Korah... Dathan, and Abiram... gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.I. THE REBELS.
3. Deluded —(1) Concerning Moses, who they asserted, wrongly, was a self-elected leader and an arbitrary prince.(2) Concerning the people, who they assumed (ver. 14) would have willingly followed Moses to the promised land, had he tried to lead them hither. Self-deceived, and deceiving others.
II. THEIR SIN. Rebellion against the authority of God which was invested in Moses.
1. Cause in Korah (see Numbers 3:30); whence it appears that for some unexplained cause a younger relative was appointed to the headship of the Kohathites. Korah was descended from the second son of Kohath (Numbers 6:18), whilst the present head was descended from the fourth son.
2. Cause in Dathan and Abiram. The priesthood transferred from the first-born of every family to one particular tribe, and that a branch of the house of Moses. But this was done by command of God, not of Moses alone.
3. Cause in the two hundred and fifty. Their own assumed rights might be interfered with, so they thought.
4. Cause in their followers. General dissatisfaction. They charged upon Moses the effects of their own selfishness. Pride in all of them.
III. THEIR PUNISHMENT.
1. Of Divine selection. Left on both sides to Divine arbitration. On the part of the rebels, a defiance; on the side of Moses, humble agreement.
2. Manifest. All should see it, and know thereby the Divine will.
3. Of Divine infliction. God took the matter into His own hands. It was a rebellion against Him, more than Moses.
5. Complete.All pertaining to them perished. God could do without men who had thought so much of themselves. Learn:
1. "Our God is a consuming fire." "A fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
2. Beware of resisting Divine authority. "How shall ye escape," &c.
3. Have we not all rebelled?
4. God was in Christ, making reconciliation, &c.
(J. C. Gray.)
(Isaac Williams, B. D.)
Preacher's Analyst.I. THE SIN.
1. A jealousy of the privileges and positions of God's appointed priesthood.
2. A lack of reverence for sacred things.
3. An unauthorised and presumptuous intrusion into Divine mysteries.
II. THE CONVICTION.
1. Moses acted wisely.
III. THE PUNISHMENT.
1. It destroyed the guilty.
2. It involved the innocent.
3. It was deterrent in its tendency.Lessons:
1. The fatal consequences of extreme irreverence.
2. Before we find fault with others we should take heed to ourselves.
3. All who attempt to get to heaven through their own efforts, instead of by the merits of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, shall share the fate of these wicked men.
I. The sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was this: THEY WERE DISCONTENTED WITH THE ARRANGEMENT MADE FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP BY THE CHOOSING OUT OF AARON AND HIS FAMILY TO BE PRIESTS. The argument they used was a very plausible one, because it depended upon the great truth of the Lord's being with all His people, consecrating and sanctifying them all, making them all in a certain sense holy to the Lord, in a certain sense priests. It also flattered the vanity of the people, and strengthened them in the notion that they were oppressed by their rulers.
II. THE ANSWER TO THIS ARGUMENT WAS THAT MOSES AND AARON HAD NOT LIFTED THEMSELVES UP AT ALL; THE LORD HAD LIFTED THEN UP. This was the answer which was ultimately given, with very terrible emphasis, by the swallowing up of Korah and his company. Korah and his company had laid great stress on the fact that all the congregation of the Lord were holy. Moses and Aaron might very well have replied, that they for their part by no means questioned the fact. Moses had never represented the choice of Aaron and his family as a declaration that they only of the people were holy. Nothing could be a greater mistake on the part of the people than to take this view of the priestly consecration.
III. BETWEEN OUR OWN PRIESTHOOD AND THAT OF THE ISRAELITES THERE IS STILL THE GREAT COMMON GROUND OF MINISTRY BEFORE GOD IN BEHALF OF OTHERS WHICH MUST BE AT THE BASIS OF EVERY RELIGION. Hence both priest and people may learn a lesson. The priest may learn that his office does not imply that he is holier or better than his brethren, but that it does imply greater responsibility, greater opportunities of good, greater sin if he does evil. And the people may learn to be gentle and considerate to those who are over them in the Lord, not to be ready to find fault and condemn, but rather to be charitable, and forbearing, and gentle.
(Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)
(C. Kingsley, M. A.)
1. We learn the sacredness of the ministry, and of its divinely appointed order Every man was to know his place and to keep it, and to do the duty of his place and none other, and not, on some specious plea of a higher fitness or a larger usefulness, intrude on work which God had given to others. Now, here are great principles, and these are applicable to the Church in all her periods and in all her forms. There is a ministry now in the Church, and it is there not because man made it, but God. "Let a man," says St. Paul, "so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." They hold their place, if they are really anything at all, by a Divine commission. Without a ministry recognised as truly Divine, there will never be religious stability, nor long, religious life and true Christian morals. And when these are gone, civil liberty and political order will not last long. And the first, the fatal step towards these dreadful losses is taken when that constitution of the ministry which Christ appointed is changed, and the sacred office begins to be looked upon as a thing which men may mould and alter to their convenience and their fancy.
2. But we must spare a little space for the broader lesson which this "gainsaying of Core" teaches us, namely, that in the social system, we all, ministers and laymen, especially ministers, have our place, which is appointed us of God, and our true wisdom and happiness lie in knowing what it is, and keeping in it. Korah had a place, and a very good place, but he did not like it. He sought a better by unlawful means, and he lost all, and "left his name for a curse unto God's chosen." He forgot that God had assigned him his place, and that contentment in it was a part of his religious obedience, the service that God required at his hands. How full this world is of restless and uncomfortable aspirings! Men see around them higher places, happier ones as they think; places that are certainly grander, that shine more, that seem to contain a greater plenitude of good, and to open larger sources of pleasure and enjoyment. They are discontented. They are envious. They get very little comfort from what they have by reason of their uneasy hankerings after what they have not. The true antidote of this great evil is faith; faith in God and in His overruling Providence; faith in the Divine order into which we find ourselves wrought, faith in the social economy under which we live as a Divine structure and appointment; faith in our own assignment to that place and those relations in it, which, whatever we may think of them, are the mind of God concerning us, the work of that great fashioning Hand which "ordereth all things in heaven and earth," and which appoints to all inferior agents their place and their work, not in caprice, not in cruelty, not in partiality, not in a reckless disregard of their rights and their welfare, but in wisdom, in equity, in benevolence, for His glory and the greatest good of the greatest number of His creatures.
(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
1 Samuel 13:11, 12; 1 Samuel 15:15; John 12:5, 6. Judas pretended the poor and his great care of them; albeit he cared not for them, but for himself.
1. For men are affected to their actions as they are to themselves. Though they be corrupt, yet they would not be thought to be so; and therefore they seek excuses for themselves, as Adam did fig leaves to cover his shame and his sin.
2. If they should pretend nothing, all would be ready to condemn them; therefore, to blind the eyes of others, they cast a mist before them as jugglers used to do that they may not be espied.Uses:
1. This serveth to reprove divers sorts that go about to varnish their actions with false colours, thereby to blind the world and to put out their eyes. These show themselves to be rank hypocrites.
2. We are to judge no otherwise of all such as transgress the law of God, whatsoever their allegations be. How many men are there that think even palpable sins to be no sins at all, because they can blanch and colour them over!
Seek ye the priesthood also?I. THE GREATNESS OF THE PRIVILEGES CONFERRED UPON THE LEVITES.
II. THE UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE AMBITION CHERISHED BY THEM. Their ambition involved —
1. The disparagement of their present privileges. Their privileges "seemed but a small thing unto them." Great as they were, they did not satisfy them. "Ambition," says Trapp, "is restless and unsatisfiable; for, like the crocodile, it grows as long as it lives."
2. Interference in the Divine arrangements. "Seek ye the priesthood also?"
III. THE HEINOUSNESS OF THE REBELLION IN WHICH THEY ENGAGED. Moses points out to them concerning their rebellion that —
1. It was unreasonable. "What is Aaron that ye murmur against him?" The high priest was merely an instrument in the hand of the Lord.
2. It was exceedingly sinful. "Thou and all thy company are gathered together against the Lord." "Those resist the prince who resist those that are commissioned by him" (comp. Matthew 10:40; John 13:20; Acts 9:4).Conclusion:
1. Let us crush every rising of ambition which is not in harmony with wisdom and righteousness.
2. Let us seek to give to our ambition a righteous and noble direction.
1. They were separated from the congregation of Israel, distinguished from them, dignified above them; instead of complaining that Aaron's family was advanced above theirs, they ought to be thankful that their tribe was advanced above, the rest of the tribes, though they had been in all respects upon the level with them. Note, it will help to keep us from envying those that are above us, duly to consider how many there are above whom we are placed. Many perhaps who deserve better are not preferred so well.
2. They were separated to very great and valuable honours.(1) To draw near to God, nearer than common Israelites, though they also were a people near unto Him : the nearer any are to God, the greater is their honour.(2) To do the service of the tabernacle. It is honour enough to bear the vessels of the sanctuary, and to be employed in any part of the service of the tabernacle; God's service is not only perfect freedom, but high preferment. Note, those are truly great that serve the public, and it is the honour of God's ministers to be the Church's ministers: nay (which adds to the dignity put upon them),(3) It was the God of Israel Himself that separated them. It was His act and deed to put them in their place, and therefore they ought not to be discontented with that; and He it was likewise that put Aaron into his place, and therefore they ought not to envy that.
3. He convicts them of the sin of under valuing these privileges, "Seemeth it a small thing unto you?" It ill becomes you, of all men, to grudge Aaron the priesthood, when at the same time that he was advanced to that honour, you were designed to another honour dependent upon it, and shine with rays borrowed from him. Note:(1) The privilege of drawing near to the God of Israel is not a small thing in itself, and therefore must not seem small to us. To those who neglect opportunities of drawing near to God, who are careless and formal in it, to whom it is a task, and not a pleasure, we may properly put this question, Seemeth it a small thing to you that God has made you a people near unto Him?(2) Those who aspire and usurp the honours forbidden them, put a great contempt upon the honours allowed them. We have each of us as good a share of reputation as God sees fit for us, and sees us fit for, and much better than we deserve; and we ought to rest satisfied With it, and not as these here, exercise ourselves in things too high for us: "Seek ye the priesthood also?" They would not own that they sought it, but Moses saw that in their eye: the law had provided very well for those that served at the altar, and therefore they would put in for the office.
4. He interprets their mutiny to be a rebellion against God (ver. 1). While they pretended to assert the holiness and liberty of the Israel of God, they really took up arms against the God of Israel: "Ye are gathered together against the Lord." Note, those that strive against God's ordinances and providences, whatever they pretend, and whether they are aware of it or no, do indeed strive with their Maker. Those resist the prince who resist those that are commissioned by him. For alas! saith Moses, "What is Aaron that ye murmur against him?" If murmurers and complainers would consider that the instruments they quarrel with are but instruments whom God employs, and that they are but what He makes them, and neither more nor less, better nor worse, they would not be so bold and free in their censures and reproaches as they are. They that found the priesthood, as it was settled, a blessing, must give all the praise to God; but if any thought it a burden, they must not therefore quarrel with Aaron, who is but what he is made, and doth as he is bidden. Thus he interested God in the cause, and so might be sure of speeding well in his appeal.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
I. GOD'S SEPARATION OF HIS SERVANTS.
1. The demand for this may come with the first Divine call of which the soul is conscious. To one living a worldly life there comes a conviction of the folly of this, which is really a Divine call to rise and pass from it, through surrender to Christ, to the number of the redeemed. But that call is not easy to obey at first. The influences under which we have grown hold us where we are; aims to which we have been devoted, and in which we have much at stake, refuse to be lightly abandoned; old associations and pleasures throw their arms about us, like the family of Bunyan's pilgrim, detaining us when we would flee; the world's beauty blinds us to the greater beauty of the spiritual, and we fear to cast ourselves into the unknown.
2. This demand is repeated by God's constant requirement of His people. For it is the law of spiritual life to "die daily," to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts"; and what is that but to sever ourselves for Christ's sake from objects to which the natural man would cleave!
3. And this demand of God is supplemented by His frequent providence. He calls us to voluntary separation, He also separates us whether we will or no. Evidently spiritual life needs much loneliness.
II. THIS SEPARATION IS FOR NEARNESS TO HIMSELF.
1. For apprehending God, we need separation from what is wrong. Every turning, however little, towards the world from the demand of conscience is a turning a little more away from God, till He is behind us and we lose sight of Him, and live as though He were not. Yea, sin not only turns the back on Him, it dims the eye to the spiritual so that though He stand before us we are blind to His presence.
2. Besides this, for communion with God we need separation from engrossing scenes and tasks. "How rare it is," said Fenelon, "to find a soul still enough to hear God speak!"
3. Moreover, for God's tenderest ministry we need separation from other joys.
III. THIS IS THE ANSWER TO THE SPIRIT OF MURMURING. Then is the time to think how we are separated for nearness to God, and to hear the question in the text, "Seemeth it but a small thing unto you?"
1. Let it comfort us in enforced severance from what we love. When we reflect on what we are severed from, let us reflect on the rare compensation — what we are severed to. God is the sum of joy, it is heaven to serve Him and to see His face, all else is nothing compared with conscious nearness to Him, and that is our desire and prayer.
2. Let this impel us to seek Divine nearness in the time of our separation. For nearness has not always followed separation in our experience: on the contrary, the seasons of isolation we have referred to have sometimes left us farther from God than we were. May not that be due to the fact that fellowship with Him requires that we go to Him for reception?
3. And let this give us victory over the temptation to cleave to evil. For when we first hear the call to relinquish sin the demand seems too great, as though we were to leave all for nothing. And after our Christian course has begun, it seems impossible to give up many an object we suddenly find forbidden. From what, then, we are called to leave, let us turn to think of what we are called to have. "Fear not, Abram," God said to the patriarch, who had refused the spoil at the slaughter of the kings, "Fear not, Abram, I am thy exceeding great reward!" And so He says to us, adding, as we waver, Lovest thou these more than Me; are they more to you than My favour, My fellowship, Myself?
Jeremiah 7:13, 14; Jeremiah 11:7, 8; Jeremiah 35:14; Psalm 78:17, 31, 35, 56; Matthew 11:21-24; Daniel 9:5, 6). The reasons:
1. First, because those men sin against knowledge, having the Word to inform them and their own consciences to convince them.
2. Secondly, it argueth obstinacy of heart; they have many strokes given them, but they feel none of them. For such as transgress in the midst of those helps that serve to restrain sin do not sin of infirmity, but of wilfulness. Now, the more wilful a man is, the more sinful he is.Uses:
1. This convinceth our times of much sinfulness, and in these times some places, and in those places sundry persons to be greater sinners than others. And why greater? Because our times have had more means to keep from sin than other times have had. What hath not God done for us and to us to reclaim us? Thus do we turn our blessings to be our bane, and God's mercies to be curses upon us.
2. Secondly, it admonisheth all that enjoy the means of preventing sin as benefits and blessings, the Scriptures and Word of God, His corrections, His promises and threatenings, His patience and longsufferance, that they labour to make profit by them and to fulfil all righteousness, lest God account their sin greater than others.
3. Lastly, learn from hence that the Word is never preached in vain, whether we be converted by it or not (see Isaiah 55:10, 11).
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(C. H. Mackintosh.)
Numbers 17:10). Murmuring is but as the smoke of a fire; there is first a smoke and a smother before the flame breaks forth: and so before open rebellion in a kingdom there is first a smoke of murmuring, and then it breaks forth into open rebellion. Because it has rebellion in the seeds of it, it is counted before the Lord to be rebellion. When thou feelest thy heart discontented and murmuring against the dispensation of God toward thee, thou shouldest check thy heart thus: "Oh! thou wretched heart! What I wilt thou be a rebel against God?"
(J. Parker, D. D.)
"Non amo nimium diligentem," will be one day used of God, if He calls us to one possession, and we busy ourselves about another; if He set us on foot, and we will be on horseback; if He make us subjects, and we must needs be superiors. God will not be pleased with such busybodies.
Respect not Thou their offering.
1. He appeals to God concerning his own integrity; whereas they basely reflected upon him as ambitious, covetous, and oppressive in making himself a prince over them. God was his witness —(1) That he never got anything by them: "I have not taken one ass from them," not only not by way of bribery and extortion, but not by way of recompense and gratuity for all the good offices he had done them; he never took the pay of a general, or salary of a judge, much less the tribute of a prince. He got more in his estate when he kept Jethro's flock than since he came to be king in Jeshurun.(2) That they never lost anything by him: "Neither have I hurt any one of them," no, not the least, no, not the worst, no, not those that had been most peevish and provoking to him. He never abused his power to the support of wrong. Note, those that have never blemished themselves need not fear being blemished. When men condemn us we may be easy, if our hearts condemn us not.
2. He begs of God to plead his cause and clear him by showing His displeasure at the incense which Korah and his company were to offer, with whom Dathan and Abiram were in confederacy. "Lord," said he, "respect not Thou their offering." Wherein he seems to refer to the history of Cain, lately written by his own hand, of whom it is said that to him and his offering God had not respect (Genesis 4:4). These that followed the gainsaying of Korah walked in the way of Cain (they are put together, Jude ver. 11), and therefore he prays they might be frowned upon as Cain was, and put to the same confusion.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
A fire from the Lord.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Take up the censers.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
On the morrow all the congregation... murmured.I. A NEW REBELLION RAISED THE VERY NEXT DAY AGAINST MOSES AND AARON. Be astonished, O heavens, at this, and wonder, O earth! Was there ever such an instance of the incurable corruption of sinners! (ver. 41). On the morrow the body of the people mutinied —
1. Though they were but newly terrified by the sight of the punishment of the rebels. Warnings slighted.
2. Though they were but newly saved from sharing in the same punishment, and the survivors were as brands plucked out of the burning, yet they fly in the face of Moses and Aaron, to whose intercession they owed their preservation.
II. GOD'S SPEEDY APPEARING AGAINST THE REBELS. When they were gathered against Moses and Aaron, perhaps with design to depose or murder them, they looked towards the tabernacle, as if their misgiving consciences expected some frowns from thence; and behold the glory of the Lord appeared (ver. 42) for the protection of His servants, and confusion of His and their accusers. Moses and Aaron thereupon came before the tabernacle, partly for their own safety; there they took sanctuary from the strife of tongues (Psalm 37:5; Psalm 31:20), and partly for advice, to know what was the mind of God upon this occasion (ver. 43). Justice hereupon declares, They deserve to be consumed in a moment (ver. 45). Why should they live another day who hate to be reformed, and whose rebellions are their daily practices? Let just vengeance take place and do its work, and the trouble with them will soon be over; only Moses and Aaron must first be secured.
III. THE INTERCESSION WHICH MOSES AND AARON MADE FOR THEM. Though they had as much reason, one would think, as Elias had, to make intercession against Israel (Romans 11:7), yet they forgive and forget the indignities offered them, and are the best friends their enemies have.
1. They both fell on their faces, humbly to intercede with God for mercy, knowing how great their provocation was. This they had done several times before upon the like occasion; and though the people had basely requited them for it, yet God having graciously accepted them, they still have recourse to the same method. This is praying always.
2. Moses perceiving that the plague was begun in the congregation of the rebels, i.e., that body of them which was gathered together against Moses, sends Aaron by an act of his priestly office to make atonement for them (ver. 46). And Aaron readily went, burnt incense between the living and the dead, not to purify the infected air, but to pacify an offended God, and so stayed the progress of the judgment (ver. 47).
IV. THE RESULT AND ISSUE OF THE WHOLE MATTER.
1. God's justice was glorified in the death of some. Great execution the sword of the Lord did in a very little time. Though Aaron made all the haste he could, yet before he could reach his post of service there were fourteen thousand seven hundred men laid dead upon the spot (ver. 49). Note, those that quarrel with lesser judgments prepare greater for themselves; for when God judgeth He will overcome.
2. His mercy was glorified in the preservation of the rest. God showed them what He could do by His power, and what He might do in justice, but then showed them what He could do in His love and pity. He would preserve them a people to Himself for all this, in and by a Mediator. The cloud of Aaron's incense coming from his hand stayed the plague. Note, it is much for the glory of God's goodness that many a time, even in wrath, He remembers mercy; and even when judgments have been begun, prayer has put a stop to them, so ready is He to forgive, and so little pleasure doth He take in the death of sinners.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
I. THE AGGRAVATED REBELLION OF THE PEOPLE.
1. Terrible disregard of Divine warnings.
2. Base ingratitude to Moses and Aaron.
3. Profane characterisation of the wicked as the people of God.
II. THE SPEEDY INTERPOSITION OF JEHOVAH.
1. The manifestation of His glory.
2. The declaration of the desert of the rebels.
III. THE EFFECTUAL INTERCESSION OF MOSES AND AARON.
1. The kindness of Moses and Aaron. Their conduct reminds us of Him who prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
2. The courage of Aaron. He feared neither the excited people who were embittered against him, nor the pestilence which was smiting down the people by thousands, but "ran into the midst of the congregation," &c.
3. The zeal of Aaron. He was now an old man, yet he "ran into the midst," &c. An example for Christian ministers.
4. The success of Aaron. "The plague was stayed." How great is the power of prayer!
IV. THE EXERCISE OF THE JUSTICE AND MERCY OF GOD.
1. Here is an impressive display of Divine justice. Many slain.
2. Here is an encouraging manifestation of Divine mercy. Some spared.Conclusion: Learn —
1. The heinousness of sin.
2. The great value of a faithful ministry.
3. The readiness of God to forgive sin.
Make an atonement for them.I. THERE IS AN AWFUL CONTROVERSY BETWEEN A HOLY GOD AND A REBELLIOUS WORLD. Our sin resembles theirs in many aspects, and has the same aggravations.
1. As it directly strikes against the authority and the grace of God, whatever be the form it assumes.
2. As it is often committed in the face of frequent and awful warnings.
3. As it is heightened by the experience of God's preserving and upholding mercy.
II. THERE IS AT HAND A PRESCRIBED AND DIVINELY APPROVED REMEDY.
1. That our only escape from threatened wrath is through the mediation and advocacy of our High Priest.
2. That the plan of salvation by faith is as efficacious in reality as it is simple in its mode of application.
3. That an immediate application to it is our only protection against certain ruin. "Go quickly."
I. AN AWFUL SPECTACLE EXHIBITED. When private prayer is a task, and the minor moralities of life begin to be disregarded, there are fearful symptoms of decay and declension. "The plague is begun."
II. THE SURPRISING REMEDY FOUND. "Take a censer," &c. Where is the physician who would have recommended this as a cure for the plague? Who would have thought that the appearance of a single priest amidst the dying and the dead should have stopped the progress of the pestilence? Yet the incense and the fire and the oblation accomplish that for Israel which all the wisdom of the Egyptians could never have achieved. Who does not, in like manner, rebel against God's appointed method of pardon? or question the mysterious virtue of Christ's atoning blood, and doubt the efficacy of faith, repentance, and prayer?
III. A PRACTICAL APPLICATION DEMANDED.
1. What infinite solemnity attaches to all the offices of religion! Death and life are involved. The two hundred and fifty men that offered incense perished: their spirit was bad. What if we bring strange fire! Aaron's offering saves life. If awful to preach, so also to hear.
2. How dreadful if the plague be in the heart, and we, unconscious of danger, neglect the remedy! "Examine yourselves."
3. What need ministers have for the prayers and sympathies of their people!
4. Rejoice in the absolute sufficiency of salvation applied by the Spirit.
I. THE WILLINGNESS OF AARON TO INTERCEDE.
1. Regardless of the plague.
2. Regardless of the people's enmity.
II. THE NATURE OF AARON'S INTERCESSION.
III. THE SUCCESS OF AARON'S INTERCESSION. Conclusion:
1. Let us tremble at the wrath of an offended God.
2. Let us rejoice in the intercession of our Great High Priest.
(J. D. Lane, M. A.)
I. THE EVIL.
II. THE PUNISHMENT.
2. By the plague.
(1) (2) (3) III. THE REMEDY. 1. In itself, not apparently adapted. 2. Connected with pious intercession. 3. Intercession grounded on sacrifice. 4. Efficient. (1) (2) 1. The extreme evil of sin. 2. The riches of the grace of God. 3. The immediate duty of the sinner — to call earnestly on the Lord. (J. Burns, D. D.)
(2) (3) III. THE REMEDY. 1. In itself, not apparently adapted. 2. Connected with pious intercession. 3. Intercession grounded on sacrifice. 4. Efficient. (1) (2) 1. The extreme evil of sin. 2. The riches of the grace of God. 3. The immediate duty of the sinner — to call earnestly on the Lord. (J. Burns, D. D.)
(3) III. THE REMEDY. 1. In itself, not apparently adapted. 2. Connected with pious intercession. 3. Intercession grounded on sacrifice. 4. Efficient. (1) (2) 1. The extreme evil of sin. 2. The riches of the grace of God. 3. The immediate duty of the sinner — to call earnestly on the Lord. (J. Burns, D. D.)
III. THE REMEDY.
1. In itself, not apparently adapted.
2. Connected with pious intercession.
3. Intercession grounded on sacrifice.
1. The extreme evil of sin. 2. The riches of the grace of God. 3. The immediate duty of the sinner — to call earnestly on the Lord. (J. Burns, D. D.)
1. The extreme evil of sin.
2. The riches of the grace of God.
3. The immediate duty of the sinner — to call earnestly on the Lord.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
I. SIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCE.
1. The sin of the Israelites was rebellion against God.
2. The terrible visitation.
II. THE ATONEMENT, AND ITS SUCCESS.
1. A significant act.
(1) (2) (3) 2. The completeness of His atonement. II. THE SPECIAL LESSONS TO BE DERIVED FROM HENCE. 1. The faithful minister of God's Word dares not withhold the instruction to be derived from it concerning the terrible judgments which ungodly men bring on themselves by continuing in sin against a just and holy God. 2. If the judgment against sin is so terrible to contemplate, how much need have we to accept God's own way of deliverance! (E. Auriol, M. A.)
(2) (3) 2. The completeness of His atonement. II. THE SPECIAL LESSONS TO BE DERIVED FROM HENCE. 1. The faithful minister of God's Word dares not withhold the instruction to be derived from it concerning the terrible judgments which ungodly men bring on themselves by continuing in sin against a just and holy God. 2. If the judgment against sin is so terrible to contemplate, how much need have we to accept God's own way of deliverance! (E. Auriol, M. A.)
(3) 2. The completeness of His atonement. II. THE SPECIAL LESSONS TO BE DERIVED FROM HENCE. 1. The faithful minister of God's Word dares not withhold the instruction to be derived from it concerning the terrible judgments which ungodly men bring on themselves by continuing in sin against a just and holy God. 2. If the judgment against sin is so terrible to contemplate, how much need have we to accept God's own way of deliverance! (E. Auriol, M. A.)
2. The completeness of His atonement.
II. THE SPECIAL LESSONS TO BE DERIVED FROM HENCE.
(E. Auriol, M. A.)
He stood between the dead and the living.
I. First, look at Aaron as the LOVER of the people. See in Aaron the lover of Israel; in Jesus the lover of His people. Aaron deserves to be very highly praised for his patriotic affection for a people who were the most rebellious that ever grieved the heart of a good man. You must remember that in this case he was the aggrieved party. Is not this the very picture of our Lord Jesus? Had not sin dishonoured Him? Was He not the Eternal God, and did not sin therefore conspire against Him as well as against the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit? Was He not, I say, the one against whom the nations of the earth stood up and said, "Let us break His bands asunder, and cast His cords from us"? Yet He, our Jesus, laying aside all thought of avenging Himself, becomes the Saviour of His people. Well, you note again, that Aaron in thus coming forward as the deliverer and lover of his people, must have remembered that he was abhorred by this very people. They were seeking his blood; they were desiring to put him and Moses to death, and yet, all thoughtless of danger, he snatches up his censer and runs into their midst with a Divine enthusiasm in his heart. He might have stood back, and said, "No, they will slay me if I go into their ranks; furious as they are, they will charge this new death upon me and lay me low." But he never considers it. Into the midst of the crowd he boldly springs. Most blessed Jesus, Thou mightest not only think thus, but indeed Thou didst feel it to be true. Thou wast willing to die a martyr, that Thou mightest be made a sacrifice for those by whom Thy blood was spilt. You will see the love and kindness of Aaron if you look again; Aaron might have said, "But the Lord will surely destroy me also with the people; if I go where the shafts of death are flying they will reach me." He never thinks of it; he exposes his own person in the very forefront of the destroying one. Oh, Thou glorious High Priest of our profession, Thou mightest not only have feared this which Aaron might have dreaded, but Thou didst actually endure the plague of God; for when Thou didst come among the people to save them from Jehovah's wrath, Jehovah's wrath fell upon Thee. The sheep escaped, but by "His life and blood the Shepherd pays, a ransom for the flock." Oh, Thou lover of thy Church, immortal honours be unto Thee! Aaron deserves to be beloved by the tribes of Israel, because he stood in the gap and exposed himself for their sins; but Thou, most mighty Saviour, Thou shalt have eternal songs, because, forgetful of Thyself, Thou didst bleed and die, that man might be saved! I would again draw your attention to that other thought that Aaron as a lover of the people of Israel deserves much commendation, from the fact that it is expressly said, he ran into the host. That little fact of his running is highly significant, for it shows the greatness and swiftness of the Divine impulse of love that was within. Ah! and was it not so with Christ? Did He not baste to be our Saviour? Were not His delights with the sons of men? Did He not often say, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished"? His dying for us was not a thing which He dreaded. "With desire have I desired to eat this passover."
II. Now view Aaron as THE GREAT PROPITIATOR. Wrath had gone out from God against the people on account of their sin, and it is God's law that His wrath shall never stay unless a propitiation be offered. The incense which Aaron carried in his hand was the propitiation before God, from the fact that God saw in that perfume the type of that richer offering which our Great High Priest is this very day offering before the throne. Aaron as the propitiator is to be looked at first as bearing in his censer that which was necessary for the propitiation. He did not come empty-handed. Even though God's high priest, he must take the censer; he must fill it with the ordained incense, made with the ordained materials; and then he must light it with the sacred fire from off the altar, and with that alone. Behold, then, Christ Jesus as the propitiator for His people. He stands this day before God with His censer smoking up towards heaven. Behold the Great High Priest! See Him this day with His pierced hands, and head that once was crowned with thorns. Mark how the marvellous smoke of His merits goeth up for ever and ever before the eternal throne. 'Tis He, 'tis He alone, who puts away the sins of His people. His incense, as we know, consists first of all of His positive obedience to the Divine law. He kept His Father's commands; He did everything that man should have done; He kept to the full the whole law of God, and made it honourable. Then mixed with this is His blood — an equally rich and precious ingredient. The blood of His very heart — mixed together with His merits — these make up the incense — an incense incomparable — an incense surpassing all others. Besides that, it was not enough for Aaron to have the proper incense. Korah might have that too, and he might have the censer also. That would not suffice — he must be the ordained priest; for mark, two hundred and fifty men fell in doing the act which Aaron did. Aaron's act saved others; their act destroyed themselves. So Jesus, the propitiator, is to be looked upon as the ordained one — called of God as was Aaron. But let us note once more in considering Aaron as the great propitiator, that we must look upon him as being ready for his work. He was ready with his incense, and ran to the work at the moment the plague broke out. The people were ready to perish and he was ready to save. Jesus Christ stands ready to save thee now; there is no need of preparation; He hath slain the victim; He hath offered the sacrifice; He hath filled the censer; He hath put to it the glowing coals. His breastplate is on His breast; His mitre is on His head; He is ready to save thee now. Trust Him, and thou shalt not find need for delay,
III. Now view Aaron as THE INTERPOSER. Let me explain what I mean. As the old Westminster Annotations say upon this passage, "The plague was moving among the people as the fire moveth along a field of corn." There it came; it began in the extremity; the faces of men grew pale, and swiftly on, on it came, and in vast heaps they fell, till some fourteen thousand had been destroyed, Aaron wisely puts himself just in the pathway of the plague. It came on, cutting down all before it, and there stood Aaron the interposer with arms outstretched and censer swinging towards heaven, interposing himself between the darts of death and the people. Just so was it with Christ. Wrath had gone out against us. The law was about to smite us; the whole human race must be destroyed. Christ stands in the forefront of the battle. "The stripes must fall on Me!" He cries; "the arrows shall find a target in My breast. On me, Jehovah, let Thy vengeance fall." And He receives that vengeance, and afterwards upspringing from the grave He waves the censer full of the merit of His blood, and bids this wrath and fury stand back.
IV. Now view Aaron as THE SAVIOUR. It was Aaron, Aaron's censer, that saved the lives of that great multitude. If he had not prayed the plague had not stayed, and the Lord would have consumed the whole company in a moment. As it was, you perceive there were some fourteen thousand and seven hundred that died before the Lord. The plague had begun its dreadful work, and only Aaron could stay it. And now I want you to notice with regard to Aaron, that Aaron, and especially the Lord Jesus, must be looked upon as a gracious Saviour. It was nothing but love that moved Aaron to wave his censer. The people could not demand it of him. Had they not brought a false accusation against him? And yet he saves them. It must have been love and nothing but love. Say, was there anything in the voices of that infuriated multitude which could have moved Aaron to stay the plague from before them? Nothing! nothing in their character! nothing in their looks! nothing in their treatment of God's High Priest! and yet he graciously stands in the breach, and saves them from the devouring judgment of God! If Christ hath saved us He is a gracious Saviour indeed. And then, again, Aaron was an unaided saviour. He stands alone, alone, alone! and herein was he a great type of Christ who could say, "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with Me." Do not think, then, that when Christ prevails with God, it is because of any of your prayers, or tears, or good works. He never puts your tears and prayers into His censer. They would mar the incense. There is nothing but His own prayers, and His own tears, and His own merits there. "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Nor doth He need a helper; "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." "He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him." He was, then, you will perceive, a gracious Saviour, and an unaided one; and, once more, Aaron as a saviour was all-sufficient. Trust thou thy soul with Christ, and thy sins are at once forgiven, at once blotted out.
V. Aaron as THE DIVIDER — the picture of Christ. Aaron the anointed one stands here; on that side is death, on this side life; the boundary between life and death is that one man. Where his incense smokes the air is purified, where it smokes not the plague reigns with unmitigated fury. There are two sorts of people here this morning, and these are the living and the dead, the pardoned, the unpardoned, the saved, and the lost. A man in Christ is a Christian; a man out of Christ is dead in trespasses and sins. "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ is saved, he that believeth not is lost." Christ is the only divider between His people and the world. On which side, then, art thou to-day?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. To say that this evil had ITS ORIGIN in sin, would be to say nothing. All evil proceeds from sin : there is not a pang or sorrow in the universe which has not this as its source. But then suffering owes its existence to sin in various ways. Sometimes it is sent in mercy to prevent sin; thus Paul had a thorn in the flesh "lest he should be exalted." At other times it comes to discover sin and subdue it in the Christian's heart. "Before I was afflicted," says David, "I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word." More frequently, however, its design is to answer the purposes of God's moral government; to punish sin: to manifest the abhorrence in which the great Ruler of the universe holds it, and thus to deter His creatures from the commission of it. And such was its object here. The Israelites had sinned against the Lord; this plague was the punishment of their sin.
1. This offence involved in it an overlooking of God's providence; at all events, a refusing to acknowledge it. God will not allow us to say for ever, "Accident brought this evil on me, chance this disease, a casualty this bereavement, the injustice or treachery of my fellow-man this loss and poverty." Either by His Spirit, or by His providence, or by both, God will drive this atheism out of us. He will force us to say, "It is the Lord. He is in this place, and I knew it not. Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."
2. The murmuring of these sinners included in it also a daring censure of God's ways. Whatever God does bears the impress of God. In some way or other it manifests His perfections, and consequently is calculated to bring honour to His name. Now a mind in a right state praises Him for every work of His hands; and it does so on account of the traces of His glory it either discovers in that work, or, though hidden, believes to be there. Indeed, this is God's great design in all His doings, to draw forth praise from His creatures by revealing to them His excellencies, and thus to surround Himself with a delighted and adoring universe. It follows, then, that to censure any of God's ways is, as far as in us lies, to frustrate the object at which God aims in these ways; to rob Him of His honour, and worse than this — to asperse His character and vindicate His enemies. And of this offence these Israelites were guilty.
3. There was yet a third evil comprehended in the murmuring of these Israelites; and this was a contempt of God's warnings. Millions of our race have already perished; the destroying angel is hastening to cut down millions more. The world some of us deem so fair and happy is nothing better than the camp of Israel — a scene of mercy, it is true, but yet a scene of misery, terror, and death. How anxious, then, should we be to look around for a deliverer! Blessed be God, there is One near. This history speaks of Him.
II. Consider now THE CESSATION OF THE PESTILENCE.
1. It was effected by one who might have been supposed least likely to interfere for such a purpose. Can we fail to discover here the great High Priest of God's guilty church, the despised and rejected Jesus? Aaron was a type of Him.
2. The cessation of this plague was attended with a display of the most self-denying and ardent love.
3. The cessation of this plague was brought about by means that seemed altogether inadequate, that appeared, in fact, to have no connection at all with the end proposed.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
1. The origin of the judgment here spoken of. Men quickly forget the Almighty.
2. The means adopted to arrest its devastating progress. Mediation.
3. The feelings of gratitude which the removal of the plague must have inspired.
(W. C. Le Breton, M. A.)
(J. Slade, M. A.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)