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NUMBERS xiv, 1–9.
1. And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried ; and the people wept that night.
2. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron : and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt ! or would God we had died in this wilderness !
3. And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey ? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
4. And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
We are here presented with the ruinous effect of the report of the unfaithful spies upon the hearts of a perverse and faithless generation. It first produces despair and then rebellion. The people wept all night, exclaiming, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt, and then proceeded to open apostasy from their Divine Ruler, “ Let us make us a captain, and let us return into Egypt." And yet these were the men who had witnessed the great power and mercy of Jehovah exerted in their behalf, in a manner that no other people, either before or since, have ever seen it. With what a picture does it present us of the ingratitude and instability of the human heart! How little altered, alas ! at the present hour! How often, when a religious course has apparently been entered upon in earnest, and even some little progress has been made under our divine leader, do the cares or the pleasures, or the fears of the world suddenly check the advancing pilgrim, and persuade him to seek another captain, and to turn back towards Egypt ! He has not, as our Lord advises, “ first sat down and counted the cost;" he has not sufficiently borne in mind, that, in every case, he who will wear the crown must first bear the cross; he has not dwelt upon the deep and solemn importance of those words of our Lord,“ No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of heaven.” May we, each for himself, pray rightly to estimate and duly to feel the unspeakable danger of standing still in the christian course, for this is usually the prelude to turning back; there is no safety but in advancing by God's help," from strength to strength, until every one of us appeareth before God in Zion.”
5. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6. And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes :
7. And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.
8. If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us ; a land which floweth with milk and honey.
9. Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land ; for they are bread for us ; their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us : fear them not.
Behold here the bold and faithful effort made by Joshua and Caleb to turn back the hearts of the people, and to persuade them to continue on the good course, upon which they had hitherto been journeying. How assured were they of success, and yet how entirely did they look from themselves for the means of obtaining it. They did not say, “The land is an exceeding good land," and it requires only courage and resolution, and perseverance on our part to obtain possession, but they wisely and piously referred all to “Him who alone ruleth in the kingdoms of men,” saying, “ If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us ;” “The Lord is with us, fear them not.” Their hope is placed in something not in themselves, and there
fore no infirmity, no helplessness of theirs can destroy it. Observe our divine Master animating his followers at a later period and upon a far higher subject, with precisely the same glorious “ hope that maketh not ashamed.” These are his words, when cheering on the soldiers of the cross to the great conflict, and to the blessed inheritance that lay before them, “ Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” There is the Christian's rock; it has been his Father's good pleasure to call him to the knowledge of his Son and faith in him; and he is sure that, united thus to the true vine, of which he has been made by free and sovereign grace a living branch, he shall never be cast off in his hour of need, but shall continue to draw the strength he daily prays for, until that most blessed declaration of the divine word shall be fulfilled in his own happy experience, “ Whom he (God) called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified."*
* Rom. viii. 30.
NUMBERS xiv. 10-19.
10. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
11. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me ? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them ?
12. I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.
We find from this passage of scripture, that the Israelites were so fearfully misled by the unfaithful spies, that not content with disobeying God and entering into open rebellion against Him, they were proceeding to acts of violence and cruelty against his most faithful servants, Joshua and Caleb, and were about to take away their lives. Then the Lord, even the Lord Jehovah, of whose deep and astonishing interest in the welfare of his persecuted people, we have before spoken, could no longer forbear, but descended in all the glory of the Shechinah, into the