Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
naught," which increases the sign of value only when added to other figures, so sanguine anticipation of triumph is only forceful when based on solid qualities.
I. OBSERVE THE FORMIDABLE CONTEST. God has never encouraged his servants to underrate difficulties. Jesus Christ did not over color the advantages of his service.
1. The Amorites were superior in stature. This might, in itself, become an instrument of strength; it might prove a source of weakness. The larger the machinery, the greater motive power is demanded.
2. The Amorites excelled in martial courage. "They were mightier." The land had become divided into petty kingdoms, and it is evident that deadly wars between the tribes were frequent. Such practice had developed warlike skill.
3. They fought behind well-built ramparts. Their cities were fortresses, while the Hebrews, unskilled in war, had to fight in the open field. Defenders of bastioned homes have great advantage over foreign assailants.
4. The Amorites possessed a wide reputation. This would serve to brace to the highest pitch the courage of the inhabitants, while it would serve to dismay the besieging army. Every visible and material advantage was on the side of the Canaanites.
II. LEARN THE SECRET OF ISRAEL'S TRIUMPH.
1. God's alliance outmatches all martial opposition. The unseen power is always greater than the seen. God's arrows find their way through the best-jointed harness. The simple breath of Omnipotence withers all opposition. Whatever we omit to take to the battle-field, let us not omit to take God.
2. Occult forces often lead the van. In advance, even of their vanguard, unseen pioneers would sap the foeman's strength. As fire devours the stubble, so would the Canaanites' strength become as rottenness. Hornets, pestilence, lightning, hail - a thousand agencies God employs as the real army in advance of the human host.
3. God's work and man's reciprocally interlace: God will never do our part; we can never do God's part. There is scope everywhere for human agency, but it must never invade the Divine province. We are to work because God works with us - in us. God promised that he "would bring down the enemy;" Israel was "to drive them out."
III. MARK THE GROUNDS OF GOD'S AWARD. He fought on the side of Israel, and against the Canaanites, for specific reasons. Some of these are mentioned for the instruction of men. Strong inducements disposed the Hebrews to regard themselves as the favorites of Heaven, on the ground of their superior goodness. This was corrupt fruit from an evil tree. These were false flatteries, forged by Satan. Against these fortresses of self-righteousness Moses was directed to hurl the battering-ram of reproof.
1. Human righteousness not meritorious. It is not meritorious, because it is deficient. All true righteousness has some merit; but if the unrighteousness in a man's life exceed the righteousness, then blame must exceed approval. The Canaanites were evicted because of moral rottenness, the fruit of gross idolatry. Loyalty to God alone could entitle the Hebrews to replace them. In this they had been signally wanting.
2. Material possessions have often a vicarious origin. They are given to one for the sake of another. The faith of Abraham had borne a long succession of fruits. There is a principle of moral solidarity in the human race. We are not distinct units, but component parts - members one of another.
3. We see the inviolability of God's promise. To our purblind eyes that promise often seems to fail; yet failure is absolutely impossible. His time and man's time do not always correspond. God's words must be taken as expressive of God's conceptions. His words are expansive enough to contain an infinitude of meaning. - D.
reprobation. And here let us observe -
I. THAT REPROBATION IS THE OPPOSITE OF APPROBATION. Great confusion of thought exists upon this subject through losing sight of this. The conduct of the Canaanites had been going on from bad to worse, and it was impossible for God to approve of it. He had no alternative but to loathe them for their iniquities, and to arrange their fate accordingly. Reprobation in the last resort, in the case of those finally impenitent, is a necessity with God; he cannot but loathe those guilty of such conduct (cf. Robert Hall's 'Help to Zion's Travelers,' p. 45).
II. A VICTORY IS AT ALL EVENTS A JUDGMENT ON THE VANQUISHED. It has indeed been said that the next worst thing to a defeat is a victory, by which it is indicated that both sides suffer, but the vanquished more than the victors. In the invasion of Palestine, the Canaanites were to be vanquished because of their disobedience. It was judgment to them - God's judgment, and thoroughly deserved.
III. IT MATTERS NOT TO GOD, AND SHOULD NOT TO HIS SERVANTS, HOW GREAT HIS ENEMIES MAY BE. The Canaanites were men of gigantic size, with great cities, fenced up to heaven. They were outwardly much more than a match for Israel. And this was doubtless to try the faith of Israel, and to see if they would live by sight in this matter, or trust in their Almighty King. It is for the Lord's people to remember that "greater is he that is for them than all that be against them," and that with God they are sure of ultimate victory.
IV. SUCCESS IS INTENDED TO TEST THE PEOPLE OF THE Lorry. Israel is told expressly that they are a stiffnecked people. The conquest is not to be on account of any merit of theirs. But it will test their loyalty to God. It has been observed that conquest has generally exercised a retributive influence upon the conquerors (Goldwin Smith, in Fortnightly Review for July, 1877). It was for Israel to determine whether their stiff-neckedness would continue or would succumb. If they interpreted their triumph properly, as the gift of free grace, they would settle down after it to grateful obedience.
V. THE INVASION IS A TYPE OF DIVINE GRACE MANIFESTED STILL. Sinners are like the Israelites, with nothing in the way of merit to recommend them. But God comes in his gospel and offers them a complete victory over sin, Satan, and the world, as a free gift. These enemies seem gigantic like the Canaanites. We could not overcome them in our own strength; but greater is he that is for us than all that be against us. We find ourselves coming off more than conquerors through him that loved us. And every spiritual victory is meant to test and strengthen us. It should increase our gratitude and ensure increased obedience. It is well, moreover, to remember that the triumphs now are granted as free gifts, not as rewards of merit. After we have as disciples done our very best, we should be ready to acknowledge that we are only unprofitable servants, we have only done what it was our duty to do. God is able to give us the victory over our greatest enemies, but he will do so in such a way as to secure the heartfelt gratitude and homage of his believing people. He is a faithful Promiser; having made the promise to Abrabam, Isaac, and Jacob, he will not forsake their seed, but give the victory in his own time and way to all who trust him. - R.M.E.
Deuteronomy 8:17). Yet more extraordinary was the delusion that he had been brought into the land on account of righteousness. The two errors sprang from the same root. The worldly mind, which spurns at the acknowledgment of God's bestowal of what it has, has its counterpart in the self-righteous mind, which attributes God's dealings with it to its superior sanctity. Self-exaltation, pride, in both. In the one case, "my power," etc., in the other, "my righteousness."
I. THE NATURE OF THE ERROR. A magnified opinion of one's righteousness. The idea that it is our righteousness which is the meritorious ground of the bestowal of blessing. The Jews might not suppose that they were absolutely righteous - though some of the later Pharisees seem almost to have got this length (Luke 18:11). But they thought that they were so far righteous as to have established a claim on God's justice for what they had. This is a state of mind into which men glide half unconsciously. We often say it "in our hearts," when we would be ashamed to avow it with our lips. The self-complacency, e.g. which accepts prosperity as the reward of superior virtue; the self-satisfaction which esteems such reward due to it; the complaint of injustice which is raised when blessings are removed, - betray its presence. In the spiritual sphere, the tendency is evidenced in the denial of the need of salvation; in the self-justifying spirit which refuses to accept the position of one condemned, and justly exposed to wrath; in the reassertion in subtler or coarser forms of the principle of salvation by works. In whatever degree a man thinks himself entitled to acceptance with God, and to spiritual blessings, whether on the ground of obedience to prescribed rules, or on the ground of internal characteristics (faith, holiness, etc.), he is permitting himself to fall into this error.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE ERROR. The Israelites might fall into it:
1. By emphasizing their acts of obedience and forgetting their rebellions. This, as Moses shows, is practically what they did. It is not an uncommon fault. We forget our sins, and, thinking only of obediences, slide by easy stages into a self-satisfied and pleased view of ourselves.
2. By comparing themselves with the former generation. They had not been, as their fathers were, absolutely disobedient and recalcitrant. They were going up to possess the land. This comparing of ourselves with others is not wise. If a little in advance of our neighbors, it is extremely apt to inflate our consciousness of integrity (2 Corinthians 10:12).
3. By arguing from the fulfillment of promise. God had promised victory and possession on condition of obedience. Having got the blessings, they might argue that, in God's judgment, they must have been obedient. We, in like manner, may argue from God's kindness to us that we must have been peculiarly, pleasing to him. Hence that we are deserving of what we have received. The spring of all is the natural egoism of the heart. It is its own center. It wishes to exalt and glorify itself. It has no idea of glorying only in God. It is self-exalting, not God-exalting (1 Corinthians 1:29-31; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:7-10).
III. THE REFUTATION OF THE ERROR. Even perfect righteousness would not justify self-righteousness. The very indulgence of the self-glorying spirit refutes the contention of righteousness. Whoever is the righteous man, it is not he who boasts of righteousness!
"For merit lives from man to man, 1. We are not righteous. The only justifying righteousness is a perfect one, and that no man can plead. The legal ground is destroyed when we admit failure in even one point (James 2:10). 2. We are, in many ways, disobedient and rebellious. Past acts testify against us. Our daily life testifies against us. He knows little of self who does not read, in his disinclinations to duty, in his reluctant performances, in his rebellions at difficulties, in his secret impatience, in his frequent inclining to things forbidden, the signs of a wayward and rebellious disposition. The true ground on which blessing is bestowed is wrapped up in that old oath sworn to the fathers (ver. 5), in the seed of Christ, in whom only we have acceptance. - J.O.
1. We are not righteous. The only justifying righteousness is a perfect one, and that no man can plead. The legal ground is destroyed when we admit failure in even one point (James 2:10).
2. We are, in many ways, disobedient and rebellious. Past acts testify against us. Our daily life testifies against us. He knows little of self who does not read, in his disinclinations to duty, in his reluctant performances, in his rebellions at difficulties, in his secret impatience, in his frequent inclining to things forbidden, the signs of a wayward and rebellious disposition. The true ground on which blessing is bestowed is wrapped up in that old oath sworn to the fathers (ver. 5), in the seed of Christ, in whom only we have acceptance. - J.O.
I. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF ITS OBJECT, VIZ. OF GOD. Discourtesy to a king is a graver offence than discourtesy to an equal. Sacrilege is worse than common theft.
1. This was sin against a known God. The evidence of his existence had been made as clear to them as noonday. The main attributes of his character had been plainly revealed, especially power and justice and goodness. They could not wear a mask of pretended ignorance.
2. He had been to them a most generous God. For their release signal power had been displayed. The course of nature had apparently been interrupted. To deliver them hosts had been destroyed, and the majestic hand of God had supplied their daily meal.
3. He had been a much-suffering God. They had been like petulant, discontented children; and he had been to them a pitiful and indulgent Father. In the midst of needful supply they had been basely unthankful. They had wounded him in the tenderest parts of his nature, insulted his majesty, spurned his laws, and covered him with contempt. Yet he had spared them. He had imposed on himself strong restraints, so that righteous anger should not break forth. The noblest features of human love are but feeble reflections of his patient compassion; and against such a God their sin was hurled.
4. He had been a God in covenant with them - their God.
II. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. We perceive things best when placed in absolute contrast.
1. There was the sin of inattention. God had deigned to speak, but they "would not hear." The ear had been fashioned for this special end that they might hear God's voice; they had abused and injured the delicate faculty. They that will not hear shall not hear.
2. There was the sin of ingratitude. We can conceive of no baser sin than this. 'Tis a double crime - a violation of heart and conscience.
3. There was the sin of disbelief. The God of truth had promised, but they had treated his word as a lie. They had enjoyed ocular demonstration of his faithfulness, yet they trusted their own fears and fancies rather than their God.
4. There was the sin of overt rebellion. They professed to regard God as their Leader and King; yet, as soon as service was irksome to flesh and blood, they resented his authority. Once and again they chose human leaders in opposition to the Supreme King.
5. There was the sin of self-will. Their characteristic sin was "stiff-neckedness." "Our wills are our own," said they in substance; "who is Lord over us?"
III. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGE.
1. Theirs was sin against the light. While others had only the light that comes through nature, they had possessed the light of special revelation. They had not appreciated the light. In various measures they had preferred the darkness.
2. It was sin against the inner light of conscience - sin against personal convictions of duty. They had trifled with the regal voice of conscience, and bribed it to be silent. They had encouraged appetite and passion to speak, and their clamorous voices had prevailed.
3. Theirs was sin against faithful warning. The penalties of contumacy had been prominently set before them. The hints of nature and the dark presages of conscience had both supplemented by the clear announcements of Divine warning. For the fascinating fruit of present pleasure they risked expulsion from the garden - loss of the great inheritance.
4. It was sin against covenant engagements. They had made an overt treaty with God to serve him. When the Voice from heaven had spoken at Sinai, they had quaked and said, "All that the Lord our God shall speak unto us will we do." Every step in their deliverance had been taken on the understanding that they would be loyal servants of the heavenly King. Thus every element of wickedness was mingled in their conduct. And is it not in ours also?
5. It was sin in the very presence of God - sin at Sinai.
IV. REMEMBER SIN IN THE LIGHT OF EXPERIENCE.
1. They had seen the direful effects of disobedience in others. Their eyes had beheld what God did to the Egyptians for their impious arrogance. They had seen their own comrades die for their petulant murmurings. They had seen a host of people slain for idolatry. Poisonous serpents had slain a myriad. The earth had opened and swallowed the sons of Korah. Their own memories contained abundant records that the fruit of transgression was death. Yet they sinned still.
2. They had seen the rewards of obedience among themselves. So long as they had followed the precepts of Jehovah they had prospered. They had sprinkled their doorposts with the Paschal blood, and the angel of destruction had spared their firstborn. They had crossed the Red Sea by a perilous path, and had gained a mighty triumph. They had followed Moses into the wilderness, and had been daily fed by a miraculous hand. It was obvious that obedience secured blessing. They had seen Moses exalted to regal power by virtue of his unwavering faith in God.
3. They had felt the scourge of Divine anger for their own follies. For eight and thirty years they had sojourned in the wilderness beyond what was needful, because they would not believe God's promise. A thousand ills had afflicted them, every one of which was a chastisement for sin. Yet they dallied and coquetted with the accursed thing, as if it were a pleasant toy. And are we any better than they? If unpardoned, memory is preparing a scourge of scorpions with which to chastise us. "Son, remember!" - D.
I. THEIR REBELLION HAD BEEN CONTINUAL. (Vers. 7, 24.) It would seem that the pilgrimage of the people had been one long rebellion - God manifesting his mercy, man manifesting his ingratitude. And may this not be said of all the Lord's people? They have been rebellious in the midst of manifold mercy.
II. THE SIN AT HOREB WAS A SPECIAL PROVOCATION. (Vers. 8-12.) So grievous had it been that God threatened them with destruction. It took place while the media-tot was, through fasting and prayer, receiving the Law. The circumstances made it more aggravated. And it is well to remember our special provocations of God, if we are thereby strengthened against a repetition of them.
III. THE DANGER INCURRED BY ISRAEL WAS VERY GREAT. (Vers. 13, 14.) God proposed to consume them in a moment, and to make of Moses a nation greater and mightier than they. It was at once a testimony to the enormity of their sin and a test of the magnanimity of Moses. Instead of accepting the great opportunity, he set himself to intercede for the pardon of their sin.
IV. IT INVOLVED THE BREAKING OFF OF COVENANT RELATIONS. (Vers. 15-17.) The two stone tables were the sign of the covenant existing between God and them. Moses had just been negotiating the settlement. But now one party had proved unfaithful, and so he had them broken before their eyes. Their idolatry had broken the commandments, and so the relations between God and them were meanwhile at an end.
V. THE INTERCESSION WAS PROLONGED AND SUCCESSFUL. (Vers. 18-21, 25-29.) The intercession of Moses was even more severe than the previous mediation. The second period of forty days and nights was a most severe ordeal through which to pass. It shows that intercession is most laborious duty, if adequately discharged. It shows, moreover, that the intercession of Christ, of which that of Moses was typical, is a most serious and severe service. It has been very properly called the prolongation of the atonement; just as the atonement is a most magnificent intercession (cf. Dr. Hugh Martin on 'The Atonement,' pp. 104-168). The two are complementary. The agony of Moses on the mount must have been most severe and trying - death under ordinary conditions is nothing to it.
VI. OTHER REBELLIONS OF A MINOR CHARACTER MUST ALSO BE NOTICED. (Vers. 22, 23.) Taberah, Massah, Kibroth-hattaavah, and Kadesh were all scenes of rebellion against the Lord. The history was a sad one, but the remembrance of it would humble them, and fit them for that complete reliance upon the Lord on which their triumph must rest. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he will exalt you in due time. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." This is the law for nations as well as for individuals. Salvation and victory are through paths of humiliation, which make all the sweeter the blessing when it comes. Sin is thus sanctified in the remembrance when it leads to humiliation and victory beyond it. - R.M.E.
I. THE ENORMITY OF THIS SIN.
1. It was a sin committed immediately after solemn covenant with God (ver. 9). The transactions recorded in Exodus 24:3-9 were not yet forty days old. The people had literally heard God speaking to them. They had acknowledged the solemnity of the situation by entreating Moses to act as mediator. They had formally, and under awful impressions of God's majesty, pledged themselves to life-long obedience. Yet within that brief space of time they broke through all restraints, and violated the main stipulation of their agreement, by setting up and worshipping the golden calf. A transgression showing greater levity, temerity, deadness to spiritual feeling, and perversity of disposition, it would be difficult to conceive. Perhaps the case is not a solitary one. Can none remember instances of solemn vows, of sacred engagements, of deep impressions, almost as soon forgotten, almost as recklessly followed up by acts of flagrant transgression?
2. It was a sin committed while Moses was in the mount, transacting for them (vers. 9-12). Moses, for an obvious reason, rehearses the circumstances of his stay in the mount, and of his interview with God. He had gone to receive the tables of the Law. He recalls, as in striking contrast with the levity of the multitudes below, his rapt communion of forty days and nights. Sin needs a background to bring it out in its full enormity. That background is furnished in these details. The people are pointed to the tables as the rule of the obedience they had pledged themselves to render. They are reminded that their sin was perpetrated at a time when God was yet transacting with them, and when their minds ought to have been filled with very different thoughts. Do we reflect on the aggravation given to our own sins by the presence of our Mediator in the heavenly mount, and by the ceaseless and holy work he is there conducting on our behalf?
3. It was a sin of daring enormity in itself. The making of the golden calf, after what had happened, can only be characterized as an act of shocking impiety. The worship was doubtless accompanied by profane and lewd revelings. This under the eye of their God and King.
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SIN.
1. It involved the forfeiture of covenant privilege, signified by the breaking of the tables of the Law (ver. 17). This was the first light in which the Israelites had to view it. It refuted their idea that they got the land in virtue of their righteousness. True, the sin had been committed by the preceding generation, but the covenant being national, and laying obligations on all, involved them as well as their parents in the consequences of disobedience. If they stood still in covenant relation, it was of God's mercy which had restored them. For a time that covenant was actually broken. Nor, if that argument was necessary, had they failed in their own persons to renew the deed of apostasy (ver. 22). Every believer feels that his standing before God is likewise of pure grace. Were sins imputed to him to his condemnation, he could not stand a single hour.
2. It provoked God to hot displeasure (vers. 19, 20). As all daring and presumptuous sin does.
3. But for Moses intercession, it would have involved them in destruction (vers. 14, 19, 20). This was no mere drama acted between God and Moses, but a most real wrath, averted by the real and earnest intercession of a godly man. Had Moses not interceded, the people would have been destroyed. Not that we are to conceive God as swayed by human passions, or as requiring to be soothed down by human entreaty. But sin does awaken his displeasure. There burns in his nature a holy wrath against it, which, when he decrees to consume his adversaries, is not to be laid aside save on such ground as we have here. It is the existence of wrath in God which gives reality to propitiation and meaning to his mercy. Learn:
(1) How evil sin is in the sight of God.
(2) How fearful in its results to the transgressor.
(3) How mighty intercession is in procuring pardon. - J.O.
I. MEDIATION CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE INTERESTS OF BOTH PARTIES. Moses had at heart the honor of God - the maintenance of his just rule, while he also identified himself with the well-being of the Hebrews. If there be, on the part of the mediator, a leaning to the interests of the one party rather than the other, his office will fail. One party or both will reject him. His mission proceeds on the ground that there is an advantage common to both to be obtained by reconciliation. There is a point where God's interests and man's touch and blend. The business is to find that point, and to persuade both parties there to meet.
II. MEDIATION IS ITSELF A FRUIT OF DIVINE MERCY. The disposition in the heart of Moses to intercede was a disposition implanted by God, and all the energy with which he pursued this mission was energy sustained from heaven. Further, the willingness, on the part of God, to allow any suit on behalf of rebels, was an act of pure mercy. It is no less absurd than profane to speak of man, the mediator, as showing more benevolence than God. The whole arrangement is one of purest kindness, and Moses was richly blest in his generous undertaking.
III. MEDIATION REQUIRES THE MOST COMPLETE SELF-SACRIFICE. For forty days and forty nights Moses was prostrate before the Lord. Personal needs, personal interests, personal honor, were all forgotten. Here was the completest devotion of himself to this cause. There is a profound mystery in this number of forty. It is not a natural cycle. Like the number seven, it is sacred to religion. For forty days and nights Moses waited before God, undergoing spiritual receptiveness for the revelation of his will. For forty years the Hebrews dwelt in the wilderness. For forty days Elijah tarried in Horeb. For forty days Jesus endured the temptations of the desert. For forty days he abode with men subsequent to his resurrection. All that human nature could endure, Moses endured to obtain pardon for Israel. For if pardon be too cheaply bought, it is not valued. Only in the lurid light of sin's curse do we see the glory of forgiveness.
IV. MEDIATION ACKNOWLEDGES SIN TO THE FULL. There is no extenuation of the deed, no paring down its dimensions, no cloaking any part of its baseness, no endeavors to put other colors on it than its own. It is because sin is so malignant and so ruinous that it is so desirable to rescue the sinner from its awful spell. It is because it is so dishonoring to God that it is worth while, at any price, to remove it from his universe. The anger of Jehovah is no mere passing or capricious feeling. It is sentiment arising out of the most righteous principle. Such anger against sin is essential to the Godhead. We need not be afraid of the introduction of anthropomorphic conceptions. The longer Moses remained prostrate before God, the clearer came into view Israel's sin in the light of the Divine purity.
V. MEDIATION INCLUDES THE LARGEST REPARATION. The mission of Moses as mediator had a part manward as well as Godward. The whole work was not done upon his knees. With both his hands he brake and burnt the graven image, dishonored the deity they had fashioned, reduced it to powdered dust. This would expose the impotence of the idol, the vanity of the idol system, and the insane folly of presenting to such a molten image Divine honors. Nor was this all. The fine dust that remained after the burning was cast into the brook, so that they were compelled to drink it in the exigency of their thirst. St. Paul tells us that the rock from which this stream flowed symbolized Christ; hence we see, in a figure, how the living stream from him, the Fount, bears away our sin into oblivion. Repentance upon our part is not thorough, nor sincere, unless we make whatever reparation is within our reach,
VI. MEDIATION EMBRACES VERBAL INTERCESSION. The final outcome of mediation is prayer. "Father, forgive them!" said the dying Savior. "He ever liveth to intercede."
1. Moses pleads God's proprietorship in this recreant people. "They are thine inheritance." "The Lord's portion is his people." From them he shall obtain more satisfaction than from planets and stars and suns.
2. God's self-consistency is an argument in prayer, he had already redeemed them from Egyptian bondage. He had taken great pains with them hitherto, and had expended great power on their behalf. And he had not done this in ignorance. The latent evil in their hearts he had perceived. The future of their lives he had foreseen. Hence it would be consistent with his past favors to dispense fresh mercy.
3. God's covenant and promises are proper arguments in prayer. He loves to be reminded of his engagements, because this remembrance deepens our sense of his faithfulness. He had engaged to bring this people to the land of promise, not for their sakes, however obedient they might be, but for their fathers' sakes. Hence their rebelliousness did not vitiate the original engagement; and although individuals might justly be destroyed - yea, that whole generation - still the posterity of Abraham must eventually enter the land.
4. The reputation and credit of God form also staple arguments in prayer for others. The natural effect produced on men's minds by God's dealings must be taken into account. Our God is not indifferent to the homage and praise of men. It is to him a great delight to receive the incense of heartfelt love. His reputation in his universe is a very precious thing, and it becomes us on all occasions to guard it well. He has formed us into a people for this very purpose, "that we should show forth his praise."
VII. HUMAN MEDIATION, IF EARNEST AND PERSEVERING, SUCCEEDS. "The Lord hearkened unto me at that time also." Here is great encouragement for our intercession now! Abraham did not cease to gain successes for Sodom until he ceased to pray; and had he continued, possibly the city might have been spared. What genuine and honest intercession has ever failed? "The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Every instance of successful intercession recorded in history is a cordial to revive our drooping faith. Is not God even now waiting to hear human intercession, that he may do great things for his Church? "Give him no rest, till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." - D.
I. IN THE SPIRIT OF IT:
1. How absolutely disinterested (ver. 14)! He sets aside, without even taking notice of it, the most glorious offer ever made to mortal man - "I will make of thee a nation," etc.
2. How intensely earnest (ver. 18)! Moses feared greatly. He had a most overwhelming sense of the reality of the wrath he sought to avert. But his heart was agonizing to save his nation, and he seemed to clasp the feet of God in the spirit of one who would not, could not leave, tilt he obtained what he sought. A lesson in prayer.
3. How perseveringly prolonged (ver. 25)! He prayed by his silence as well as by his speech. The whole scene is a striking illustration of the intercession of the Savior.
II. IN THE MATTER OF IT. It is not much, as M. Henry remarks, that he can say for them. He appeals, however, to three principles in the Divine character which really govern the Divine action.
1. To God's regard for his own work (ver. 26). The finishing of work he had begun (Philippians 1:6).
2. To God's regard for his own servants (ver. 27). The love he bears to the fathers (Deuteronomy 4:81; 10:15).
3. To God's regard for his own honor (ver. 28). He cannot bear to think of God's action being misconstrued - of God's honor being compromised. Points in God's heart on which all intercession may lay hold. - J.O.