C. H. Mackintosh.
Numbers 1 & Numbers 2.
Chapter 1 & 2|
Chapter 3 & 4
Chapter 17 & 18
Chapter 22 - 24
Chapter 28 & 29
Chapter 33 & 34
Having read the proof sheets of the following "NOTES ON NUMBERS," I am prepared, so far, to write a preface. It is with no view of praising the book that I do so; but to shew my fellowship with the well-known author in all his labours. The book will speak for itself, and the reader must judge.
After twelve years of joint-editorship in the monthly issue of "THINGS NEW AND OLD," the reader will not be surprised at this mutual love of identification, in sending forth another volume of "NOTES." But for this, there is no reason why I should appear.
The wonderful sale of the three former volumes, and the desire that has been expressed, on all hands, for the fourth, bespeak for it a large circulation.
We will now glance for a moment at the character of the Book of Numbers. Fuller details will be found in the "NOTES."
It may be regarded as a divine history of the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness for about thirty-eight years and ten months, commencing with the first movement of the camp after the tabernacle was reared. And also, as a perpetual memorial of Jehovah's patient, tender, and unwearied care of His murmuring and rebellious people. It is emphatically a wilderness book, and characterized by journeyings, service, and all the vicissitudes of wilderness life. As such, it is deeply interesting, most instructive, and easily applied to the Christian in this present evil world. Compare Numbers i. and xxxvi. 13, with Deuteronomy i. 3.
The first thing that attracts our attention, in reading the book, is sweet and precious to the heart beyond all expression — God has His people numbered and gathered around Himself. He dwelt in the camp — "In the midst whereof I dwell." Could love do more? Impossible! The twelve tribes guarded the tabernacle of the Lord. The Levites encamped directly around the court; and Moses, Aaron, and the priests, guarded the entrance whereby God was approached. The circumference of the camp, thus arranged, and all facing the tabernacle, is generally supposed to have been at least twelve miles. But that which gave unity, strength, and glory to the camp in the wilderness, was the presence of God in His tabernacle, as the centre of His chosen people. Blessed shadow of good things to come — of Christ as the centre, life, and glory of His Church now!
Rather more than a year from the epoch of the Exodus, Jehovah commanded Moses to number the people that were able to bear arms, from twenty years old and upwards. The tribe of Levi, being exempt from military service, was numbered separately. But the complete number, twelve, was made up by the division of Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh. Chapters i., ii., iii.
Everything was now in its right place, and every one knew for certain what he had to do, both when the cloud moved and when it rested. The tabernacle set up — the priests consecrated — the people numbered; they were now to leave Horeb. "The Lord God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this Mount." "And it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the tabernacle of the testimony. And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran." Deuteronomy i. 6; Numbers x. 11, 12.
The pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, guided all the movements of the camp. (Num. ix. 17, 23.) The moment the cloud ascended from off the tabernacle, the silver trumpets sounded the alarm, and the whole camp was instantly in motion. Then Moses uttered the prayer, "Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered: and let them that hate thee flee before thee." When the cloud rested, the whole camp rested, and every man knew his place and his work. And then Moses prayed, "Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel." Numbers x. 35, 36.
How imposing to the outward eye the sight of this great camp must have been in the midst of the desert! Well might Balaam say, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!" But its true loveliness is only seen by the eye of faith. It was the brightest spot in the world, though on the sand of the desert, and the richest in blessing. Far, far above all its other attractions is the knowledge that God Himself is there, thinking of everyone, and providing for their every need. Day by day, He spread a table for them in the wilderness; and gave them water from the flinty rock. The foot of the traveller was never swollen, and his raiment waxed not old these forty years. Deuteronomy viii. 4.
There were upwards of six hundred thousand men above the age of twenty, besides the Levites, and women, and children, probably more than two millions altogether. But Jehovah gathered them all around Himself, as a father would gather his children and covered them with the skirts of His cloud both by night and by day. "He spread a cloud for a covering; and fire to give light in the night." (Psalm cv. 39.) Thus was the Lord's family in the place of rest, peace, and blessing. The blood of the everlasting covenant had been sprinkled on the mercy-seat within the vail, and judgment had been executed on the sin offering outside the camp. God was now a wall of fire around His people, and the glory in the midst of them. Oh! that Israel had known! oh! that Israel had understood the lovingkindness of the Lord, and so put all their trust in Him See Deuteronomy xxxii., xxxiii.
In the position and service of the Levites there is always much that is interesting to the Christian. They were typical of the Church — or of the individual Christian — in service, just as the priests were typical of the Church in worship. The fact of the Levites being taken for the service of the Lord, in place of the firstborn, gave them a very special character. They were firstfruits unto the Lord. Thus it is that the Church is as the firstfruits, holy to the Lord — "the church of the firstborn ones." James i.; Heb. xii.
As the Levites thus became God's possession for service, and belonged wholly to Him, so it is with the Church. We are redeemed — we are not our own we are bought with a price; therefore we are to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits which are His. We are to serve the living God, in communion with Christ our great High Priest above. The calling of the Church, however, is a much higher thing than the position of the Levites for she is one with Christ, and the Holy Ghost gives the capacity and the gift for christian service.
In conclusion, we may safely affirm that there is no truth in Christianity of such importance, or of such practical power, as the blessed truth of the Church's relationship to Christ. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." (Col. ii. 9, 10.) We can only be men of war, worshipping priests, serving Levites, in the highest and truest sense, in the proportion that we live in the power of this great truth. We are joined to the Lord by the one Holy Spirit — our life is hid with Christ in God. May we be content to be the Lord's hidden ones as to this world, and only be seen and known as His servants, until He come, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.
May the Lord accompany with His own rich blessing, and clothe with His own divine power, this volume of "NOTES ON NUMBERS." And may He accept it as service to Himself, and use it for His own glory; and to His name alone be undivided praise. Amen.
A. M. London, Dec. 1, 1869.