I. THE GIFT OF THE LAW. Men, especially in their corporate capacity, need something more than exhortation, dissuasion, sentiment. They need law. And this necessity was met, when Israel was led into the wilderness, by the giving of the Law at Sinai. in this gift must be included the ten commandments, the precepts for family and personal life, the institution of the ceremonial, sacerdotal, and sacrificial dispensation, the confirmation and sanctification of the sabbath, by their observance of which the Jews were so well known by their neighbours. This last-named institution was, however, regarded by the God of Israel in a higher light - as "a sign between himself and them." The people were by these means placed under authority. Sanctions were attached to the Law, and life was assured to the obedient.
II. THE REBELLION OF THE SUBJECTS.
1. The season and scene of this rebellion should be noticed; it took place, as the prophet reminds the elders, and as the record itself informs us, in the wilderness, i.e. immediately after the great deliverance and the promulgation of the Law, and whilst the people were still dependent in an especial manner upon the bounty and the protection of the Most High.
2. The offensive form of this rebellion is noted: "They walked not according to my statutes, and despised my judgments" - a course which showed their failure to appreciate the privileges bestowed upon them, and the dishonour which they dared to offer to their Deliverer and King.
3. Their inexcusable neglect of the provision made in the weekly sabbath for their true well being.
4. Their treachery. "Their heart went after idols."
III. THE JUDGMENT AND THE MERCY OF THE KING AND LAWGIVER.
1. The immediate punishment inflicted upon the rebellious generation was the refusal to permit them to enter upon the land of promise.
2. The forbearance and mercy of God were displayed in that he did not make an end in the wilderness of those who had rebelled against him and defied him. - T.
Manton says, "Empty the bucket before you go to the fountain." Wise advice. If the pail be full of the best and cleanest water it is idle to carry it to the well, for its fulness disqualifies it for being a receiver. Those who think themselves full of grace are not likely to pray aright, for prayer is a beggar's trade, and supposes the existence of need. What does a full bucket want with the well? Let it stay where it is. Fitness for mercy is not found in self-sufficiency, but in emptiness and want. He can and will receive most of the Lord who has least of his own. If the bucket is full of foul water, it is wise to throw it away as we go to the crystal spring. We must not come to the Lord with our minds full of vanity, lust, covetousness, and pride. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." He will not make His grace the medium of floating our unclean desires.
Certain of the elders...sat before me.1. True religion is emphatically a walking with God, not a mere occasional coming to Him. The precise manner in which the date is given may possibly be taken as conveying a reproof to those who, instead of making it their constant business to know God's will, were contented to let a year elapse between two successive visits to the prophet.
2. The need of leaving our sins behind us when we come to inquire of God. The severe answer which the elders received was due chiefly to the fact that they canto without first repenting and bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance
3. Prayer, or indeed coming to God in any way, must not be made a mere matter of convenience, but must be regarded as a matter of constant spiritual necessity. These elders came when they thought it would answer their purpose; they forgot God when all went well, they sought Him when they were at their wits' end; they did not look upon communion with God as the one great spiritual need of their souls. Were they singular in this? The habitual lives of nine out of ten persons in this Christian country would rise up and contradict us if we said that they were. I am not now contemplating the case of notoriously evil men, but only that of easy-going worldly persons who live without church, prayer, Scriptures, passing a quiet animal kind of life, with no cares except those of getting daily bread. These persons will, many of them, cry to the Lord in trouble; put them upon a sickbed, and they will say their prayers for the most part vigorously enough, and the prayers so offered up may possibly be the beginning of a more Christian life, yet I do not at all the less maintain that this is no right use of prayer, but a most egregious and unchristian abuse.
(Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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