Tuesday, February 17, 2015

#90. Concluding features (Numbers xxvi. - xxxvi.).

     We have now considered the teaching of the Book of Numbers up to the end of  chapter xxv.   From this point to the end of the Book, we have eleven more chapters.  Had our intention in this series been a study of each book as it stands, we should have dealt next with the structures and analysis of the remaining chapters.  This work had been partly done, but upon weighing the matter over, and considering the teaching of these remaining chapters in the light of the title, “Fundamentals of dispensational truth”, we have decided to replace this detailed study by the briefest of summaries.  So much of the ground is retraced in these chapters of Numbers, the new matter being largely connected with the re-adjustment of the people in view of the entry into the land, and the summary will be sufficient to lead on to the study of the fifth book of Moses, that of Deuteronomy.

     Numbers xxvi.  is occupied with the numbering of the people.  This is the third census.  The three occasions on which a census was taken are as follows:

(1)         Before the building of the tabernacle  (Exod. xxx. 11;  xxxviii. 25).   This provided silver for the work of the tabernacle.
(2)         At the opening of the Book of Numbers, in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers i.).
(3)         The third numbering is recorded here in  Numbers xxvi.   The record is followed by this solemn comment:--
     “These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.  But among these was not a man whom Moses and Aaron the priest numbered, when they numbered the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.  For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness.  And there was not left a man of them save Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, the son of Nun” (Numb. xxvi. 63-65).

     Even Moses is not spared.  He, too, must suffer loss, because of his failure to sanctify the Lord at Meribah:--

     “And the Lord said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.  For ye rebelled against My commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify Me at the water before their eyes” (Numb. xxvii. 12-14).

     With these solemn words we may compare the witness of the apostle Paul:--

     “Lest by any means,  when I have preached to others,  I myself should be disqualified . . . . . All our fathers were under the cloud . . . . . all . . . . . all . . . . . all . . . . . all, but with many of them God was not well pleased . . . . . Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. ix. 24 - x. 12).

     “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief . . . . . So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.  Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us . . . . . any of you should seem to come short of it” (Heb. iii. 7 - iv. 1).

     “This one thing I do, forgetting . . . . . reaching forth . . . . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. iii. 13, 14).

     As we read these words, who among us would have the temerity to say that we are sure that that crown and prize are ours?  We do not, of course, mean to cast the slightest doubt upon the absolutely perfect and inalienable position that every believer occupies in grace.  The passage in view is not dealing with position in grace, but with service, running a race, fighting a good fight, finishing a course.  There is as much difference between these two things as between the rock foundation once laid, and the subsequent erection built upon it that shall be tried by fire (I Corinthian iii.).  When we are dealing with Israel in the Book of Numbers, we must remember that they are a redeemed people.  Redemption had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, and the Red Sea flowed between them.  Moses himself was a saved man;  yet he “suffered loss”.  The reader would be helped in his study if he were to read  Psalm.xc.&xci.,  noticing that  Psalm xc.  speaks of those whose carcases fell in the wilderness, while  Psalm xci.  speaks of those who, being under twenty years of age, were preserved for those forty years, and led into the land under Joshua.

     A beautiful spirit is manifested in the reply of Moses in  Numbers xxvii.  to the sentence of death.  He makes no complaint, he offers no excuses;  he bows before the Lord, but asks that a successor shall be appointed.

     Numbers xxvii.  deals with the request of the daughters of Zelophedad, and the Lord’s answer.  The latter, together with the further enactment given in the last chapter of Numbers, has to do with the law of the kinsman-redeemer, an important principle which underlies the beautiful account in the book of Ruth and the teaching of Scripture in connection with the Redeemer Himself (See the series on “Redemption”,  volume XII, p.109).   Chapters xxviii. & xxix.  restate the law regarding various offerings and feasts.  This was necessary for the guidance of the people about to enter the land, but does not demand a detailed study here.

     Chapter xxx.  is devoted to the question of vows:  their fulfillment and their cancellation.  A special place is given to the woman in the matter.  Her vow can be rendered void either by her father, if she be unmarried, or by her husband, if she be married.  The words, “He shall bear her iniquity” (xxx. 15) give us a faint picture of the relationship between Christ and His people.  Moreover, the passage throws light upon the true status of women.  It is introduced by the words:  “This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded”.  A word here may perhaps be in season when the tendency of the times, even among the Lord’s people, is to throw over the restraints of Scripture in the interests of a false “liberty” and “equality”.  The treatment of the daughters of Zelophedad, taken together with this chapter, would help to give a balanced judgment.

     In  Numbers xxxi.  Moses is commanded to avenge the children of Israel upon the Midianites.  This is the last command laid upon Moses:  “afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people”.  Midian is defeated.  Balaam is slain.  The spoils of war are purified with fire and the water of separation.  A great difference is made between the levy imposed upon those who actually went out to the battle, and the remainder of the congregation who stayed at home.

     The prey taken was of three kinds:  persons (verses 12, 18, 35), beasts (verses 32-34) and money & goods (22 & 50).  These were divided among the congregation and the army.  In this we have an anticipation of David’s ruling concerning “his part . . . . . that tarrieth by the stuff” (I Sam. xxx. 24).  On the other hand there is due recognition of the active part played by the soldier, whose levy was “one soul of five hundred” whilst that of the congregation was “one portion of fifty” (Numb. xxxi. 27-30).  At the close of this levy, a census was taken of the warriors, which revealed the fact that there “lacked not one” of them.  Moved with gratitude, they bring an oblation, to make an atonement for their souls.

     Chapter xxxii.  is mainly concerned with the request of Reuben and Gad, that their inheritance should be allotted to them in the land of Gilead because “the place was a place for cattle”.  They requested that they should not be brought “over Jordan” (xxxii. 1-5).  Their request was granted, upon condition that they sent their quota to war, until Israel had entered into their own possessions.  There is an important lesson here, which we shall probably consider in our study of the Book of Joshua and its typical teaching.  We may anticipate, however, without going into detail:--

     (1)   It was the possession of cattle, not the glory of the Lord, or the following of His will, that influenced Reuben and Gad.

     (2)   It was an attempt to reverse God’s order — which was the conquest of Canaan first, and then the spreading out to occupy the land “from sea to sea”.

     (3)   The gaining of their request meant that many never returned to wife and children or inheritance.  And when Israel began to be taken into captivity, they were among the first to go.

     It is “natural” to shirk the crossing of Jordan, but it is foreign to the teaching of Scripture.

     Chapter xxxiii.  is occupied with a record of the journeys of Israel.  The word “journeys” in verse one is, in the Hebrew, “pullings up”, and has reference to the tent pegs.  The whole is a record of pilgrimage, and a remainder of the way in which the Lord had led the people, suffering their ways, providing food and raiment, and eventually leading them into the land of promise.

     Chapter xxxiv.  fixes the bounds of the inheritance.

     Chapter xxxv.  provides for the tribe of Levi forty-eight cities, of which six are reserved as cities of refuge for the man-slayer (verses 1-6).  Three of these cities were in the land of Canaan, and three on the other side of Jordan (14).  The avenger of blood is the kinsman-redeemer;  and this chapter, together with those that deal with the problem of the daughters of Zelophedad, provided a twofold aspect of the work of the Redeemer, corresponding to the two words, “destroy” and “deliver” in  Hebrews ii. 14, 15.

     From another angle, the avenger of blood may be regarded as symbolizing the law, from whom the man-slayer was not freed until the death of the High Priest.

     Chapter xxxvi.  brings this book to a close with the added statement already considered regarding the case of the inheritance passing to the daughter of a family.  Marriage within the tribe is the only restriction;  freedom of choice is allowed within these limits.  This may well be taken as an illustration of the vexed question of the freedom of choice among moral agents.  Man must of necessity be free;  otherwise he ceases to be either moral or responsible.  His freedom, however, is not absolute but relative;  for God’s will shall with certainty be accomplished.  Freedom of choice is not permitted to spoil the inheritance or ourselves or of others, for this inheritance has much to do with the great purpose of the ages.  We ask the reader to observe that we use the words, “freedom of choice” and not “freedom of will’.  Who among us can say “I will” and not feel how much he is bound by circumstances?

     With this survey we conclude our study of the book of pilgrimage;  and look forward with interest to the restatement which is contained in the book of Deuteronomy.

#89. Numbers xxii. - xxv. Balaam and Baal-Peor.

     Throughout the unfolding of the purpose of the ages — whether the whole sweep of that purpose, as visualized from  Genesis i.  to  Revelation xxii.,  whether man himself, from Paradise lost to Paradise regained, whether Israel, or the Church, or even the individual life of the believer throughout all times and under all dispensations — Scripture apprizes us of a series of Satanic attacks, carried out along lines parallel with that purpose, including, prominently, an attack upon the exclusive worship of God, and a seduction from the path of moral purity.  These attacks are not confined to the beginning of any new dispensation, but are repeated, with undiminished force, at their close.  Rebellion began in heaven and war will again take place in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the Dragon and his angels.  That old Serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, who deceived our first parents when placed in the garden of Eden, will deceive the nations once again, just before the garden is restored at the last.

     Coming closer to our subject, Israel had been delivered out of Egypt but five months when we find them ensnared in the matter of the golden calf and its immoral "play", for they made themselves naked (Exod. xxxii. 1-6, 25).  This terrible breaking of the covenant of Sinai was visited by a judgment executed by the sons of Levi.  And now, as we are about to read the account of the closing attack upon Israel, just as they are to cross the Jordan, we find again, in the matter of Baal-Peor, the same idolatry and immorality, followed by vengeance executed by the javelin of Phinehas.

     The book of the Revelation reveals a similar attack at the time of the end, “that woman Jezebel” teaching the same double evil in the church in Thyatira (Rev. ii. 20).  Before the dreadful fall of Israel in the matter of Baal-Peor, much is recorded concerning Balaam himself, and considerable space is devoted to his unwilling inspiration and utterance of the prophetic parables.

     Three battles are recorded:  against  Irad the Canaanite,  Sihon, king of the Amorites,  and  Og, king of Bashan,   but these sanguinary fights are disposed of in a few verses.  The record of the final attack under Balaam, however, occupies more than one hundred verses.  Moreover, the N.T. refers to Balaam three times, and makes allusion to two points in the story recorded in Numbers:

     “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, but was rebuked for his iniquity;  the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (II Pet. ii. 15, 16).

     “Woe unto them!  for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Korah” (Jude11).

     “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate” (Rev. ii. 14, 15).

     A reference is made to this period in  I Cor. x. 8:--

     “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”

     Two references are made to Baal-Peor outside the books of Moses:--

     “They joined themselves also unto Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead” (Psa. cvi. 28).

     “They went to Baal-Peor and separated (nazar, as Numb.vi.7) themselves unto that shame;  and their abominations were according as they loved” (Hos. ix. 10).

     As a detailed examination of the whole of the narrative is beyond our limits, these references will enable us to appreciate the features that require consideration.

     Just as Balaam comes upon the scene at the very end of Israel’s period of wandering, and just before they cross over into the promised land, so these N.T. Scriptures which refer to Balaam, are Scriptures that deal with the last days, viz.,  II Peter,  Jude  and  Revelation.

     II Peter  is occupied with prophecy, both false and true, revolving around the second coming of the Lord.    Chapter ii.  is taken up with the question of false prophets, and the ungodly of ancient times.  The angels that sinned, the old world in the days of Noah, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, are examples cited of the ungodliness yet to come.  Even a passing acquaintance with the Scriptures that deal with these three subjects will indicate the awful uncleanness associated with them, and this is immediately taken up by the apostle (ii. 10-14), and is followed by the reference to Balaam.

     Jude follows very closely the same lines as  II Peter ii.   He, too, introduces three ancient examples of ungodliness:  Israel,  the angels,  and  Sodom & Gomorrah,   and, again, terrible uncleanness is indicated (Jude 7, 8).  These three classes are balanced in the epistle by three evil individuals:  Cain,  Balaam  &  Korah,   and throw light upon the character of the last days.

     The book of the Revelation also speaks of the last days, and again we read of Balaam.  This time a special doctrine is associated with his name, and also with Nicolaitanes.  Now, inasmuch as both Balaam and Nicolaitan have the same meaning, namely, the overcoming of the people, we see that Satan will once more introduce his unclean doctrines at the time of the end to ensnare the people of God.  Balaam’s doctrine was taught at Pergamos — “where Satan’s throne is.”  Balaam stands before us as the great typical false prophet:  he sins against light and knowledge  and is overcome of greed:  He was in league with the forces of evil, as may be seen by the references to enchantments  (Numbers xxiii. 23;  xxiv. 1  and falling into a trance,  xxiv. 4).   Four times does Balaam utter in parable form the words that God put into his mouth.  Balak takes Balaam to view Israel from three different heights, but no loophole can be found for the curse to fall upon them.

     Balaam’s four parables represent four aspects of the perfect standing of every true child of God.  Under the first covenant Israel had undertaken to inherit the position of a kingdom of Priests by their obedience, saying:  “All that the Lord hath spoke we will do” (Exodus.xix.3-8), and as a part of their preparation for the confirmation of this covenant Moses was to:  “sanctify them to-day and to-morrow  and let them wash their clothes  and be ready against the third day” (Exod.xix.10,11).  Alas, we know too well that Israel utterly failed, and the Lord, in grace, set aside that covenant and introduced another, a better covenant, established by better promises, resting upon an infinitely better Sacrifice, and in the hand of a better Mediator.

     When Israel do, eventually, enter into their blessed inheritance, it will not be by their own obedience, neither will they be able to “wash their clothes and be ready against the third day”.  The book of the Revelation gives the new and better state:--

     “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father” (Rev. i. 5, 6).
     “These are they which have come out of greater tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the lamb” (Rev. vii. 14).
     “Thou hast redeemed to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made them unto our God kings and priests:  and they shall reign over the earth” (Rev. v. 9, 10).

     The first of Balaam’s parables emphasizes the believer’s separation unto God:--

     “Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Numb. xxiii. 9).

      This is the basic truth concerning Israel.  The second parable emphasizes the perfect acceptance of every child of God:--

     “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” (Numb. xxiii. 21).

     Yet on both sides of this parable of Balaam we have the record of Israel’s terrible failure.  The apparent contradiction is, however, removed when we remember that Balaam speaks of their standing, whereas Moses speaks of their state.

     The two parables that follow emphasize the glory and the victory of the people “in the latter days” (Numb. xxiv. 14).  “His kingdom shall be exalted” (Numb. xxiv. 7), and Balaam plainly prophecies that this exaltation is associated with the Messiah:--

     “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.  Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion” (Numb.xxiv.17,19).

     Before ending the prophetic utterances, Balaam speaks of the end of the Amalekites, the Kenites and the Assyrians.  Ships shall come from the coast of Shittim, and afflict both the Assyrian and the Hebrew,  and then  he also (that sent the ships) shall perish  for ever.   Daniel, in  xi. 30  of his book, speaks of these “ships of Chittim”, and makes it clear that they come against the Beast of the Apocalypse.

     Here, then, we have a false prophet, who sets out, at the bidding of a king, to curse Israel, uttering such truths as demand nothing less than the inspiration of God as their origin.  Balaam realized his helplessness in the matter, saying to Balak:--

     “Have i now any power at all to say anything?  The word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall i speak” (Numb.xxii.38).
     “Must i not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth?” (Numb. xxiii. 12).
     “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, i cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind:  but what the Lord saith, that will i speak” (Numb. xxiv. 13).
     “And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes;  and the spirit of God came upon him” (Numb. xxiv. 2).

     It is therefore apparent that Balaam’s utterances had no relation to his own heart, or his own moral character.  He, himself, was wicked, unrepentant, and in league with Satanic  powers, yet God could so come upon him  that he was powerless to resist being made a mouthpiece of the Almighty.  If wicked Balaam and wicked Caiaphas can utter prophetic truth by the mighty constraint of the Spirit of God,  how much more may we believe that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”  (II Pet. i. 21)?

     It is sad to leave this high standpoint of the blessed standing of the elect of God, for the narrative of their terrible state which follows in  Numbers xxv.   Balaam’s intended curses were rendered impossible, but Balaam’s subtle doctrine ensnared the people of God:--

     “And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.  And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods:  and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods, and Israel joined himself unto Baal-Peor” (Numb. xxv. 1-3).

     No censer of incense stays the judgment that now falls.  The javelin of Phinehas “made an atonement for the children of Israel”, and his reward is remembered in the words of Israel’s last prophet (Mal.ii.4,5).  The words that follow deal with abuses in connection with marriage, and the intention of the Lord in marriage — “That He might seek a seed of God” (Elohim) (Mal. ii. 15).  They reveal the diabolical character of Balaam’s doctrine.  Its connection with Cain, the fallen angels and the cities of the plain in  II Peter  and  Jude,  further emphasizes the Satanic plot at Baal-Peor, at the moment of entry into the land, to sow his own tares, “the seed of the wicked one”.

     It is surely something more than an accident that the passage already quoted from  Hos. ix. 10  should use the word nazar (“separate”), which is found in  Numb. vi. 3,  where we have the law of the Nazarite.  What a contrast.  Israel should have been “separated” as a nation unto the Lord:  instead, they corrupted themselves, and “separated themselves unto that shame, and their abominations were according as they loved”.  This passage from Hosea makes us think of the charge against the church of Ephesus, “Thou hast left thy first love”, although, be it said, they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes.  Hate, however, is not so strong as love, and with the loss of the first love, hatred of the Nicolaitan doctrine waned, so that by the time we reach Pergamos, the Nicolaitan doctrine has a hold, and is coupled with the doctrine of Balaam, and answered by the seduction of Jezebel.  And now Levi with his sword and Phinehas with his javelin give place to the Lord Himself, out of whose mouth goeth a sharp two-edged sword.

     The last act of Moses was the execution of vengeance,  a faint anticipation of the  “Day of vengeance of our God”:--

     “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites:  afterwards shalt thou be gathered unto thy people” (Numb. xxxi. 2).

     Each tribe of Israel sent 1,000 armed men to execute this vengeance of the Lord against Midian, for all Israel had been guilty, and had actually lost double this number, 24,000 having died, as  Numb.xxv.9  declares.   In this connection we earlier quoted  I Cor. x. 8.   As some may have a difficulty because that passage says 23,000, it should be noted that  I Cor. x. 8  specifies how many died in one day, for some had been hanged, and some slain earlier (Numb.xxv.4,5).  Phinehas, whose javelin executed the first stroke of vengeance on a daughter of Midian, led the army on this dreadful mission.  This was no conquest of territory, it was not the claiming of an inheritance;  it was a priestly blotting out of a sinful alliance.  In this battle Balaam meets his end, unrepentant to the last.  Not a single man of Israel was lost in this battle, and a thank offering was brought to make an atonement for their souls before the Lord, amounting to 16,750 shekels of gold.  This was brought into the tabernacle of the congregation, “for a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord” (Numb.xxxi.54).  This, in some measure, counters the other memorial for the children of Israel, made of the rebels’ censers (Numb. xvi. 40).

     Surely we are justified in seeing in these 12,000 overcomers a foreshadowing of that great company, the 144,000 who overcome, who were not defiled with women, and who stand out in contrast with the awful doctrine of Balaam and Jezebel.

     Israel now prepare to enter the land of promise, and the remaining chapters of Numbers are occupied with the numbering of the people, with laws adjusted to suit the changed circumstances, and with the special provision of the cities of refuge.  These we hope to consider in our next article, which brings the survey of Numbers to a conclusion.

#88. Numbers xx. - xxv. The twofold opposition encountered by Israel and its relation to Eph. vi. 12.

     Israel, as they press on from Kadesh, meet with opposition in various forms.  The Edomites, who were related by blood, refuse passage through their territory and even the purchase of drinking water.  The Moabites, who were also related to Israel through Lot their father, sought to curse Israel, and succeeded in entrapping them in evil practices.  Arad the Canaanite, Sihon King of Heshbon and Og King of Bashan, in no way related to Israel but rather the seed of the Serpent, oppose, too, in different ways.  A careful consideration of these contests will throw light upon the conflict of the Church to-day, and especially upon the meaning of the apostle in  Eph. vi.  where the armour of God is specified and the contestants indicated.  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers” (Eph. vi. 12).  Edom and Moab represent “flesh and blood”;  Arad, Sihon and Og the “principalities and powers”.  Two distinct lines of action are indicated to deal with these two types of opposition.

     Edom, of course, is Esau the brother of Jacob, and so the message sent to the King of Edom opens with the words:  “Thus saith thy brother Israel” (Numb.xx.14).  The request was for permission to pass through the country, and the request was accompanied by a promise that neither fields, nor vineyards, nor wells of water should be touched, but that the King’s highway should be kept “until we have passed thy borders”.  This modest request was refused.  The children of Israel sent again saying:--

     “We will go by the high way:  and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then will I pay for it:  I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet” (Numb. xx. 19).

     Edom again replied, “Thou shalt not go through”, but  Deut. ii. 28, 29  suggests that the request to purchase food and drink was granted.  Neither Edom nor Moab, however, would allow Israel to pass through their territory.  Jephtha’s summary of the time shews this clearly:--

     “Then Israel sent messengers unto the King of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land, but the King of Edom would not hearken thereto.  And in like manner they sent unto the King of Moab:  but he would not consent;  and Israel abode in Kadesh” (Judges xi. 17).

     Deuteronomy xxiii. 3, 4  shows that Moab refused what Edom granted:--

     “They met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt:  and because they hired against thee Balaam the Son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.”

     The Companion Bible note to  Deut. ii. 28  suggests that Moab sold too, but the very clear-cut distinction made between Moab and Edom in  Deut. xxiii. 3, 4 & 7  is rather opposed to this suggestion.  However, be that as it may, Edom and Moab both refused permission for Israel to pass through their territory.

     What did the Lord say?  Did He command, “Arise, O Israel, manifest by conquest that you are the redeemed of the Lord”?  No;  Israel’s attitude was to be the reverse of this.  All that is written in  Numbers xx. 21  is:  “Wherefore Israel turned away from him”.   Deuteronomy ii.,  however, makes very clear what Israel’s attitude was to be:--

     “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” (Deut. ii. 4, 5).

     Much the same is said of the Moabites:  “Distress not the Moabites neither contend with them in battle” (ii. 9).  Here is no uncertain sound, and the spiritual analogy is not difficult to perceive:--

     “We wrestle not with flesh and blood” (Eph. vi. 12).
     “Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods” (Heb. x. 34).
     “They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews.xi.13).
     “No man that warreth entangleth himself in the affairs of his livelihood” (II.Timothy.ii.4).
     “Let your moderation be known to all men” (Phil. iv. 5).
     “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content (or independent)” (Philippians iv. 11).

     Passages like these bear out the analogy.  We are not citizens here.  This world is partitioned out to others;  brothers indeed in the flesh but, alas, not in the line of promise.  We leave them their inheritance, we do not meddle with them, we shall not possess one foot of their territory, and we are forbidden to enter into conflict.  “From such turn away” is the apostle’s echo of the words, “Israel turned away from him”.  If the rebuff of the world hurts our pride, we must remember that we should have no pride left to be hurt.  The redeemed of the Lord should have no “rights” in the world.  Their citizenship is not here;  they are at best pilgrims seeking a pathway home.

     When we come to the consideration of the Canaanite opponents, we are on entirely different ground.  The first is King Arad the Canaanite.  We read:--

     “And when King Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by way of the spies;  then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners” (Numb. xxi. 1).

     The spies had originally entered the land by this route (see Numb. xiii. 17), and this early act of unbelief (as we have seen the sending of the spies to be) not only brought disaster upon those who lived at the time, but upon their children forty years afterwards.

     The Canaanites are delivered into the hand of Israel and are utterly destroyed.

     A request is next sent to Sihon, King of the Amorites, couched in terms almost identical with those used for Edom.  The request is refused, Sihon comes out and fights against Israel;  and Israel smites him with the edge of the sword, and takes possession of his territory.  What Israel took from Sihon had originally belonged to Moab (Numb. xxi. 26), who had become idolatrous, as we see from  xxi. 28, 29:  “The lords (baalim) of the high places of Arnon . . . . . O people of Chemosh” (Chemosh being an idol,  II Kings xxiii. 13).

     This was a legitimate conquest on this side of Jordan before the land of promise was reached;  and the Church to-day, while not forgetting the restrictions associated with Moab and Edom, can win back territory which was lost to Satan and his hosts, which once belonged to the outer circle of God’s people.

     Og, King of Bashan, also went out against Israel, and he, too, was overcome and destroyed.  This king was the last of the Rephaim;  his bedstead (or tomb) was nine cubits long, “after the cubit of a man”.

     The destruction of Sihon and Og is commemorated in a psalm of praise, which specially emphasizes the mercy of God.

“To Him which smote great kings:
            For His mercy endureth for ever:
And slew famous kings:
            For His mercy endureth for ever:
Sihon, King of the Amorites:
            For His mercy endureth for ever:
And Og, King of Bashan:
   For His mercy endureth for ever”  (Psa. cxxxvi. 17-20).

     This seed of the giants, the Rephaim, were the tares sown by the Wicked One;  it was mercy utterly to destroy them.  And so, when the day arrives for the Church to ascend into the heavenly inheritance, the principalities and powers, the world holders of this darkness and the “spiritual wickednesses” that have, under the authority of Satan, for so long barred the way, shall in like manner be destroyed.  Already by the cross they have been “spoiled” and “triumphed over” (Col. ii. 15).  For the present time our orders are to “stand”, to “stand against” and to “withstand”.

     If it was vital that Israel should follow out implicitly the instructions given them in their passage from the wilderness to the promised land, it is surely equally important that we also should neither exceed nor fall short of the instructions given for our own guidance.  The teaching that some hold regarding “warfare” to-day, is as though Israel, long before the arrival at Kadesh, marched forward indiscriminately with sword in hand, simply because they knew that over the Jordan lay their inheritance and that even then they were really “more than conquerors”.

     We have touched, in passing, upon each of the opposing forces met by Israel, but so much is involved in the action of Balak and Balaam that this must be reserved for separate study in a subsequent paper.

#87. The start from Kadesh (Numbers xx. - xxv.).

     Once again we have, interposed between chapters of history, further laws pertaining to the priests and the people, full of matter and abundantly repaying careful study.  It is not our purpose, however, to investigate every detail of these books, time alone being against us, so we pass over  chapters xviii. & xix.  and take up the theme again in  chapter xx.,  where another series of incidents is recorded, some of which are used in the N.T. and all of which are full of needed lessons for those who, having been redeemed by the precious blood, are pressing on like Caleb and Joshua to the inheritance ahead.  It is not of our choosing that these historic incidents should necessitate so much insistence upon the Philippians aspect of truth, and we shall not shirk it because some may not readily appreciate the lessons taught.  We need all the counsel of God, and a faithful ministry does not keep back anything that is profitable.

     The section before us occupies six chapters, and for the first approach, the structure found in The Companion Bible is of service in placing the distinct grouping of events before the eye.  The following analysis brings into prominence the features that represents the lesson element, the features therefore that we mostly desire:--

     Here is the old trouble, viz., no water and no bread.  While both Moses and Aaron forfeit entry into the land, the structure balances this with the two passages which say (even after failure in one instance) that “the children of Israel set forward”  (see  xx.12,13,24  for Moses and Aaron;  and  xxi. 10  &  xxii.1  for Israel).  Earlier we see how the Lord defended the high honour of Moses against the murmurs of Aaron and Miriam, and how he defended Aaron against the gainsaying of Korah.  Nevertheless high honour brings high responsibility.  To him that has had much given, of him will more be required.  The five talent man must produce five more talents to be level with the two talent man who produced two.  We are therefore still in an atmosphere of service, contest, endurance, pressing on, reward or loss.

Wasted   years.

     Chapter xx.  opens with the words:  “Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month”, and unless we are already prepared, we should naturally assume this to be within a brief interval of the last recorded movement.  As a matter of fact an interval of some 37½ years must be recognized as intervening between  Numbers xiv.  and  Numbers xx.:--

     “Your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years ... and ye shall know My breach of promise” (Numb. xiv. 33, 34).

     This should warn us to be prepared to find the interval, but the definite date of Aaron’s death leaves no doubt.   Chapter xxxiii.  enumerates the itinerary of Israel from the time they went forth out of Egypt until they pitched by Jordan in the plains of Moab, and it is there we read:--

     “And Aaron the priest went up into the Mount Hor at the commandment of the Lord, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month” (Numb. xxxiii. 38).

     Miriam dies without entering the promised land;  Aaron dies without entering;  and so does Moses, although the death of Moses is deferred until later.  The men that were twenty years old and upward who had seen the mighty work of the Lord, and who had nevertheless refused to go up at the leading of the Lord, were now all dead.

     The children that they had said were to be a prey in the wilderness had been miraculously preserved, and were now about to go into the land.  The fact that these repeat the sin of their fathers removes all idea that they were essentially different from their parents;  their entry is still of the grace of God.  Moses called them rebels, and so they were;  nevertheless, in that, and in his angry striking of the rock, Moses failed.  The comment of  Psa. cvi. 32, 33  should be remembered:--

     “They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes:  because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.”

     Let none think that we comment on Moses’ lapse in any self-righteous spirit.  Who amongst us would have endured one year, let alone forty years, of this people’s manners and ways?

     There is perhaps a closer link between minister and people than at first appears.  Paul said to the Thessalonians:--

     “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For ye are our glory and joy … when Timothy … brought us good tidings of your faith . . . . . we were comforted . . . . . . . for now we live if ye stand fast in the Lord” (I Thess. ii. 19 - iii. 8).

     To the like intent we read  I John ii. 28  and  II John 8:--

     “And now, little children, abide in Him;  that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”

     “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”*

[NOTE  *  -  Some texts read “ye”, but we do not feel that there is sufficient evidence to warrant the alteration.  If “ye” had been originally written, who would want to alter it to the more difficult “we”?]

     There is, moreover, another reason for the death of Moses and Aaron before entry into the land of promise.  Both stood for a failing law and failing priesthood.  Law was to be dead and buried before Joshua (whose name is the same as Jesus) should rise and lead the people over Jordan.  God had forgiven many sins of Moses and Aaron, and could have forgiven many more.  It pleased Him, however, to prevent the representative of the law from crossing the Jordan, and we do well to learn both the personal lesson for ourselves, and the doctrinal lesson for the church.

Types   of   Christ.

     The rock and the brazen serpent are evident types of Christ.  In the earliest history of Israel, the smiting of the rock had been by divine command:--

     “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock of Horeb;  and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink” (Exod. xvii. 6).

     When once more water was to be brought out of the rock at the end of the forty years’ pilgrimage, no command was given to strike it again.  The sacrifice of Christ is never to be repeated.  There shall be in the day of Israel’s return a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, and they shall look upon Him Whom they pierced, but they shall never pierce Him again.  The striking of the rock in the second place is an O.T. parallel of the awful words of  Heb. vi. 6:  “They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh”.

     The second great type of this section is the brazen serpent.  Again the people murmur (Numb. xxi. 5), and use very similar expressions to those recorded in  xx. 3-5,  yet in  chapter xx.  no punishment follows, while in  Numbers xxi.  the murmuring is immediately followed by the judgment of the fiery serpents.  It will be remembered that earlier still the people had murmured, and had been visited with dire judgment.  Is there anything in the passage to account for this?  There is one thing common to the two passages recording that punishment is absent, and that is a slighting reference to the manna:--

     “But now our soul is dried away:  there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numb. xi. 6).
     “Our soul loatheth this light bread” (Numb. xxi. 5).

     What expressions are here, when speaking of the gift of God — the corn of heaven, angels’ food.

     The chapter in John which speaks so much of the manna, and of Christ as the true bread that came down from heaven, shows the spiritual equivalent of this loathing of the manna, and the “dried up” soul:--

     “This is a hard (dried up) saying” (said many of His disciples), “who can hear it . . . . . the words I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life” (John vi. 60-63).

     Murmuring is evil enough, but when it takes the form of loathing the gift of God and the type of Christ, judgment falls.

     When Israel sinned and broke the law at the foot of Sinai the Lord’s reply was, in effect, “Make an ark”.  Here, the only remedy is:  “Make a fiery serpent and set it upon a pole.”  Here is a most precious anticipation of those statements in the epistles that reveal that the curse of the law can only be removed by one dying under a curse (Gal. iii. 13), or that reconciliation can only be accomplished by imputing sin to the One Who knew no sin:--

     “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. v. 19-21).

     Numbers xxi. 8  is the O.T. equivalent of  John iii. 16:--
     “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up,  that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,  but have eternal life”  (John iii. 14, 15).

     By the time Hezekiah came to the throne, the brazen serpent, preserved by Israel and carried by them into the land, had become an idolatrous image:--

     “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made:  for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it;  and he called it Nehushtan — a brass thing” (II Kings xviii. 4).

     The symbol of Israel’s redemption had degenerated to the level of the obscene Asherah, and idolatrous images.  If Satan cannot blot out a truth by denial, he will ruin it by fleshly prominence.  Where the symbol of the cross is most prominent to-day, the reality of its teaching is lost.  The apostate church abounds in crucifixes, images and incense, but where is the glorious doctrine of the cross of Christ?  How can we tolerate the wearing of crosses as ornaments, when we remember of the dreadful truth for which it stands?  What a sad thing for people of any time, when the grandest symbol of their faith has to be destroyed as “a thing of brass” in order to save them from idolatry.

     The apostles, writing to different companies of the church, warn of idolatry, and we are not so removed from all spheres of temptation but that the warning should be remembered by ourselves also.

     We will next consider the remaining items indicated in the structure which deal with the opposition of Edom, Arad, Sihon, Og and Moab.

#86. Numbers xvi. & xvii. The Lord knoweth . . . . . depart from iniquity (II Tim. ii. 19).

     It will be remembered that the section of Numbers that has just been before us, viz.,  xi.-xiv.,  revealed many points of analogy both with Philippians and Hebrews.  There is one other epistle that comes into line with Philippians, namely,  II Timothy,  and we shall find that the next section of Numbers which we are to study  (xvi.  and  xvii.)  is used in  II Timothy  in a significant context.

     Numbers xvi. & xvii.  is in the first place an attack upon the distinctive office of the priest, in the second place it provides a corrective against an argument often used in opposing the distinctive character of the church, the body, and of the distinctive company in that church who shall attain unto the prize of the high calling.  This is anticipating somewhat, so we will deal with the actual passage.

     Numbers xvi. & xvii.  must be looked upon as a whole.  There are two rebellions, one by the princes led by Korah, and the other by the people, both having reference to the distinctive calling of the priest.  The two chapters may be visualized as follows:--

     What was the basis of Korah’s rebellion?  Let him speak for himself:--

     “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them:  wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (Numb. xvi. 3).

     At the close of  chapter xv.  is the command of the Lord that all the children of Israel should wear a fringe and a riband of blue, a reminder to them to keep all the commandments of the Lord, to seek not the desires of their own hearts, and to be holy unto the Lord.

     Korah’s argument was that, seeing that all the congregation was holy, there should be no such distinctions among them as was evident in the high positions held by Moses and Aaron;  that Moses and Aaron had lifted themselves up above their fellows — all of whom were part of the same congregation of the Lord.

     Moses’ first response is to prostrate himself before the Lord.  He saw the seriousness of this rebellion, and wisely sought the face of God before attempting to justify himself before man.  His opening words dispose of the insinuation of Korah, that Moses and Aaron had lifted themselves up above the congregation.  If there had been any “lifting up” it was by the sovereign disposal of the Lord Himself:--

     “Even to-morrow the Lord will shew who are His, and who is holy (set apart):  and will cause him to come near unto Him:  even him whom He hath chosen will he cause to come near unto Him.  This do:  Take your censers, Korah, and all his company;  and put fire therein;  and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow:  and it shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy;  ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi” (Numb. xvi. 5-7).

     Moses now draws the attention of Korah to the illogical nature of his objection.  Korah himself was a Levite, and God had separated the Levites from the congregation of Israel.  They had been brought near to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord:--

     “He hath brought thee (Korah) near to Him;  and all thy brethren, the sons of Levi, with thee:  and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numb.xvi.10).

     All Israel might have justly murmured against Korah, as Korah murmured against Aaron.

     Moses sought to remonstrate with the sons of Reuben, but they would not hear, but cast the aspersion upon Moses, that he wished to make himself altogether a prince over them.  Then comes the dreadful ordeal.  “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men” (Numb. xvi. 26).  We know the tragic end.  Korah and his men went down alive into the opened earth and were swallowed up, and the 250 men who had offered incense were consumed with fire.

     Here is a “new thing” or as the Hebrew reads:  “but if the Lord create a creation”.  The first earthquake is associated with usurpation of the priest’s office.  Uzziah also is connected both with an earthquake and with usurpation of the priest’s office, and Antichrist will be likewise associated with both.

     While we may be keenly interested in the typical teaching of this passage as it illuminates the days of antichristian rebellion that are still future, it will be more profitable to observe the bearing of this tragic end upon ourselves.  One might object, and say that such things can have no possible bearing upon the church.  Let us see.  Two utterances of Moses stand out prominently in  chapter xvi.:--

     “The Lord will show who are His” (verse 5).
     “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men” (26).

     These words re-appear in  II Timothy ii.:--

     “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His, and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Tim. ii. 19).

     In what way does  II Timothy ii.  resembles  Numbers xvi.?   Let us remember Korah’s objection to the possibility of some being called to glory higher than others, though all members of the same congregation, and then let us see the way in which the apostle deals with that same spirit:--

     “But in a great house (parallel with the whole congregation) there are not only vessels of gold and of silver (like the offices of Moses, Aaron, and the Levites), but also of wood and of earth;  and some to honour, and some to no honour.  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (II Tim. ii. 20, 21).

     Some object to the distinctive glory of the church of the mystery by appealing to the fact that all the Lord’s people, of whatever calling and company, are redeemed by the same precious blood, and belong to the same Christ.  This is no valid objection.  The Lord could choose and has chosen some of the redeemed to “inherit the earth”, some to walk the streets of the New Jerusalem, and some to enter their inheritance in the heavenly holiest of all.  The same answer that Moses gave to Korah must be given here.  It is a matter of the Lord’s sovereign choice.  Limiting ourselves to the one company, the church which is His body, some express themselves in almost angry terms when any suggestion is made to the teaching of Philippians, with its out-resurrection and prize, or to  II Timothy  with its contest and crown, endurance and reign.  These possible distinctions in the one church in the heavenlies are no more objectionable than the evident distinction between the comely and uncomely members of the one human body, or the distinctions that obtained in Israel.  To any who would seek further argument, we would commend the chapter in Dispensational Truth entitled:  “An election within an election”.

     Returning to  Numbers xvi. & xvii.  we observe that the censers of the men who rebelled were beaten out into sheets for a covering of the altar, and to act as a memorial of their rebellion, while the rod that budded was placed in the holiest of all before the testimony, as a token against the rebels:--

     “And thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from Me, that they die not” (Numb. xvii. 10).

     We are brought back therefore to the initial seed of this awful crop of death — murmuring.  Murmuring about God’s sovereign disposal of glory, dignity or honour reveals a failure to appreciate that the smallest and lowliest blessing we receive is all of grace.  Korah should have remembered the signal mercy that had led him out of Egypt, and have been thankful that his bones were not bleaching with those of the Egyptians on the shore of the Red Sea.  No wonder Philippians, the epistle of the prize winner, is the epistle of rejoicing, the epistle of contentment, the epistle that warns against murmuring.  Some, we fear, may resent this message:  may it be a means of help to those who having heard the higher call are seeking grace to run with patience.

#85. Numbers xi. - xiv. “These things are examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things” (I Cor. x. 6).

     It is one thing to perceive glimpses of truth — and for the smallest ray of light how can we be too thankful — it is quite another matter to so perceive the trend of a passage as to receive illumination, both upon detail and upon the general scope.  While we most gratefully seize upon the veriest crumbs of doctrine or practical teaching which we may receive from such a book as the book of Numbers, readers of The Berean Expositor will feel, somehow, that unless we can get larger views than just a survey of a few verses, we shall probably miss many essential points.

     As we turn the pages of  Numbers xi., xii. & xiii.  onward, the task seems too great to be able to discern order and design in such a wealth of detail and such a mass of description.  Yet the words of  Numb. xi. 23:  “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?”  is a challenge to faith, and consequently, before we proceed with our study of  Numbers xii.  we seek for light upon the scope of this section.  And first where does the section that commences at  chapter xi.  end?   We read on until we arrive at the close of  Numbers xiv.  to find that  chapter xv.  opens with laws that were to be enforced when the people entered the land.  This evidently marks a dividing line for us.  It would be good discipline for us all if we had time and space to take the reader step by step through the intervening chapters so that the discovery of the underlying unity should be received as a gift from the Lord, and not, as we fear it will appear, as a matter of course.  The structure or the scope of a passage is of the first importance.

     Quoting from the opening chapter of the book:  “The Foundations of Dispensational Truth” by the late E. W. Bullinger, D.D., we read:--

     "There is one great foundation principle in the science of LOGIC which will meet all the difficulties, if we are careful to observe it.  It is this:  We cannot reason from the particular to the general.  The difficulties experienced by some of our readers are due to the fact that they arise from a consideration of only parts of the truth.  To find the answer to them, it is vain to continue the discussion of them as separate difficult points:  we mean difficulties connected with the earlier Pauline Epistles written before  Acts xxviii.,  such as ordinances, the one body of  I.Corinthian.xii.  or the spiritual gifts of  I Corinthian xiii., xiv., etc."

     These words may help our readers to appreciate any light that can be cast upon the scope of a passage, so that we may reason from the general to the particular, which is of course the only true way.

     A strictly literary structure is too vast an undertaking, but the following synopsis will make it clear that a purpose runs through the record of Israel’s murmurings, and to see that will suffice:--

     Quite a number of items that bear upon the teaching associated with Philippians and our own calling call for attention.  Let us briefly pass them in review.

     The ark goes before to search out a place of rest.  Can we not find help here?  Speaking to those who were His disciples, the Lord said:  “I go to prepare a place for you” (John xiv. 2), and this blessed promise is precede by a statement of principle:  “If it were not so I would have told you”.  This is still true for the Church of the One Body.  To learn of the hope, we need to know where Christ is now, and if details and explanations are not always given, surely the promise still holds good:  “I would have told you”.  We shall see presently that the sending of the spies was a contradiction of trust in this fact.

     The mixed multitude, and the ten spies, are a type of the effect upon the believer of failure to abide by such scriptures as:--

“Why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances” (Col. ii. 20).
     “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of his livelihood” (II.Timothy.ii.4).

     Ephesians says to us “Remember”;  Philippians says to us “Forget”.  We are to remember that we were hopeless aliens, but Israel remembered the onions and garlick instead.  We are to forget the things that are behind, and to set our mind on things above.

     Even the two passages that speak of the resistance of Moses are important to us.  Moses was not moved by jealousy when he heard that Eldad and Medad, who had remained in the camp, had prophesied.  And when God said in His wrath:  “I will smite them with pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they” (Numb. xiv. 12), Moses did not entertain the thought for a moment, but pleaded with the Lord to pardon the people and remember His Own glorious Name.  Here is a concrete example of the spirit inculcated in  Phil. ii. 3, 4:--

     “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory;  but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

     Miriam’s leprosy and her being shut out of the camp for seven days, and the jealous spirit manifested, typify Israel in her lo-ammi (not my people) condition between the first coming of Christ when the kingdom was preached, and the second coming of Christ when it shall be established.  The meekness of Moses is here mentioned, anticipating that other period of rejection, when the Lord should say:  “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. xi. 29).

     Let us now concentrate our attention on those sections that are most prominent.  It will be seen that the two features of greater importance are members   B   and   B.     The first looks back with longing eyes to Egypt and its flesh-pots;  the second looks with bias upon the land of promise and exaggerates its difficulties.  The ten spies are said to have brought up a “slander upon the land” (Numb. xiv. 36), and above all comes the revelation of God’s breach of promise.

     How often has the sad history of  chapters xi. & xii.  been repeated after Egypt, and turn against a true man of God among them, putting up some trumpery charge against him, largely to cover their own baseness, as was the objection against the Ethiopian wife of Moses.  Whenever we have to meet the parallel of  Numbers xii.,  let us immediately look for the parallel of  Numbers xi.,  and see it manifested by the failure of  Numbers xiv.

     Our study for this paper must now concentrate upon the story of the spies and the result of their report:--

     “And the Lord speak unto Moses, saying, Send thou men that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel” (Numb. xiii. 1, 2).

     Has it ever struck the reader that there is a note of pain, a sense of distrust in the words:  “that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give”?  Why search?  Why send men to see “what the land is, whether it be fat or lean” (Numb. xiii. 20), if God had described it and given it Himself?  Does it not sound like unbelief?  It not only sounds like distrust, but it was.  The command to take the twelve men and send them as spies did not originate with God:  it was an answer to their own request, and once again, it brought leanness into their soul.  When Moses rehearsed the affair in the ears of Israel he reminded them of their unbelief:--

     “Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee:  go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee;  fear not, neither be discouraged.  And ye came near unto Me every one of you and said:  We will send men before us, and they shall search out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come . . . . . Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in;  in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day” (Deut. i. 21-23).

     A reference to  Ezek. xx. 5, 6  shows that at the time when the Lord delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt, He had already “espied for them” a glorious land.  Israel’s request for the spies therefore was sheer unbelief, it was a despising of the Lord, a slighting of His loving care and provision.  It has its analogy to-day.

     Quite a number of those who believe the teaching of the epistles of the mystery have expressed themselves as unsatisfied by the scantiness of the revelation there contained as to (1) just what constitutes the glory of our inheritance, and (2) just exactly by what way the Church shall enter into its hope.  There is a looking back to the hope of an earlier dispensation, a sort of envy at the lavish description of the millennial kingdom, or the wonders of the heavenly city, and one senses something petulant in the request, “Where is our hope described in the epistles of the Mystery?  Why are there no details given to us as to others?”  There is also a querulous complain that whereas  I Thessalonian iv.  or  I Corinthian xv.  are most explicit, one cannot be sure from the prison epistles whether the Church of the One Body will be caught up by rapture, will die off and pass through death and resurrection, whether all will go together, whether there will be angelic accompaniments, etc., etc.  All this, which superficially sounds like earnest enquiry, is but the old unbelief of Israel re-expressed.  They wanted to know more than God had revealed about “the land” which was their inheritance, and they wanted to know more than God had revealed as to “what way we must go up”.  Both these questions were already answered by faith.  God had espied the land and had called it good.  God went before them with fire and with cloud “to shew them by what way they should go”.  Faith needs nothing more.

     If our inheritance at the right hand of God, “far above all”, is so transcendentally above all human thought and experience, what words of human language could describe the riches of the glory of that inheritance of the saints?  If in the resurrection and translation we need such adjusting to the new sphere of blessing “in the heavenly places”, how should we be the better if God described the process.  It is enough for us that as we receive a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of “Him”, the ascended Lord, and of “it”, the mystery, we shall receive as full an answer to our quest for knowledge as God sees fit to give.  If we are assured that:  “when Christ Who is our life shall be manifested, we also shall be manifested with Him in glory”, what does it matter that “the way we must go up” is left unexplained?  We shall arrive — praise God.  We do not know how — well, that is His responsibility, not ours.

     Our refusal to be turned back to  I Thessalonian iv.  as the hope of the Church is to be understood in the light of  Numbers xiii. & xiv.   We seek the spirit that enabled Caleb and Joshua to believe God, and leave the consequences.  As we pointed out when dealing with  Col. i. 23  (see volume XXI),  the great evidence of progress in the truth, or of the beginning of decline, are closely associated with holding steadfast to “the hope”.  Caleb and Joshua were threatened with stoning for the stand they took.  We shall probably get its equivalent again and again;  but as in their case, so in ours, His truth shall be our shield and buckler.

     One of the reasons why the Lord was not too explicit about the land of Canaan, and the way up, was because it was inhabited by a monstrous seed of the wicked one, the giants, the sons of Anak, and viewing such antagonists with the eyes of the flesh, the spies said:  “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight”.  The cities were walled and very great — and grace was not given in the wilderness to deal with these remote difficulties.  When at last Israel did stand before the walls of Jericho, they fell down flat at the shout of faith.

     The pathway to our inheritance is blocked by principalities and powers, spiritual wickedness and world holders of darkness.  If we should see them with the eyes of the flesh, we should crumple up as did Daniel.  God mercifully spares us this vision.  We believe His Word;  that is enough.  If we knew the formidable strongholds of Satan that must be overcome in “the evil day”, we should recoil in fear and unbelief.  We shall not face them until we are all assembled beneath the banner of our true Captain, the greater Joshua, with Jordan behind us, and the land of promise immediately before us.  Why not take a leaf out of this book of experience;  why not believe what God has revealed, and lovingly accept as best what He withholds?

     Two Psalms should be read in connection with this passage of Israel’s history.   Psalm xc.  speaks of those who, being over twenty years of age, died in the wilderness:  they were taught to number their days.   Psalm xci.  speaks of their children, who grew up at their sides, and who saw the pestilence and the arrow doing their work, yet knew that they should not come nigh them.

     While a sinner may be saved at the eleventh hour, it would appear from many passages of Scripture that a believer who is saved, and who puts his hand to the plough, who looks back like Lot’s wife, who does not press toward the mark, who like Demas loves this present evil age, or like the Hebrews of  Hebrews vi.  or Esau of  Hebrews xii.  exchange their birthright for a little ease here, are running a serious risk of suffering loss in that day, of losing their crown or their reward.  Caleb and Joshua, on the other hand, are examples of those who press on unto perfection, who attain “the better resurrection” of  Hebrews xi.,  or the “out-resurrection” and “prize” of  Philippians iii.

     May we draw attention to one more feature.  “The better resurrection” of  Hebrews xi.  is a close parallel with the “out-resurrection” of  Philippians iii.   Now we are not left to surmise as to when the better resurrection was entered, for  Hebrews xi.  declares that those who looked for the better country all died in faith, not having received the promise, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Heb. xi. 40).

     Caleb and Joshua were not permitted by the Lord to go on to the inheritance at once.  No, they had to wait the forty years just like the rest.  The overcomers of  Hebrews xi.  did not enter the heavenly city immediately after death, no, they had to wait until the whole of their company were raised together, the “better resurrection” referring not to the time when it is entered, but to the prize appertaining thereto which would be presented when the time had come.

     So with  Philippians iii.   The out-resurrection need not take place before the resurrection and translation of the whole Church, but it will qualify for “the prize of the high calling”, which is parallel with Caleb’s additional inheritance when God’s time comes.

     It is not without significance that Paul’s other reference to a “prize” should be most intimately associated with Israel’s failure in the wilderness  (I Cor. ix. 24,  x.13),  nor should we slight the precious lesson of the closing sentence:  “But will with the temptation make the end (or goal), so that ye may be able to bear it.”
     The trials of the pilgrim path are for our future glory.  He knows;  therefore, follow on.