The children of Israel asked the Lord.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?I. A GREAT LEADER DEAD, AND LIFE'S DUTIES AS PRESSING AS EVER.
1. Let who will and what will pass away, our own work only passes with our own life.
2. The advancement of God's purpose is dependent on no life in particular.
3. Great lives are sometimes removed that other lives may better feel their responsibility and cultivate their strength.
II. HUMAN DIRECTION SUDDENLY FAILING, AND DIVINE GUIDANCE SPECIALLY SOUGHT.
1. Prayer prompted by the removal of long familiar light.
2. Prayer over unfulfilled commandments.
3. Prayer provoked by gathering dangers.
4. Prayer for God's appointment of our post in life.
5. The realism of prayer to every true-hearted suppliant.
III. AN EMINENTLY FAITHFUL PAST DEMANDING A NO LESS VIGOROUS FUTURE. Judah had already done well. He who has done well in the past is under perpetual obligation to do no less well in the future. God also chooses those for new duties who have best served in the past.
IV. GOD SPECIALLY CHOOSING SOME OF HIS SERVANTS, BUT LEAVING THEM LIBERTY TO SEEK THE HELP OF OTHERS.
1. The benefits of co-operation. What one cannot do, two can. What one can only do with difficulty, two can do easily.
2. The limits of co-operation. Judah might only seek aid from his own brethren, not from idolaters.
V. THE LORD'S CALL TO GREAT DUTIES FOLLOWED BY HIS RICH BLESSING ON THOSE WHO SEEK FAITHFULLY TO PERFORM THEM. "The Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand."
1. God calls and sends none of His servants in vain.
2. God's blessing answers to His own promise of blessing.
3. God's blessing satisfies His people's highest hopes.
(F. G. Marchant.)
1. In that this people was now constrained to look about them, and (now Joshua was dead) to do that themselves for their peace and quiet which he was wont to do for them, we are taught that when special persons are taken away then they who were left behind must put forth themselves and take the more pain than before. The which being so, men should make this use of such changes to provide and learn to want their good helps and friends beforehand. They should also acknowledge daily with hearty thanks to God what a benefit they have of them, while they enjoy them, and do all good that they may by the help of them. Which they cannot do, but they must of necessity feel the loss of them to be very great, and see that they must now lay their shoulders to the burden. For the which purpose this I add — oh, how sweetly and to their good liking have many lived when they had others to bear their burdens for them — as husbands, wives, subjects, children, neighbours: there is no doubt but that (which is the chiefest of all} they have therewith, that God is their friend also. But seeing many depend only on them in a carnal manner, and on their living still with them, and rest not on God, therefore their props fail them, and their desolation cometh upon them as the enemy upon an unarmed man.
2. We are taught here by their example, who sought to God in their doubts for counsel and resolution, that in all our doubtful cases, partly touching our estate towards God, and partly particular duties and actions if our special callings and conditions of life, while we remain here on earth we should consult with and ask counsel of God for our resolution, in such manner as He hath taught us, and in no wise to conceal and bury our wants and defects that trouble us, or pass by the sins that cleave to us, or other difficulties in our dealings and business that oppress us, for so we provide ill for ourselves, even to live in ignorance and sorrow (with ether inconveniences annexed thereunto) for ever after.
And the Lord said, Judah shall go up
(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.)
Adoni-bezekI. THE INSTABILITY AND UNCERTAINTY OF WORLDLY GREATNESS. Look at this man — and behold in what slippery places God sets the mighty and noble. From the eagerness with which mankind pursue the distinctions of life, we should conclude, not only that they were very valuable in themselves, but that no kind of precariousness attached to them. But let not the strong be secure; let not the honourable be vain; let not the rich be high-minded. What is all history but a narrative of the reverses to which all earthly things are liable, however firmly established they once appeared to be; of the revolutions of empires; the destruction of cities; of the mighty put down from their seats; of counsellors led away spoiled, or politicians disgraced, generals banished, and monarchs put to death!
II. JUDGMENT OVERTAKING THE SINNER IN THIS LIFE. Nor does Adoni-bezek stand alone as an instance of the present punishment of sin. Adam and Eve driven out of paradise; flood; cities of the plain; Lot's wife; Gehazi; Ananias and Sapphira, etc. This, however, is not always the case. The misery of the sinner is principally reserved for a future world, and we are now in a state of probation. But God would confirm our faith in His adorable providence. If all sin was punished here, we should look no further; if no sin, we should not easily believe in the power, the holiness, the truth of God. We may add that the punishment of sin in this world is sometimes unavoidable. If nations are punished at all, they must be punished in time — for in eternity men exist only as individuals. Nearly the same may be said of a family. Yea, the present punishment of sin is in some measure natural. For how frequently do men's sufferings arise from the very sins they commit! Extravagance breeds ruin — indolence, poverty — intemperance, disease.
III. PUNISHMENT INFLICTED AFTER LONG DELAY. Behold the career of this sinner! What a lengthened course of iniquity was here! "So long and so often had I done this, that I thought God had not seen, or did not remember. But He has found me out; and I live long enough to be a miserable instance of this awful truth — that however long punishment may be delayed, it will at last be inflicted — as I have done, so God hath requited me."
IV. A CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN SIN AND SUFFERING: "What I have inflicted upon others, is now inflicted upon me; and in my very punishment I read my crime — as I have done, so God hath requited me."
1. Between sin and punishment there is sometimes a comparative conformity. This is the case when we suffer things which have some resemblance to our crimes.
2. Sometimes there is also between them a direct conformity. This is the case when we suffer in the same way and in the same things in which we sin.
3. But there is a future conformity still mere dreadful (Galatians 6:7).
V. THE HAND OF GOD ACKNOWLEDGED, WHILE MEN ARE ONLY EMPLOYED — "God hath requited me." But who saw anything of Him? A good man perceives the hand of God in all events, and he wishes to see it. But it is otherwise with the sinner. His apprehension of God is forced upon him; he would gladly get rid of the conviction: it is all terror and dismay to him — for he knows that God is his adversary, and He may now be coming to lay hold of him; he knows that he has a long account to give, and this may be the time of reckoning. Hence the bitterness of affliction: it is regarded not only as a trial, but as a punishment.Lessons:
1. Abhor cruelty. It is equally disgraceful to religion and humanity. It renders you unpitied of God and man.
2. Improve the case of examples. If they were not particularly adapted to do us good, the Word of God would not be so full of them. Lodge them in your memory. Often reflect upon them. And make use of the dreadful as well as the pleasing. It is necessary that we should be awakened to flee from the wrath to come.
I. THE LIFE OF MAN CANNOT ESCAPE THE JUDGMENT OF GOD: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked," etc. Man may deny it, may theoretically disregard it, but cannot escape it! At the heart of things is the spirit of judgment. Human life appears to be confused, but before the Almighty it has shape, and plan, and purpose.
II. LET NO MAN TAKE THE LAW INTO HIS OWN HANDS: "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." Why have we suffered loss in business? May it not be that we have oppressed the poor and needy? Why are our schemes delayed and thwarted? Probably because we have been obstinate and unfriendly towards the schemes of others. Why are we held in disesteem or neglect? Probably because of the contempt in which we have held our brethren. So we are to look at the moral working of things, and to see in the results which are forced upon us, not the petty anger of men, but the holy and righteous judgment of God.
III. EVERY GOOD DEED WILL BE HONOURED WITH APPROPRIATE REWARD.
1. Good deeds are their own reward.
2. Deeds done merely for the sake of reward cannot be good.
IV. THOUGH JUSTICE BE LONG DELAYED, YET IT WILL BE VINDICATED EVENTUALLY.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. Adoni-bezek notices the remarkable correspondence between previous barbarity and present suffering. He takes it in the sense of retribution.
2. The evil which falls upon us may ofttimes be the consequence of the wrong-doing of others. Sometimes various circumstances connected with bringing the offender to justice are so remarkable, and seemingly so responsive to crime, that there arises in the minds of others the belief that it is a special and divinely-imposed retribution.
3. The recognition of the correspondence between past acts and his present misfortune leads Adoni-bezek to ascribe it to a Divine hand: "God has requited me." He was not an Israelite, had probably been an idolater, and may have trusted in false gods for a long time, He had heard of God, and what He had done to other nations; now he finds himself conquered, and is led to attribute his personal sufferings to the God of the Israelites. God has so arranged natural law that it works in harmony with eternal justice. There is a subtle connection between our acts and our sufferings. We may see illustrations of this every day. A man may act in a certain loose and careless way and prepare for himself consequences the most terrible and unlooked-for. Another gives way to fierce, ungoverned passions, and makes himself, thereby, wretched. Another chooses to spend his time only in the pursuits of pleasure, and to squander his money on every foolish thing that pleases his eye; he soon finds himself without the power to enjoy, and without money to procure such enjoyment. Another gives way to pilfering, and soon finds himself discharged, characterless. Even if he is not punished by law, he is dishonoured. Or a youth may have kind parents, and every opportunity of making his way in the world, but he gives way to dissipated habits, and finally, when character is gone and friends are dead, is glad to earn the most trifling sum under men whom he once despised A just retribution in all such cases certainly follows the sin. Like Adoni-bezek, such must confess that God "hath requited" the wrong-doing.
4. This acknowledgment concerning the just requital of sin is sure to take place in the other world, if not in this. Pagan mythology taught that the mean and sly will, in the other world, take the lynx form; the slanderers, that of the vampire fanning ever to sleep, and sucking the life-blood at the same time; that the hypocritical will be as crocodiles, crawling in mud and shedding false tears; and that the narrow and bigoted, fearful of truth and loving error, may be as owls, hooting amid darkness and ruin, in the forsaken and desolate regions of the other world. May not the dishonest man there have to cringe and hide himself still more? May not the drunken man have a constant craving, a burning thirst, a racking brain? May not the ambitious man have a constant anxiety to obtain power, and the torment of always being supplanted, or effectually checked, by others? May not the avaricious man be in a constant fever of suspicion? May not the ill-tempered man be in a constant whirl of passion, and make himself more and more wretched? May not the ruthless and cruel fear the scorn of their victims and clutches of their enemies? May not the voluptuary have to bear the torment of an inflamed heart and ungratified lusts?
Homiletic Review.I. THE LIFE. Brief biography. Throned. Successful in war. Cruel. At last a defeated tyrant, Three scenes.
1. Celebrating his victories.
2. Feeding royal captives.
3. The defeated tyrant's unsuccessful flight.
II. THE LESSONS. Note three —
1. To what depths of cruelty it is possible for some to sink themselves. How came Adoni to be such a tyrant?
(1) (2) 2. Honoured men sometimes fall from palace to prison. 3. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Homiletic Review.)
(2) 2. Honoured men sometimes fall from palace to prison. 3. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Homiletic Review.)
2. Honoured men sometimes fall from palace to prison.
3. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Revelation 6:10) are heard to cry from under the altar, "How long?" etc. Now as these forenamed have stumbled at God's delaying His judgments, so others there are who have been quite deceived, verily believing that with God what was forborne was also forgotten. Such an one was Adoni-bezek here, who, having escaped so long, thought to have escaped ever. And such were those whereof David spake (Psalm 10:6). Such an one is the great whore of Babylon, that sings: "I sit like a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." Such an one was Pherecydes Syrins, master of Pythagoras, and a famous philosopher, and one that is said to have been the first philosopher that taught among the Greeks the soul to be immortal; and yet among all his knowledge had not learned this one principle: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." For, as AElian reports, he used among his scholars to vaunt of his irreligion after this manner, saying that he had never offered sacrifice to any god in all his life, and yet had lived as long and as merrily as those who had offered several hecatombs. But he that thus impiously abused the long-suffering of God came at length to an end as strange as his impiety was unusual; for so they report of him that he was stricken, like Herod by the angel of the Lord, with such a disease that serpents bred of the corrupt humours of his body, which ate and consumed him being yet alive. But that we may neither distrust the righteous ways of God, nor prevent His unsearchable counsels with our over-hasty expectation, let us a little consider of the ends why God oftentimes defers and prolongs His judgments.
1. For the sake of godly ones, for whom God useth to forbear even multitudes of sinners. So had there been but ten righteous persons in Sodom, Sodom had never been destroyed: "I will not destroy it for ten's sake." So for good Josiah's sake God deferred the plagues He had decreed to bring upon that people (2 Kings 22:20).
3. The opportunity of example by them unto others and of manifesting His own glory. God is Lord of times; and as He created them, so He alone knows a fit time for all things under the sun. He, therefore, who knows all occasions, when He seeth a fit time for His judgments to profit other men by example, and most of all to set forth His own glory, then He sends them forth and till then He will defer them.
4. When God, intending some extraordinary judgment, suffers men's sins to grow unto a full ripeness that their sin may be as conspicuous unto the world as His purpose in their punishment shall be. Thus God punished not the Canaanites in Abraham's time, but deferred it till Israel's coming out of Egypt; and that, as Himself witnesseth (Genesis 15:16): "Because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full." And therefore is not this last end to be looked for in all God's delays; but it seemeth proper to His extraordinary punishments — when God meaneth, as it were, to get Himself a name amongst men, then God stays to have the sin full, upon which He will pour a full vial of wrath and indignation.
(Joseph Mede, B. D.)
I. THE SUFFERING OF PUNISHMENT EXTORTS THE CONFESSION OF SIN. The reason whereof is the very nature of punishment, which always implieth some offence, and therefore is a good remembrancer of the same. Thus Joseph's brethren, when they were distressed in Egypt, cried, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." Proud Pharaoh, when he saw the plague of hail and thunder, said: "I have now sinned; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." The proud stomachs of the Israelites came down when once the fiery serpents stung them, and then they came to Moses and said: "We have sinned; for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee." Manasseh, whom all the threatenings of God's prophets in fifty years' space could never move, yet when he was bound in fetters and carried prisoner unto Babylon, "then he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers." Whosoever, therefore, he be that feels not this fruit and makes not this use of his afflictions is worse than hard-hearted Pharaoh, worse than cruel Adoni-bezek. But if by this means we come to see and acknowledge our sin, then may we say with David: "It is good for me that I was afflicted," and give praise unto our God, who is able out of such hard rocks as these to make flow the saving waters of repentance.
II. GOD'S JUDGMENT FOR SIN IS ONE OF THE STRONGEST MOTIVES TO MAKE AN ATHEIST CONFESS THERE IS A GOD. Those who say, "There is no God," David accounteth them in the number of fools (Psalm 53:1). Solomon styleth punishment the schoolmaster of fools. If for all fools, then also for atheistical fools, that they, either by their own or by example of God's plagues upon others, may be taught to put away their folly. Most certain it is, the not observing of God's judgments, or the supposed examples of some who seem to escape the hand of God in the greatest sins, is a main occasion of atheism. For this cause, therefore, David, as jealous of God's honour and knowing what force God's judgments have to keep atheism from creeping into the hearts of men, desireth God (Psalm 59:13). Hence it is also that God often in Ezekiel doth plainly affirm this to be the end of His judgments, that it might be known that He was the Lord. As in Ezekiel 6:6 thus He threatens Israel: "Your cities shall be laid waste, and your high places shall be desolate," etc. Ver. 7: "And the slain shall fall in the midst of you; and you shall know that I am the Lord." And again, vers. 12, 13: "He that is far off shall die by the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword. Then shall ye know that I am the Lord." And Ezekiel 25:17, concerning the Philistines: "I will execute great vengeance upon them, saith the Lord, with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord when I shall lay My vengeance upon them." If this, then, be so as ye have heard, let us learn hence a good preservative against atheism and all the ill motions of the devil and our flesh drawing thereunto; not lightly, as most men do, to pass over the judgments of God upon sin, but duly and diligently to observe them; if in ourselves, then more severely; if in our neighbours, curiously but charitably.
III. AS PUNISHMENT IN GENERAL BRINGETH SIN TO MIND WHICH ELSE WOULD BE FORGOTTEN, SO THE FASHION AND KIND THEREOF WELL CONSIDERED MAY LEAD US AS IT WERE BY THE HAND, TO KNOW THE VERY SIN WE ARE PUNISHED FOR. God's visible judgments have usually in them a stamp of conformity with the sin for which they are inflicted; for either we suffer the same thing ourselves that we have done to others or something resembling or like unto it, or else are punished about the same thing wherein our sin was, or, lastly, in the place or time where and when we sinned. I am persuaded there is no judgment which God sends for any special sin but it hath one of these marks in it. Come, therefore, to Adoni-bezek, and let us learn of him by God's stamp in our punishment to find out what sin He aims at. If we would once use to read this handwriting of God in our afflictions, what a motive would it be to make us leave many a sin wherein the devil nuzzles us the greater part of our life without sense and feeling? For if anything would scare us from sin, sure this would, to hear word from God Himself what the sin is He plagues us for and so sharply warns us to amend. Whensoever, therefore, any cross or calamity befalls us or any of ours, either in body, goods, or name, or in the success of anything we take in hand, let us not rebel against God with an impatient heart, or fret at the occasion or author of our misery; but let us take a just account of our life past, and thus reason with ourselves: "This is surely none other but the very finger of God; I am punished, therefore have I sinned. I am punished thus and thus, in this or that sort, in this or that thing, in this or that place or time; therefore God is angry with me for something I have done, the same with that I suffer, or something like unto it, or because I sinned in this thing, or at this time, or in this place, when and where I am now punished. 'As I have done, so surely God hath requited me.' Therefore I will not look any longer upon any other cause or occasion of this misery, of this cross or calamity, but look unto my sin and give glory unto God who sent the hand which hath done all this unto me."
(Joseph Mede, B. D.)
(J. Jackson Wray.)
(G. A. Sowter, M. A.)
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
To him will I give Achsah my daughter.
Thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water
(F. Tucker, B. A.)
I. HER CONSIDERATION OF THE MATTER BEFORE SHE WENT TO HER FATHER.
1. She naturally wished that her husband should find in that estate all that was convenient and all that might be profitable; and looking it all over, she saw what was wanted. Before you pray, know what you are needing. "Oh!" says somebody, "I utter some good words." Does God want your words? Think what you are going to ask before you begin to pray, and then pray like business men.
2. This woman, before she went to her father with her petition, asked her husband's help. When she came to her husband "she moved him to ask of her father a field." It is often a great help in prayer for two of you to agree touching the thing that concerns Christ's kingdom. A cordon of praying souls around the throne of grace will be sure to prevail.
3. Achsah bethought herself of this one thing, that she was going to present her request to her father. I suppose that she would not have gone to ask of anybody else; but she said to herself, "Come, Achsah, Caleb is your father. The boon I am going to ask is not of a stranger, who does not know me, but of a father, in whose care I have been ever since I was born." This thought ought to help us in prayer, and it will help us when we remember that we do not go to ask of an enemy, nor to plead with a stranger; but we say, "Our Father, which art in heaven."
4. She went humbly, yet eagerly. If others will not pray with you, go alone; and when you go, go very reverently. Thou art on earth, and God is in heaven; multiply not thy words as though thou wert talking to thine equal.
II. HER ENCOURAGEMENT. "Caleb said unto her, what wilt thou?"
1. You should know what you want. Could some Christians, if God were to say to them, "What wilt thou?" answer Him? Do you not think that we get into such an indistinct, indiscriminate kind of a way of praying that we do not quite know what we do really want? If it is so with you, do not expect to be heard till you know what you want.
2. Ask for it. God's way of giving is through our asking. I suppose that He does that in order that He may give twice over, for a prayer is itself a blessing as well as the answer to prayer. Perhaps it sometimes does us as much good to pray for a blessing as to get the blessing.
III. THE PRAYER ITSELF.
1. A good beginning: "Give me a blessing." Why, if the Lord shall hear that prayer from everybody in this place, what a blessed company we shall be; and we shall go our way to be a blessing to this City of London beyond what we have ever been before!
2. Notice next, how she mingled gratitude with her petition: "Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land." Go back in grateful praise to God for what He has done for thee in days gone by, and then get a spring for thy leap for a future blessing or a present blessing. Mingle gratitude with all thy prayers.
3. There was not only gratitude in this woman's prayer, but she used former gifts as a plea for more: "Thou hast given me a south land; give me also," etc. Oh, yes, that is a grand argument with God: "Thou hast given me; therefore give me some more." Every blessing given contains the eggs of other blessing within it. Thou must take the blessing, and find the hidden eggs, and let them be hatched by thine earnestness, and there shall be a whole brood of blessings springing out of a single blessing. See thou to that.
4. But this woman used this plea in a particular way: she said, "Thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water." When you ask of God, ask distinctly: "Give me springs of water." You may say, "Give me my daily bread." You may cry, "Give me a sense of pardoned sin." You may distinctly ask for anything which God has promised to give.
IV. HER SUCCESS
1. Her father gave her what she asked. And God gives us what we ask for when it is wise to do so. But sometimes we make mistakes.
2. He gave her in large measure. The Lord "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Some use that passage in prayer, and misquote it, "above what we can ask or even think." That is not in the Bible, because you can ask or even think anything you like; but it is "above all that we ask or think." Our asking or our thinking falls short; but God's giving never does.
3. He gave her this without a word of upbraiding. Now, may the Lord grant unto us to ask of Him in wisdom, and may He not have to upbraid us, but give us all manner of blessings both of the upper and the 'nether springs, both of heaven and earth, both of eternity and time, and give them freely, and not say even a single word by way of upbraiding us!
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Every earnest Christian, realising the seriousness of life, the meaning of his profession, the destiny which is before him, ought to ask of God a field; that is, a vocation. God individualises His servants. He has endowed each one in His own wise way, and He expects each one to exercise His own particular endowment for the glory of the Master and Lord. At the same time it is also true that He allows us a great deal of liberty in adapting our vocations to our lives, or perhaps one should rather say, adapting our lives to our vocations. One who believes himself called to the ministry may not take up any other profession, yet may without sin choose whether he will devote himself to mission work or minister as opportunity may present itself in parish life. In like manner the less marked commonplace vocations of everyday Christian life are largely shaped by the earnest disciple himself following the bent of his own enthusiasm, though it must be always in deference to the will of God, when that is in any way specially manifested. Even in cases where there seems to be no possibility of individual choosing, where one's way seems marked out by circumstances, and there is nothing to do but to go on in it, there should still be conscious recognition of the opportunity of a willingly accepted vocation; there should be the asking for a field on the part of the loyal soul; that is, the asking for grace to do a true and useful work for God in the circumstances He has prepared for us.
2. It does not take us long to discover that our fields are in the land of the south — arid, hard to cultivate, lacking moisture. All true vocations are hard and trying. The purpose of the existence of the kingdom of heaven upon earth is the conquest and overthrow of the kingdom of evil; that means that all who will serve in the Master's service have to fight. It often happens that, because vocations are found to be very hard, the disciple comes to the conclusion that what he thought to be his calling is not truly so, that he has made a mistake.
3. What then? The undaunted soul betakes itself to prayer. The vocation is hard, almost unendurable; never mind, light down from off the ass and pray for a blessing. There is here no thought of surrendering one's calling; of saying, "This is too hard a thing for me; take it away, and give me an easier lot in Thy service." Caleb's daughter did not ask her father to exchange the arid field for a fruitful and better situated one; she asked him to give her something besides it, however. God loves to have us develop our vocations by prayer. We must have especial and particular times of prayer set apart for that purpose, wherein we light down, as it were, from our daily duties and make our petitions to the Most High.
4. Did Caleb respond to his daughter's petition? Aye, surely, but no more surely than God responds to the prayers of His children who are striving to live loyally in the vocations He has assigned them. She asked for springs of water, for with springs of water to irrigate it the south land might be made most fertile and profitable for every sort of good fruit. It is said significantly that he gave to her both the upper springs and the nether springs. For the lower springs, that is the wells, supplement the waters of the upper springs. These last coming down abundantly in torrents from the mountains, guided by the hand of man through the fields, make them exceeding fertile, and then the superabundance of their waters is stored, according to nature's wise provision, in the lower wells, which do not dry up with the long-continued heat of the summer, but remain an ever reliable and constant supply. If God has given to His children hard and arid fields of labour, in which they are to find their several vocations, we are not to forget that to those who seek His help in prayer He grants abundantly the upper and the nether springs.
5. What, then, are these upper springs, the fresh, cooling waters from the hills, flowing down in copious streams, for man's use and profit, that the dry ground may be refreshed by them, and made to blossom as the rose and to be fruitful with all manner of good things? Evidently these upper springs of God's gift are the waters of supernatural, sacramental grace; the waters that flow down from the delectable mountains, the heavenly provision in overflowing abundance for earthly spiritual drought. We were never meant to fulfil our vocations without the help of grace. We think so much of our own energy, gifts, work, money, as if these things earnestly and heartily applied were to make the arid south land of God's calling for us fertile. They are all very well, but do not anything more valuable than dig the irrigating trenches which shall carry the sparkling waters of the upper springs down through the dry land, and make it productive.
6. And the nether springs, the lower wells, what are they in the Christian life? They are those blessed reservoirs of the sacramental grace which has been drawn in and assimilated by the correspondence of earnest disciples, ready for use in the times when the upper springs do not seem to flow freely, and to make fertile the field of the soul's labour. They are living fountains of God-given water, staying us when the special help from on high seems for the time withdrawn.(1) There is the nether spring of love. As the wells in the lowlands are filled from the upper springs, so love of God, fed by sacramental grace, becomes a living fountain of perennial freshness in the soul.(2) The sacramental life teaches one patience; the graces which flow from Holy Communion fill up this deep fountain, so that it never runs dry.(3) There is yet another fine nether spring of precious value in the devout Christian life — the spring of confident expectation, the spring which combines faith and hope in one great wealth of unshaken trust. This too is filled by the upper springs of sacramental grace. One learns by his experience in confessing his sins how true and real is the pardon that comes through the precious blood. One learns, as the result of his communions, how mighty is the transforming power of the Christ-life so lovingly imparted to us. Thus he becomes sublimely sure, magnificently confident, with a sureness and a confidence that are not inconsistent with genuine humility.
(R. A. Watson, M. A.)
Judah... could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley
Homilist.? — Infinite Intelligence has a plan by which He does all things. He never works by impulse or caprice.
1. God frequently makes human agency the condition of His own action.
2. So entirely does the Almighty abide by this plan, that if the required human agency is not put forth, He will not work. These "chariots of iron" so discouraged and terrified the Israelites that they would not do the part which God designed them to do; and because God would not violate His own plan, He "could not" drive them out. God's plan is the best, and He cannot deviate from the best. Now, the plan by which He promotes the circulation of the gospel amongst men is most clearly revealed in the Bible; and it is this — a proper human representation of it. The Divine idea is to be reflected on man through man. Why the great Author of the gospel should proceed on such a plan is a question which, if proper, it is not necessary to determine. We may as well ask why He has left the life of the world, vegetable and animal, to depend upon the solar beams and the fertile showers. It is enough for me to know, as the reasons of His procedure in any case, that as His nature is love, the ultimate reason of every act is some benevolent idea. Love is the planning genius of the universe: it frames and fashions all. Nor is it difficult to see love in the plan in question. What an honour does it confer on human nature to make it the reflector and exponent of Divine ideas! What benign power, too, is there in the arrangements to stimulate the devout to benevolent effort, and to unite the human family in the bonds of gratitude and compassion! Three general remarks may suffice to show that there has been sufficient mal-representation to account for its present limited influence.
I. THAT THE GOSPEL REGARDS THE CEREMONIAL AS SUBORDINATE TO THE DOCTRINAL. Though the Old Testament had many rites, the New has only two — baptism and the Lord's Supper. But the rites of both the Old and the New were intended to answer the same functions in the economy of revelation, namely, to adumbrate doctrines.
II. THAT THE GOSPEL REGARDS THE DOCTRINAL AS SUBSERVIENT TO THE ETHICAL. And if this is so, a mere theological manifestation is a mal-representation. Christianity consists mainly of two elements — doctrines and precepts: subjects for faith and rules for life — theology and morality. Doctrines and precepts are rays from the same eternal sun of truth; the former, however, throwing their radiance upwards — revealing the vast heavens that encircle us, and impressing us with ideas of infinitude; the latter flowing down upon our earthly path, and guiding our feet in the way of life. Of what use would the sun be to us if all its rays streamed upwards, unfolding the boundless blue, and none reached our earthly sphere, to show us how to act? The theology of the Bible is useless to a man unless it changes his heart and moulds his life anew. The doctrines of Christ are not learnt like the doctrines of Newton or Euclid, by mere intellectual study; they are learnt by the heart and the life. Action alone translates Christian doctrines into meaning.
III. THAT THE GOSPEL REGARDS THE TRUE ETHICAL AS EMBODIED IN THE LIFE OF CHRIST. And if this is so, a mere dry legal manifestation of it is a mal-representation. Where are the ethical elements whose illustration, enforcement, and promotion, all doctrines are to subserve, to be found? Are they to be found in the statutes of governments, the rubrics of Churches, or the practices of religious sects? No! Men have often made sound doctrine subservient to the corrupt ethics drawn from such sources; but the ethics to which all sound theology should ever minister are embodied in the life of one Being — Christ. Our whole duty is summed up in His command, "Follow Me." Assimilation to Christ is the perfection of man. Another train of thought may further serve to illustrate the various forms of the mal-representation, and to sum up our observations upon this truly momentous theme.
1. The ceremonies of the gospel being only intended as the symbols of its doctrines, a mere ritualistic ministry of it is a mal-representation.
2. The doctrines of the gospel being coincident with human reason, any irrational manifestation of it is a mal-representation.
3. The meaning of the gospel being only truly reached by experience, a mere professional manifestation of it is a mal-representation. Christianity is only thoroughly understood by the heart.
4. The genius of the gospel being that of benevolence, any unloving manifestation of it is a mal-representation. Does the Church represent love? warm, self-denying, world-wide love? If not, it does not represent the gospel.
5. The provisions of the gospel being for universal man, any restricted offer of them is a mal-representation. Let the narrow-minded bigot preach that the sun was lit up for a class; or that the ocean was poured forth for a class; or that the sea of air, whose every wave is life, rolls through the world for a class; and his sermons will be as true to nature as those sermons are to the gospel, that proclaim that God's mercy is only for a "favourite few." My conclusion is, that the first thing to be done in order to convert the world is to reform the Church. You may have your missionary societies, you may send forth your emissaries, you may stud the globe with your missionary stations; but unless the Church will give the Christianity of Christ in His own spirit of love, it will be labour lost.
Chariots of ironI. THE LORD'S POWER WAS TRUSTED AND MAGNIFIED: "The Lord was with Judah."
1. Great victories.
2. Numerous victories.
3. Brotherly action (ver. 3).
4. God gave great proofs of His presence and power by raising up, here and there, a man in their midst who performed heroic deeds. Caleb shall be gathered to his fathers, but Othniel shall follow him, who shall be as brave as he.
5. The reason why the men of Judah were successful was because they had full confidence in God. The Lord will not fall short of the measure: let us not make the measure short.
II. THE LORD'S POWER RESTRAINED BECAUSE DISTRUSTED. The men of Judah could drive out the inhabitants of the mountain, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. As far as their faith went, so far God kept touch with them, and they could do anything and everything; but when they despondingly thought that they could not drive out the inhabitants of the wide valleys, then they failed utterly.
1. They retained too much confidence in themselves. If their confidence had been in God alone, these chariots of iron would have been ciphers in the calculation, The bare arm of God is the source of all power.
2. They believed one promise of God and did not believe another. Beware of being pickers and choosers of God's promises.
3. There was a further reason for failure arising out of this imperfection of their faith: they could not conquer the chariots of iron, because, first, they did not try. The Hebrew does not say that they could not drive them out. What the Hebrew says is that they did not drive them out. Some things we cannot do because we never make the attempt. I wish we had among Christian workers the spirit of the Suffolk lad who was brought up in court to be examined by an overbearing lawyer. The lawyer roughly said to him, "Hodge, can you read Greek? .... I don't know, sir," said he. "Well, fetch a Greek book," said the lawyer, and showing the lad a passage he said to him, "Can you read that?" "No." "Then why did you not say that you could not?" "Because I never say I cannot do a thing till I have tried it." If that spirit were in Christian people we should achieve great things; but we set down such and such a thing as manifestly beyond our power, and, silently, we whisper to ourselves, "therefore beyond God's power," and so we let it alone. No chariots of iron will be driven out if we dare not make the attempt.
4. Next, I suspect that they did not drive them out because they were idle. If cavalry were to be dealt with, Judah must bestir himself. If chariots of iron were to be defeated they must enter upon an arduous campaign; and so, taking counsel of their fears and their idleness, they said, "Let us not venture on the conflict." There are many things that Christ's Church is unable to do because it is too lazy.
5. Then, again, they were not at all anxious to meet the men who manned those chariots, for they were afraid. These men of Judah were cowards in the presence of chariots of iron, and what can a coward do? He is great at running away. They say that he "may live to fight another day." Not he: he will live, but he will not live to fight, depend upon it, any more another day than he does to-day.
6. There was no excuse for this on the part of Judah, as there is really no excuse for us when we think any part of God's work to be too difficult for us — for, recollect, there was a special promise made about this very case holy (Deuteronomy 20:1).
III. THE LORD'S POWER VINDICATED. I could tell you of women, sick and infirm, scarcely able to leave their beds, who are doing work which, to some strong Christians, seems too hard to attempt. Have I not seen old men doing for the Lord in their feebleness that which young men have declined? Could I not tell you of some with one talent who are bringing in a splendid revenue of glory to their Lord and Master, while you fine young fellows with ten talents have wrapped them all in a napkin and hid them in the earth? I wish that I could shame myself, and shame every worker here, into enterprises that would astonish unbelievers. God help us to do that which seems impossible.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
The house of Joseph... went up against Bethel; and the Lord was with them.
The spies saw a man come forth
Neither did Manasseh drive out.
I. MEN FORSAKING A WORK WHICH HAD BEEN BEGUN AFTER LONG PREPARATION. The plagues of Egypt, the miracles of the wilderness, the gifts of the manna and other supplies, and the long period of discipline in the desert, were all designed to lead up to the full inheritance of the land.
II. MEN FORSAKING A WORK WHICH HAD ALREADY SEEN PROSECUTED WITH GREAT ENERGY AND AT GREAT COST. The Church has thrown away not a little energy for want of just a little more.
III. MEN FORSAKING A WORK ABOUT WHICH THEY HAD CHERISHED ARDENT HOPES. The whole way up from Egypt had been a long path of expectation. We see here brilliant hopes blasted for ever for want of a little more faith and a little more service. How many of our once cherished visions have fled for the same reason!
IV. MEN FORSAKING A WORK IN WHICH THEY HAD ALREADY WON SPLENDID TRIUMPHS. The path of their past prowess was almost vocal against this sinful inaction and unbelief.
V. MEN FORSAKING A WORK TO WHICH GOD HAD COMMANDED THEM, IN WHICH GOD HAD MARVELLOUSLY HELPED THE, AND IN WHICH HE NO LESS WAITED TO HELP THEM STILL. They did not "remember the years of the right hand of the Most High." "They forgat His works." No less did they forget His absolute commands, and His unbroken promises.
(F. G. Marchant.)
Joshua 17:12). The Hebrew word rendered "would dwell," intimates that the Canaanites wished to arrange the matter agreeably; that they made friendly overtures to the men of Manasseh to be permitted to remain — a permission which was granted them on condition of their paying tribute. Such is the attitude which, in these latter days, the world frequently assumes towards the Church of Christ in Christian countries. It is willing enough to pay tribute, both in gold and outward forms of deference, if only the Church will allow it a peaceable lodging and refrain from using against it the sword of the Spirit. Too often has the Church, like the men of Manasseh, consented to accept tribute money, whether of the State or of private individuals, as the price of permitting the world to remain unmolested within its borders; and how often has she found, in her bitter experience, the degrading and enslaving effect of such compromises — verifying to the letter the prediction of Joshua in regard to such unhallowed connections (Joshua 23. 13).
(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.)
The Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain.