Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Lawgiver had passed away, the Soldier-Dictator had also been gathered to his fathers, and now it devolved upon a simply appointed but sacredly authoritative constitutional assembly to carry into effect the purposes of their predecessors. Compare with this the rise of parliamentary influence in Europe, and especially in England.
I. THE MODIFICATION OF GOVERNMENT. Sometimes this is sudden, sometimes gradual. Here it does not affect the essential principle of the theocracy. There is something very pathetic in the spectacle of an orphaned nation appealing to the "God of their fathers." It was not an extraordinary outburst of reverence and religious humility, but the beginning of a habitual and necessary practice. The voice of Jehovah through his authorised representatives was the supreme law for Israel.
1. It behoves all nations and individuals to ask God for wisdom and direction, especially at such times of transition. The altered conditions of life; the transfer of legislative authority; the attainment of mature years; a youth's leaving home; the death of parents, guardians, rulers, etc., are reasons for a closer walk with God, and a more attentive heed to his word.
2. Responsibility is inevitably transferred with authority. A sacred war is the legacy of the fathers of Israel to the children. If they are disposed to lag in its carrying forward, untoward events prick them on, and discomfort and disorder increase the necessity for action. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." The peasant envies the king, the child the parent, only to be in turn regarded with a greater envy by those they assume to be fortunate and happy. Authority tempers and chastens power. The assumption of the latter without regard to its obligations is a profane and wicked thing, and must in the end defeat itself. Responsibility is the moral and religious side of authority; duty of right. In no case has a ruler or government lightly to regard inherited responsibilities. Freedom is not the result of violent changes, but "broadens slowly down from precedent to precedent." That one has had no part or choice in the making of an agreement or the inauguration of a policy is no reason by itself for repudiation. What is wrong must be put right, and false steps retraced; but the practicable policy of the present is generally a modification of the former and traditional one, rather than entire departure from it. The oneness of responsibility in past and present, ought to be carefully observed, and acknowledged even where changes are introduced. None of us makes his own circumstances. Most of them are inherited. Our duties are often born before ourselves, awaiting us in the appointed time.
3. The advantages and disadvantages of a plurality of rulers are here illustrated.
(1) Where there are several or many in power there is a representation of popular views and interests,
(2) the advantage of collective and deliberative wisdom, and
(3) mutual stimulus and emulation.
On the other hand,
(1) they are liable to jealousies and envies,
(2) it is difficult to preserve a good understanding,
(3) they are more subject to popular panics, and
(4) are unlikely to take a bold initiative.
II. UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE SUPREME AUTHORITY. Under all circumstances the ideal government for Israel must ever be the theocracy. Moses, Joshua, the elders, the judges, the kings - these are but the human representatives of the absolute and Divine; they are but the stewards of a heavenly mystery, holding authority from the Supreme, and liable at his bidding to restore it again. Paul (Romans 13:1-5) summarises the general aspects of this principle: - "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of. God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he is the minister of God to thee for good Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake."
1. This must be recognised by human delegates. The elders immediately and publicly "asked Jehovah." The force of the original expression is that no time was lost. Only as he led them could they be preserved from error.
2. To make men subject to the Supreme must ever be the goal of their efforts. Their whole policy will be, therefore, in a wide sense evan- gelical, viz., to bring men to God, to deepen their reverence for truth, righteousness, purity, and to encourage a personal attachment to Christ as the embodiment of these. - M.
I. THE LEADERSHIP IS MADE KNOWN THROUGH PRAYER AND INQUIRY. As yet no tribe had premier rank amongst its fellows. God must decide who shall go up first. He is the fountain of honour, and he must be approached by the wonted avenues. Accordingly, the priest or the prophet is called upon to exercise his functions. There is something very beautiful and pathetic in this united asking of Jehovah by the tribes. Where God is acknowledged as the Supreme Arbiter, harmony is certain to prevail. It is well for Christians to submit all their anxieties to their Divine Father. So we find the early disciples praying after their Master's ascension. And the Church at Antioch observed a like rule ere it sent its missionaries forth to the region beyond. Spiritual work must ever be prefaced by prayer; and although God may not declare the leaders of it by a special utterance, tokens will be given which will enable them to be discovered.
II. IT IS RENDERED OBLIGATORY BY A "CALL." We are not informed as to the precise manner in which the will of God was made known. Probably the Urim and Thummim were consulted. Joshua is never mentioned as doing this; like Moses, he receives the word of God directly. The leaders of Israel receive the word of God from the priest, and the response is not oracular, but clear and definite. A twofold advantage pertained to this decision. It obtained for the chosen one the recognition of his brethren, and confirmed his own faith. An articulate supernatural "call" is not always required for undertaking God's work, but we have a right to demand of those who assume the lead in spiritual things that they shall have clear and unmistakable proof of a vocation. And it stands to reason that one who feels a "necessity laid upon him" to do certain spiritual work shall be more likely to succeed in it.
III. THE DIVINE CHOICE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE CHARACTER AND PAST CAREER OF ITS SUBJECT, This is not to say that these furnish a reason for it. With regard to all Divine work it may well be asked, "Who is sufficient for these things?" But frequently human insight and experience justify Divine measures, so far as they go. It was Judah who delivered Joseph from the pit. He confessed his sins (Genesis 38:26). Jacob intrusted Benjamin to his care, and blessed him in the words - "Thy brethren praise thee; the sceptre shall not depart from Judah." His tribe became the most numerous and warlike (Numbers 2.); and of the commissioners appointed to allot the land, the representative of Judah is first mentioned (Numbers 34:19). But above all, it was Judah and Ephraim alone who furnished the spies that gave a faithful account of the land - Caleb and Joshua. The former still lived, chief of the tribe of Judah. Ephraim, the tribe of Joshua, being already settled, Judah's turn crones next. We see therefore that although human merit cannot be said to determine Divine appointments, the latter will often be found to run in the same line. - M.
I. THE MOST USEFUL MEN ARE OFTEN CALLED AWAY BEFORE THEIR WORK IS FINISHED. The measure of work which God requires of them may always be accomplished, for he sets no task for which he does not supply all needful talents and opportunities. But the work which a man aims at accomplishing, which he sees needing to be done, which men trust him to achieve for them, is commonly greater than his time and powers allow of perfect performance.
1. This fact should teach the most active workers
(1) diligence, since at the best they can never overtake their work, and
(2) humility, in the thought of the little that the ablest can accomplish compared with what he aims at.
2. This fact should lead all men
(1) not to lean too much on any one individual,
(2) to be ready to welcome new men,
(3) to train children to take the places of their parents.
II. THE DEATH OF GREAT MEN SHOULD INSPIRE US WITH A DESIRE TO CONTINUE THEIR UNFINISHED WORK.
1. It is foolish to be content with idle panegyrics, as though we could live for ever on the glory of the past. Life must not be spent in a dreamy contemplation of the sunset, however brilliant this may be. While we gaze the radiance fades; night will soon fall. We must be up and preparing for shelter under the darkness, and for work in a new day.
2. It is weak to sink into mere regrets and despondency. We do not honour the dead by wasting our lives in barren grief. When the great and good are gone the future may look blank and hopeless; but God is still with us, and he will still provide for us. Therefore we should do as Israel did. Not satisfied with the glory of Joshua's victories, nor stunned by the blow of his death, the people look forward, seek for guidance for the future, and endeavour to continue his unfinished work. The richest legacy we can receive from the great is the unfinished task which drops from their dying hands. The noblest monument we can erect to their memory will be the completion of that task; the most honourable epitaph we can write for them will be the story of the good works for which their lives and examples have inspired their successors.
III. As POSTS OF RESPONSIBILITY BECOME VACANT, IT IS WISE TO SEEK THE GUIDANCE OF GOD IN THE CHOICE OF NEW MEN TO OCCUPY THEM. After the death of Joshua Israel consulted "the Eternal." It is a blessing that the loss of our most trusted earthly friends should drive us to the refuge of the great heavenly Friend. In the present case new leaders do not now arise by selfish ambition, nor are they chosen by popular election. The selection of them is referred to God. Israel thus recognises its constitution as a theocracy. Every nation should consider itself under a supreme theocracy. Political leaders should be chosen by a Christian nation only after prayer for Divine guidance. Much more evident is it that the selection of men for service in spiritual things, as ministers, as missionaries, etc., should not be left to the mere inclination of the individual or the unaided human judgment of others, but determined after the most earnest prayer for Divine light (Acts 1:24). Note - such a method of election implies a willingness that the chosen leaders should be called to do God's will, not merely to humour the popular caprice.
IV. WHEN GREAT MEN ARE TAKEN AWAY IT IS OFTEN THE CASE THAT NO MEN OF EQUAL ABILITY ARE FOUND TO SUCCEED THEM. Joshua was not equal to Moses, but he was still well able to take the staff of leadership from his master's hand. But Joshua left no successor. Nothing but anarchy faced the nation "after the death of Joshua" - it seemed as though there could be no 'after." There are advantages in the absence, of great men. The multitude may become indolent, trusting too much to the work of the few. When these are removed men are thrown back on their own resources; thus the courage and energy of the whole people is put on trial. Yet on the whole we must feel that it is better to have the great among us. The death of Joshua is the signal for the decadence of the nation from its ancient heroic glory. Therefore let us pray that God will continue the race of good and great men: and seek to educate and discover such among the young. Let us be thankful that our Joshua - Christ - will never be taken from his people (Matthew 28:20). - A.
I. IN SPIRITUAL UNDERTAKINGS THE GREATER SHOULD EVER CONSIDER THE LESS. It is in this way that our Saviour's injunction, "Let him that would be chief among you be as him that serveth," is often best interpreted. The onus of brotherly consideration and charitable construction is with the stronger because of the advantage they already possess. It is also the more to be admired in them because of the rarity of its exercise. On this occasion Judah lost nothing, and Simeon secured a powerful ally, and an opportunity of distinction. Besides this, the kindliest sentiments were encouraged on either side.
II. BY COMMENCING IN THIS SPIRIT IT IS THE MORE LIKELY THAT MORAL ELEVATION, MAGNANIMITY, AND BROTHERLY AFFECTION WILL BE PRESERVED ALL THROUGH. The waiving of personal precedence is not only graceful, it has a tendency to perpetuate itself. Our future work takes its character from the first step.
III. IT IS AN EXAMPLE TO OUR BRETHREN, AND A WITNESS BEFORE THE WORLD TO THE UNITY OF GOD'S PEOPLE. Spiritual men above all others should not first ask, "What is our right?" but, "What is our obligation, and how can we best illustrate the spirit of the Master?" The tone was set to all the other tribes, and jealousy either at Judah or one another checked ere it appeared. True unity was the strength and safety of Israel. That the neighbouring nations were impressed with the spirit of brotherhood and unity in Israel there is abundant proof. They felt they were dealing not with a mere aggregate of numbers, but with a whole inspired by common sentiment and religious enthusiasm. It is this spirit which most perfectly realises the aim of Christ's kingdom, and his prayer "that they all may be one;" "that they may be made perfect in one." - M.
I. IN THE ABSENCE OF UNITY OF AUTHORITY WE SHOULD SEEK FOR UNION OF SYMPATHY. After the death of Joshua the loss of leadership endangers the national unity of Israel. In the text we see how two tribes, no longer united by a common government, draw together for mutual help. The union of free attraction is nobler than that of external compulsion. The highest unity of Christendom is to be found not in the Roman Catholic organisation of a central authority and uniformity of creed and worship, but in the spiritual conception of common sympathies and common aims.
II. BROTHERLY KINDNESS IS A PECULIARLY CHRISTIAN GRACE, Love of the brethren is a proof of regeneration (1 John 3:14). The law of Christ as contrasted with the barren Levitical law of ordinances is characteristically summed up in the obligation to "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2).
1. This implies active help. Simeon and Judah went to battle for an inheritance. Mere feelings of sympathy are wasted sentiments unless they lead to active and fruitful service.
2. This implies sacrifice. The Simeonites and men of Judah risked their lives for the benefit of one another. Cheap charity is worthless charity.. Our brotherly kindness is of little value till it costs us something - involves pare, loss, sacrifice. Christ is the great example of this. It is our mission to follow Christ here if we would be his true disciples (Philippians 2:4-8).
3. This implies mutual help. Judah helps Simeon; Simeon in turn helps Judah. Charity is often too one-sided. The poor and needy can often make more return than appears possible if invention is quickened by gratitude. A miserable penitent could wash the feet of Christ with her tears (Luke 7:38).
III. THE WORK OF LIFE IS BEST DONE BY UNION AND CO-OPERATION OF WORKERS. Judah and Simeon conquer their two possessions by union. Both might have failed had they acted singly. "Union is strength." The advantage of mutual help is seen in trade, in manufactures, in education, in the advance of civilisation generally. The spirit of Cain is fatal to all progress (Genesis 4:9). The same applies to Christian work. Therefore Christ founded the Church. Though Christianity is based on individualism, it works through social agencies. The society of Christians, the Christian family, find means of useful effort which private Christians could never attain, e.g. in the Sunday school, foreign and home missions, the work of Bible and tract societies. Simeon and Judah united to conquer their several lots successively. So it is sometimes wisest for us to unite and do together one work well at one time, rather than to spread our divided energies over a wide field of weak agencies. The river which runs out over a broad plain may be swallowed up in the sands of the desert, while that which flows in a narrow channel is strong and deep. - A.
I. THERE IS A LAW OF RETRIBUTION.
1. The desire for retribution is instinctive. It is one of the elementary ideas of justice. To those who have no vision of a higher law, the execution of this is not a cruel crime of vengeance, but a righteous exercise of justice.
2. The fitness of retribution is not affected by the motive of those who accomplish it. It is possible that the Israelites were ignorant of the old crimes of Adoni-bezek, and may have been guilty of wanton cruelty in treating him as they did. If so, his wickedness was no excuse for their barbarity. But then their harsh intentions did not affect the justice of the king's sufferings. God often uses the crime of one man as a means of punishing the crime of another. He does not originate or sanction the retributive crime, but he overrules it, and so turns the wrath of man to the praise of his righteous government. Thus Nebuchadnezzar was no better than an ambitious tyrant in his conquest of Jerusalem; yet he was the unconscious agent of a Divine decree of justice.
3. Sin will surely bring retribution.
(1) No rank will secure us against this. The sufferer in this case was a king.
(2) No time will wear out guilt. It is likely that Adoni-bezek had committed his crimes in bygone years, as he referred to them in a way which suggests that the memory of them was suddenly aroused by his own experience.
4. Retribution often bears a resemblance to the crimes it follows. The lex talionis seems to be mysteriously embedded in the very constitution of nature. The intemperate slave of bodily pleasures brings on himself bodily disease; cruelty provokes cruelty; suspicion arouses distrust. As a man sows so will be reap (Galatians 6:7, 8).
5. One of the most fearful elements of future retribution will be found in an evil memory. Men bury their old sins out of sight. They will be exhumed in all their corruption. The justice of the retribution will then increase the sting of it (Luke 16:25).
II. THE HIGHER CHRISTIAN LAW OF LOVE. Christianity does not abolish the terrible natural laws of retributive justice, but it reveals higher principles which can counteract the disastrous effects of 'those stern laws, and a more excellent way than that of zealously advocating the execution of them.
2. The highest purpose of punishment is seen to consist in the preservation and the restoration of righteousness - not in the mere balancing of sin with pain. Punishment is not an end in itself. The vengeance which seeks satisfaction to outraged honour in the humiliation of its victim is as unworthy of the character of God as it is foreign to the principles of Christian duty. Punishment is a means to an end, and that end is not mere revenge, but the deterring of others from evil, and, where possible, the restoration of the fallen (Hebrews 12:5, 6, 11).
3. In the gospel forgiveness is offered for all sin. The law is not evaded; it is honoured in the sacrifice of Christ. Now he has borne the sin of the world he can also release the world from its fatal effects. Therefore, though the thunder-cloud of retribution may seem as dark as ever, if we only look high enough we shall see the rainbow of God's mercy above it promising peace and forgiveness to all who repent and trust in his grace (Acts 13:38, 39). - A.
I. THERE IS A CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN EVERY SIN AND ITS PUNISHMENT. This may be taken as a conviction more universal in its influence than religion itself. Yet it is not wholly reducible to experience. It is as truly rooted in faith as any other axiom of the spiritual life. In order to reinforce it we have
(1) what may be termed pictorial illustrations of it. The traditions and histories of the world are full of these. Neoptolemus murdered at the altar, and at the altar he was murdered ('Pausanias,' 4:17, 3); Phaleris roasted men in a brazen bull, and in like manner was he himself punished ('Cesta Romans,' 48.). Bajazet carried about by Tamerlane in an iron cage, as he intended to have done Tamerlane. Cardinal Beaton, upon whom Wishart's sufferings were avenged in a violent death, etc., etc. This affects the popular imagination more powerfully than any direct proof; and hence the crowd of real or fancied instances that have been recorded. It is in the light of this conception probably that Exodus 18:11 is to be interpreted.
(2) The principle reveals itself it, the history of nations and individuals. Ishmael is the grand type of this. The story of the mutineers of the Bounty is still fresh in memory. And how many family records would show the family likeness of sins and their Nemesis, and the natural connection and development of the one from the other! In Judas the betrayer it shines with tragic grandeur.
(3) The confessions of sinners themselves strengthen the belief.
II. THE JUSTICE OF GOD IS FAITHFUL AND EXACT. "When the Olympian," says Homer, "does not speedily punish, he still does it later" ('Iliad,' 4:160). "The Almighty may not punish this week or next, my Lord Cardinal," said Anne of Austria to Richelieu, "but at the last he punishes." In the incidents of human life we seem to see links of an almost invisible chain connecting sin with judgment, as cause with effect. And if in the few cases we know the punishment is so finely, even dramatically, adjusted, are we not justified in believing that beneath the surface there is even a finer and more inevitable equivalency observed? It is here too we have another evidence of the superior moral influence of the doctrine of providence as compared with fate. Both are inevitable, but the former rationally and rectorially so.
III. BUT BY AWAKING REFLECTION AND REPENTANCE OUR PUNISHMENT MAY BECOME OUR SALVATION. There is a gleam of something more than fatalism in Adoni-bezek's confession. It is just possible that it betrays an unfeigned repentance. The higher law of grace may step in to rescue us from the law of vengeance. Many a soul has drawn back before the hideous vision of "sin when it bringeth forth." - M.
I. AN IDENTIFICATION OF HIMSELF WITH THE INTERESTS OF HIS TRIBE. Caleb was all Edomite, and might have enjoyed his own lot without such special effort or sacrifice. He is evidently deeply interested in the welfare and honour of his adopted tribe. This might be called a signal illustration of public spirit. And yet it is probable that Caleb himself was quite unconscious that there was anything singular in his action. As the greatest blessings to a nation arise from the public spirit of its citizens, so the greatest curses are frequently entailed by the want of it. As in warfare every soldier, however insignificant, is an influence that tells upon the success or failure of the campaign, so in a government, with representative institutions whose action hinds the nation and measures its progress, it is requisite that every citizen should actively interest himself in electing and supporting the legislative authority. The free play of an intelligent, generous, and enthusiastic public criticism will tend to the health of the whole body politic, and vice versa. Even more cogent is the need for public spirit in the church. Its honour and dishonour are ours, its success or failure. And it represents interests of the most tremendous importance. "England expects every man to do his duty" is a sentence of historic importance. Although not called upon to preach, or even to pray in public, the private member of the church ought to regard the affairs of Christ's kingdom with enthusiasm, and be prepared to make great sacrifices for its advancement:
II. HIS PROOF OF THIS IN BESTOWING ONE OF HIS MOST PRECIOUS POSSESSIONS. We do not know much about Achsah, but probably she was very beautiful. Her forethought and carefulness are described in the fourteenth and fifteenth verses. She was his only daughter, born to him in later life (1 Chronicles 2:49). That she was dear to her father we may take for granted. How much a daughter may be to a father history has frequently and strikingly shown. The grief of Jephthah for the consequences of his rash vow is recorded in this very book. Apart from the personal attractions of Achsah, the influence which might be obtained by intermarriage with the family of Caleb is not to be ignored.
III. IT WAS A SACRIFICE WHICH HAD IN IT THE SECURITY FOR ITS OWN REWARD. An offer like this was an appeal to the chivalry of the tribe. It suggested vividly that on account of which the bravery of the warrior is so necessary. The soldier who stormed such a fortress was sure to possess the noble and manly qualities and the religious zeal calculated to make a good husband. So in political and spiritual matters, generous offers and challenges appeal to what is noblest in the nature of men, and secure a loftier and more heroic response. - M.
she shall be proportionably watchful over his interests. She therefore urges her husband as he passes in triumph to Hebron to ask for the field through which they march. The thoughts of the hero are not to be directed into any such sordid channel. But she, taking advantage of the occasion as she lights from off her ass, asks her father in symbolic language to compensate her for the poverty to which he had consigned her. "Thou hast given me a south land (i.e. married me to a poor younger son); give me also springs of water." To this reasonable request Caleb makes generous response. "She slides from her ass, suddenly, as if she fell, so that her father asks, 'What is the matter with thee?' Her answer has a double sense, 'Thou gavest me away into a dry land; give me also springs'" (Cassel).
I. A BLESSING WITH A DRAWBACK. Of the bravery of Othniel there could be no question; of his poverty there could be as little. It might be honourable for her to be his wife, but she would have to suffer many sacrifices in leaving the wealthy home of her father, and her husband would have an additional burden to sustain. Are not the dispensations of providence, even when we judge them on the whole to be best for us, frequently as mysteriously qualified and limited? No man would probably care to exchange his life for another's, but "there's a crook in every lot." Material blessings generally contain within them elements of discipline, and sometimes even of punishment. But they are alike the gift of a loving father, and are to be accepted in the spirit of trust and affection.
II. COMPENSATIONS. IS the gift of Achsah's father open to grave drawbacks? It is not therefore unalterable. Something may be done to lessen its inconveniences, if not entirely to remove them. Her father is reasonable, and she at once makes appeal to his sense of what is fit and proper. Her request is granted. So with ourselves. Our heavenly Father who apportioned our lot is surely as reasonable and affectionate as any earthly one. It is for us to exercise the same wisdom as Achsah, and request that God will give us such alleviations to our portion in life, or reveal to us those that already exist. Sometimes there are compensations latent in the very circumstances of which we complain: springs of water to moisten a sun-parched soil. In any case God is able to bestow upon us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think. - M.
Infinite power may be on our side, but we may be debarred by failure of faith from making full use of it.
I. UNREALISED SPIRITUAL POWER. Many of the brutes have power greater than man, but they cannot bring it to bear. Is man never similarly unfortunate? In what sense can the power of God in the saint be unrealised? It is not power wasted or lying idle, but simply like a cheque unused. Our spiritual nature is not developed enough.
II. INSUFFICIENT REASONS FOR FAILURE OR SUCCESS. These arise from the same cause as the preceding. The tool in hands of tyro and master. The true panoply of a Church is spiritual; and its material advantages may sometimes be as Goliath's armour to David; and so may the spiritual advantages, if we do not realise them, keep ourselves in continual communion with them: and test their virtue by continual exercises of faith.
III. WAYS IN WHICH MAN LIMITS GOD. By failure of faith. By neglect of the means of grace. By personal unholiness. "God's arm is not shortened," etc., "but ye are straitened in your own selves."- M.
This is suggestive of the blessedness to be attained by Christians.
I. THE PROMISE IS COMPLETE AND ABSOLUTE TO EVERY CHRISTIAN. "This is the victory that overcometh the world even your faith." The least Christian is assured of this splendid triumph.
II. ITS REALISATION WILL DEPEND UPON THE MEASURE OF HIS FAITH, etc. The estate with a mortgage. Judah had already "fought against Jerusalem" and subdued it, at least the southern portion abutting upon, or included in, their boundary. But they did not subdue the citadel, which was in Benjamin's lot. The latter, on the other hand, are too careless, unwarlike, or indisposed to make good their possession. - M.
I. GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE IN THE BATTLE OF LIFE. God is not only the Refuge in distress and the Father of peaceful mercies; he is the Source of strength and of courage, and the Inspirer of the masculine virtues of the Church militant - he is with us in battle. God does not grant his aid from a distance, through messengers, etc.; he is present in the active exercise of his power.
1. When God calls people to any task, he will follow and help them in it. God had chosen Judah for the work of conquering the Canaanites. He also followed Judah to battle. Divine election was followed by Divine power. God never expects us to undertake any work in which he will not aid us. If he calls us to any difficult task, he will go first, and prepare the way for us, and then will accompany us in it, as our Guide and Protector.
2. They who are fruited in, the service of God have peculiar reason for expecting the presence of God. Judah and Simeon were united, and God aided them in their common task. God does not desert the solitary: e.g. Hague (Genesis 16:13), Jacob (Genesis 28:16), Elijah (1 Kings 19:9). But we have a special right to expect his presence when we co-operate in brotherly sympathy. Christ is present where two or three are met together in his name. The Holy Ghost came on the day of Pentecost, when the whole Church was assembled together (Acts 2:1).
II. THE PRESENCE OF GOD IS THE CHIEF SOURCE OF SUCCESS IN THE BATTLE OF LIFE. God was with Judah, therefore he obtained possession of the mountains. If God is with his people in their time of toil and difficulty, his presence is a security of active aid. He is with us not merely to approve, but to help. The victory comes from him. It is not all who have faith and spiritual insight to discern this truth. God does not come with a visible host and with "chariots of iron;" but his presence and aid are felt in the providential control of events; in the inspiration of strength and courage; in the enlightenment of Divine wisdom. The best human securities for success will not justify us in neglecting the help of God. Simeon and Judah were united, and were the stronger for their union; yet it was not the human strength thus obtained, but God's presence, which brought victory. There is a danger lest we should trust too much to imposing human arrangements, large societies, elaborate organisations, etc. The most splendid Christian army will be miserably defeated if it ventures to enter the field without the leadership of the "Captain of salvation."
III. THE PRESENCE OF GOD WILL NOT ALONE SECURE PERFECT AND IMMEDIATE SUCCESS. Though God was with Judah, still Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley.
1. Gears presence and aid do not dispense with human effort. It is Judah, not God, who fails. We may fail on our side of the work while God is not wanting on his.
2. God's presence does not make us entirely independent of earthly circumstances. God did not annihilate the chariots of iron. We must not expect God to work such violent miracles as shall liberate us from all the inconveniences of life.
3. Human weakness may still linger about us after we have been blessed with the aid of God's presence. The Israelites were too weak to overcome the inhabitants of the valley. Possibly they feared to face the chariots of iron. The measure of help we have from God is not limited in itself, but it is limited by our faith. If we had perfect faith we should have perfect success. But when we look away from God to the iron chariots of our foes, or, like Peter, from Christ to the threatening waves, we may fail from fear and human weakness, and God's almighty power will not then save us from defeat. - A.
I. THERE ARE MANY WHO HELP THE TRUTH FROM LOWER MOTIVES WHO MIGHT DO SO FROM HIGHER. Expediency; public benefits of religion; ties of relationship; reputation. How great the blessing to Christ's cause if the same things were done from higher motives!
II. THEY ARE BLESSED, BUT NOT AS THEY MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN. A better service would have secured a higher reward.
III. THEY CANNOT BE RELIED UPON, AND THEREFORE MAY NOT BECOME PART OF GOD'S PEOPLE. The conquering host could not trust the traitor whose help had won them the city. He must go forth with his reproach. Many churches contain the elements of weakness and ruin because they have failed to exercise a wise censorship over those admitted to their communion. The true Church is composed of those who serve God from the purest motives. - M.
I. PEOPLE IN PROSPEROUS CIRCUMSTANCES ARE FREQUENTLY TEMPTED TO FOLLOW A WORLDLY INSTEAD OF A HEAVENLY LINE OF CONDUCT, AND TO QUALIFY THE DICTATES OF OBVIOUS DUTY BY CONSIDERATIONS THAT ARE PURELY SELFISH AND PRESUMPTUOUS IN THEIR NATURE.
II. WHEN MEN THUS SHIRK OBVIOUS DUTY, THEY DO IT FROM A TWOFOLD MISCONCEPTION -
(1) of their own power and wisdom, and
(2) of the true character of that with which they tamper.
III. IN THE END THEIR FOLLY WILL MANIFEST ITSELF IN DISASTER AND RUIN. - M.
I. IT IS A SIN FOR CHRISTIANS TO REAP ADVANTAGE AT THE EXPENSE OF LOSS OR INCONVENIENCE TO THEIR BRETHREN.
II. GOD OFTEN MAKES THE UNWORTHINESS OR FAULT OF ONE OF HIS CHILDREN A DISCIPLINE TO ANOTHER.
III. BUT THIS DOES NOT FREE THE LATTER FROM THE RESPONSIBILITY OF DOING HIS BEST. Dan might be annoyed, and justly, at the indirect help given to his oppressors, but all the same he ought to have invoked the aid of Jehovah and gone forth to do battle against them. He might have delivered himself from the inconvenience to which he was subject. And so with all the indirectly produced ills of life; a heroic faith is certain to overcome them, or render them comparatively innoxious. - M.