They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His promise.
Ezekiel 22:30. The account of Moses' intercession is found in Exodus 32:10-14. The point on which we dwell is the fitness of Moses to be the mediator on this occasion.
I. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM HIS OFFICIAL POSITION. He was the agent appointed by God, through whom his will might be sent to the people. He was the representative of the people, appointed by them to conduct all negotiations with Jehovah in their name. He was the proper person; and foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ as revealer of God to men, and negotiator for men with God.
II. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM THE CONFIDENCES MOSES HAD WON. He had gained both power and right by his faithful service of the people, and by his holy familiarity with God. We may say that God had proved him, and so had confidence in him. And the people had proved him, and knew well that they had no better friend. Christ is "beloved Son," and our best Friend.
III. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM THE PERSONAL FEELING OF Moses. He was supremely indignant at the sin of the people; so much so as to have lost his self-control, and flung down the tables. That right feeling towards the sin fitted him to mediate. He made no excuse; he could but plead for pardon. A man with no adequate sense of the iniquity could not have been acceptable as a mediator. But Moses was also supremely pitiful towards the erring people, and this gave him the fitting tenderness in pleading for their forgiveness. So in Christ we find deepest impressions of the evil of sin, uniting with supreme love for the sinners.
IV. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM THE VIGOUR OF MOSES' RULE. God knew that Moses could punish; and if the more serious judgment on the sin was removed, still there must be such punishment as would adequately impress the evil of the sin. Moses was a fitting mediator, because God was assured that he would not neglect this educative and disciplinary judgment. God, if we may so speak, graciously yielded to Moses' persuasions, because he knew that his honour was safe in Moses' hands. So Christ in his mediation "magnifies the Law, and makes it honourable." - R.T.
I. THE PLEASANT LAND. Palestine was a country in many views highly desirable — in itself compact, and possessing special facilities of commerce with Asia, Africa, and Europe, all the known quarters of the globe. As to its intrinsic character, we have it portrayed in Deuteronomy 8:7-9. Palestine, in all the glory of culture, must have been a "pleasant land." We know, however, that this country, with all its distinguishing institutions, formed but a shadow of better things to come; and it becomes us now to be enjoying a land still more pleasant. The Kingdom of God has come to many thousands, has come with power; and its blessings, to which those of Judea were not for a moment to be compared, are brought nigh to the remotest and most unworthy. Its inhabitants He hath delivered from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them. Their depraved and perverse hearts He renovates by the agency of His good Spirit, purifying them unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Whatever fightings they may have, they have peace with God; whatever vicissitudes, an immovable kingdom; whatever sorrows, everlasting consolation; whatever poverty, unsearchable riches; whatever disappointments and repulses, victory at last over sin and death and the grave. But I would point you to another land, in which the emblem of the text finds a more perfect accomplishment. True, we are here favoured with a morning, and the morning star shines bright: yet it is only the morning, and the shadows of the night largely intermingle with the dawning of the day. But in that "better country which is an heavenly," sunshine is qualified by shadow no longer. There Jesus appears in all that glory which He had with the Father before the world was — the distinctive glory of mediatorial triumph and recompense enhancing His Divine effulgence — and "the nations of them that are saved do walk in His light."
Yea, they despised the pleasant land.
Homilist.I. THE AWFUL PERSISTENCY OF SIN (vers. 24, 25, 28). You may reason with the sinner, convince him both of the folly and wrongness of his conduct. Trial after trial may come down upon him in consequence of his wicked conduct. You may threaten him with the terrors of death and the terrible retribution of the life beyond, still he continues blindly, and madly he pursues his course (Jeremiah 13:23).
II. THE FEARFUL RETRIBUTION OF GOD (ver. 29).
1. It was justly deserved. How great the provocation! The conscience of every sufferer will attest the justice of his fate.
2. It was a warning to others. The punishment that befalls one sinner says to every sinner, "Take care." God punishes, not for the sake of inflicting pain, but for the sake of doing good. It is to arrest the progress of sin, which is a curse to the universe.
III. THE SOCIAL INFLUENCE OF SAINTS (ver. 30). Phinehas interposed as a magistrate to suppress sin and check its progress. This act of his was approved of God as a righteous act. It was rewarded by God by a perpetual priesthood (Numbers 25:10). It is said that "one sinner destroyeth much good," but one saint may destroy more evil. Not until the last day, if then, shall we know the enormous amount of good that one good man may render to his age and even to his race.
II. CONTEMPT OF THE PLEASANT LAND. "Every gift of God is good and nothing to be despised." Nay, not only are manifest mercies to be gratefully acknowledged, but we are forbidden to despise the chastening of the Lord, and enjoined to count it all joy when we fall into manifold temptations or trials. And how, then, can God look upon our conduct without anger when we treat with contempt a promised inheritance? As to the liability to this sin, it might appear that our inheritance being more valuable than that of the ancient and literal Canaan, it would be less readily and less probably disparaged. But alas! the things of God are not so appreciable to natural and unaided perception. The eye sees not their beauty, the ear hears not their melody, the nostrils smell not their odour, the tongue tastes not their deliciousness. We have had samples of heaven itself; its righteousness has come down to us; its celestial truth has been proclaimed to our guilty and perishing world; and humanity has discredited and disrelished all.
III. THE SOURCE OF THE ISRAELITES' CONTEMPT. "They believed not His word." If we had only full confidence in the Saviour, if we but eyed Him with a completion and constancy of trust at all commensurate with His trustworthiness, what distressing apprehensions of Him would vanish, what ravishing views of Him would succeed! How sure would heaven become! We should feel as secure of it as if we were already there, and something like as happy.
(D. King, LL. D.)
1. Because the land is hard to reach. Yes, it is hard, and it is easy: hard if the heart is absorbed by the world, the flesh, and the devil; easy, if the world has once been despised, the flesh once crucified, the devil put to scorn.
2. Others think scorn of that pleasant land because they cannot see it, and therefore hardly believe that it exists at all. If we are only to believe in what we see, there will be but little to believe in. We cannot see the Father or the Son or the Holy Ghost with the human eye; we cannot see the soul; we cannot see that the dead are living: but Jesus taught us, and our conscience teaches us to believe these things; and Jesus taught us also to believe in heaven.
(W. R. Hutton, M.A.)
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
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