The people complained.I. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT CAUSES DISPLEASURE TO THE LORD.
1. This we might infer from our own feelings, when dependents, children, servants, or receivers of alms are always grumbling. We grow weary of them, and angry with them.
3. In that case also it is a reflection upon the Lord's goodness, wisdom, truth, and power.
4. The evil lusting which attends the complaining proves its injurious character. We are ready for anything when we quarrel with God (1 Corinthians 10:5-12).
5. God thinks so ill of it that His wrath burns, and chastisement is not long withheld. To set an imaginary value upon that which we have not —
(1) (2) (3) (4) II. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT FINDS NO PLEASURE FOR ITSELF EVEN WHEN ITS WISH IS FULFILLED. The Israelites had flesh in superabundance in answer to their foolish prayers, but — 1. It was attended with leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15). 2. It brought satiety (ver. 20). 3. It caused death (Psalm 78:31). 4. It thus led to mourning on all sides. III. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT SNOWS THAT THE MIND NEEDS REGULATING. Grace would put our desires in order, and keep our thoughts and affections in their proper places, thus — 1. Content with such things as we have (Hebrews 13:5). 2. Towards other things moderate in desire (Proverbs 30:8). 3. Concerning earthly things which may be lacking, fully resigned (Matthew 26:39). 4. First, and most eagerly, desiring God (Psalm 42:2). 5. Next coveting earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31) 6. Following ever in love the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(2) (3) (4) II. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT FINDS NO PLEASURE FOR ITSELF EVEN WHEN ITS WISH IS FULFILLED. The Israelites had flesh in superabundance in answer to their foolish prayers, but — 1. It was attended with leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15). 2. It brought satiety (ver. 20). 3. It caused death (Psalm 78:31). 4. It thus led to mourning on all sides. III. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT SNOWS THAT THE MIND NEEDS REGULATING. Grace would put our desires in order, and keep our thoughts and affections in their proper places, thus — 1. Content with such things as we have (Hebrews 13:5). 2. Towards other things moderate in desire (Proverbs 30:8). 3. Concerning earthly things which may be lacking, fully resigned (Matthew 26:39). 4. First, and most eagerly, desiring God (Psalm 42:2). 5. Next coveting earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31) 6. Following ever in love the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(3) (4) II. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT FINDS NO PLEASURE FOR ITSELF EVEN WHEN ITS WISH IS FULFILLED. The Israelites had flesh in superabundance in answer to their foolish prayers, but — 1. It was attended with leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15). 2. It brought satiety (ver. 20). 3. It caused death (Psalm 78:31). 4. It thus led to mourning on all sides. III. A DISSATISFIED SPIRIT SNOWS THAT THE MIND NEEDS REGULATING. Grace would put our desires in order, and keep our thoughts and affections in their proper places, thus — 1. Content with such things as we have (Hebrews 13:5). 2. Towards other things moderate in desire (Proverbs 30:8). 3. Concerning earthly things which may be lacking, fully resigned (Matthew 26:39). 4. First, and most eagerly, desiring God (Psalm 42:2). 5. Next coveting earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31) 6. Following ever in love the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. It was attended with leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15). 2. It brought satiety (ver. 20). 3. It caused death (Psalm 78:31). 4. It thus led to mourning on all sides. 1. Content with such things as we have (Hebrews 13:5). 2. Towards other things moderate in desire (Proverbs 30:8). 3. Concerning earthly things which may be lacking, fully resigned (Matthew 26:39). 4. First, and most eagerly, desiring God (Psalm 42:2). 5. Next coveting earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31) 6. Following ever in love the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31). ( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. It was attended with leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15).
2. It brought satiety (ver. 20).
3. It caused death (Psalm 78:31).
4. It thus led to mourning on all sides.
1. Content with such things as we have (Hebrews 13:5).
2. Towards other things moderate in desire (Proverbs 30:8).
3. Concerning earthly things which may be lacking, fully resigned (Matthew 26:39).
4. First, and most eagerly, desiring God (Psalm 42:2).
5. Next coveting earnestly the best gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31)
6. Following ever in love the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12:31).
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Those who are merely hangers-on to a Church are usually the beginners of mischief among its members. So in the community, the men who have no stake in its welfare are always the most dangerous element of the population. They have nothing to lose in any event, and it is just possible that, in the confusion, they may gain a little. Thus they are always ready for either riot or emeute. The "mixed multitude" in our cities represents what others call the dangerous classes; and in proportion as their existence is ignored by the respectable portion of the people, and nothing is done for their education or elevation, the danger is aggravated.
2. Murmuring is invariably one-sided. These discontented Egyptians and Israelites did nothing but look back on Egypt; and even when they did that, they saw only the lights, and not the shadows. Again, in their depreciation of their present lot, they were equally one-sided. They could see in it nothing but the one fact that they had no flesh to eat. They took no notice of the manna, save to despise it; they said nothing of the water which God had provided for them; they never spoke of the daily miracle that their clothes waxed not old; they made no reference to the constance guidance and presence of Jehovah with them. Now this was flagrantly unjust; and yet in condemning that it is to be feared that we are passing judgment upon ourselves, for if we were fully to reckon up both sides of the account would there ever be any murmuring among us at all?
3. God is always considerate of His faithful servants. See how tender He was to Moses here. He saw that he needed human sympathy and support, as well as Divine, and therefore He hastened to provide him with a cordon of kindred spirits, who might act as a breakwater, and keep the waves of trouble and discontent that rose in the camp from dashing upon him. One cannot read of this without being impressed by the tenderness of God; and it is a suggestive fact that on almost every occasion on which we are told of His judgment falling upon sinners, we have in the near vicinity some manifestation of gentleness to His friends.
4. The truly great man is never envious of others. Here is a lesson for all, and especially for ministers of the gospel. How hard it is to rejoice in the excellence of another, especially if he be in the same line with ourselves l And yet the disparagement of the gifts of another is really an indication of our consciousness of the weakness of our own. The highest and the hardest cliff to climb on the mountain of holiness is humility.
5. We can set no limits to the resources of God (ver. 23).
6. It is not good for us to get everything we desire (Psalm 105:15). Prayers horn out of murmuring are always dangerous.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Homilist.I. A SADLY COMMON SIN. Murmuring. Discontent is the spirit of this wicked world.
II. A TERRIBLY SOLEMN FACT. God recognises and retributes sin.
III. A GENERAL SOCIAL TENDENCY. The wicked ever seek the good in their terror and distress.
IV. A STRIKING RESULT OF PRAYER. The breath of Moses' prayer extinguished the flame.
complaint may he so construed as to have everything taken out of it except the feeblest protest and the feeblest utterance of some personal desire. But this is not the historical meaning of the word complaint as it is found here. What happened between the instances we have quoted and the instance which is immediately before us? Until that question is answered the whole case is not before the mind for opinion or criticism. What, then, had taken place? The most momentous of all incidents. God had said through Moses to the people of Israel — Will you obey the law? And they stood to their feet, as it were, and answered in one unanimous voice — We will. So the people were wedded to their Lord at that great mountain altar: words of fealty and kinship and Godhood had been exchanged, and now these people that had oft complained and had then promised obedience, and had then sworn that they would have none other gods beside Jehovah, complained — went back to their evil ways; and the Lord, who takes out His sword last and only calls upon His fire in extremity, smote them — burned them. And this will He do to us if we trifle with our oaths, if we practise bad faith towards the altar, if we are guilty of malfeasance in the very sanctuary of God. Were the people content with complaining? They passed from complaining to lusting, saying, "Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt," &c. There is a philosophy here. You cannot stop short with complaining. Wickedness never plays a negative game. The man who first complains will next erect his appetite as a hostile force against the will of God. A marvellous thing is this, to recollect our lives through the medium of our appetites, to have old relishes return to the mouth, to have the palate stimulated by remembered sensations. The devil has many ways into the soul. The recollection of evil may prompt a desire for its repetition.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
1. Israel had many impediments in their march to the Land of Promise, not only from without (Pharaoh pursuing, Amalek intercepting, &c.), but also from within, among themselves by their manifold murmurings (1 Peter 4:18).
2. God writes our sin upon our punishment. These murmurers here sinned against the "fiery law" (Deuteronomy 33:2); therefore were they punished by fire out of the pillar of fire from whence the fiery law was given and published. Their perdition is our caution (1 Corinthians 10:5, 11).
3. Evil company is infectious and catching as the plague (1 Corinthians 15:33).
4. Wherever there is sinning again on man's part, there will be punishing again on God's part (John 5:14). Here Israel sinned again with a double sin —(1) In desiring flesh which they wanted;(2) In disdaining manna which they enjoyed. The vehemence of their concupiscence was the more inflamed by remembering their former Egyptian diet, yet forgetting withal their Egyptian drudgery.
5. The people's profane deploring their penury (when they had little cause to do so, while fed with the food of angels) doth not only make God angry with them (ver. 10), but also putteth meek Moses into a pang of passion and impatience (vers. 11-15).
6. The Divine remedy to all this human malady; both as to Moses' impatience, and as to Israel's intemperance.(1) Moses must not bear the burden alone, but shall be assisted with the Sanhedrin, or great council of the Jews, consisting of seventy seniors (answerable to the seventy souls that descended with Jacob into Egypt) whereof Moses sat president, all endowed with the gifts of the spirit of Moses, who was as a candle that lighteth others, yet hath not less either heat or light than it had before (vers. 16, 17, 24, 25, 30).(2) As to the people's intemperance, as God promised and performed plenty of flesh to those fleshly-minded multitude, so He punished their impiety with a horrible plague at the close thereof (vers. 18, 19, 20, 31, 32, 33, 34).
Psalm 77:3, "I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed"; but he soon felt that the root of the evil was in himself. "This," he adds (ver. 10), "is my infirmity." But no part of Scripture proves more strikingly than the events at Taberah, how displeasing to God, and how dangerous in its results, a complaining spirit is. The punishment which followed, and which gave the name to the place, proves the first point. Patient and long-suffering as God ever was with Israel, we are told (Numbers 11:1) that "His anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp." The severity of the punishment shows that this was no little sin, encompassed as they were with mercy, and guided by Jehovah Himself through the wilderness. It was no less dangerous in its result, for the subsequent history shows how "complaining" ripened into "murmuring," and murmuring was at last the cause of Israel's final fall. Let us endeavour, then, to watch against a "complaining spirit." In heavy and stunning afflictions we glorify God, when, like Aaron, we are enabled to "hold our peace." Like David, we can say, "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it"; or, as in Psalm 131:2. Still more if we can, through grace, rise to the elevation of the afflicted Job, and say, "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord"; or, if anything, to the still higher elevation of the Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:11-13). In the lesser and more ordinary trials of daily life, its difficulties and its duties, we glorify Him by Christian Cheerfulness; and how can we maintain this spirit but by tracing the hand of a Father in them all, carrying them all to God in prayer, and, most of all, by looking above present things to the "everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure"? For the things which are seen, our difficulties and our trials, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, our strength and our crown, are eternal.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Numbers 21:5). The murmurer saith interpretatively that God hath not dealt well with him, and that he hath deserved better from Him. The murmurer chargeth God with folly. This is the language, or rather blasphemy, of a murmuring spirit: God might have been a wiser and a better God. The murmurer is a mutineer. The Israelites are called in the same text "murmurers" and "rebels" (Numbers 17:10); and is not rebellion as the sin of witchcraft? (1 Samuel 15:23). Thou that art a murmurer art in the account of God as a witch, a sorcerer, as one that deals with the devil. This is a sin of the first magnitude. Murmuring often ends in cursing: Micah's mother fell to cursing when the talents of silver were taken away (Judges 17:2). So doth the murmurer when a part of his estate is taken away. Our murmuring is the devil's music; this is that sin which God cannot bear (chap. Numbers 14:27). It is a sin which whets the sword against a people; it is a land-destroying sin (1 Corinthians 10:10).
( T. Watson.)
(F. W. Faber.)
( Thomas Brooks..)
The fire of
The mixt multitude.
Who shall give us flesh to eat?!
There is nothing at all, beside this manna.I. The complaining of the Israelites in this case was very REPREHENSIBLE, as it manifested a state of aggravated neglect of the peculiar circumstances in which the despised manna was provided for them. Their soul had been dying away for want of it, were we to believe their complaint, and now their soul was dying away when it was possessed. The manna seemed everything when they first beheld it strewn all around the camp, and now it was as nothing at all in their eyes. Nevertheless, it was of such value in the eyes of God, that a pot of it was kept in the ark of the covenant as a memorial of His kindness in providing it for the rebels. The children He feeds may forget the token of His goodness, but He does not forget the emanations of His bounty, or reckon anything small in the blessings He confers.
II. The complaining of the Israelites in this care was all the more SINFUL, INASMUCH AS THE MANNA SO DESPISED WAS BOTH SUFFICIENT AND AGREEABLE FOOD — WAS all that they stood in need of in their journey, and more than they deserved.
III. The complaining of the Israelites was all the more sinful, inasmuch as THE MANNA THEY SO DESPISED WAS PROVIDED FOR THEM WITHOUT COST OR LABOUR. And it is for a like reason that all despising of the bread of life will be accounted the greater transgression, for it is freely offered — without money and without price. No one is required to pay anything for it in silver or in gold — in bodily labour or mental suffering, or in any gift of worldly substance. No equivalent is looked for it in any sacrifice whatever that man can make.
IV. The complaining of the Israelites was the more aggravated, as IT INVOLVED A VERY SINFUL DISREGARD OF THE MIRACULOUS MANNER IN WHICH THE MANNA WAS DAILY SUPPLIED FOR THEIR USE. Alas! multitudes are as blind to the wonderful character of the spiritual or "hidden manna," as were the Jeers in the instance here recorded, as to the manna provided for them. All the more that the miraculous character of the wonderful provision God has made for the salvation of the soul is overlooked or despised, all the more of blind infatuation and sin are involved. It cannot be safe to speak slightingly of an interposition, in providing for the life of immortal souls, into which, it is said, "the angels desire to look."
I. HERE IS THE PEOPLE FRETTING AND SPEAKING AGAINST GOD HIMSELF (as it is interpreted, Psalm 78:19), notwithstanding His glorious appearances both to them and for them.
1. Observe who were the criminals.(1) The mixed multitude began, "They felt a lusting" (ver. 4). These were the scabbed sheep that infected the flock, the leaven that leavened the whole lump. Note, a few factious, discontented, ill-natured people, may do a great deal of mischief in the best societies if great care be not taken to discountenance them. Such as these are an untoward generation, from which it is our wisdom to save ourselves (Acts 2:40).(2) Even the children of Israel took the infection, so it follows (ver. 4). The holy seed joined themselves to the people of these abominations. This mixed multitude was not numbered with the children of Israel, but were set aside as people God made no account of. And yet the children of Israel, forgetting their own character and distinction, herded themselves with them, and learned their way; as if the scum and outcast of the camp were to be the privy councillors of it. The children of Israel, a people near to God, and highly privileged, yet drawn into a rebellion against Him! Oh, how little honour hath God in the world, when even that people which He formed for Himself to show forth His praise were so much a dishonour to Him! Therefore let none think that their external professions and privileges will be their security either against Satan's temptations to sin, or against God's judgments for sin (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2, 12).
2. What was the crime? They lusted and murmured. Though they were newly corrected for this sin, and many of them overthrown for it, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and the smell of the fire was still in their nostrils, yet they returned to it (Proverbs 27:22). We should not indulge ourselves in any desire which we cannot in faith turn into prayer, as we cannot, when we ask meat for our lust (Psalm 78:18). For this sin the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly against them; which is written for our admonition, that we should not lust after evil things, as they lusted (1 Corinthians 10:10). Flesh is good food, and may lawfully be eaten; yet they are said to lust after evil things. What is lawful in itself becomes evil to us when it is what God doth not allot to us, and yet we eagerly desire it.
II. MOSES HIMSELF, THOUGH SO MEEK AND GOOD A MAN, IS UNEASY UPON THIS OCCASION. Moses also was displeased. Now —
1. It must be confessed that the provocation was very great.
2. Yet Moses expressed himself otherwise than became him upon this provocation, and came short of his duty both to God and Israel in these expostulations.(1) He undervalues the honour God had put upon him in making him the illustrious minister of His power and grace in the deliverance and conduct of that peculiar people, which might have been sufficient to balance the burden.(2) He complains too much of a sensible grievance, and lays too near his heart a little noise and fatigue. If he could not bear the toil of government, which was but running with the footmen, how would he bear the terrors of war, which was contending with horses? He might easily have furnished himself with considerations enough to enable him to slight their clamours and make nothing of them.(3) He magnifies his own performances, that all the burdens of the people lay upon him, whereas God Himself did, in effect, ease him of all the burden.(4) He is not so sensible as he ought to be of the obligation he lay under from the Divine commission and command, to do the utmost he could for this people, when he suggests, that because they were not the children of his body begotten, therefore he was not concerned to take a fatherly care of them, though God Himself, who might employ him as He pleased, had appointed him to be a father to them.(5) He takes too much to himself when he asks, "Whence should I have flesh to give them?" (ver. 13), as if he were the housekeeper, and not God. Moses gave them not the bread (John 6:34). Nor was it expected that he should give them the flesh, but as an instrument in God's hand; and having assistants appointed him, who should be, as the apostle speaks (1 Corinthians 12:28), helps, governments, i.e., helps in government, not at all to lessen or eclipse his honour, but to make the work more easy to him, and to bear the burden of the people with him. And that this provision might be both agreeable and really serviceable —(a) Moses is directed to nominate the persons (ver. 16). The people were too hot, and heady, and tumultuous, to be entrusted with the election. Moses must please himself in the choice, that he may not afterwards complain.(b) God promiseth to qualify them. If they were not found fit for the employ, they should be made fit, else they might prove more a hindrance than a help to Moses (ver. 17). Though Moses had talked too boldly with God, yet God doth not therefore break off communion with him; He bears a great deal with us, and we must with one another. "I will come down (saith God) and talk with thee, when thou art more calm and composed; and I will take of the same spirit of wisdom, and piety, and courage that is upon thee, and put it upon them." Not that Moses had the less of the spirit for their sharing, nor that they were hereby made equal with him. Moses was still a nonsuch (Deuteronomy 34:10). But they were clothed with a spirit of government proportionable to their place, and with a spirit of prophecy to evidence their Divine call to it, the government being a theocracy.Note —
1. Those whom God employs in any service He qualifies for it; and those that are not in some measure qualified cannot think themselves duly called.
2. All good qualifications are from God; every perfect gift is from the Father of lights. Even the humour of the discontented people shall be gratified too, that every mouth may be stopped. They are bid to sanctify themselves (ver. 18), i.e., to put themselves into a posture to receive such a proof of God's power as should be a token both of mercy and judgment. "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel" (Amos 4:12).(1) God promiseth (shall I say?) He threatens rather, that they should have their belly-full of flesh. See here —(a) The vanity of all the delights of sense; they will cloy, but not satisfy. Spiritual pleasures are the contrary. As the world passes away, so do the lusts of it (1 John 2:17). What was greedily coveted, in a little time comes to be nauseated.(b) What brutish sins (and worse than brutish) gluttony and drunkenness are. They put a force upon nature, and make that the sickness of the body which should be its health; they are sins that are their own punishments, and yet not the worst that attend them.(c) What a righteous thing it is with God to make that loathsome to men which they have inordinately lusted after. God could make them despise flesh as much as they had despised manna.(2) Moses objects the improbability of making good this word (vers. 21, 22). It is an objection like that which the disciples made (Mark 8:4). He objects the number of the people, as if He that provided bread for them all could not by the same unlimited power provide flesh too. He reckons it must be the flesh either of beasts or fishes, because of them are the most bulky animals, little thinking that the flesh of birds, little birds, should serve the purpose. God sees not as men sees, but His thoughts are above ours. He objects the greediness of the people's desires in that word to suffice them. Note, even true and great believers sometimes find it hard to trust God under the discouragement of second causes, and against hope to believe in hope. Moses himself can scarce forbear saying, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" when this was become the common cry. No doubt this was his infirmity.(3) God gives a short but sufficient answer to the objection in that question, "Is the Lord's band waxed short?" (ver. 23). If Moses had remembered the years of the right hand of the Most High, he had not started all these difficulties. Therefore God minds him of them, intimating that this objection reflected upon the Divine power which he had been so often not only the witness, but the instrument of. Whatever our unbelieving hearts may suggest to the contrary, it is certain —(a) That God's hand is not short. His power cannot be restrained in the exerting of itself by anything but His own will; with Him nothing is impossible. That hand is not short which measures the waters, metes out the heavens (Isaiah 40:12), and grasps the winds (Proverbs 30:4).(b) That it is not waxed short. He is as strong as ever He was; fainteth not, neither is weary. And this is sufficient to silence all our distrusts, when means fail us. Is anything too bard for the Lord? God here brings Moses to this first principle; sets him back in his lesson to learn the ancient name of God, the Lord God Almighty; and put the proof upon the issue, "Thou shalt see whether My word shall come to pass or not." This magnifies God's word above all His name, that His works never came short of it. If He speaks, it is done.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
Ephesians 1:17), is the great instrument for the world's sanctification. It is obvious, however, that this truth must take the shape of definite doctrine, and be expressed in becoming language, before it can accomplish this purpose. The Church and her ministers deal fairly with you; but are you dealing fairly with yourselves? You listen to preaching; but is it with the sincere desire that you may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour?
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
( R. Sibbes..)
Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy servant?I. Look at the afflictions of godly men in the path of duty AS A FACT.
1. Good men suffer afflictions.
2. Good men suffer affliction in the path of duty.
II. Look at the afflictions of godly men in the path of duty AS A PROBLEM.
1. A difficulty. Moses felt it.
2. Faith in the power of God to remove the difficulty.
III. OFFER SOME HINTS TOWARDS THE SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM. The afflictions of the good in the path of duty, under the blessing of God, tend.
1. To test their faith. "Character," says Dr. Huntington, " depends on inward strength. But this strength has two conditions; it is increased only by being put forth, and it is tested only by some resistance. So, if the spiritual force or character in you is to be strong, it must be measured against some competition. It must enter into conflict with an antagonist. It must stand in comparison with something formidable enough to be a standard of its power Suffering, then, in some of its forms, must be introduced — the appointed minister, the great essayist — to put the genuineness of faith to the proof and purify it of its dross."
2. To promote their perfection. "As the Perfect One reached His perfectness through suffering," says Dr. Ferguson, "so it was with His servant. It was through the fire and the flame that the law of separation and refinement acted on the whole nature, and gave to it higher worth and glory. Trial ripened his manly spirit and made it patient to endure."
4. To promote the good of the race. The Christian is called to "know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings" — to suffer vicariously with Him that others may be saved and blessed. In the privilege of this high fellowship the sharpest sufferings become sacred and exalting services.Conclusion:
1. Severe afflictions in the path of duty are in full accord with the character of God.
2. Such sufferings are quite compatible with the favour of God towards us (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11).
3. When severe suffering leads to sore perplexity let us seek help of God (cf. Psalm 73:16, 17).
I. THAT THE POSITION OF LEADER OR GOVERNOR OF MEN IS A VERY TRYING ONE.
1. Because of the responsible nature of the duties of leadership.
2. Because of the interest which the true leader takes in his charge.
3. Because of the intractableness of men.
II. THE TRUE LEADER OF MEN MUST OFTEN BE PAINFULLY CONSCIOUS OF HIS INSUFFICIENCY.
III. THE ABLEST AND HOLIEST LEADERS OF MEN SOMETIMES FAIL UNDER THE BURDENS OF THEIR POSITION. Conclusion:
1. Great honours involve great obligations.
2. A man may fail even in the strongest point of his character. Moses was pre-eminently meek, yet here he is petulant, &c. Therefore, "Watch thou in all things," &c.
3. It is the duty of men not to increase, but if possible to lessen the difficulties and trials of leadership.
do see what there is to be seen, for in every dispensation there is the hand of a Divine purpose, full of love, and wisdom, and grace.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(T. L. Cuyler.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Gather unto Me seventy men of the eldersI. THE LORD'S ANSWER TO THE APPEAL OF HIS MUCH-TRIED SERVANT.
1. The number of the assistants.
2. Their selection.
3. The qualification imparted to them.
II. THE LORD'S ANSWER TO THE APPEAL OF HIS PERVERSE PEOPLE.
1. Recognises the sinful character of their appeal.
2. Demands preparation for the granting of their appeal.
3. Promises the most abundant bestowment of that which they had so passionately and sinfully desired.Conclusion: Mark well —
1. The disgusting nature of the sins of gluttony and drunkenness.
2. The necessity of firmly controlling carnal desires. Even those animal appetites which are lawful must be kept subordinate to higher things.
3. The necessity of submissiveness in prayer.
I. THE CALLING OF THE SEVENTY ELDERS IS AN INSTANCE OF THE ORGANISING ACTION OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
1. A new want needed a remedy.
2. The remedy supplied.
3. The remedy for the want extraordinary.
4. The remedy had its counterpart in —
(1) (2) II. THE HOLY SPIRIT STILL CARRIES ON THE SAME WORK. 1. The Church has new needs. She must pray as Moses prayed, and realising the presence of the Holy Ghost, set herself to meet these new demands on her energies, in scattered hamlet and crowded alley, where Christ Himself would come. 2. "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets!" Each Christian is a Spirit-bearer. Is he conscious of this dignity and responsibility? Each has his special gifts. (W. Walters, M. A.)
(2) II. THE HOLY SPIRIT STILL CARRIES ON THE SAME WORK. 1. The Church has new needs. She must pray as Moses prayed, and realising the presence of the Holy Ghost, set herself to meet these new demands on her energies, in scattered hamlet and crowded alley, where Christ Himself would come. 2. "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets!" Each Christian is a Spirit-bearer. Is he conscious of this dignity and responsibility? Each has his special gifts. (W. Walters, M. A.)
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT STILL CARRIES ON THE SAME WORK.
1. The Church has new needs. She must pray as Moses prayed, and realising the presence of the Holy Ghost, set herself to meet these new demands on her energies, in scattered hamlet and crowded alley, where Christ Himself would come.
2. "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets!" Each Christian is a Spirit-bearer. Is he conscious of this dignity and responsibility? Each has his special gifts.
(W. Walters, M. A.)
Psalm 1.). Nay, how showeth this that whatsoever He will, that can He do both in heaven and earth; and therefore blessed is the man that putteth his trust in Him. Remember what you read in the holy gospel (Matthew 6:25). What dearth so great, what penury so pinching, wherein the Lord cannot help us either ordinarily or extraordinarily? Can He thus glut His great host with dainty quails, and cannot He send you and yours bread? Fear not, but cleave unto Him fast, and even past hope if the case should be such, yet under hope believe all the Scriptures, and that He will never leave you succourless that openeth His hand and filleth all things with plenteousness. Only consider that many ways He ever exerciseth the faith of His children and their patience, whose duty is to bear with contentment what He sendeth, praying to Him to remember mercy, and to lay no more upon us than we are able to bear, as He hath promised, use such means as you can by just and honest labour or otherwise; and be assured, in goodness He will step in when He seeth time.
the Lord's hand waxed short?I. THESE WORDS HAVE SPECIAL REFERENCE TO A DIVINELY-REVEALED PURPOSE WHICH STAGGERS HUMAN REASON.
1. Let us look at this purpose. "God hath sent His Son into the world,... that the world through Him might be saved."
2. The difficulties in the way of this gracious purpose, which excite men's fears. There is the inveterate carnality of the human heart, the stubborn resistance of the human will to the Divine; there is the stolid indifference ,of great masses in Christian lands to the practical duties and claims of religion; and the growing scepticism of the day regarding the verities of the gospel. Consider also the prevalence of idolatrous systems and heathen superstitions among great masses of mankind. Take also the subtle rationalism and keen-witted infidelity which prevail in civilised and semi-Christianised countries. It requires strong faith in a man to calmly survey this formidable host of evil in the world and then take his stand by the side of Christ, confident that His cause will triumph.
II. WE HAVE IN THESE WORDS AN ASSERTION OF DIVINE POWER WHICH WARRANTS HUMAN CONFIDENCE. God's purpose is a promise. He stakes His character on the fulfilment of His Word.
1. He cannot forget.
2. He cannot fail through insincerity.
3. He cannot fail through inadequate power to perform.
III. IN THESE WORDS WE HAVE GOD'S CHALLENGE TO THE EARNEST FAITH, PRAYER, AND CO-OPERATION OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. The true attitude of the Christian labourer or the Church is to stand, with one hand of believing prayer taking hold of God, and the other hand of loving labour taking hold of fallen man, that the fallen may be raised, and the lost saved.
2. When we are ready for a blessing, God will not fail to bestow it.
I. With regard to THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE, how often is it true that she so behaveth herself as if she had a question in her mind as to whether the Lord's hand had waxed short? The mass of us would be afraid to go out trusting in God to supply our needs. We should need first that everything should be prepared for us, and that the way should be paved; but we are not ready to leap as champions upon the wall of the citadel, leading the forlorn hope and planting the standard where it never stood before. No, we can follow in the track of others. We have few Careys and few Knibbs, few men who can go first and foremost saying, "This is God's cause; Jehovah is the only God, and in the name of the Eternal let the idols be abolished." Oh, for more anointed ones to preach the gospel believing in its intrinsic might, assured that where it is preached faithfully, the Spirit of God is never absent! O Zion! get thee up, get thee up! Count no more thy hosts, for their strength is thy weakness; measure no longer thy wealth, for thy wealth has often been thy poverty, and thy poverty thy wealth; think not of the learning or the eloquence of thy ministers and missionaries, for full often these things do but stand in the way of the Eternal God. But come thou forth in simple confidence in His promise, and thou shalt see whether He will not do according to His Word.
II. WHEN BELIEVERS DOUBT THEIR GOD WITH REGARD TO PROVIDENCE, the question might well be asked of them, "Is the Lord's hand waxed short?" I do not doubt that I am speaking to some who have had many losses and crosses in their business. Instead of getting forward they are going back, and perhaps even bankruptcy stares them in the face. Or possibly, being hard-working men, they may have been long. out of employment, and nothing seems now to be before their eyes but the starvation of themselves and. their little ones. It is hard to bear this. But dost thou doubt, O believer, dost thou doubt as to whether God will fulfil His promise wherein He said, "His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure"? Thy God heareth the young ravens when they cry, and giveth liberally to all the creatures that His hands hath made, and will He forget His sons and His daughters — His people bought with blood, His own peculiar heritage? No; dare to believe Him now. His hand has not waxed short. Please not Satan, and vex not thyself by indulging any more those hard thoughts of Him. Say, "My Father, Thou wilt hear my cry; Thou wilt supply all my needs"; and according to thy faith, so shall it be done unto thee.
III. There is a third way by which this question might be very naturally suggested, and that is WHEN A MAN WHO HAS FAITH IN CHRIST IS EXERCISED WITH DOUBTS AND FEARS WITH REGARD TO HIS OWN FINAL PERSEVERANCE OR HIS OWN PRESENT ACCEPTANCE IN CHRIST.
IV. This is a question which I may well ask of any here present who are CONVINCED OF SIN, BUT ARE AFRAID TO TRUST THEIR SOULS NOW, AT THIS VERY HOUR, IN THE HAND OF A LOVING SAVIOUR. "Oh, He cannot save me, I am so guilty, so callous! Could I repent as I ought, could I but feel as I ought, then He could save me; but I am naked and poor and miserable. How can He clothe, enrich, and bless me? I am cast out from His presence. I have grieved away His Spirit; I have sinned against light and knowledge — against mercy — against constant grace received. He cannot save me." "And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord's hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not." Did He not save the chief of sinners, Saul of Tarsus? Why, then, can He not save you? Is it not written, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanseth us from all sin"? Has that blood lost its efficacy?
V. And you say, do you, THAT GOD WILL NOT AVENGE YOUR SINS UPON YOU, THAT YE MAY GO ON IN YOUR INIQUITIES AND YET MEET WITH NO PUNISHMENT; that ye may reject Christ and do it safely. Well, soul," thou shalt see whether His word shall come to pass or not." But let me tell thee His hand is not waxed short; He is as strong to punish as when He bade the floods cover the earth; as powerful to avenge as when He rained hail out of heaven upon the cities of the plain. He is to-day as mighty to overtake and punish His enemies as when He sent the angel through the midst of Egypt, or afterwards smote the hosts of Sennacherib. Thou shalt see whether He will keep His word or not. Go on in the neglect of His great salvation; go to thy dying bed, and buoy thyself up with the false hope that there is no hereafter; but, sinner, thou shalt see; thou shalt see. This point in dispute shall not long be a matter of question to be cavilled at on the one side, and to be taught with tears on the other.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Look to God's creation! Is there anything there which would make you say, "Is the Lord's hand waxed short?" What pillar of the heavens hath begun to reel? What curtain of the sky hath been rent or moth-eaten? Have the foundations of the earth begun to start? Hath the sun grown dim with age? or have the starry lamps flickered or gone out in darkness? Are there signs of decay to-day upon the face of God's creation? Have not howling tempests, the yawning ocean, and death-bearing hurricanes, asserted but yesterday their undiminished might? Say, is not the green earth as full of vitality, as ready to yield us harvests now, as it ever hath been? Do the showers fall less frequently? No; journey where you will, you will see God as potent upon the face of the earth, and in the very bowels of the globe, as He was when He first said, "Let there be light and there was light." There is nothing which would tempt us to the surmise or the suspicion that the Lord's hand hath waxed short.
2. And look ye too in providence; is there aught there that would suggest the question? Are not His prophecies still fulfilled? Does He not cause all things to work together for good? Do the cattle on a thousand hills low out to Him for hunger? Do you meet with the skeletons of birds that have fallen to the ground from famine? Doth He neglect to give to the fish their food, or do the sea-monsters die? Doth not God still open His hand and supply the want of every living thing? Is He less bounteous to-day than He was in the time of Adam? Is not the cornucopia still as full? Doth He not still scatter mercies with both His hands right lavishly? Are there any tokens in providence any more than in nature, that God's arm hath waxed short?
3. And look ye too in the matter of grace; is there any token in She work of grace that God's power is failing? Are not sinners still saved? Are not profligates still reclaimed? Are not drunkards still uplifted from their sties to sit upon the throne with princes? Is not the Word of God still quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword? Where have ye seen the sword of the Lord snapped in twain? When hath God assayed to melt a h-art and failed in the attempt? Which of His people has found the riches of His grace drained dry? Which of His children has had to mourn that the unsearchable riches of Christ had failed to supply his need? How is it, then, that such a question as this ever came from the lips of God Himself? What could there have been that should lead Him or any of His creatures to say, "Is the Lord's hand waxed short?" We answer, there is but one creature that God has made that ever doubts Him. The little sparrows doubt not: though they have no barn nor field, yet they sweetly sing at night as they go to their roosts, though they know not where to-morrow's meal shall be found. The very cattle trust Him; and even in days of drought, ye have seen them when they pant for thirst, how they expect the water; how the very first token of it makes them show in their very animal frame, by some dumb language, that they felt that God would not leave them to perish. The angels never doubt Him, nor the devils either: devils believe and tremble. But it was left for man, the most favoured of all creatures, to mistrust his God. This high, this black, this infamous sin of doubting the power and faithfulness of Jehovah, was reserved for the fallen race of rebellious Adam; and we alone, out of all the beings that God has ever fashioned, dishonour Him by unbelief and tarnish His honour by mistrust.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
quasi juvans pater, a helping father, yet (as the poets feign) be wept when he could not set Sarpedon at liberty; such was the imbecility and impotency of this master-god of the heathen. But the hand of our God is never shortened that it cannot help, He is ever able to relieve us, always ready to deliver us. Amongst all the gods there is none like unto Him, none can do like unto His works, He is God Omnipotent.
Eldad and Medad do prophesy.
I. The first thought that occurs to us in reading this scene is THE GOOD, FELT BY THE GREATEST, OF ZEAL AND ENTHUSIASM. And the second is, how to discover it, how to encourage it in God's service. But then comes the further question, Have these men the prophet's capacity? Have they that primary want, the prophet's faith? Have they fire, perseverance, and courage?
1. The prophet's faith. Take away from the prophet this faith in the living God, speaking to him, teaching him, encouraging him, in the midst of life's sorrows and temptations, and he is nothing. Give him that belief, and his confidence, his courage is unshaken.
2. There is the prophet's belief in the moral order underlying the established order of things, as the only safe and sure foundation on which peace and prosperity in a nation can be built.
II. The prophetic message, however varied its tone, however startling its communication, is ALWAYS IN SUBSTANCE, AS OF OLD, THE SAME: "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
III. Would that the people of the Lord were all prophets! WOULD THAT WE HAD ALL MORE OF THE FIRE OF ENTHUSIASM, leading us to go forth and act, and learn in acting, not waiting till we have solved all doubts or perfected some scheme of action!
IV. ZEAL MAY OFTEN MAKE MISTAKES, BUT IT IS BETTER THAN NO ZEAL. Truth is not merely correctness, accuracy, the absence of error, nor even the knowledge of the laws of nature. It is also the recognition of the moral and spiritual bases of life, and the desire to promote and teach these among men.
(A. G. Butler, D. D.)
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
1 Kings 12:8, 13, 14). The reasons are plain. First, age and years bring experience and ripeness of judgment and so wisdom. Youth is as green timber; age as that which is seasoned (Job 32:7). Again, their affections being hotter and stronger are more inconstant and unbridled, realty to run into extremities, as untamed heifers not used to the yoke. Lastly, they put far from them the evil day; they think themselves privileged by their age, and make account they have time enough hereafter to enter into better courses. The uses:
1. This teacheth us not to rest in the judgment, nor to follow the counsel of young men, except they have old men's gifts and graces in them. For touching gifts, it is true which Elihu testifieth (Job 32:9).
2. Let young men suffer their elders to speak before them, especially in censuring things that are strange.
3. Seeing rashness and unadvisedness are specially incident to youth, let them learn to season their years with the Word of God, let them make it their meditation, whereby they may repress such hot and hasty and headstrong passions.
Enviest thou for my sake?
is no room for questioning that even Christians can be jealous of each other, and feel it a sore trial when they are distanced and eclipsed in being instrumental in promoting Christianity. We are far enough from regarding it as a matter of course, that a veteran in the missionary work would feel contented and pleased at seeing that work which had gone on so slowly with himself, progress with amazing rapidity when undertaken by a younger labourer; on the contrary, arguing from the known tendencies of our nature, we assume that he must have had a hard battle with himself before he could really rejoice in the sudden advance of Christianity; and we should regard him as having won, through the assistance of Divine grace, a noble victory over some of the strongest cravings of the heart when he frankly bade the stripling, God speed! and rejoiced as he saw the idols fall prostrate before him.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Genesis 26:12-14, 27; Genesis 30:1; Genesis 31:1; Mark 9:38; John 3:26, 27).
1. Because it is a fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:21), as carnal grief and hatred are, of which it is compounded: for it maketh men repine at the prosperity of others, and that which is worst of all, to hate the persons that have those gifts. This appeareth in the Pharisees (Matthew 27:18).
2. God bestoweth His gifts where He will, and to whom He will, and in what measure He will (Matthew 20:15).
3. It procureth the wrath of God, and is never left without punishment, as appeareth in the next chapter, where Miriam, the sister of Moses, is stricken with the leprosy, because she envied the gifts of Moses; God showing thereby how greatly He detested this sin.
4. Whatsoever is bestowed upon any member, is bestowed upon the whole body (1 Corinthians 12.). Whatsoever is given to any part, is giving for the benefit of the whole Church: why, then, should we envy any, seeing we have our portion in it?
5. It is a devilish vice; it is worse than fleshly, and yet if it were no more, it were sufficient to make us to detest it: and it transformeth us into the image of Satan, who envied the happiness of our first parents in the garden (Genesis 3:5). So Cain was of that evil one (1 John 3:12), and envied his brother, because God accepted him and his sacrifice (Genesis 4:5).
6. It crosseth and controlleth the wisdom of God in the distribution of His gifts and graces, as if God had done them wrong and been too good to others: we can challenge nothing as due to ourselves, but whatsoever we have we have it freely: howbeit, the envious like not His administration, but dislike that others should enjoy that which they want.
7. It is against the rule of charity which rejoiceth at the good of others (1 Corinthians 13.), and is ready to bestow and communicate good things where is want of them. So, then, where envy is, there charity is not; and where charity is, there envy is not.Uses:
1. This teacheth us that all are subject to this evil, even they that are godly, and in a great measure sanctified, are apt to envy at others excelling in the graces of God. The best things are subject to be abused through our corruption.
2. It serveth to reprove many malicious persons: some envy others temporal blessings: others envy them the grace of God. If they have more knowledge than themselves they cannot abide them, but speak all manner of evil against them. Hence it is that Solomon opposeth envy and the fear of God as things that cannot possibly stand together (Proverbs 23. 17), and in another place a sound heart and envy (Proverbs 14:30).
3. Let us use all holy and sanctified means to prevent it, or to purge it away if it has seized upon us. Store of charity and humility tempered together will make a notable defence and preservative against this malady.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets.
1. I shall name their heroic faith. "All men have not faith." They either openly deny and disbelieve, or more often saying they believe act as though they did not. They are cowed by the power of wickedness, or tempted by its seductions. If they begin to make an effort for good, they fling up the contest as soon as they find that it will compromise their interests. Most often they will brave no danger, expose no falsehood, stand up against no wrong; they will spread their sails to every veering breeze; they will swim with the stream; they will look on success and popularity as the ends of living and the tests of truth. Not so the prophets. They will not be deceived by the vain shows of the world, nor seduced by its bribes, nor blunt the edge of their moral sense with its manifold conventions. Terror will not daunt, nor flattery lure them. Through lives of loss and persecution they will go on with an intense and quiet perseverance, which no success will cause them to relax, and no reverse subdue. They will devote every energy and possession to the cause of God, and the service of the most helpless of mankind.
2. They saw beyond. Over and around them towered the colossal kingdoms of the heathen. The giant forms of empires around them were but on their way to ruin, because they were not founded on righteousness. Kings, priests and mobs might be against them; they were but vain and idle men (Jeremiah 1:17-19). And if they had the faith which looked beyond the little grandeurs of men, they also had the hope which looked beyond their sorrows, and this hope spread outwards in ever-widening circles. Amid the apostacy of Israel they always prophesied that Israel should not be utterly destroyed. And this hope was concentrated in their greatest and most unfaltering prophecy of an Anointed Deliverer, a coming Saviour for all mankind: a Man who should be "a hiding-place from the wind; and a covert from the tempest; the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
3. The third great characteristic of the Hebrew prophets is their sense that the very end and aim of all religion is simply righteousness: that there is an abysmal difference between a mere correct worship and a living faith. Such was the spirit of the prophets. Let us conclude by considering the way in which we too, in our measure, are called to share in their spirit, and to continue their work.(1) We must try to do so, first, by escaping the average. He who has an unswerving faith in a few great moral principles to which, through evil report and good report, he clings; he who will only look on opinions and practices as he believes they must appear in the sight and before the tribunal of God; he who in politics knows no principle but truth and right; he who in the path of duty is indifferent to human praise or human blame; he who will stand firm when others fail; he who because the house of his life is built on a rock will do what God has given him to do, and say what God has given him to say, holding his own against chances and accident, against popular clamour and popular favour, against the anger and prejudices of the circle among whom he moves, that is the true prophet, that is the strong Christian man.(2) And as ours should be the aim of the prophet, ours should be the qualities of his mind and heart. Something at least we must have of their enthusiasm, something of their devotion, something of their indignation against wrong; something, too, of their courage.
Homilist.I. A PROTEST AGAINST MONOPOLY IN RELIGIOUS TEACHING.
1. The prevalence of this monopoly.
2. The causes of this monopoly.
(1) (2) 3. The iniquity of this monopoly. What arrogancy! Is not one mind as near the fountain of knowledge, the source of inspiration, as another? II. AN AUTHORITY FOR FREEDOM IN RELIGIOUS TEACHING. 1. All the Lord's people ought to be teachers. The possession of superior knowledge implies the obligation to disseminate it. 2. All the Lord's people might be teachers. All that is wanted is "that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them"; and this Spirit is free alike to all. (Homilist.)
(2) 3. The iniquity of this monopoly. What arrogancy! Is not one mind as near the fountain of knowledge, the source of inspiration, as another? II. AN AUTHORITY FOR FREEDOM IN RELIGIOUS TEACHING. 1. All the Lord's people ought to be teachers. The possession of superior knowledge implies the obligation to disseminate it. 2. All the Lord's people might be teachers. All that is wanted is "that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them"; and this Spirit is free alike to all. (Homilist.)
3. The iniquity of this monopoly. What arrogancy! Is not one mind as near the fountain of knowledge, the source of inspiration, as another?
II. AN AUTHORITY FOR FREEDOM IN RELIGIOUS TEACHING.
1. All the Lord's people ought to be teachers. The possession of superior knowledge implies the obligation to disseminate it.
2. All the Lord's people might be teachers. All that is wanted is "that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them"; and this Spirit is free alike to all.
(J. G. Butler, D. D.)
They gathered the quails.I. ISRAEL'S COMPLAINT.
1. Its object was food.
2. Its nature was intense. "Fell a lusting."
3. It was general.
4. It was accompanied with tears. A faint, weary, disappointed people. Tears, chiefly, of discontent.
5. It was associated with the retrospections of memory. "We remember," &c. (ver. 5). They should also have remembered some other things of that past. Their bondage, &c.
6. It made present things distasteful. "There is nothing at all." There was a time when they did not call the manna nothing. Longing for what we have not tends to cause disparagement of things possessed.
II. MOSES' PERPLEXITY. Great popular leaders have often been perplexed by the unreasonable clamours of their followers. Have often been urged farther than their greater prudence and wisdom would have chosen. People have often damaged their own cause by exorbitant demands.
1. Moses displeased at the position in which he found himself. "My wretchedness " (ver. 15). His faith faltered (ver. 11, 12). Especially displeased with the people (ver. 10).
2. In his perplexity cried to the Lord. A good example. God " a present help in trouble."
3. He acknowledges his own weakness (vers. 21, 22). He could not feed the people. It would be suicidal to kill the flocks and herds, even if they were enough. Needed for sacrifice; and the religious well-being of the people of most importance.
4. He receives comfort, and direction (ver. 23).
III. GOD'S PROVIDENCE. Nature is His storehouse, in which He has garnered food for man and beast. He made all living things. Endowed them with habits and instincts. Made the quails. Ordained their migratory habits. Made and ruled the winds. When the quails came, the wind was ready. It fulfilled the word of God. The wonderful flight of birds. The scene in the camp. What was sent so abundantly seems to have been thanklessly received. Divine anger went with the gift. Many of the people died. Learn —
1. To pray for the blessing of contentment.
2. To seek the moderation of our desires.
3. To pray for grateful hearts.
4. To acknowledge the hand of God in the supply of our wants.
5. To be chiefly anxious for the supply of spiritual need.
(J. C. Gray.)
I. THERE ARE PERPETUAL RESURRECTIONS OF EASILY BESETTING SINS.
1. The side from which the temptation came to them (vers. 4-6). This mixed multitude corresponds precisely to the troop of disorderly passions and appetites, with which we suffer ourselves to march through the desert of life. Passions, desires, ever mad for indulgence, and reckless, scornful of Divine law.
2. The special season when the easily besetting sin rose up and again made them its slave. It is a fact which all close students of human character must have observed, that there is a back-water of temptation, if I may so speak, which is more deadly than its direct assaults. You may fight hard against a temptation, and fight victoriously. You may beat it off, and then, when, weary with the conflict, you suffer the strain of vigilance to relax, it shall steal in and easily master the citadel, which lately it spent all its force in vain to win. Beware of your best moments, as well as of your worst; or rather the moments which succeed the best. They are the most perilous of all.
II. There comes a point in the history of the indulgence of besetting sins, when GOD CEASES TO STRIVE WITH US AND FOR US AGAINST THEM, AND LETS THEM. HAVE THEIR WAY.
1. God has great patience with the weaknesses and sins of the flesh. But it is a dreadful mistake to suppose that therefore He thinks lightly of them. He regards them as sins that must be conquered, and, no matter by what sharp discipline, extirpated and killed. He knows that, if tolerated, they become the most deadly of spiritual evils, and rot body and spirit together in hell.
2. Hence all the severer discipline by which the Lord seeks to purge them, the various agencies by which He fights with us and for us against their tyrannous power. What is life but one long discipline of God for the cleansing of the flesh? Are not the after-pains of departed sensual joys among its chief stings and thorns?
3. Left alone by God. God does not curse us; He leaves us to ourselves; that is curse enough, and from that curse what arm can save us! We will have it, and we shall have it. We leap through all the barriers which He has raised around us to limit us, yea, though they be rings of blazing fire, we will through them and indulge our lust; and in a moment He sweeps them all out of our path — perhaps roses spring to beguile, where flames so lately blazed to warn.
III. THE END OF THAT WAY IS, INEVITABLY AND SPEEDILY, A GRAVE. The grave of lust is one of the most awful of the inscriptions on the headstones of the great cemetery, the world. In how many do we now search in vain for fruits whose flowers once bloomed there; for generous emotions, swift responses to the appeals of sorrow, unselfish ministries, and stern integrity? How many have learnt now to laugh at emotions which once had a holy beauty in their sight; to fence skilfully with appeals which once would have thrilled to the very core of their hearts; to grasp at advantages which once they would have passed with a scornful anathema, and to clutch at the gold which was once the glad instrument of diffusing benefits around! Yes! there are graves enough around us — graves of passion, graves of self-will, graves of lust. Beware, young men; young women, beware! Beware! for the dead things buried in these graves will not lie quiet; they stir and start, and ever and anon come forth in their ghastly shrouds and scare you at your feasts. No ghosts so sure to haunt their graves as the ghosts of immolated faculties and violated vows. The memories which haunt the worn-out worldling's bed of impotence or lust are the true avengers of Heaven. The brain loses power to repel them, but retains power to fashion them. Once it could drive away thoughts and memories; now it can only retain them, and fix them in a horrid permanent session on their thrones.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
I. THEIR SIN many consider a trifle. Certainly it was not of that character which the judgment inflicted on them would lead us to anticipate. We read here of no enormous transgression, or daring violation of God's law. All they were guilty of, was a strong desire for something which God had not given them. "Something evil," you will say perhaps, but not so; it was one of the most harmless things they could have desired. The Lord had provided them with manna for their support; they were weary of manna and wanted flesh. "The children of Israel," we read, "wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?"
1. You see, then, the nature of the sin we have before us. It is a sin of the heart — coveting, desiring; and that not slightly, but very eagerly, with the full bent of the mind. It is not spiritual idolatry, though it is like it. That is making too much of what we have; this is making too much of what we want.
2. Look at the cause or spring of Israel's sin. Their desire for flesh was a desire springing up amidst abundance. It had its origin, not in their necessities, but m their vile affections, their own unsubdued, carnal minds.
3. Observe next the occasion of Israel's sin. Oh, dread the mixed multitude. Stand in fear of worldly-minded professors of Christ's gospel. They will teach you to lust for the things you now despise. They will drive, if not the fear, yet the peace of God from your hearts, and all they will give you in exchange for it will be a craving, aching soul, a share in their own restlessness and discontent.
4. Mark the effect of their sin, its immediate effect, I mean, on their own minds. It made them completely wretched. The truth is, the mind of man cannot long bear a strong and unchecked desire. It must be gratified or have a prospect of being gratified, or it consumes the soul. Perhaps we may say, this is one main ingredient in the misery of hell — a longing, and a longing, and a longing still, for something that can be never had.
5. Notice one thing more in this craving of the Israelites — its sinfulness or guilt. Wherein, then, did its sinfulness lie? In the twentieth verse, God tells us. He pronounces it a contempt of Himself. Moses is commanded to go to the weeping people, and say to them, "Ye have despised the Lord which is among you." And how had they despised Him?In three respects.
1. They had low thoughts of His power. "Who," they asked, "shall give us flesh to eat?" Who can give it?
2. And their conduct involved in it a making light of His goodness. They had evidently lost sight at this time of all He had done for them, or if not so, they lightly esteemed what He had done.
3. And then there was also here a despising of God's authority.
II. Look at THE CONDUCT OF THEM INSULTED GOD TOWARDS THEM IN CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR SIN.
1. He granted their desire. We are told again and again that it displeased Him, that His anger was kindled greatly against the people on account of it; but how does He show His displeasure? He begins with giving them the very thing they wish for; He works a miracle to give it them; He gives it them to the utmost extent of their desires, and beyond them. But what was God really doing all this while? He was only vindicating His aspersed honour.
2. The Lord took vengeance on these Israelites, and this in a fearful manner and at a very remarkable time. It is often the will of God to make our sin our punishment. We eagerly crave something; He gives us what we crave, and when we have it, He either takes away from us all our delight in it, and so bitterly disappoints us, or else He causes it to prove to us a source of misery.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
Job 20:5-7; Job 21:17; Psalm 73:19; Isaiah 30:13; Exodus 12:29; Daniel 5:30; Luke 12:20). The destruction of the wicked shall come as a whirlwind (Amos 1:14).
1. This is plain, because they have through God's long-suffering increased the number, weight, and measure of their sins, and thereby compel the Lord to bring His judgments suddenly upon them.
2. God respecteth herein the benefit of others toward whom He hath not used as yet so long patience, to the end that they, seeing others fall into sudden destruction, may learn thereby not to abuse His patience, lest they also be suddenly destroyed (Daniel 5:22).The uses follow.
1. See from hence the happy estate of all such as think of the day of their reckoning betimes, and prepare their garments that they be not taken naked. Such are out of danger, and have no cause to fear wrath and judgment.
2. It serveth to teach us that we should not envy at the peace and prosperity of the wicked, neither fret at the flourishing estate of the ungodly that live in their sins, for howsoever they be for a time forborne, yet thereby they are the more hardened in their sins, till a far greater judgment come upon them. Therefore envy not at them though they grow great, for suddenly shall the judgments of God tulle hold upon them, and arrest them as guilty of death, and then they shall perish speedily; so that there is no reason to grieve or grudge at their prosperity.
3. From hence ariseth comfort to the faithful.
4. It is our duty to watch and attend with all care for the time of judgment.
I. IT IS THE TENDENCY OF LUST TO SHORTEN LIFE AND TO BRING MEN TO AN UNTIMELY GRAVE. Our animal desires are good servants; but, when they gain the mastery, they are fearful tyrants, loading the conscience with guilt and the body with disease, ruining life, and making eternity a hell. The Romans, it is said, held their funerals at the Gate of Venus, to teach that lust shortens life. The pleasures of sin are dearly bought.
II. LET US RECORD SOME OF OUR FEELINGS AS WE CONTEMPLATE "THE GRAVES OF LUST."
1. The one is of intense pity, that man should be so foolish as to live in sin when he knew how it would end; that life should be so wasted, and opportunities lost, &c.
2. The other is of awful solemnity. He is gone; but whither? He has given up the ghost; but where is he?Let us all —
1. Ascertain whether or no we are on the way to this grave.
2. Resolve through the help of God that we will not be there. Seek Jesus Christ. He, and He only, can rescue us from the power, the curse, and the consequences of sin.
1. To save the reputation of His own power, that it might not be said, He had cut them off because He was not able to suffice them. And —
2. To show us the meaning of the prosperity of sinners; it is their preparation for ruin. They are fed as an ox for the slaughter.
(Matthew Hearty, D. D.)
I. There is UNSEASONABLE DESIRE. The desire of the people for flesh was not unnatural, not illegal in itself, but it was unseasonable. This is a common fault of ours, to desire legitimate things in times and places which are not convenient.
1. There is the impatience of youth. The course of life with many in these times reminds us of the days when we were lads, and when in the early morning we went a distance to school, taking our dinner with us; then appetite was keen, and it was no unusual thing to devour our dinner on the way to school, starving for the rest of the day. It is thus with thousands of infatuated ones a little later on; in the greediness of their heart they devour and waste their portion in the morning of life, and then starve through the long tedious day, or else go down to a premature grave. I say to my young brethren, wait, rein in your desires, move slowly, and every joy of life shall be yours in turn. "Haste is of the devil," is a saying in the East popularly ascribed to Mahomet himself. We may accept the saying in the matter before us; let youth be moderate, deliberate, avoiding all feverishness, drawing slowly on the resources of life.
2. There is the eagerness, of manhood. We should do little in life without intensity, but there are times when we may with advantage take in sail, and give ourselves time for rest and reflection. It is certainly unseasonable to bring our business life in any shape into the Lord's Day. It is also unseasonable to allow worldly cares and ambitions to invade those spaces which are so necessary for our domestic and intellectual life. God grants us spaces for rest and thought in the home, in the chamber; and it is exhaustive, indeed, when our overweening worldliness excludes the possibilities of solitary and social life. Some men fill their annual holidays with anxieties until they are no holidays at all. And there are days of personal affliction, of domestic sorrows, of national calamity, when it is our solemn duty to pause in the race for riches and think of life's larger meaning.
3. There is the greed of age. Old men often come to the grave sooner than they need because they will not let the world go. They cling to ambition, although it wastes their strength and peace; they cling to business, they are pushing, grasping, hoarding as ever, although such application fast saps a life already tottering; they cling to pleasure, they will still wear the wreath of roses on their white hair, although to them it is the most fatal wreath of all.
II. There is IMMODERATE DESIRE. We may pursue a right object with inordinate appetite. The Israelites were not content with the simple, pearly, wholesome food God gave them — they wanted something more piquant. They got what they wanted — and a grave. In all generations how many fall the same way.
1. There is the immoderateness of our literature. We must feast on the romantic, the sensational, the morbid, the exaggerated. Out of this excess of imaginative literature come great evils. The reading public live in a world of fancy, sentiment, passion; and this feverish unreality in the hours of retirement gives birth to much of that practical immoderation which is the curse of our age. I do not say abandon this literature of romance; but I do say restrain and chasten your imagination, for be sure this habit of wild dreaming is at the root of much of that general intemperance of life which hurries many to the grave.
2. There is the immoderation of our style of living. A writer was finding fault the other day with the present style of gardening. He complained that we have rooted up the old fragrant flowers — lavender, pinks, marigolds, mignonette, and gone in for crude patches of red and blue and yellow; that we have swept away sweet shrubs and bits of lawn for the sake of violet ribbon-borders and vulgar carpet-bedding. But does not our Italian gardening largely reflect our social life? Are we not often found renouncing sweet, simple methods of living for a showy, ostentatious style which brings with it little joy?
3. There is the immoderateness of our appetite. Thousands are digging their grave with their teeth, and scooping it out with their glass.
4. There is the immoderateness of business. Immoderation in other directions often drives men to unnatural eagerness in business. In haste to be rich they pierce themselves through with many sorrows.(1) How fatal all this immoderation is to health! We fret for money, drinking blood out of a golden basin; we are anxious to be great, and the path of glory leads to the grave; we are mad to seize the flowers of pleasure, and find the flowers of the churchyard.(2) How fatal is all this immoderation to happiness I There are thousands of successful merchants who after immense toil and sacrifice have secured wealth and position, and now they are distressed to find they have no power to eat what cost so much to get together. They have whatsoever their soul desireth, but they cannot taste any sweetness in it. Moderation is the secret of all life. Our health, our happiness, our character, our destiny, are bound up with self-restraint. Live with circumspection, live slowly, live by line and square, and you shall realise life at its best here, and then the life everlasting.
III. There is ILLEGAL DESIRE. Fixing our eye on forbidden things and lusting after them. How beautiful they seem, how desirable! and yet they eat as doth a canker. They lead to a premature grave. "The wicked do not live out half their days." They lead to a dishonoured grave (Ecclesiastes 8:10). They lead to a hopeless grave. Such awake to shame and everlasting contempt. Do not hide it from yourselves for an hour that death is the price of touching forbidden things. Are you tempted by unlawful pleasure? see the skeleton behind the flowers. By unlawful gain? see the field of blood behind the pieces of silver. By unlawful greatness? see the shroud wrapped up in the purple. By unlawful indulgence? see that at the devil's banquet the sexton is head waiter. Lust when it hath conceived bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished will have finished you. This is the dismal eternal order; and no secrecy, no strength, no skill on your part can disturb the programme or avert the penalty. Wherein, then, lies our safety? In reducing all desire to a minimum? Some of our sceptical writers counsel this. but it is not the philosophy of Christianity. The infinity of desire is a grand characteristic of our nature which it is no part of our duty to destroy. Christianity leaves intact our boundless desire, whilst it teaches us moderation in all worldly things. It does this by fixing our attention on our inner life. It assures us that the deep, final satisfaction is not in our senses, but in our spirit; that we find the full and ultimate delight of life as our inner self grows in truth anal goodness and love. It does this by fixing our hope on the heavenly life. The pilgrim is not likely to be too deeply engrossed about the tent curtains, tent pegs, tent cords. Think much of that greater life, and you shall not think overmuch about things which perish in the using.
(W. L. Watkinson.)
I. THE TEST BENEATH WHICH MOSES BROKE DOWN, But in the case of Moses there was surely an outbreak of impatience which was hardly justifiable. He loved the people, but his love was not strong enough to sustain the terrific test to which it was exposed. He pitied them, but beneath the scorching sun of their repeated provocations that pity dried up like waters which are absorbed in the desert heat.
II. THE PARALLEL IN CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.
1. We also have need to beware of the influence of "the mixed multitude." Had it not been for these, Israel had walked with God, and been satisfied with His provision on their behalf. It was from them that the discontent proceeded. There are many professing Christians who have the form of godliness, but deny its power, and who pass freely in and out among the children of God. It is among these that we may expect to hear complaints that religion is dry and irksome, or rapturous descriptions of the food of Egypt, or special pleadings that there should be a mingling of the delights of the Egyptian world, which should have been left behind for ever, with the manna which God lays on the dew of the desert floor. Their influence is all the stronger in that they appeal to tendencies within us, which are so susceptible to their call.
2. We must distinguish between appetite and lust. The appetites have been implanted within us to maintain the machinery of life. If it were not for their action, we should neglect food and rest and exercise, and many other things necessary to our well-being. But in us all appetite is apt to run up into lust. In other words, we seek satisfaction, not for the necessary supply of our physical needs, but for the momentary pleasure which accompanies the gratification of appetite itself. Our motive is not the obtaining of some lawful and necessary end, but the titillation of taste and sense. Appetite has, therefore, to be curbed with a strong hand, lest it become inordinate passion, for the moment we take pleasure in the indulgence of appetite for its own sake, and apart from the legitimate end for which it was intended by the Almighty, we begin to tread a path that leads swiftly down to the bottomless pit.
3. Let us guard against the resurrection of easily besetting sins. We say to ourselves that certain forms of sin have died down within us, anal will never trouble us more. We have grown out of them. But at that very moment the ghastly shape of that temptation is at hand, to assert perhaps even more than its olden force. You can never be sure of yourself. The suggestion that a certain form of temptation can have no further power over you is of the devil, and should excite you to greater watchfulness. Inordinate desire, murmuring and mistrust, are linked in the closest association. When one of these enters the window of the heart, it goes round to open the door to the other two. Oh, how often have we grieved our heavenly Father! Have we not had days of provocation and temptation in the wilderness?
III. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE SERVANT AND THE FATHER. Moses repudiated the office of the nursing-father. He could not sustain its responsibilities. But his failure only serves to bring out into distincter relief a touching conception of the Fatherhood of God. Forty years afterwards, as the aged lawgiver, at the foot of Pisgah, was summing up the results of his experience, he said, "Thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bare his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came unto this place" (Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 63:9; Acts 13:18, R.V. marg.). Moses' patience gave out in a twelvemonth, God's lasted till His work was done, and the people were safely deposited in the land of promise. If only the true story of our lives were written, it would be the most astounding record of God's forbearing and pitying love. Truly, "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." But let us beware: there comes a time in the history of besetting sin when God ceases to strive against it. He gave them the quails they asked, flesh to the full. You may be mad for gold, and gold may pour in; mad for pleasure, and the golden barges wait to waft you on the swelling current; mad for applause, and it is yours till you are surfeited. God does not curse you, He leaves you to yourself, and that is curse enough. It is best to let our Father choose. His choice as to route and manna and length of daily journey must be the best. And when our yearnings are in opposition to His wise provision, let us quench them and yield our will about them.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Psalm 20:4), when offered for one whose heart is subdued, and whose desires are concentrated on the fulfilment of God's promises. But would it not be an awful prayer for one whose heart is full of unhallowed desires, who longs, like Israel of old, only for earthly things? Oh, we should take heed what we desire, and for what we pray. You may ask for some earthly gift — it may be worldly prosperity, it may be wealth, or it may be for some other gift — some far higher, but still earthly gift — and because you are very intent upon it, God may give it you: and then the fulfilment of that desire may become a most terrible snare to you. The gift, whatsoever it be, may become your idol, may let down your affections to earth; and thus, whilst your prayers have been granted, God has sent leanness withal into your soul. Oh, it is exalted mercy, that God does not grant all our desires — that He so often sets aside some desires, and greatly disappoints others. We are prone to fret at this, but it is a part of a merciful plan, whereby He would bring us to rest in Himself. Oh, then, through grace, I will turn away from earth, with all its treasures, and from the creature, whatever its attractions be. I will turn to Jesus. In Him I cannot be disappointed. His love is altogether pure, altogether satisfying.
S. S. Times.Among the passengers on the St. Louis express was a woman very much overdressed, accompanied by a bright looking nurse-girl and a self-willed, tyrannical boy of about three years. The boy aroused the indignation of the passengers by his continued shrieks and kicks and, screams, and his viciousness towards the patient nurse. He tore her bonnet, scratched her hands, and finally spat in her face, without a word of remonstrance from the mother. Whenever the nurse manifested any firmness, the mother chided her sharply. Presently, the mother composed herself for a nap; and about the time the boy had slapped the nurse for the fiftieth time, a wasp came sailing in, and flew on the window of the nurse's seat. The boy at once tried to catch it. The nurse caught his hand, and said coaxingly, "Harry mustn't touch. Wasp will bite Harry." Harry screamed savagely, and began to kick and pound the nurse. The mother, without opening her eyes or lifting her head, cried out sharply, "Why will you tease that child so, Mary? Let him have what he wants at once." "But, ma'am, its a —" "Let him have it, I say." Thus encouraged, Harry clutched at the wasp and caught it. The scream that followed brought tears of joy to the passengers' eyes. The mother woke again. "Mary," she cried, "let him have it!" Mary turned in her seat, and said confusedly, "He's got it, ma'am!"
(S. S. Times.).