Meanwhile, the rabble among them had a strong craving for other food, and again the Israelites wept and said, "Who will feed us meat?
I. How CAME IT THERE? It left Egypt with them (Exodus 12:38). It had been accumulating, one knows not how long, and in how many ways. Egypt had not been a very comfortable place even for the Egyptians just before the exodus. Ten plagues in swift succession and increasing severity would make many outside Israel to desire another abode. The tyranny of Pharaoh may have been grievous to many of his own people. Many would join departing Israel uninvited; many also may have been asked by well-wishers and acquaintances, "Come with us, and we will do you good" (Numbers 10:29). So now there is a mixed multitude in the Church of Christ. It cannot be kept out. The supreme relation among men is no doubt that of union in Christ, spiritual brotherhood, fellowship ever becoming more intimate and precious; but the relations that arise out of nature, all domestic and social bonds in short, must also exert their influence during the earthly course of the Church. Who can tell what effect natural feelings have had in modifying, sometimes even in obscuring, the full force of Divine truth? How hard it was to keep the first generation of Hebrew Christians from mixing the bondage of Judaism with the liberty which is in Christ! Nor must we forget that in every individual Christian there is something of the spirit of the mixed multitude, the old man not yet dead, and struggling to keep his hold, even while the new man is growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whatever precaution and strictness the Church may observe, it cannot keep the spirit of the world out.
II. THE DANGER FROM ITS PRESENCE. The mixed multitude began to lust, therein acting according to its nature. There was no covenant with it, no promise to it, no assurance of Canaan. It had no lot in the tabernacle, and what share it got of the manna was to be regarded as one in later days regarded the Saviour's boon to her: "The dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Hence it was free to think without let or hindrance on the much-loved delicacies of Egypt. Just so there is a mixed multitude in and about the Church of Christ, which, with the spirit of the world dominant in its heart, soon makes the ways of the world to appear in its life. From many temptations you can escape by running away from the scene of them; but what must you do if temptations beset you in the very paths of religion themselves? This is the peculiar danger from the mixed multitude. When Jesus foils the third temptation in the wilderness, Satan departs from him for a season; but what shall he do when Peter, the chosen, daily companion, in the impulse of his carnal heart, would turn him from the cross? We know what Jesus did, but none the less was he exposed to the spirit of the nixed multitude then. Or what shall Paul do, intrepid enough against avowed enemies, when his friends at Caesarea assail him in a way to break his heart (Acts 21:12, 13). There is a subtle, unconscious, unintended way in which the prophecy may be carried out that a man's foes shall be they of his own household. The mixed multitude may have been dangerous most of all in this, that it did not mean to be dangerous at all.
III. How TO GUARD AGAINST THE DANGER. There is but one way, and that to live more and more in pursuit of heavenly objects. The mixed multitude will not alter in the objects of its love; when any of its number cease to do so, it is because they have passed over to join the true Israel. The change then must be in us - more of ardour and aspiration. Note Paul's counsel to Timothy: "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow (διώκε) righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22). The fleeing is not a mere fleeing; it is a pursuing; a fleeing because it is a pursuing. Many temptations will pant in vain after the ardour and simplicity in Christ Jesus of such a man as Paul (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Ephesians 4:17-24; Philippians 1:21-23; Philippians 3:7-14). And even the subtlest temptations of the mixed multitude are turned gently aside, as by Jesus himself, when his mother and brethren desired to speak with him (Matthew 12:46-50). We must not only say, but feel it, that the Father's business is the main thing. From the very depths of our hearts must rise the cry, almost a groaning that cannot be uttered, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Thy will, not the wishes of corrupted human affections, however strong and entangling the affections may be (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16). - Y.
The mixt multitude.
If Israel, according to its calling, be regarded as a type of the new man, then this "mixed multitude," a remnant of Egypt, and influenced still by its spirit, will be a type of the old man in the believer But we may take another view of Israel, and say that it is typical of those who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit — the true members of Christ's body, the living branches of the true vine; and then, corresponding with this, the " mixed multitude" will be a type of those who accompany the true Israel now, without being partakers of the Divine nature, and walking in the Spirit — the dead branches in the vine. History shows that the Church on earth has ever been made up of these two elements; and prophetic parables show that such will be its constitution until Jesus comes. The Word of God everywhere encourages the living members of Christ's body, by patience, and gentleness, and unwearied zeal, to win those who have only a name to live. But it forbids them to take into their own hands the awful work of separation between the wheat and the tares, a work which the Searcher of hearts reserves to Himself alone. So that it need cause us no surprise, as it did the Donatists of old, and still does to some, that there is, and always will be, a "mixed multitude" associated with the true Israel. But though we are absolutely forbidden to cast out the element from the Church, this passage of Scripture may well impress us with the danger arising from it, and show how watchful we ought to be. Even if the Church were made up of true Christians only, there would be much evil in it, for the simple reason that there is so much sin in every heart. Many temptations may come to you even from those who are really Christ's, and who are engaged, through grace, in crucifying the affections and lusts of the flesh; but others will come to you, as they did to Israel of old, from the "mixed multitude"; and what dangers in particular? Party spirit, we cannot fail to see, is one; but, oh, there is a greater and more subtle danger still — worldliness, conformity to the course of this world; and with it, forgetfulness of the high and holy calling wherewith we are called, and the adoption of a low standard of holiness. Our only safety is to set the perfect example of our Lord Jesus Christ before us; to ask ourselves again and again throughout the day, "How would Christ act if He were in my place?" to crucify through the Spirit the root of worldliness within, and to watch all the avenues by which it can enter the heart from without. Only in this way can our own standard be elevated; only in this way avoid Israel's sin, that of being carried away by the worldly spirit which originated in the "mixed multitude" which sojourned with them.
Who shall give us flesh to eat?
See the wantonness and delicacy of sinful flesh, it must have this, it must have that to pamper and feed it in pleasure. What may be had is loathed, and what cannot be had, that is longed for, and nothing more than that. But very wisely doth the heathen Aristotle advise all men to look upon pleasures when they go, not when they come; for when they come with their faces towards us, they deceive us with a fair flattering show, but when they go and turn their backs, then cometh repentance, woe, and grief, not a little, many times. Just as the Spirit of God saith by the mouth of Solomon, "Even in laughing the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness"; that is, the allurement unto sin seemeth sweet, but the end thereof is destruction. Wanton pleasure is like the fire or flame of the candle, which shining bright delighteth a child, but when he hath put his finger into it, then it burneth, and the child crieth. By little and little groweth grief, but in the end it killeth, so stealingly pleasure creepeth upon us, but in the end overthroweth all love of virtue. Wilt thou live in a right fashion? Who would not? Then if virtue only can grant this to thee, stout and strong, tend this and omit pleasures. For they that will well defend a city, do not only watch what foes be without, but as warily they observe that there be no traitors within. So men and women that love virtue, they look to the gates, which are the outward senses, and they look within, to the inward affections, lest by the one, as by wickets, evil enter, lest by the other, as by torches lighted, fires and flames do follow. The epicure said to himself, "Eat, drink, play, for there is no pleasure after death." But well doth the poet before mentioned in an epistle tax him, saying, "Thou hast played enough, thou hast eaten enough and drank, it is time for thee now to go hence." As if he had said, "Part thou must in time with all thy pleasures and be gone, therefore think of it ere it be too late." Sardanapalus is said to have caused to be written on his grave to this effect: "What I did eat that I had, and what I left, that I lost." Which Cicero justly reprehendeth, saying, "What else should a man hath written upon an ex his grave? Pleasure infecteth and poisoneth all our senses, being a trim but a deceiving harlot; deceiving us by her voice, by her look, and by her attire, that is, every way." How many hath gluttony and the belly, how many hath filthy lust destroyed!
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