Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spoke to me…
I. LOOK BACK UPON THE PAST.
1. What strikes me in Moses' review is this, the prominence which he gives to God in it. Here let me note that our own retrospect of the past will, if we are genuine Christians, have in it many bright lights of the conspicuous presence of God, making the pathway here and there like holy ground.
2. A very leading point is the blessing which God gave. Our text says He has blessed all the works of our hand. I suppose that alludes to all that Israel had a right to do; the Lord multiplied their cattle, He increased their substance, He guided them in their marches, He protected them in their encampments. There were some things in which He did not bless them. They wanted to go up into the promised land against His commandment, and the Amalekites smote them; He did not bless them there. God does not bless the sins of His people, for if He did it would bring on them the tremendous curse of being happy in the ways of evil.
3. Again, in our retrospect of the past we should notice the perfection of the Lord s sympathetic care; Observe the words, "He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness." He has known our rough paths and our smooth ways, the weary trudging and the joyous marching; He has known it all, and not merely known it in the sense of omniscience, but known it in the sense of sympathy.
4. We have had also what is better than this during our forty years, the special presence of God. "These forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee." He has not been ashamed to be with us, though we have been despised and ridiculed. Whenever we have prayed we have had audience with Him; when we have worked we have seen His mysterious hand working with us; when we have trembled we have felt the tender arms sustaining us; when we have been in bodily pain He has made our bed in our sickness. The best of all is God with us, and in this sign we conquer.
5. Again, we have had much cause to bless the Lord for the abundance of His supplies. "Thou hast lacked nothing." Some things which we could have wished for we have not received, and we are glad they were denied us. Children would have too many sweets if they could, and then they would be surfeited or be ill. Walking on in the path of Providence, trusting in the Lord, what have we lacked?
II. But now we must take the second head, which is — Forty years in the wilderness should teach us much of service for the PRESENT. I do not say that it will do so, for we do not all grow wiser as we grow older, but it ought to be so. Folly is bound up in the heart of many a man, and it takes much of the rod to whip it out of him.
1. Experience is a noble teacher, but we are dull scholars; yet at any rate we ought to have learned to continue trusting in God.
2. Experience should also give us greater ease in confiding in the Lord. Use is said to be second nature, but in your case grace has given you in very deed a real second nature, and this by use should have grown stronger and more prevalent.
3. Forty years of Divine faithfulness should teach us also a surer, quicker, calmer, and more joyous expectation of immediate aid in all times of strait and trial: we should learn not to be flurried and worried because the herds are cut off from the stall, and the harvest is withered, for we know from abundant proofs that "The Lord will provide."
4. Forty years of blessing should teach each of us to believe in holy activity. "The Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand. Some people believe in God's blessing the dreams and theories of their heads, and their prayers are unattended by action. They believe in His blessing them when they are scheming and putting fine plans on paper, or when they meet at a conference to talk about how to do Christian work. I believe in God's blessing the actual work of our hand; He waters not the seed which we talk of sowing, but that which we actually scatter.
5. Forty years' experience ought to have taught us to avoid many of the faults into which we fell in our early days. It is a great pity when advancing age teaches men rather to avoid their virtues than their follie.
6. You will have observed that the text mentions twice "The Lord thy God." All through the chapter it is always that — "Jehovah thy God." Here we have mention of His covenant relationship, in which He is ever most dear to us. Shall we not at this time renew our own personal covenant, and take our God to be ours afresh? We read that Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebecca. Let us have a new wedding day ourselves, and give ourselves over again to the Husband of our souls, even Jesus the well-beloved.
III. THE FUTURE. Having come so far on our journey as to have reached forty years, we are bound to feel a powerful influence upon us as to the future. How? I will borrow our remarks from the context.
1. Read in the second chapter, second verse, "And the Lord spake unto me saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn ye northward." What way was northward, then? Why, toward Canaan. Forty years wandering up and down in the wilderness is enough, now turn your faces towards Canaan and march heavenward. It is time we all had our faces turned heavenward more completely. The time past may suffice us to have wrought the will of the flesh, now let us cry, "Heavenward, ho." Pull up the anchor, spread the sails, and let us away to the fair country whither Jesus has gone before us.
2. The next thing we should learn is indifference to this world's heritage. The next verse says, "Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in Seir; and they shall be afraid of you; take ye good heed unto yourselves, therefore: meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given Mount Seir unto Esau for a possession." Esau sold his heritage, and had his mess of pottage, let him have it; keep you the birthright, and never think of putting your spoon into his mess. The world is for worldlings. What do you want with it?
3. Let us learn from the past to cultivate independence of spirit. "Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink." He is indeed a man of God who has learned to walk uprightly, and no longer leans upon the creature, nor practises policy to win his way.
4. Once again, after forty years in the wilderness God would have His people learn generosity of spirit. The Edomites were very much afraid of the Israelites, and would, no doubt, have bribed them to let them alone, but Moses in effect says, "Do not take anything from them; you have no need to do so, for you have never lacked anything, and God has been with you. They are afraid of you; you might take what you please from them, but do not touch even the water from their wells without payment." Oh, that we had a generous spirit, that we were not for oppressing others in any degree whatever, feeling that we have too much already given us by God to be wanting to tax any man for our own gain.
5. The spirit of freedom from murmuring should be in us after forty years of blessing. Jarchi tells us that this exhortation meant that they were not to pretend to be poor. You know how many do so when it is likely to save their pockets.
6. Lastly, we ought for the future to show more confidence in God if we have had forty years of His love: we should have more confidence in working for Him that He will bless us, more confidence as to our personal weakness that He will strengthen us, more confidence as to the unknown future, that through the great and terrible wilderness He will be with us, and that through the last cold stream He will still be our companion; more confidence that we shall behold the light of His countenance, and more confidence as to the supply of all our needs, for as we have lacked nothing, so all things shall be freely supplied till we cross the river and eat the old corn of the land.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).
Parallel VersesKJV: Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days.