« PreviousContinue »
doms of Edom and Moab. This was fulfilled in David, who subjugated the Moabites, and slew every male in Edom'.
But there can be no doubt of its ultimately referring to Christ himself. Christ is called in Scripture “the Day-star,” “ the bright and morning Star;" nor did ever any one arise with splendour comparable to his. He too sat upon the throne of his father David, and exercised unlimited dominion. The children of Edom and Moab may be justly considered as representing the enemies of his Church and people. These he subdues and will finally destroy; not one shall live before him: "he will reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Doubts have arisen whether by “ Sheth” we are to understand that son of Adam, whose posterity alone survived the flood; or some person or place of eminence in Moab; (which on the whole is the more probable) but in both senses the prediction was equally fulfilled in Christ, who “has the heathen for his inheritance and the utmost ends of the earth for his possession. Him then did Balaam see, as Abraham also had seen four hundred years before, but not, alas! with Abraham's joyful hope. Of his victorious career he spake, saying, “I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh."]
Having ascertained the import of the prophecy, let us consider, II. The IMPROVEMENT to be made of it1. Let us be thankful for its accomplishment
[We have not to look forward at the distance of fifteen centuries; nor yet to travel, like the Eastern Magi, through trackless deserts, to behold the Lord. We see him “ now ;" we behold him “ nigh.” We have not to go up to heaven, to bring him down, or to go down into the deep, to bring him up. No: he is nigh unto us, even in the word of faith which we have both in our hands and our hearts . Truly he is not only arisen on our benighted world, but, if it be not our own fault, "he is arisen in our very heartsh,” so that “we behold his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of his Father, full of grace and truth."
We see his “ dominion” already established in the world. From the hour in which he sent down his Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost even to the present moment, has his kingdom been extending over the face of the earth: and the hour is fast approaching when “all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him?,” and “all the kingdoms of the
1 2 Sam. viii. 2, 14. Ps. lx. 8. 1 Kings xi. 15, 16. & Rom. x. 6—8. h 2 Pet. i. 19.
i John i. 14. k ver. 19.
| Ps. Ixxii. 8—11.
uracy in his
world become his undivided empire." May I not say too that even in the hearts of many here present he has set up his throne? Yes, and I hope that in due season " he will bruise Satan himself under our feet," and "bring every thought into captivity” to his holy will. If we then be not thankful, methinks « the very stones will cry out againt us."]
2. Let us receive the Lord under the very characters by which he is here revealed
[Let us give up ourselves willingly to his guidance, and not regard any difficulties we may encounter in our way. Truly we may see our way traced out with accur blessed word, the way
which he himself trod when he was upon earth. It is impossible to miss our end, if only we follow his steps.
Let us also surrender up ourselves to him in a way of holy obedience, knowing no will but his, and doing it without reserve. Under him we ourselves also are to fight: and if we “ do valiantly m” we have nothing to fear: for “through his strength we can do all things n." You have seen how Edom and Moab fell before David, and how Christ's “sceptre" has prevailed over the great enemy of our salvation. And so shall * all enemies be put both under his feet,” and under ours, till, having overcome like him, we be exalted to his throne for ever and ever.
See Israel at the time of Balaam's prophecy. They were altogether unused to war; yet did they vanquish all the kingdoms of Canaan. And so shall we, though weak as worms, thresh the mountains” before us', and be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” In vain shall any attempt to curse us:" for “ there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel :” and to all eternity shall we, as monuments of our Redeemer's love, be occupied with adoring gratitude, each exclaiming for himself, and all uniting in that overwhelming sentiment, "What hath God wroughtP!” m ver. 18. n Phil. iv, 13. • Isai. xli. 14, 15. p Numb. xxiii. 23.
PHINEHAS REWARDED FOR HIS ZEAL.
Numb. xxv. 10-13. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, (while he was zealous for my sake among them,) that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood ; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.
SATAN is incessant in his endeavours to destroy the people of God: and, if one device fail, he has recourse to another: nor is he ever at a loss for a succession of expedients, whereby to accomplish his malignant ends. He had laboured hard, in concert with Balaam his willing agent, to bring a curse upon Israel: but he had been foiled in every attempt. What, however, he could not effect by the sword of Moab, he more successfully essayed to do through the influence of their own corruptions, and the fascinations of abandoned women: and, if the zeal of Phinehas had not intervened to arrest the arm of divine vengeance, we know not to what an extent the calamities of Israel might have reached.
In considering what is here recorded concerning Phinehas, we shall notice, I. The act for which he was rewarded
A most grievous iniquity was committed in the camp
[Balaam had advised Balak to ensnare the Israelites by means of the Midianitish women a. An intercourse between them had been opened: the Israelites fell into the snare; and were drawn into unlawful connexions with them, and then into idolatry itself. Thus God was incensed against his people; and after having protected them from the imprecations of Balaam, became himself the executioner of heavy judgments upon them. In addition to the plague which he himself inflicted upon the people, he ordered Moses to send forth and slay the chief offenders, and to hang them up in the sight of all the congregation.
Whilst these judgments were executing, and the unoffending part of the congregation were “weeping before the door of the tabernacle," behold, a man of distinction in one of the tribes brought a Midianitish woman to his tent, in the very sight of Moses and of all the congregation. The guilt of such an illicit commerce would under
any circumstances have been exceeding great ; but at such a time, and in such a manner, was criminal in the highest degree: it was shameless in the extreme : it was an open defiance both of God and man.)
a Numb. xxxi. 16. Rev. ii. 14.
To punish it as it deserved, Phinehas stood forth with holy zeal
[He seized a javelin, and followed the abandoned criminals to the tent, and pierced them through in the midst of their guilty pleasures. This might appear to have been an usurpation of legal authority: but it was not so: for the chief magistrate himself had given the command to all the judges of Israel: moreover, being the son of the high-priest, it is reasonable to suppose that Phinehas was himself a magistrate : at all events, he acted by a divine impulse, and was “God's minister, a revenger to execute wrath upon these evil-doers." Such an act in us would be unjustifiable; because we have received no such commission either from God or man : but the spirit from which it proceeded, would be commendable in whomsoever it were found: we ought to be filled with a zeal for God's honour: we ought to feel indignation against sin: we ought to be penetrated with compassion towards those who are in danger of perishing through the impiety of others: and we ought to be ready to assist the civil magistrate in the suppression of iniquity.]
God's approbation of his conduct was strongly marked in, II. The reward conferred upon him
Instantly was God pacified towards his offending people
[Already had twenty-three thousand persons fallen by the plague, and another thousand by the sword of justiceb: but, on the execution of this signal vengeance, God stopped the plague, and commanded the sword of justice to be sheathed. He accepted this an atonement for the children of Israel." Not that there was any thing in the blood of the victims, that could expiate sin; but their death was considered as a sacrifice to divine justice ; and God took occasion from it to return in mercy to his repenting people. What a glorious reward was this ! Not a family throughout all the tribes of Israel could help feeling its obligations to him, and acknowledging him as its benefactor.]
Immediately too did “ God give him his covenant of an everlasting priesthood"-
[True it was, that Phinehas was next in succession to the priesthood; but it was not ensured to him, and his seed, till God now gave it to him by an express promise. The covenant of priesthood is called "a covenant of peace," both because it
b Compare ver. 9. with 1 Cor. x. 8.
was a testimony of divine acceptance to Phinehas himself, and (as long as the priesthood should last) the means of maintaining peace between God and his people: it also shadowed forth that better priesthood, which should be the means of reconciling the whole world to God, and God unto the world.
This priesthood, we know, was typical of Christ; but, whether the giving of it in consequence of “the atonement made" by Phinehas was typical of him, we cannot say: but this is clear, that the giving of the priesthood to Phinehas, as a reward for the zeal he had exercised, was intended to shew, to the remotest ages, that “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thingd;" and that they who serve God with their whole hearts, shall have the most intimate access to him in this world, and participate his glory in the world to come: they shall be kings and priests unto their God for ever and ever."j We cannot REFLECT on this history without seeing
in a striking point of view, 1. The danger of indulging sin in ourselves
[Whilst the Israelites were obedient to the divine commands, they were safe: God turned all the execrations of their enemies into blessings. But when they allowed themselves to be tempted by the Midianitish women, they fell from one sin to another, and provoked God himself to become their enemy. Happy will it be for us, if we learn from their experience to resist iniquity in its first approaches ; lest we fall and perish after their example. And let not this caution be deemed unworthy the attention of any. If David, and Solomon, were betrayed into the most grievous iniquities by means of their ungoverned appetites, who is he that shall think himself secure? Solomon's description of an abandoned woman is but too just; “ Her heart is as snares and nets, and her hands as bandsf:” he tells us too, that “many strong men have been slain by her; and that her house is the way to helle.” Many who once appeared to be in the way to heaven, have found this to their cost: and many of us who are yet out of hell, owe it more to the long-suffering of God than to any virtue of our own. Let such persons
then be thankful to God for his mercy; and, “if any man think that he standeth, let him take heed lest he fall."] 2. The duty of restraining sin in others
[Wherefore were these rewards conferred on Phinehas, but to shew the world the acceptableness of such services as his? And to what purpose has he committed the power of the sword to magistrates, if they are not to be a terror to the workers of iniquity? This power is a talent for which magistrates are
c Ps. coi. 28–31. d Gal. iv. 18. e Deut. xxiü. 5. i Eccl. vii. 26.
8 Prov. vii. 24–27.