Do not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God Himself will fight for you."
In the full career of triumph, Moses has inward presentiment, and external announcement, that his end was near. Nature has a greater repugnance to death when we are enveloped in the bright sunshine of prosperity. The contrast is more marked. Decay and disease are natural forerunners of dissolution; but in Moses these were wanting. With him, the grave men of the trial was that his life-work was incomplete. The closer we approach to the final stroke of an undertaking, the deeper becomes our anxiety for a successful issue. "How am I straitened till it be accomplished!"
I. WE HAVE HERE SAGACIOUS PROVISION TO CONSUMMATE HIS WORK. In the judgment of a good man, the perpetuation of his work by others is vastly more important than the continuance of his own life. Individuals pass away, but the progress of the race continues. Up to this point in Israel's pilgrimage, Moses had been unequalled as a leader; no one among the tribes could have filled his place. But now, a military general, rather than a legislator, is needed, and Joshua has been gradually molded by a Divine hand for this work. We may safely trust human interests with God.
1. The experience of age conveys its lessons to youth. Joshua was scarcely a young man, as we reckon years; yet, compared with Moses, he was juvenile and inexperienced in governing men. Age is a relative quality. The lesson was directly to the point - straight at the bull's-eye of the target. "Fear not." Courage, just then, was the "one thing needful."
2. The command was founded on the most solid reasons, viz. the irresistible might of Jehovah, and the unchangeableness of his purposes. What he had done, he could yet do. What he had done was a revelation of what he designed to do. Observation of God's deeds and methods fosters valorous faith. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
II. PRAYER THAT LIFE MAY YET BE PROLONGED, It savors of submissive meekness to the Divine will that Moses first provided for the nation's welfare, in view of the contingency of death, and then prays that the stroke may be delayed. The latter is secondary.
1. The prayer was earnest. "I besought the Lord." There is indication that it was oft repeated and long continued.
2. The prayer was inspired by noble motive. An unusual display of God's greatness had been made in the defeat of the two kings, and Moses longed to see further unfoldings of God's might. Still, his prayer was, "I pray thee show me thy glory!" God had only begun to act; Moses yearned to see the final consummation.
3. Yet this prayer was refused. Unerring wisdom perceived that it was best to refuse - best, perhaps, for Moses himself - and best for Israel It is better for a man to present an unsuccessful prayer, than not to pray at all. Some blessing is the fruit.
4. The denial was a vicarious chastisement. We have, in God's kingdom, vicarious blessing and vicarious suffering. For Joseph's sake, the house of Potiphar was blessed. For David's sake, Solomon finished his reign in peace. For Paul's sake, the crew of the doomed vessel escaped. On the other side, God was wroth with Moses for the Hebrews' sake. Present chastisement better far than final banishment.
5. Divine tenderness is displayed even in refusal. The refusal was not wholly from anger; there was a large admixture of kindness. Anger for the sin; kindness for the man. It is as if God had said, "It pains me sore to impose this chastisement; nevertheless, it must be done, and you will add to my pain by seeking an escape." God beseeches him to urge no further. Up to this point, prayer was fitting; beyond this, prayer would have been fresh guilt.
6. Yet compensation for the loss is granted. Prayer is never wholly unsuccessful. A gracious concession is made. Moses had asked to see the land; he shall see it, although his foot shall not tread it. The eye and the heart of the man of God shall be gladdened. Without doubt, Moses' natural eyesight had been preserved for this selfsame occasion, and special power of vision also was vouchsafed in that eventful hour, when Moses stood on Pisgah's peak. He shall see it without the toil of travel, without the peril of the conflict.
7. A crowning kindness is shown in confirming the succession to Joshua. Though the workman is to be removed, the work shall advance. It was a sweet solace to the mind of Moses that Joshua should have been accepted in his stead. His cherished purpose shall be accomplished, although by other hands. The spirit of Moses would survive in Joshua. "Being dead," Moses would still speak and act. The body may dissolve, but the moral courage and heroic valor are transmitted to another. Rest is the reward of toil, and the cradle of new exertion. "So we abode in the valley." The valley of Beth-peor was the preparation for Pisgah's peak. Humiliation before exaltation. - D.
We, in our warfare, have many giants to contend against. As we go through our wanderings there are many places waste and wild as the tangled brakes and rugged rocks of Argob, in the land of Bashan. We have our wildernesses of temptation to pass over. In those wildernesses are many giants bigger than Og, more terrible than Anak, vaunting with greater insolence than Goliath of Gath. Perhaps you have conquered many of them. Is it so? Do they lie smitten and vanquished at your feet? Envious man, have you bound envy hand and foot and put him without your house and home? He is not dead, only chained. Beware lest in some unguarded moment he should be freed, and lead you captive with the accumulated power of long repose and the increased caution brought about by his former defeat. Is the evil spirit of anger vanquished which was formerly of such gigantic proportions? Or does it still rise at will from its bedstead to which, in prosperous sunshine, when nothing crosses us or thwarts us, it voluntarily retires? Is it bound there, or does it merely lie there in hiding, with no cords of religion to compel its slumbering inactivity? There are also Bunyan's giants, some dead, some living — giants Pope and Pagan sadly disabled, giants Maul and Slaygood also disabled — giant Despair, still living in his dark dungeon with Mrs. Doubting his terrible wife. Giant Despair tells men and women to kill themselves, tells them God will never forgive them, shuts them up in his grim castle, and how can they escape? Those pilgrims found a key called "Hope." With Hope in the breast adversity may be borne. The giant of Lust is a mighty giant also. And of all other giants the most dangerous to some natures. Many a sinner and some saints have found this the Og which has been last vanquished. God says, "Fear not." Will you fear when your Maker tells you not to fear? Shall we not rather go and do our best against the sin that still struggles in our souls and would fain bring us to destruction?
So the Lord our God delivered into our hands Og also, king of Bashan.
1. How they got the mastery of Og, a very formidable prince.(1) Very strong, for he was of the remnant of the giants (ver. 11). His personal strength was extraordinary; a monument of which was preserved by the Ammonites in his bedstead, which was shown as a rarity in their chief city. You might guess at his weight by the materials of his bedstead; it was iron, as if a bedstead of wood were too weak for him to trust to, And you might guess at his stature by the dimensions of it: it was nine cubits long, and four cubits broad; which, supposing a cubic to be but half a yard, was four yards and a half long, and two yards broad; and if we allow his bed to be two cubits longer than himself, and that is as much as we need allow, he was three yards and a half high, double the stature of an ordinary man, and every way proportionable; yet they smote him (ver. 3). When God pleads His people's cause He can deal with giants as with grasshoppers. No man's might can secure him against the Almighty. His army likewise was very powerful, for he had the command of sixty fortified cities, besides unwalled towns (ver. 5); yet all this was nothing against God's Israel, when they came with commission to destroy him.
2. He was very stout and daring; he came out against Israel to battle (ver. 1). It was wonder he did not take warning by the ruin of Sihon, and send to desire conditions of peace: but he trusted to his own strength and so was hardened to his own destruction. Those that are not awakened by the judgments of God upon others, but persist in their defiance of heaven, are ripening apace for the like judgments upon themselves (Jeremiah 3:8). God bid Moses not fear him (ver. 2). If Moses himself was so strong in faith as not to need the caution, yet it is probable the people needed it; and for them these fresh assurances are designed, "I will deliver him into thine hand." Not only deliver thee out of his hand, that he shall not be thy ruin; but deliver him into thy band, that thou shalt be his ruin, and make him pay dear for his attempt. He adds, "Thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon"; intimating that they ought to be encouraged by their former victory to trust in God for another victory; for He is God, and changeth not.
2. How they got possession of Bashan, a very desirable country. They took all the cities (ver. 4), and all the spoil of them (ver. 7); they made them all their own (ver. 10), so that now they had in their hands all that fruitful country which lay east of Jordan, from the river Arnon unto Hermon (ver. 8). Their conquering and possessing of these countries was intended not only for the encouragement of Israel in the wars of Canaan, but for the satisfaction of Moses before his death; because he must not live to see the completing of their victory and settlement, God thus gives him a specimen of it. Thus the Spirit is given to them that believe, as the earnest of their inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.
Is it not remarkable that good causes and good men should meet with constant opposition? We are now perusing the history of a journey which was undertaken by Divine direction, and again and again we come upon the fact that the journey was from end to end bitterly opposed. Were this matter of ancient history we might, in a happier condition of civilisation and in a happier mood of mind, dispute the theory that Israel travelled under Divine direction and guidance; but this very thing is done today in our country, in all countries, in our own heart and life. Never man, surely, went to church without some enemy in the form of temptation, suggestion, or welcome in other directions, seeking to prevent his accomplishing the sacred purpose. He who would be good must fight a battle; he who would pray well must first resist the devil. This makes life very hard; the burden is sometimes too heavy; but the voice of history so concurs with the testimony of conscience, and the whole is so corroborated by the spirit of prophecy, that we must accept the discipline, and await with what patience God Himself can work within us the issue of the tragic miracle. Is there no compensatory consideration or circumstance? The Lord Himself must speak very distinctly in some conditions and relations of life. "And the Lord said unto me." That is how the balance is adjusted. In the one verse, Og, king of Bashan; in the next verse — Jehovah. Thus the story of our life alternates — now an enemy, now a friend; now the fight is going to be too severe for us and we shall certainly fall, and now the Lord of hosts is in the van, and kings are burned by His presence as stubble is burned by the fire. What was the Divine message? It was a message adapted to the sensitiveness of the circumstances: "Fear him not; for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand:" Get rid of fear, and you increase power. He who is strong in spirit is strong all through and through his nature; he who is only muscularly strong will fail in the fight. The brave heart, the soul alive with God — that will always conquer. Let us live and move and have our being in God. What was the consequence? We read the story in the fourth verse: "And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan." Opposition to God always means loss. There is no bad man who is successful. Do not let us interpret the word "successful" narrowly and partially, as if it were a term descriptive of mere appearances or momentary relationships. In the partial acceptation of the term the proposition will not bear examination; but in discussing great spiritual realities we must take in the full view; and, fixing the attention upon that view, the proposition remains an indestructible truth — that no bad man is really prosperous. He has no comfort. He eats like a glutton, but he has no true enjoyment; out of his bread he draws no poetry, no thought, no fire; it is lost upon him, for he is an evil eater. In his apparent wealth he is miserably poor. If it could be proved that a man can oppose God and be truly happy, the whole Christian kingdom would be destroyed by that proof, the word of the Lord, as written in the Book, is against the possibility. But what became of Og, the king of Bashan? We read in the eleventh verse, "Behold his bedstead," etc. What an ending! How appropriate! How bitter the satire! Og, king of Bashan, came out to fight the people of God; a few verses are written in which battles are fought and cities taken, and at the end the bedstead of Og is nearly all that remains of the mighty king of Bashan! This is worthless fame; this is the renown that is pitiable. But there is no other renown for wicked men: they will leave a name in history, but a name the children will laugh at; they will leave behind them a memorial, but the memorial itself shall be an abiding sarcasm. The Lord turneth the counsel of the wicked upside down; the Lord will laugh at the wicked man and have all his devices in derision. His bedstead will be remembered when he himself is forgotten; he will be spoken of in the bulk and not in the quality; he will be measured like a log; he will be forgotten like an evil dream. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. Who would be wicked? Who would oppose God? Who would not rather coalesce with the heavens, and pray that the Spirit of God would work in the human heart the miracle of reconciliation with things eternal and celestial?
Why did not the Bible give us the size of the giant instead of the size of the bedstead? Why did it not indicate that the man was eleven feet high, instead of telling us that his couch was thirteen and a half feet long? No doubt among other things it was to teach us that you can judge of a man by his surroundings. Show me a man's associates, show me a man's books, show me a man's home, and I will tell you what he is without your telling me one word about him. Moral giants and moral pigmies, intellectual giants and intellectual pigmies, like physical giants or physical pigmies, may be judged by their surroundings. That man has been thirty years faithful in attendance upon churches and prayer meetings and Sunday schools, and putting himself among intense religious associations. He may have his imperfections, but he is a very good man. Great is his religious stature. That other man has been for thirty years among influences intensely worldly, and he has shut himself out from all other influences, and his religious stature is that of a dwarf. But let no one by this thought be induced to surrender to unfavourable environments. A man can make his own bedstead. Chantrey and Hugh Miller were born stonemasons, but the one became an immortal sculptor, and the other a Christian scientist whose name will never die. The late Judge Bradley worked his way up from a charcoal burner to the bench of the supreme court of the United States. Yes, a man can decide the size of his own bedstead. Notice furthermore, that even giants must rest. Such enormous physical endowment on the part of king Og might suggest the capacity to stride across all fatigue and omit slumber. No. He required an iron bedstead. Giants must rest. Not appreciating the fact, how many of the giants yearly break down! Giants in business, giants in art, giants in eloquence, giants in usefulness. Let no one think, because he has great strength of body or mind, that be can afford to trifle with his unusual gifts. King Og, no doubt, had a sceptre, but the Bible does not mention his sceptre. Yet one of the largest verses of the Bible is taken up in describing his bedstead. So God all up and down the Bible honours sleep. Adam, with his head on a pillow of Edenic roses, has his slumber blest by a Divine gift of beautiful companionship. Jacob, with his head on a pillow of rock, has his sleep glorified with a ladder filled with descending and ascending angels. Christ, with a pillow made out of the folded up coat of a fisherman, honours slumber in the back part of the storm-tossed boat. One of our national sins is robbery of sleep. Walter Scott was so urgent about this duty of slumber that, when arriving at a hotel where there was no room to sleep in, except that in which there was a corpse, inquired if the deceased had died of a contagious disease, and, when assured he had not, took the other bed in the room and fell into profoundest slumber. Those of small endurance must certainly require rest if even the giant needs an iron bedstead. Notice furthermore, that God's people on the way to Canaan need not be surprised if they confront some sort of a giant. Had not the Israelitish host had trouble enough already? No! Red Sea not enough. Water famine not enough. Long marches not enough. Opposition by enemies of ordinary stature not enough. They must meet Og, the giant of the iron bedstead. Do you know the name of the biggest giant that you can possibly meet — and you will meet him? He is not eleven feet high, but one hundred feet high. His bedstead is as long as a continent. His name is Doubt. His common food is infidel books and sceptical lectures, and ministers who do not know whether the Bible is inspired at all or inspired in spots, and Christians who are more infidel than Christian. You will never reach the promised land unless you slay that giant. Kill doubt, or doubt will kill you. Another impression from my subject. The march of the Church cannot be impeded by gigantic opposition. That Israelitish host led on by Moses was the Church, and when Og, the giant, he of the iron bedstead, came out against him with another host — things must have looked bad for Israel. Moses of ordinary size against Og of extraordinary dimensions. Besides that, Og was backed up by sixty fortified cities. Moses was backed up seemingly by nothing but the desert that had worn him and his army into a group of undisciplined and exhausted stragglers. But the Israelites triumphed. The day is coming. Hear it, all ye who are doing something for the conquest of the world for God and the truth, the time will come when, as there was nothing left of Og, the giant, but the iron bedstead, kept at Rabbath as a curiosity, there will be nothing left of the giants of iniquity except something for the relic hunters to examine.
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