, work as we will, we cannot succeed? The fears are groundless; but they are not without their use, if they make us feel that the conquest of the world is not to be achieved without much hard fighting.
II. A GROUND OF ENCOURAGEMENT. (Vers. 18-22.) This encouragement resolves itself into the simple truth that God is for us. He is mightier than our enemies, and will work on our behalf to secure their overthrow.
1. With supernatural power. In the past he had shown "signs and wonders," and had brought forth his people with a mighty hand (vers. 18, 19). The same power would help them still. It is encouraging to recall the supernatural strength for conquest which the gospel has already displayed. Think of our own land penetrated by a faith which sprang up 1800 years ago in remote, despised Judaea, with churches for Christ's worship dotting almost every street of every city, town, village, hamlet, throughout its length and breadth! How Utopian would such a work of conquest have seemed at the beginning - a dream of insanity! And this Divine energy for conquest inheres in the gospel today as truly as it did of old.
2. With providential aids (ver. 20). "Hornets - types of secret, providential allies working under God's direction. The forces of providence are on the side of those who are working for the advancement of his kingdom. There are such secret allies in men's own hearts. We may compare to the hornets the secret thoughts and feelings - the stings of conscience, guilty fears, feelings of dissatisfaction, etc. - which, operating within, drive men out to join issue with the Spirit in his truth. God has his hornets" also for arousing his own children out of their sloth and self-indulgence and forgetfulness of duty - sharp trials, vexations, griefs, etc.
III. A METHOD OF CONQUEST. "Little by little" (ver. 22). A law of providence and grace. Little by little God gives a man conquest over the evil in self, and his nature is sanctified. Little by little the world is conquered for Christ. The reason of the law is obvious. There is no advantage in having more than can be rightly used; e.g. a man who has more money than he can turn to good account, who has a larger estate than he can manage, who reads more books than he can mentally digest. The best method is "little by little" - mastering, consolidating, using what we have, before hasting to get more. - J.O.
I. THE WORK BEFORE US SEEMS OF OVERPOWERING DIMENSIONS. MUST we win a victory over all the evil within us? and then contemplate a victory over all the evil around us? Both problems are vast. The more we know our own hearts, the greater seems the extent to be won. The more we know of the world around us, the more appalling seems the proposal of God. It is a great work we are asked to do certainly.
II. BUT BY PAST DELIVERANCES OF GOD ARE INTENDED TO REINFORCE OUR FAITH. Just as the mighty deliverance from Egypt was set before the Israelites to encourage them in their invasion, so our individual conversion should reinforce our faith in the power of God. The God who can conquer such hearts as ours can surely help us in further conquests. We hope for victory because of victory already won.
III. VICTORY IN DETAIL IS BETTER THAN VICTORY WHOLESALE. We imagine that victory at once over all internal and external enemies would be better than victory covering long years and entering into vast details. But, if Israel had been able to smite all the Canaanites dead at a blow, the beasts of the field would have so overrun the land that it would have been reduced to wilderness, instead of being a land of promise. It is better, therefore, to overcome the Canaanites gradually. They will protect the inheritance from the wild beasts till the heirs arrive. In like manner, it is better -
1. To beat our sins in detail. We are better acquainted with our own nature and God's grace when we have to deal with our sins in detail. We get gradually better and purer and more humble. This is better than a leap into perfection out of sin.
2. It is better to win the world in detail. God is not going to give the earth to his people some fine morning, and save us the trouble of winning it. It is better for us to plod on, winning country after country, and individual after individual, and the whole world at last.
3. The Promised Land is to be made a holy land. The Israelites were to remove, the Canaanites and their abominable modes of life and worship, to make of Palestine a holy land. Jerusalem - Elkoods - the holy city, is to be the expression of the Divine idea. Let us conform our hopes to God's magnificent designs, believing that the gradual is generally the best, the microscopic work the most beautiful in the end. - R.M.E.
I. OF DISINTERESTEDNESS IN GOD'S SERVICE. No motive of gain was to be allowed to mingle with their work. Their service was to be disinterested. Under the cloak of religious zeal there was to be no gratification of covetousness.
II. OF AVOIDING OCCASIONS OF SIN. The gold and silver of the idols tended to ensnare. There would be a temptation to a superstitious and idolatrous use of it (Judges 8:27).
III. OF REFUSING GAIN DERIVED FROM IMMORAL SOURCES. The Church is not profited by an influx of the money of the worldling. Still less are the gains of sin to be coveted by her: money derived from gambling, immoral speculation, bubble companies, gin-palaces, sale of irreligious and immoral books, etc.
IV. OF HEARTY DETESTATION OF EVIL. The gildings of vice have an attraction for many who dislike the thing itself. But vice is to be abhorred in its gilded forms, as in every other. "Looking begets liking." - J.O.