Division 2. (Num. 10:11 — 16:35.)

Growing departure from God: the testimony of history as to the people.

The camp thus ordered, the provision for the journey now complete, the journey itself begins, the true history of the wilderness, that from the Red Sea to Sinai being very different in character from what is now before us, and dwelt on for another purpose. There we have seen that what is brought out is the grace that meets the need of the wilderness, although this implies, of course, the need itself being manifested, and as grace, the spiritual need, the weakness and failure of the people. But now, while grace is still shown, and in result to be better than ever known, yet the point of view is different: it is now the people themselves with whom we are to be occupied; it is in the full sense their history; we are to see by the evidence of this, what they are with whom the Lord has charged Himself. And a terrible witness as to them the history is.

Not that we are to suppose them worse than other people. We should miss altogether the instruction designed for us, if we gathered such a thought. They are exceptional only in this, as being brought into nearer visible relation to God than any other, and that their history is given us, written with the unerring pen of inspiration. "For what nation is there so great," asks Moses, at a later time, "who have God so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is, in all things that we call upon Him for?" (Deut. 4:7.) Alas! this that was their exceeding privilege, was that also which searched out to the very bottom all that was in their heart. "God is light;" and "that which doth make manifest is light." If there be not full self-judgment, and whole-hearted yielding of ourselves to Him, His presence the more realized will be the more intolerable; His rule will be the more, even to His face, rejected and thrown off. "Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods?" He asks Himself; "but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit." (Jer. 2:11.) Does this prove as to Israel, as it might seem, that they were worse than the nations? Alas! no: had they had but false gods, they would not have changed them either! "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." It is the light, as the light, which is necessarily rejected by those whose unchanged hearts desire the shelter of the darkness for their evil deeds. And though, of course, the power of God upon unconverted men, or the needs they have for which they seek His help, may bring individuals or even nations to yield Him homage, secretly or openly revolt again is sure to come. Israel's history is in its principles indeed a pattern one; and herein lies for us its admonition.

 "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man;" — the heart, not of necessity the life: there are, as to the latter, many God-given restraints and hindrances which prevent its being just what the heart is. Evil too has many forms, some of which look very different from others, — nay, in a true sense, which are: in the day of judgment coming there will be, as we know, the strictest individualization: Godward, at bottom, there is no difference naturally.

 We shall find, thus, Israel's history here to be, in principle, the history of Christendom no less. So it is that Jude sees prophetically the end of false profession among Christians to be that they "perish in the gainsaying of Kore." Alas! not only so, but even when turned to God, there is still in us evil which, if we have eyes to see, we shall find here in its true character. The flesh is in us, and "the mind of the flesh is enmity against God." And in this, indeed, is the main profit of this history, if we are humble enough to learn ourselves from it: important in this above all, that thus it is we are able to learn God also in those ways of His which are divinely suitable to what we are.

 This, then, is what the second division of the book of Numbers brings before us, the discovery of what the people are, as evidenced by their history, in which we find them, through several stages of declension, reaching at last the complete rejection of their divinely given leaders in the "gainsaying of Kore."

 1. Upon the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud is taken up from the tabernacle, and they start. The equivocal 2 is prominent in the date of their departure, the number of responsibility, 10, alone being joined with it, making it more equivocal. Is it a path of fellowship with God (as the number might mean) upon which they are entering? or is it one which is to be marked by contradiction of His will, and conflict, — a terrible conflict that must of necessity be theirs who contend with God? In fact, the wilderness of Paran is as far as we look at present, and there the cloud abides: from wilderness to wilderness is the whole horizon yet, though as yet we see not plainly the obstacle to further vision, except as the number of responsibility may indicate it, and it surely does so sufficiently.

 There may be, however, something more. If "Paran" is to have its natural meaning according to the Hebrew, it would mean, not "unclosing — opening," as Lange takes it, nor "abounding in caverns," as Simonis and others, but "adornment." From the wilderness of thorn (or barrenness) to the wilderness of decoration or adornment, (which would imply the exchange of barrenness for a place which, if a desert still, had become in the people's mind in some way attractive,) — this might foreshadow what in fact took place when Israel, upon the very borders of the land to which God was bringing them, turned their backs upon it, and chose rather the desert than what God had made their own.

 This may seem strained; and yet, alas! do not God's people still decorate the desert instead of entering in by faith into that which is their own? This surely might give in the opening verses of this division the moral of the whole; and it would be quite after the manner of Scripture to do so. The satire that appears in it is but the satire of truth; and what is keener? Israel were, in one way, no lovers of the desert, out of which their hearts turned back so readily to Egypt, and the evils of which they could so bitterly lament. But Egypt was barred to them: to it they could not return; and their choice was in fact between Canaan and the desert. So too for the Christian: he cannot go back to Egypt — to what he was before conversion; he realizes in some sense what the world is, — cannot sink into it without many bitter realizations of this; and yet how often refuses to enter upon his land of promise, hugging the earth till death comes to turn him out of it: and this is what we see in the picture here.

 Yet Israel start in good order, — at the commandment of the Lord, and His presence with them, every tribe filling its place. So the Church had its Pentecost, too brief, and never to return on earth; but only the faint image of what shall be, when He who is last Adam shall present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing."

 (2) Yet at the very beginning there is a portent of the future, and the failure of him to whom the people have been committed. Here constantly failure begins, namely, with those in places of fullest responsibility, and upon whom, under God, all seems to depend. So Noah failed after the flood. And Scripture records these things that we may learn from them the needful lesson, that no man, be he who he may, can we trust implicitly. Leaders there must be, and confidence ought to be given them, but with the reservation always that we follow them as they follow Christ, — no farther. The sins of the most godly, the errors of the wisest, are in their consequences to be dreaded more than the greater follies and sins of lesser men; and the weak idolatry of those through whom God may have ministered to us largest blessing has been ever productive of the most disastrous results. "Esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" is the Scripture rule, and "whose faith follow."

Israel were going forth under the guiding care of the Almighty. The first of all duties was that of implicit confidence in Him; yet Moses turns to a child of the wilderness, that, with the competence derived from natural acquirements, he may be to them "instead of eyes." Commentators explain this as quite consistent. Followers of the "higher criticism" admit the contradiction, and of course see in it a sign of contradictory documents, which, if we will allow them, they will settle with the scissors. In truth, there is a contradiction; but the fault is not in Scripture, but in man, who so easily forgets his resource in God. Here, too, it is easy to see influences that are at work in Moses' natural link with the Midianite chief. Easy too it is to cover it with fair names, for "Hobab" means "lover," and he is the son of Reuel, "the friend of God." How often human piety and friendship come in as arguments with us in the wrong place! All this evidently illustrates the danger of which we were but just now speaking, in connection with "guides." Nay, the Midianite, as (according to his name) the "man of strife," may well remind us of the fierce controversialism of so many who assume this office. Controversy is often needed, but one characterized by a spirit of this sort is no fit leader for the people of God.

 (3) Accordingly we never see Hobab in this place at all, and on the contrary, we have the divine comment on Moses' request in the ark moving out of its place in the midst of the camp and taking it at their head: "And the ark of the covenant of Jehovah went before them in the three days' journey, to search out a resting-place for them." Thus the Lord vindicates Himself from the reproach which the unbelief of His people has cast upon Him. He is the actual and only and all-sufficient Leader, the Shepherd of Israel, whose eyes are never weary, whose heart is never at fault, "who never slumbereth nor sleepeth."

 How thoroughly He has identified Himself with the people is seen in the prayer which Moses, as taught of God, utters as the ark sets forward. The enemies that he anticipates are now but Jehovah's enemies, and they scatter as He advances. And when it rests, and the cloud settles down once more, then His face is turned with satisfaction toward His own, who in that sheltering cloud-canopy recognize the brooding wings under which they may rest securely, and not a note even of alarm find how to penetrate.

 2. (1) Yet it is here, and thus early upon their journey onward, that the spirit of the people begins to show itself. There has been no unusual occurrence. No enemy has appeared. No need has made itself felt. The promised land lies but a few days' journey before them, and they are as yet fresh from their long halt at Sinai. It seems as if as yet they knew not themselves any cause for dissatisfaction. They murmur vaguely about "evil," to which they cannot give a name; yet already this murmuring is becoming chronic — begins to characterize them. Alas! there is a source of discontent within man's heart which needs not circumstances to develop; and it is important that this should be manifest at the beginning. In a world like this, trials will arise; evils there will be, and many, which God's Word never hides from us, but insists upon. The world is really a wilderness in God's account, and should be so in ours. The longing after Egypt shows, not that we have judged too deeply, but not deeply enough. Yet, apart from circumstances altogether, there is enough within us to make heaven itself a weariness, if we could carry it there. This is the meaning of this brief account, in which that there are no circumstances to narrate, no external cause to induce these murmurings, is not only significant for this time, but in connection with all that follows. Here is the underground root of all, the innate apostasy of the heart from God. Circumstances may arise; man will catch at them, and make them his plea in self-justification against God; enmity of heart is fertile in pretexts: they are but pretexts; that is what "Taberah" plainly indicates.

 God's anger shows itself, and yet in a way that manifests its unwillingness to strike. A fire from Jehovah burns and consumes in the extremity of the camp: it does not appear that any of the people are consumed in it. The warning is mercy, yet of a judgment that, if it strikes, will be severe enough to testify of the holiness that acts in it. God may delay His judgment, but if it takes its course, righteousness must exact its due.

 At Moses' prayer it sinks, but its memory is rightly kept alive. The place is called "Taberah," which means such a burning as does its work. Needful it is, not to confound God's grace or His long-suffering with mitigation of penalty: there was none on the cross, where the Son of God hung for us; there will be none wherever it is penalty that is exacted. Righteousness itself never requires more than it needs must.

 These memorial-places in Israel's pilgrimage, have they their representatives in our own history, appropriately marked, as were theirs? Well will it be for us if it is so. Only, for a child of God, penalty in its true sense there can be none, while chastening is his on that very account. "If ye call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."

 (2) Their lesson, however, Israel has not learned, and in a short time indeed the murmuring breaks out again, this time taking definite shape, as against the manna, the daily witness of Jehovah's daily care. Pathetically here, therefore, the inspired writer turns aside once more to describe the manna to us, and how it was continually ministered, falling on the camp as the dew fell, — type of the Spirit's ministry of Christ; the taste, too, being that of fresh oil. Variously prepared, the people fed upon it, though now they were crying out for the food of Egypt, with characteristic fickleness forgetting the misery of their bondage there. This lusting begins, indeed, with that mixed multitude which, though it had come out of Egypt with them, had not known in the same way that bondage, nor, therefore, the reality of redemption either. Thus from the mixed multitude also, within it and not of it, the Church has learned the unhallowed cry after the things of the world. Christ, God's only provision for His people, dries up the soul that feeds alone on Him! And true Christians also learn, in modified and more decorous language, to repeat this.

 But does the desire for flesh represent the craving for the pleasures of the world? There are some things that lie against this. For the scene at the giving of the manna at first cannot but recur to us, as in some sense parallel to what is before us here. We have there the same desire for flesh, answered in the same way — by a flight of quails; and this not judgment, nor connected with it, but preparatory to the manna, and in fullest harmony, as we have seen, with it. There we accepted the thought that the quails spoke of Christ, in His life yielded up for men, which the evening-flight of the quail, well known as characteristic of the bird, strengthens. But if this be so, how can we interpret it in the present case differently? Must not these Scripture-types be consistent throughout if we are to have confidence in the meaning given to them, — especially, as here, where there seem to be such evident links of connection?

 But then, again, if it be Christ of whom the quails speak, of abundant grace in which death ministers to life, may it not be that this even, in the hearts of mere worldly professors, becomes a plea for indulgence, grace in this way taken as laxity — as license? Thus the very death of Christ may be put in opposition to His life, — to the heavenly Man in His own unworldly separateness upon earth, of which the manna speaks. And so the apostle, after exhorting the Ephesian saints against the lawlessness of the Gentiles, urges, "But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus, — that ye have put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man." "Christ" is the Lord's official name, according to which He has done His blessed work, and is on high after having done it "Jesus" is His personal name on earth. They would not have so learned His work for them as to give way to Gentile laxity if they had heard Him and been taught by Him as the Man "Jesus." They must keep the quails in connection with the manna, as God gave them first, not set them against one another, as the people were doing here. God's answer to which is, not to withhold the quails; but to give them in large abundance, for the cross and the grace of the cross are all His delight. But when the people, instead of being humbled and broken down by His goodness, take greedily for the indulgence of their lusts, the flesh between their teeth becomes a mortal plague of which they die. Christ dishonored must become, thus, the cause of divine judgment on those who dishonor Him.

 This is every way consistent and indeed what history, the history of the professing church, gives witness to abundantly. The profession of Christ and of the cross by carnal men, ignorant of the grace they vaunted and abused, untaught in the truth that is in Jesus, has wrought many a pestilential disorder of which it seemed as if the very Church itself would perish. The graves of Kibroth-hattaa-vah, — the "graves of lust" — lie all along the road by which we have reached our present station in the wilderness; and never were they perhaps more numerous than in the Laodicea of today. Let the question be honestly entertained by those who read this, Have we so learned Christ as to have been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus?

 (3) Connected with this, and as remedial for it, we find the ordinance of the seventy elders, whose special function as given here is that of prophecy — the extension of the spirit which is in Moses, and which in Eldad and Medad is introduced into the camp. We must consider these things in some detail.

 In the first place, that they are "elders" is of primary importance; and elders, not simply officially, for that they are to be officers also is stated distinctly, as a thing apart. "Elders" belong to that patriarchal system, which is at least so eminently natural: men of years, and thus of gathered experience, and of weight in their generation corresponding to it: "Elders whom thou knowest to be elders," the Lord says to Moses; those who really answer in character to their years.

 They are, moreover, to be "officers," or overseers, of the people, — those who as fathers are entrusted with the discipline to be maintained among the people of God. An exactly corresponding connection between "elders" and "overseers" we find in the New Testament, the function of the overseer being not teaching but "rule," although they might teach also if they had gift for it. No one would suppose that the power to teach would be only possessed by men in years, however suited it might be when found in them.

 But the seventy chosen from among these are to have another talent entrusted to them: they are to share with Moses the burden of the people, and for this they are to share the Spirit that rests upon Moses. They too are to be prophets, to bring the word of God directly to the people of God, and by its means to stay departure from Him. Of what they uttered we have not, indeed, a single word. It is not any particular message that is intended to have significance for us, but simply the fact of their prophesying itself, the prophesying of elders who are overseers of the congregation. What are we to learn by this in this connection?

 Prophecy we shall find to be the constant resource in days of apostasy. When the priesthood fail in the days of Eli, Samuel is thus raised up to stand between the people and God. When the kings have failed in Israel, the prophets come into ever-increasing importance. When the regular order is disturbed, and the usual channels of blessings are shut up, prophecy is the sign of the sovereign grace of God pouring itself forth through new channels of its own creation.

 It connects itself, moreover, with individual faith and the energy which stands for God in the midst of departure. The prophet — for we are not now discussing the exceptional case of Balaam — is the "man of God." James introduces Elijah in his first words in Israel, as the righteous man of fervent effectual prayer, which shuts the heavens and restrains the earth from fruit. And he has before this adduced" the prophets who have spoken to you in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience." Prophesying was not, as the priesthood was, something successional and heritable, but a distinct gift to each person who received it.

 The blessing in it is, that the voice of the living God utters itself in the prophet, bringing home His word to the present condition and need of men, making them aware of His presence before which they stand, putting them in connection with Him, and under Him, to be guided and controlled by Him. Is not this just the recall of the people here to that wherewith they had started? Is it not the remedy, therefore, for that which has arisen? God thus comes out after His wanderers to make known to them afresh the care which is over them and as thus seeking them with the intent to fill their lives with the power of His presence we can understand the special significance of Eldad and Medad, with their glorious names, "God hath loved," Love," prophesying in the camp. The Spirit of God breaks over boundary-lines, and refuses distance, in witness of the overflow of His heart toward the people: the irregularity apparent, and which unintelligent zeal would have rebuked, only making more noticeable the action of God. Worthy of Him are all His ways.

 But the voice of prophecy breaks out especially around the entrance of the tabernacle, — the voice of recall how truly in that place! yet one with the voice in their midst. Those who draw near to the sanctuary of God hear it in its fullness, not as scattered voices, but the full harmony of the mind of God, much as the prophecy in the camp may have of special sweetness. As the prophesying of elders, it speaks in harmony with nature, in the wisdom acquired from experience, and in judicial utterances. Nature is here, in her highest and best, at one with the supernatural, as she always is, though in man grace must have restored him to his place, for this to be.

 (4) Finally we find the quails sent, the mercy of God meeting abundantly the need of the people, but which, laid hold of without repentance or faith, the wrath of God falls upon them. The place of blessing becomes known as "the graves of lust."

 3. The next stage of decline is a revelation. Truly one may say, The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. That very prophecy, which we have just now seen as the remedy for the existing evil, fails as it were in Miriam, who drags down Aaron, the head of priesthood, with her in her fall. "Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses." The human leader of Israel is assailed from another side, and where he is most accessible. The matter of accusation is in a Cushite wife that he has taken but the spirit of self-exaltation is manifestly in their murmurings: "Hath Jehovah indeed only spoken by Moses? hath He not also spoken by us?" Who had denied it? But the evident intention is, to put themselves on an equality with Moses, and thus depose him from the pre-eminent place of leadership which God had given him. The Cushite wife was clearly the proof to them that morally he was no higher than they, perhaps not so high. The effect is, to excuse themselves from obedience.

 It should be evident that Miriam and Aaron here stand for the people of God in that prophetical and priestly character with which they are endowed according to the grace of Christianity. Significant it is that God makes Peter, who has been by man exalted to the chief place of authority in the ritualistic church, to give utterance to the truth that destroys ritualism altogether: first, that we are born again," not in baptism, but of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, that Word "which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23-25); and, secondly, that all believers are "a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:5.) Other priesthood in the Church of Christ can no man find than this, which is under the high-priesthood of Christ in heaven.

 As for prophecy, the same apostle exhorts, "If any man speak, let him speak as oracles of God." (1 Peter 4:11.) And the apostle of the Gentiles desires for the Corinthians that all might prophesy. (1 Cor. 14:5.) While there was a distinct prophetic gift which belonged only to the few, there was, as one may say, a prophetic spirit, which should be found in all the people of God. To "speak as oracles of God" is to be God's mouthpiece in such sort as to be used of Him as those with Him, and having His mind, — capable, therefore, of uttering it distinctly: "If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth." (Jer. 15:19.)

 In Moses we find a prophet with whom as seen here none could compare among mere men, and whom we have seen acting in priestly character before the consecration of Aaron, the ruler also, under God, of the redeemed people: fit type, therefore, in these respects, of Him who is the Head and Leader of the New Testament. It is not difficult to see in this uprise of Miriam and Aaron against Moses, how the Church has asserted her own competency and independence of her Lord. And indeed His love to the stranger has been, in the eyes of those proud of their place of covenanted privilege, an offense unworthy of Him. So with Israel who believed not His mercy to the Gentiles; and so with the Gentile church itself, building itself up upon its dowry of the Spirit, and entrenching itself within lines of rigid sacerdotalism. The dispensational application is in both cases clear.

 Individually also, when the soul has turned from its manna food, and its joy in Christ has waned and become low, how often does it stiffen into a hard ecclesiasticism which, while it may speak much of grace, ignores it, and practically refuses the rule of Christ. Indeed, if He suit us not, how can His rule do so? Yet, as the Spirit of God here, as with the manna before, pauses to remind us of the character of that which is rejected, we are bidden to mark the gentleness of that rule against which they revolt. God had chosen the very meekest man on earth as the ruler of His people. How can we fail to remember those words in precisely similar connection, Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls"? This is not, as many think, the yoke He bears or has borne, that He invites us to share with Him, but the yoke which as Lord He imposes. The shepherd's rod is a sweet badge of authority for our Moses, and this is "the good Shepherd, who layeth down His life for the sheep." Who would not submit? His yoke means rest from restlessness, rest from the misery of our own ways, — green pastures, and tranquil waters. Yet, alas! we can murmur.

 God is holy in His grace. His anger is kindled, and He summons the three into His presence, to declare His approbation of Moses, faithful in all God's house: with him He speaks mouth to mouth manifestly, and the similitude of Jehovah he shall behold. Yet these words are not fulfilled but transcended by the greater glory of Him who has been indeed "faithful," not in relation to the earthly but the heavenly tabernacle, and who is "Son over God's house," not merely "servant in" it. "Whose house are we," adds the apostle (Heb. 3:5-6). "Jesus Christ the righteous" is He to whom God has given the people of His love, and of this we find the heart of the Lord full, where He speaks as One now going to the Father (John 17). Faithful to us, faithful to Him, — this is He to whose care we are committed; this is He against whom we can murmur. He whose word is God's word indeed, — who not merely beholds Jehovah's similitude, but is Himself the "express image of the Father." (Heb. 1:3.) Dear Lord, wake up our hearts!

 The cloud removes from the tabernacle; Miriam is discovered to be leprous. She who had been exalting herself among the people of the Lord is now excluded from them, and from approach to Him the organ of whose communications to the people she had vaunted herself to be. Israel is even thus fulfilling her seven days, shut out, yet to be restored. For Babylon, the false church, unrepentant to the last, there will be utter exclusion. The principle is always true: while for those humbled there is grace when they accept the humiliation.

 4. We now come to the decisive point in the history of the wilderness, the refusal of the people to enter the land, when brought to its very borders, by which they incur the penalty of forty years of wandering, and the death of the whole generation (except two persons) in the wilderness. For these, therefore, the whole character of their life is altered. They are not pilgrims any more, but wanderers; if not aimlessly, yet their aim mere self-preservation for these forty years, so much so that the record of them is not given to us: we have only a few incidents carefully chosen, and which reveal a condition of things conformable to this beginning. Progress stopped does not stop declension, which ripens on the contrary into that rebellion of Korah and his company, which is the crowning sin of all. Of this period it is that God marks the character in Amos afterward in the inquiry, "Have ye offered unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chinn your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves." (Amos 5:25-26.) Circumcision likewise ceases, as we see by the renewal of it when they enter Canaan. (Joshua 5:2-6.) Thus the very sign of their covenant with Jehovah is lost, and grace alone carries them at last through Jordan, and gives them possession of the land from which they turn back here.

 And still "these things happened unto them for types, and are written for our admonition." The Christian church as "partakers of the heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1), have but too faithfully imitated the manners of an unbelieving generation, and instead of going on to possess themselves of a heavenly portion, have turned back to the world: a state of things so long and so well established now, that it has the prescription of antiquity. It is orthodox to speak of the Christian world, mysticism to talk seriously of being strangers in it. That the little seed of the parable should become a great tree is no more a wonder, and that Christians have "reigned as kings" even from the apostles' times can be proved clearly enough from Scripture: "without us" they have not as yet found manuscript authority to omit however.

 Alas! the application of the chapters now before us is most easy: there is no skill required to hit so broad a target. Tears and prayers are more our need than satire, and an honest self-judgment which will not spare at home what we denounce abroad — will not cherish our own peculiar form of worldliness, while refusing other forms. May the Lord Himself apply, wherever conviction is needed, the story of failure here.

 (1) The commission of the spies and its fulfillment come first in place. We should not know from the account before us what we find in Deuteronomy, that this spying out the land originated with the people, and not with God. We need not wonder, therefore, that it ends disastrously. Yet God sanctions it: how much may He have in this way to sanction, as what must be because of what we are! and how much trial does our unbelief necessitate for us! He had told them all that they needed to know of the goodness of the land, and assured them of His gift of it to them, as of His casting out for their sins the present inhabitants. what more did they need to know? And yet this side of the matter is in this book entirely ignored, and the whole seems to proceed from God Himself, as if man had no part in it. In truth, the evil of it was in the state of their hearts only, the motive which with them was unbelief; faith finds encouragement in that which discomfits the unbelieving. each is confirmed in its own way.

 The names of the spies are given us, each a prince in his tribe, and representing it. If we had skill to read their meanings aright, in the connection in which they stand, we should doubtless find light given us as to the reason of their failure for the most part, although they are unanimous at first as to the land itself. The significance of the names of the two faithful ones is plain, and should encourage us to look further. "Caleb" means, no doubt, "whole-hearted," as the man is; and he stands third among the first three of the twelve, his position being in exact accord numerically with his name. He is the son of Jephunneh, or "who is regarded with favor": the apprehension of grace being that which leads to devotedness. Joshua stands second in the second three, and it is remarkable that each of these three speaks of deliverance in some way: Igal, "he redeems;" Hoshea, "saviour;" Palti, "deliverance." Hoshea, whom Moses named Jehoshua, "Jehovah the Saviour," is the son of Nun, "son:" is it because as Son of God (Jehovah the Son) He saves? taking the place of Son of Man also, to bring us to obedience to the Father?

 Joshua represents Christ in us, who leads His people into the land; Caleb the spirit of wholeheartedness which will not miss what God has made over to us. It is no wonder that in this account, therefore, the special emphasis should be laid on Caleb, in whom our responsibility is emphasized. In the searching of the land Hebron is prominent, Abraham's dwelling-place for so long, and it is no more a wonder that in it — ("communion") — or in connection with it, the glorious fruitage of Eshcol should be found. Yet nowhere does the power of the enemy seem so great as there three sons of Anak (the "long-necked") oppose possession of Hebron: children of pride, as we may easily conceive them, for what more effectually bars from communion with God than pride!

 Here we are reminded that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt, which chronologically means nothing more distinct than that it was of ancient date: spiritually read, it is of much greater significance. Zoan was at this time, as it was again in after-times, the capital of Egypt, though upon its borders. and on that account seems to have received its name, which means "a place of departure;" indeed, Mr. Poole tells us, "distinctly indicates the place of departure of a migratory people." How strange a name for the seat of Egypt's empire; and yet what a striking delineation of what the world is! its place of highest eminence so near its border; its seat of dominion only a place of the most transient occupation, as it were a traveler's lodging, and no more!

 But Hebron, built seven years before it, speaks of what was ordained for us in God's perfect plan, before this wheel of the world began its rounds. Well may it abide for us, after the history of the world is rolled up and passed away. What peaceful assurance is there in this, that all the sons of Anak shall not suffice to keep Israel out of her inheritance!

 (2) The spies bring back their report: Yes, the land is good; here is the fruit of it: God has told the truth of it; it is a land that floweth with milk and honey. Only the people are strong, and their cities strong; and the land is filled with them. Faith in the true-hearted says, Let us go up at once: we are well able to take possession." But the mass have not faith: the very men that had gone up with Caleb have no sympathy with him; the people are stronger than they, — true enough, no doubt, reckoning without God as they are doing. And then they doubly contradict themselves, as unbelief constantly does, and declare in spite of the strength of its swarming population, that it eats up its inhabitants.

 Upon this, the unbelief of the people breaks out into irrepressible lamentation, and then into clamor against Jehovah Himself openly and by name. He who had miraculously led them hitherto had only taken this out-of-the-way course to destroy them by the sword of the Canaanites in the land which was now before them. Well, they would defeat His purpose, make a new leader, and return to Egypt. In vain Joshua and Caleb interpose: unbelief is unreason itself. The multitude only bid them to stone them with stones. Then God must answer for Himself, and the glory of Jehovah breaks forth in the tent of meeting before the eyes of the rebellious people.

 (3) Jehovah must sanctify Himself, therefore, in judgment, if there be no faith to entertain His grace. Thus it was at the end of the Jewish dispensation; thus it will be at the end of the Christian one; and so the earth will be filled with His glory, as He says here; "when His judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isa. 26:9.)

 Again, also, is the glory of Moses seen, as the one upon whose mediation, as type of the great Mediator, the blessing of the people depends. God had in fact, as Moses pleads, identified His glory with the salvation of His people and their being brought into the land, and in the wilderness declared Himself as the One who forgave iniquity, transgression, and sin, even while also He did not clear the guilty. The generation that had now tempted Him to the limit of His forbearance would perish in the wilderness. Caleb, on the other hand, as following Him fully, should enter into the land. Thus Jehovah is sanctified in judgment and in mercy.

 (4) The forty years are announced in a distinct communication. In them, those that had desired to die in the wilderness should die there, while their little ones whom they had mourned over as to fall a prey to the enemy, should be brought into the land in the meanwhile bearing the consequences of their fathers' sin, as needful for those who were children of such fathers: for each day of fruitless search a year in the wilderness. Thank God, however, for the very reason that these were appointed of Him, we cannot say that these were fruitless. Shall we say so at last of any of the Lord's ways with us here? Nay, the more painful even, the more profitable. Divine love could inflict no useless pain, even as it cannot withhold the pain that profits.

 (5) Governmental results soon follow. The ten faithless spies perish of the plague. The people, smitten by Jehovah's words, and realizing the greatness of their loss, pass from despair into a burst of courage and determination, all too late. As not accepting the chastening of the Lord, Moses warns them that they are but rebelling under a new form, but his admonitions are as vain as ever. They presume to go up to the top of the hill, but the Amalekites and Canaanites come down upon them, and chase them as far as Hormah, the "place of ban," significant of the sentence which lay upon them.

 Thus, "they could not enter in because of unbelief," as the apostle says and here is the crowning failure also in the professing Church, the failure to enter into the heavenly portion, so as to become from pilgrims only desert wanderers. Cain condemned to be this, in the land of his vagabondage built a city; and Christianity, when it has lost its heavenly character, takes but the more resolute hold of the earth. Thus comes into existence Babylon the Great.

 5. Just at this point there is an interruption of the history, in what at first seems a strange manner, to introduce certain laws relating to sacrifices they should offer when they come into the land. In fact, however, while the reference to their possession of the land at this time (when they have just refused it and been turned back from it) is a plain encouragement to faith, and assurance of the unfailing grace of God toward the people, — there are also in it, if we look deeper, principles of divine government to be found which have the plainest application to the history, as they come undeniably in the right place according to the numerical structure. How God maintains His grace and yet His government we find very clearly, and it prepares us for the development of these things which so shortly follows in the third division of the book.

 (1) First, we have a law given as to the offerings which they should offer on their coming into the land. How comforting this quiet assurance that after all they would come into the land; and that with full hearts which would need to express themselves to God in free gifts and offerings such as are here referred to. When it would be in their hearts to bring such an offering, then God Himself prescribes the way in which it was to be done. For, alas! in our best moods and highest purposes we blunder sadly, and need as everywhere to be controlled and fashioned by His thoughts. here it is prescribed that with every animal sacrifice of this sort, there shall be a meal-offering and drink-offering in due proportion to the value of the animal. Thus with a lamb a tenth part of an ephah of flour mingled with a fourth part of a hin of oil, and for a drink-offering a fourth part of a hin of wine. For a ram there were to be two tenths of flour, a third of a hin of oil and of wine. For a bullock, three tenths of flour, with a half-hin of oil and wine. We have seen that in the meal-offering Christ is presented in His life down here, as the sacrificial offering speaks of His atoning death. These have to each other, therefore, the same relation as the quails and the manna in Ex. 16. In the second subdivision here, we have found Israel despising the manna, while lusting for the quails. To such an error, therefore, this law of the offerings plainly applies. We must not divorce from the death that atones for us the realization of the value of Christ's precious life. Nay, the true apprehension of the one will correspond to that of the other. Again, though in a different connection, we are reminded that to "learn Christ" aright, we must be "taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus." Thus the law here given clearly contemplates Israel's failure and its lessons, as given in the preceding history. Let us learn from the repetition of the lesson how jealous God is, how jealous we ought to be, that we do not use Christ merely as a lightning-rod to keep off judgment from our houses, but that we enter into and lay hold of the ways of His life on earth. It is this which implies true fellowship and knowledge of the meaning of His death itself.

 We must learn here sharply to distinguish what we must at the same time hold firmly together. The cross was not simply an incident in the life of Jesus. His life was not vicarious as His death was. The suffering of His life had, none of it, the character of His death. The cross stands alone in this sense, that there for the first time the Saviour of sinners stood- in the sinner's place, and bore the burden of our sins in His own body. There and nowhere else did the wrath which was due to sin fall upon Him. How different what He could say up to the cross, "I know that Thou hearest Me always," from that which we find in the twenty-second psalm as fulfilled upon the cross, "I cry … and Thou hearest not" What utter contrast between the light of God's favor in which He daily walked, and the darkness of withdrawal, interpreted by the cry, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"! Had that shadow been upon all His life, we should not have had the blessed picture that we now have, of One representing God upon the earth, as on the cross He presented man — fallen and sinful man — to God. It was, of course, all through, the same blessed Person; yet in these two places with what a difference! There must be a strange blur upon the sight of him who cannot discern it.

 We must distinguish, in order to retain both these precious things in all their preciousness. The lesson here is that we must, along with the burnt-offering which is for acceptance, bring to God the meal-offering also, which speaks of Christ in person and life; and the faith that does this will, if real, be fruitful: "He that sinneth," says the apostle, hath not seen Christ, neither known Him."

 Lack of proportion in these offerings shows at once the tendency to separate between them. Can we know better the work for us without increasing in the knowledge of Him who has done the work? And with the knowledge of Him, if real, grows also that joy in Him which is typified in the drink-offering, a joy not effusive in words merely, or sentiment, but in spending and being spent for Him. And the measure of the oil for the meal-offering is the measure of the wine for the drink-offering: the measure of the Spirit that is found in our apprehension of Christ is the measure of our joy and devotedness.

 In all this, it is specially pressed also that there is one law for the stranger and for the home-born: the grace that is in Christ welcomes all alike. That which for the Jew can be only on condition of faith is for the Gentile also wherever there is faith.

 (2) Most of the remainder of the chapter (to the end of ver. 36) is a new communication from Jehovah, the account of the Sabbath-breaker being only an illustrative case. And here the subject is clearly the difference between sins of inadvertence and presumptuous sins to which the law of the heave-offering of the dough is but the preface. This law necessarily also contemplates their coming into the land. By its connection here it would not seem to have, like the sheaf of first-fruits or the loaves of Pentecost, any dispensational significance. Rather would it seem to enforce God's claim to first remembrance when partaking of the blessing which His hand has given. A very simple lesson and yet there is more danger of forgetting Him amid our blessings than in our need. It is more simple for us to pray" when we are "in affliction," than it is, when we are "merry," to "sing psalms." Thus it is His mercy also that reminds us of the claim of His mercy, and permits us to bring our gift to Him, and that He will thus partake with us in His own bounty. Certainly it is condescending love, not need, that makes Him do so. For us, it is the only thing that sanctifies and makes safe our blessing.

 After all, where God was thus before the soul, and there was entire honest- heartedness, not only an individual but the whole congregation might err, and error would need atonement. Where God's Word is perfect, and able to furnish thoroughly to every good work, failure must be, no matter what the point, our own sin. If ignorant, yet why were we ignorant? Ignorance means negligence in some way: stupidity, want of ability to take in the truth, is not excused as if it were the fault of the mind only: God giveth wisdom to the simple. The "fool" is, in Scripture, he for whom God is not. (Ps. 14:1.) If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, and it shall be given him. (James 1:5.) This, then, being true, the plea of ignorance only avails in one way, — to distinguish from presumptuous sin. Thus of the sin of his unconverted state the apostle could say, "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief:" (1 Tim. 1:13.) And so he says to professing Christians, If we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." (Heb. 10:26-27.)

 There are doubtless sins also which come between sins of ignorance and such as in fact are the "willful" sins of those who, with "knowledge of the truth," show themselves "adversaries. Peter in the high-priest's palace is a clear example of this. When he denied with oaths and curses that he knew the Man, certainly it was not ignorance that spoke in him; and yet he was not an "adversary." He had got, through self-confidence, into a place where circumstances were too much for him, and the fear of man wrung from him words base in their cowardice, and to be bitterly repented of. But an adversary he was not; and the grace of the Lord acts in its own blessed way toward the transgressor. This class of sins is not considered in the passage before us.

 But from these sins of ignorance, who can declare that he is free? Not the Psalmist, when he makes the similar inquiry, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults." (Ps. 19:12.) Not the apostle, when he declares, "For I know nothing against myself; yet am I not thereby justified; but He that judgeth me is the Lord." (1 Cor. 4:4.) Here is at once the integrity of one exercised and self-judged, free from all known offense, and yet the full acknowledgment that there might easily be things wrong, of which he was ignorant, and as to which in the confidence of His grace he could commit himself to Him who by and by will bring all to light. If none of us ought to be able to say less than this, who on the other hand can say more?

 And yet these unknown sins are sins, and need, as we see here, the sin-offering. And the whole congregation might be thus guilty: — for us, the whole Church. As we look back, indeed, it is only too plain that the whole Church has been, in fact, involved in ignorance of things to us now so plain that we marvel how any one should be ignorant. Who shall then say that the whole Church of to-day may not be convicted yet of some similar error? We must not so take this, however as to make uncertain what we have really learnt from Scripture. It is the disregard of it that has been ever the cause of error. Scripture is not uncertain; nor, where God has really taught the soul, will it be in that uncertain. Rather, what we have to do is, to test all we may have learnt of man by that to which alone is the ultimate appeal, remembering that God, not the Church, is the Teacher, — His Word, not the Church's voice, the test of truth.

 So for every inadvertence we must bring the sin-offering. Let us notice, how ever, that in the case before us the burnt-offering is larger than the sin-offering. While the guilt of ignorance is confessed, what is emphasized for the soul is the need of knowing better the fullness of the value of that in which we stand before God. It is in the nearness implied in this that we enter aright into the truth that God has given us: we learn better his mind as we draw nearer to Him, and the glory of Christ is revealed with more power to our hearts.

 The doom of the Sabbath-breaker illustrates plainly what is presumptuous sin; but this form of it must be chosen with divine wisdom rather than any other, and it speaks most solemnly to us to whom God preaches a "rest" which He will not have dishonored. We are in the sabbatical rest of the day of atonement, and woe to him who refuses to accept what the work of Christ has procured, but must gather the sticks of his own "dead works," to be fuel for the fire on the day that shall soon come.

 (3) And now again we have what the spiritual sense alone can interpret to us: the people are commanded to make upon the borders of their garments tassels, and upon the tassels a cord of blue, that they may look upon the tassels, and remember the commandments of Jehovah, and do them, that they may be holy to their God. The tassel is literally a "flower," from a root which means "to shine," and which is used of the plate upon the high-priest's forehead, which similarly is connected with a lace of blue. (Ex. 28:36.) This, it is plain, is not a mere casual resemblance: as in the high-priest's diadem holiness becomes the crown of the garments, here we find it on the border of them, next the ground: the lace of blue, the heavenly color, reminding us that heavenliness is holiness. This, where the garment touches the ground, secures the habits, as it were, from the invasion of earthliness. While the flower-like form may attest the "beauty of holiness," and that it is a living growth where real. Full consecration is clearly the lesson of the tassel and its attachment.

 6. We return to the wilderness-history, to pursue to the end, now just at hand, the course of decline and departure from God among .the people. Korah's rebellion is the last stage here, as Jude prophetically sees it to be the end of the evil in Christendom, already begun in his day. Ungodly men, ordained of old to this condemnation, had already crept in among them, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only true God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Their course would thus end, as the apostle Paul also foretells (2 Thess. 2), in complete apostasy: "Woe unto them!" he says, "for they have gone in the way of Cain, and run greedily after the error of Salaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Kore." As with the prophets of old, he sees the future as if it had already taken place, and gives the manner of the development of the evil: first, "the way of Cain," — that is, self-righteousness, which has no need of the atoning sacrifice; then the hireling spirit of Balaam, seducing for reward, which we find again in Pergamos (Rev. 2); finally, what we have here, the gainsaying of Kore, — the climax of their iniquity, in which they perish. This is not a picture merely of exaggerated ecclesiasticism: from the first, they were in spirit alienated from Christianity; then they could trade coolly with error for personal advantage; the final step is open opposition to God, and Him whom "God hath made both Lord and Christ:" thus their doom is assured.

 Korah is the Leader of a grand conspiracy: a Levite of the family of Kohath, a son of Jitzhar, in that line of ministry which has to do with the most precious things of the tabernacle, yet in spirit dead to all, as his name — probably "ice" may intimate. His associates are in the first place the sons of Reuben, the rejected first-born, herein being a natural reason for their readiness to join the revolt against the divinely constituted leaders. Their names are Dathan, "laws, decrees," and Abiram, "my father is exalted." These are the sons of Eliab, "My God is Father." These meanings, while in themselves not evil, certainly suit well the pretensions which they support, which would have leveled priesthood and Levite ministry under the plea of the holiness of all the people. Dathan thus could speak of "laws" of ancient right, as that of the first-born, set aside in favor of the new restrictions. Abiram could point to his own father as exalted by this natural right. While their common parent's name might suggest that higher claim, which in fact they make, of equal relationship to God on all sides. They have a companion also, but who appears no more, — another Reubenite, whose name, "On," signifies "labor," or "distress," the son of Peleth, probably "separation," "distinction." In this, one might think that he heard the socialistic arguments of the present day.

 All this may seem as if it were dreaming; yet not all names would fit the facts like these. And certainly the day that Jude speaks of, connected, as he connects it, with the judgment of evil in Christendom and the coming of the Lord, — a day too solemn to permit trifling about it, and which may well be near at hand, — has features with which it is in strange accordance. More broadly expressed only than in the party of Korah, "the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man" are already current phrases, which go not seldom with the rejection of Christ whether as Moses or as Aaron, — as Lord or Priest; and we have many a son of Levi heading this revolt. Nay, if we understand prophecy, and can believe before it comes to pass, we may even find a reason for On's disappearance, with this one brief notice, from the scene before us. For, assuredly, socialism, while it will have its part in bringing on the evil days of which we are speaking, soon will disappear, and give place to a worse despotism than it now laments. Korah may indeed say that all the assembly are holy," when he seeks to destroy the authority of Moses and Aaron; but Moses' words show what is hidden behind this: and the last Antichrist who heads the apostasy on the eve of which, as it would seem we are, will be himself both priest and king, if Christ shall not. We cannot here enter on the proofs of all these things. They will be found, elsewhere by those who need them; those who do not need, the shadow of the last days in Korah's revolt will be traced easily. It is but a shadow, and it passes quickly. According to Moses' word, the earth opens and swallows up the chief transgressors: Korah, Dathan, and Abiram go down alive into sheol, again the type of its more awful counterpart, when the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20.) The two hundred and fifty men who dare to test their title to priesthood by the offering of incense are consumed by fire.