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"We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."
– Numbers 10:24
THE text was primarily addressed by Moses to "Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law." There has been some doubt entertained as to the identical person described by this name. In Exod. iii. 1, Moses' father-in-law, who was the priest of Midian, is called Jethro, and in Exod. ii. 18, he is called Reuel. Some have thought that Raguel was the father of Jethro, and Jethro the father of Hobab. But the most reasonable way of accounting for this is, that Jethro and Raguel, or Reuel (for the Hebrew is the same in both places), were two names to describe the same person: this was by no means a singular case: many of the ancients had two different names. See Dan. i. 6, 7; Matt. x. 2, 3. Hobab, therefore, to whom the statement in the text was made, and the invitation given, was the brother-in-law of Moses. That we may profit from this passage, we will deduce from it the following observations:
Thus it is described: "The place of which the Lord said, I will give it you." By God's Israel I mean literally the posterity of Jacob, and spiritually all genuine Christians, who are "Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile." The object which God's ancient Israel had in view was Canaan; this is described as a place, and on several accounts it was highly desirable. Heaven is the glorious object on which God's spiritual Israel have fixed their attention. Canaan was highly prized by the Jews,
(a) As it was the end of their journey. "We are journeying unto the place," &c. And when we recollect that they had to journey through a "terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought," and dangers innumerable, we are not surprised to find that they highly valued the country to which they were tending. Heaven is the termination of the Christian's journey. The dangers of that terrible wilderness, through which Israel passed, were but faintly typical of the spiritual dangers to which believers are exposed; and if Israel rejoiced at the possession of Canaan, with what exultation will Christians enter their heavenly inheritance, when their toils will be finished and their conflicts closed!
(b) It was a country amply stored with provisions. It was "a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates, of oil, olives, and honey," where they were to eat bread without scarceness, and not lack any thing, Deut. viii. 8, 9, Oh, how unlike the dreary desolate wilderness through which they had to pass ! But with all the encomiums bestowed upon Canaan, how low it sinks in comparison with that "better country," to which we are journeying! This is indeed a land without scarceness. Here will be no lack of any thing. Here grows the tree of life, laden with immortal fruit. Here flow rivers of perennial pleasure. Here the glorified inhabitants shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more. Here every wish shall be gratified, and every desire be crowned with enjoyment.
(c) It was long and repeatedly promised. More than four hundred years before Israel actually took possession of Canaan, God had said to Abraham, "Unto thy seed will I give this land;" and the promises of God concerning it were repeatedly renewed. Heaven is also a promised land; promised as a kingdom, Luke xii. 32; as a throne, Rev. iii.21; as a crown, 2 Tim. iv. 8; Rev. ii. 10; and as eternal life, 1 John ii. 25.
(d) It was to be gratuitously bestowed. It was "the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you." Israel were uniformly taught to believe, that it was not for their own righteousness that God would bring them in to possess the land, Deut. ix. 5, 6; Ps. xliv. 3. Our heavenly inheritance will be freely given. All God's blessings are gifts. God gave his Son, John iii. 16. He gives his Spirit, Luke xi. 13. He gives repentance, 2 Tim. ii. 25. And eternal life, Rom. vi. 23.
"We are journeying," &c. In this journey we remark three things:
1. It was commenced by the command of God. Oppressed as Israel were in Egypt, and bitter as their lives were rendered by the cruel usage and hard bondage to which they were subject; we have no reason to believe that they would have made one effort to escape from the land of their captivity, if God had not commanded them to depart, Exod. iii. 7- 9. Our bondage is of a more degraded character, and our taskmasters of more merciless dispositions; yet how unwilling are we to escape from their tyrannical sway! But at the command of God we commence our Christian journey, Matt. vii. 13. We forsake sin - take up our cross - bring forth fruits meet for repentance - believe in Christ, and direct our steps towards a city of habitation - all in obedience to the authority of heaven.
2. It was continued under his Immediate guidance. The Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud. Exod. xiii. 18, 21, 22. This was a most extraordinary phenomenon; a cloud that always maintained its station over the tabernacle - that preserved the same invariable form - that regulated all the movements of Israel, and never left them even amidst their provocations. Christians are as much under the guidance of heaven as Israel of old. Jesus is our leader, commander, and pattern, Isa. lv. 4; 1 Pet. ii. 21. The Holy Ghost is our guide, John xvi. 13. And by attending to the example of Christ, and the teachings of his Spirit, in our minds and in his word, we shall as certainly reach our heavenly inheritance as Israel arrived at Canaan.
3. It was marked by his miraculous and gracious care. Never was there a people more remarkably defended than Israel. They were exposed to innumerable dangers, and assailed by the most formidable enemies; but the eternal God was their refuge, Deut. xxxiii. 27. The enemies of Christians are also numerous, sagacious, and powerful; but God is their refuge and strength: and their path is marked by his providential and gracious care, Matt.x.30; Heb. xiii.6.
"Come thou with us, &c.
1. Piety prompts them to say this. They look around and see how God is dishonoured by thousands of his rational creatures. His laws are violated, his Spirit is grieved, and his name blasphemed - and the love they have for God excites the deepest feelings of sorrow in their hearts, Ps. cxix. 158, cxxxix. 21. Hence they long to bring back to God his immortal offspring, and to recover to "the great Shepherd of the sheep," the souls for whom he died; and they say, "Come thou with us," &c.
2. Benevolence excites them to say this. Religion inspires the most ardent attachment to God, and breathes the purest benevolence to men. Christians feel for others, and they say to their friends and neighbours, "Come with us, and we will do you good." God's Israel do good to those who are journeying with them. They instruct them by their pious counsels. When we first cast in our lot among them, we were ignorant of the difficulties, the dangers, and the intricacies of the way - of the devices of Satan, of the snares of the world, and of the deceitfulness of our hearts, we knew but little, but the conversation of Christians ministered instruction to us; they taught us what we had to expect - what to shun - and what to follow. They console them by their fervent prayers. Discouragements will ever beset their path, and stones of stumbling and rocks of offence lie in their way; but when they are ready to faint in their minds, the prayers of the pious will hold up their hands, and inspire them with renewed courage. They urge them onward by their heroic example. See this exemplified in the case of Caleb, Numb. xiii. 30.
3. Self-interest induces them to say this. God's Israel are not only capable of doing good to, but of receiving good from their fellow-travellers. Moses knew that Hobab could be of service to Israel; see ver. 31. They who are led by miracle must not slight the ordinary means of instruction. We have the word and Spirit of God to teach us; but we gladly receive advice from ministers and Christians, and friends; and, therefore, on our own account, we say individually to our neighbours, "Come thou with us," &c. Are they Christian soldiers? Oh, how gladly they behold the army of their glorious Captain swelled with recruits from the camp of the enemy! Are they travellers? How delighted are they to hear their neighbours asking the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, and saying, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."
"The Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."
1. Concerning the country to which Israel are tending. "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God!" Ps. lxxxvii. 3. And if the earthly Jerusalem merited such an encomium, how surpassingly glorious is the heavenly Jerusalem! See Rev. xxi. 23 - 26.
2. Concerning the way in which Israel are journeying. It is called a right way, 1 Sam. xii. 23; a good way, Jer. vi. l6; a perfect way, Ps. ci. 2; a way of holiness, Isa. xxxv. 8; a way of peace, Luke i. 79; a new and living way, Heb. x. 20; and a way in which there is no death, Prov. xii. 28.
3. Concerning the succours afforded them in the way. Many things are necessary for travellers. Light to see the way, Prov iv. 18; a consciousness of being in the right way, Isa. xxx. 21; a guide to instruct us in the way, Ps. xxxii. 8; provision for the way, Ps. cxxxii. 15; strength to walk in the way, Isa. xl. 29-31; and a never-failing friend to lead us forward in the way, Isa. xlii. 16.
4. "The Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel," In the titles by which they are designated, such as children of God, sons of God, heirs of God, kings and priests unto God. In the figures by which they are compared; God's husbandry, God's building, God's heritage, sheep of God's pasture, a royal priesthood, a spiritual house, a crown of glory, and a royal diadem, &c. In the promises to which they are entitled; these include all things, l Cor. iii. 21 23.
1. The happiness of God's people. They step they take brings them nearer to their celestial habitation. Oh how pleasing the thought, to be so near the paradise of God! What, if they should meet with storms, or even tempests, by the way! "The rougher the blast, the sooner 'tis past; the tempest that rise Shall gloriously hurry them home to the skies"
2. The work of God's people. They are to get as many with them as they can. They are to say, " Come with us ;" they are to allure others by their example, teach them by their counsel, and encourage them by their prayers. They are not to invite others to go to heaven, and walk in a contrary direction themselves; but they are to go before, and invite others to follow them.
3. The honour of God's people. The Lord hath spoken good concerning them. Human praise is valued in proportion to the exalted character of the person who bestows it. Who esteems the plaudits of the vulgar, the ignorant, or the worthless? But oh! to have the praise of God, the commendations of Jehovah, what can be more exalted? or what so estimable? The revilings of men cannot harm you, while God speaks good concerning you.
4. The security of God's people. "The Lord hath spoken good;" and not one word will fail of all that he hath spoken! only secure the commendation of God, and all will be yours, for if God be for you, who can be against you?