Zelophehad... had no sons, but daughters.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities.
1. Their mood was wrong. They preferred ease to energy. Josephus tells us: "After this the Israelites grew effeminate as to fighting any more against their enemies, but applied themselves to the cultivation of the land, which producing them great plenty and riches, they neglected the regular disposition of their settlement, and indulged themselves in luxury and pleasures. The Benjamites, to whom belonged Jerusalem, permitted its inhabitants to pay tribute; the rest of the tribes, imitating Benjamin, did the same; and, contenting themselves with the tributes which were paid them, permitted the Canaanites to live in peace." In such a mood of course they "could not."
2. Lapped thus in luxury, and thinking more of their own pleasant ease than of their nobler duty, these Israelites had lost practical and prevailing faith in God. And so, of course, letting the weapon of their faith rust in a bad non-use they "could not" drive these Canaanites from their strongholds.
3. Lying thus in this enervating ease, and losing thus their practical faith in God, the dangers and difficulties in the way of the extirpating these Canaanites were, to their thought, correspondingly increased. The strongholds, to their fearful ease-loving feeling, grew very strong; the fortresses perched upon the rocky hill-tops seemed very unassailable; the chariots of iron — which, drawn by maddened horses and horrible with long, sharp knives, would come dashing upon their ranks — grew awfully terrible. And thus again, of course, "they could not."
4. But think now of these Israelites marshalled and armed for their duty; as ready to obey their God's command; as determined to put Jehovah to the proof, and to go forth relying on His promise. How plain it is that the "could not" would have belonged to the Canaanites, and the "would" would have been the word for these Israelites. Then we had had Scripture of another sort, viz., And the children of Manasseh "would" drive out the inhabitants of those cities, and the Canaanites "could not" dwell in that land.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
I. INABILITY IN ITS RELATION TO UNBELIEF. The promises of God had been many, and the warnings urgent (Exodus 34:10-17; Numbers 33:50-56, &c.). They who begin by disbelieving God may well fear to encounter powerful enemies.
II. INABILITY IN ITS RELATION TO INDISPOSITION. The indisposition that comes —
1. Through fear of men.
2. Through love of ease.
3. Through undervaluing the importance of God's command.
III. THE INABILITY OF GOD-AIDED MEN PRESENTLY SHOWN TO BE A MERE PRETENCE AND A POOR EXCUSE.
1. The revelation which comes through transgressors themselves. "When the children of Israel were waxen strong, they put the Canaanites to tribute." "Could not" is here seen to be "would not." That "tribute" told the entire story in its true colours. Tribute goes on telling secrets still. The tribute of Judas burned into his very soul, till he threw the thirty pieces on the temple floor, and cried over them in agony. The tribute of the craft by which Demetrius had his wealth let out the secret reason of his great love for the despised Diana (Acts 19:24-27). The dishonest merchant cannot keep his gains from preaching. Transgressors win their way to success unobserved, and then betray themselves with the very gains they have won.
2. The revelation which comes through those who succeed transgressors. Out of this very section of the tribe of Manasseh arose Gideon, of the family of the Abi-ezrites (ver. 2). On this very ground of the half-tribe of Manasseh was fought the great battle which delivered Israel from the Midianites. And how was it fought? By an army from which more than thirty thousand had been sent to their homes; by a small force of three hundred men, who merely brake their pitchers, and held their torches on high, shedding light on a truth afterwards embodied in one of the famous sayings of Israel, "The battle is the Lord's." It was as though God were purposely reproving the faint-heartedness and idleness of these men who had lived in the days of Joshua.
(F. G. Marchant.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
I. THE EASY WAY TO DISCONTENTMENT. Anybody can complain. Everybody is tempted to complain. Most of those who murmur think that they can show good cause for their complaints. No man is rich enough to be out of the reach of discontent. No man is poor enough to be below the possibility or: happiness.
II. THE UNFAILING TESTIMONY OF DISCONTENTMENT.
1. Complaints furnish no trustworthy evidence about a man's lot. How can they, when so many murmur in every kind of lot which the world knows?
2. Complaints bear unfailing witness against the murmurer himself. Scripture often condemns the man who complains, apart from considering the cause of complaining.
III. THE TRUE ANSWER TO DISCONTENTMENT.
1. Joshua was too wise to dispute the assumption of greatness (vers. 15-17). He who tries to argue a discontented man out of his favourite assumptions does but waste breath.
2. Joshua turned the plea of greatness back on those who used it: "If thou be a great people, then" — work, fight.
3. Joshua sought to cure the murmuring of the heart through the diligence of the hand. The energy which is absorbed in gloomy thoughts, and poured out in bitter complaints, would generally double the small inheritance, if it were rightly directed. Apart from this industry and courage ever tend to happiness.
4. Joshua encouraged these murmurers to think that to the people of God no difficulties were insuperable. He would have them think of the invincible might which had promised to support their faithful efforts (Deuteronomy 20:1-4), and make them victorious. The after history shows us that, a discontented spirit is not easily cured. These people showed the same haughty dissatisfaction again and again after the death of Joshua (Judges 8:1-3, 12. I-6). He who has cultivated contentment through faith in God is not readily disturbed; while the man who has learned, in whatsoever state he is, to find some fault with his fellows, has given room in his heart for a demon that is not easily expelled.
(F. G. Marchant.)
(Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)
where they wanted to be. I fear that the really contented souls would have been a very small minority. Contentment with one's spiritual condition is quite too common; and of such low-grade Christians there is not much hope of improvement. But those who are really contented with their present lot, present place of residence, present circumstances or fields of labour, are not in the majority. Take, for example, the ministers of the Gospel and see how many will say: "Well, my place of labour has peculiar difficulties; it is a hard field, and I have a great deal to encounter, and if I could get a first-rate call to some better place I would be off in a minute." Very probably you would. But, my good brother, if you will discover any parish on this round globe that has not some "peculiar difficulties" to encounter, then you wilt have found a people so perfect that they will not need any preaching. Mary Lyon's noble advice to her pupils at Mount Holyoke Seminary was: "When you choose your field of labour for Christ, go where nobody else is willing to go." Heaven is the only place I have ever heard of where there is no hard work or no difficulties.
(T. L. Cuyler.)
(T. L. Cuyler.)
The Lord hath blessed me hithertoI. A CONFESSION: "The Lord hath blessed me hitherto." I will not at present speak to those of you upon whom the blessing of God has never rested. Re member, that every man is either under the curse or under the blessing. They that are of the works of the law are under the curse. Faith in Him who was made a curse for us is the only way to the blessing. But I speak to as many as have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Lord saith, "Surely, blessing I will bless thee." You can say at this time, "God hath blessed me hitherto."
1. He has blessed you with those blessings which are common to all the house of Israel. You and I, who are in Christ, are partakers of all covenant blessings in Christ Jesus. "If children, then heirs"; and if we are children of God, then we are heirs of all things. "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's," and therefore "all things are yours." Can you not say — "The Lord hath blessed me hitherto"? Has He ever denied you one of the blessings common to the covenanted family? Has He ever told you that you may not pray, or that you may not trust? Has He forbidden you to cast your burden on the Lord? Has He denied to you fellowship with Himself and communion with His dear Son? Has He laid an embargo on any one of the promises? Has He shut you out from any one of the provisions of His love?
2. But then, besides this, Ephraim and Manasseh had special blessings, the peculiar blessing of Joseph, which did not belong to Judah, or Reuben, or Issachar. Each saint may tell his fellow something that he does not know; and in heaven it will be a part of the riches of glory to hold commerce in those specialities which each one has for himself alone. I shall not be you, neither will you be me; neither shall we train be like another two, or the four of us like any other four, though all of us shall be like our Lord when we shall see Him as He is. I want you each to feel at this hour — "The Lord hath blessed me hitherto." Personally, I often sit me down alone, and say, "Whence is this to me?" I cannot but admire the special goodness of my Lord to me.
3. I think, besides this, that these two tribes which made up the house of Joseph, also meant to say that, not only had God blessed them with the common blessings of Israel, and the special blessing of their tribe, but also with actual blessings. As far as they had gone they had driven out the Canaanites, and taken possession of the country. They had not received all that was promised; but God had blessed them hitherto. Come, we have not driven out all the Canaanites yet, but we have driven out many of them. We are not what we hope to be, but we are not what we used to be. We cannot yet see everything clearly, but we are not blind, as once we were, We have not seen our Lord as He is, but we have seen Him; and the joy of that sight will never be taken from us. Therefore, before the Lord and His assembled people, we joyfully declare that "The Lord hath blessed us hitherto."Let us expand this confession a little, and speak thus:
1. All the blessings that we have received have come from God. Do not let us trace any blessing to ourselves, or to our fellow-men; for though the minister of God may be as a conduit-pipe to bring us refreshing streams, yet all our fresh springs are in God, and not in men. Say, "The Lord hath blessed me hitherto."
2. And, mark you, there has been a continuity of this blessing. God has not blessed us, and then paused; but He has blessed us "hitherto." One silver thread of blessing extends from the cradle to the grave. There is an unconquerable pertinacity in the love of God: His grace cannot be baffled or turned aside; but His goodness and His mercy follow us all the days of our lives.
3. In addition to that continuity there is a delightful consistency about the Lord's dealings. "The Lord hath blessed us hitherto." No curse has intervened. He has blessed us, and only blessed us. There has been no "yea" and "nay" with Him; no enriching us with spiritual blessings, and then casting us away. He has frowned upon us, truly; but His love has been the same in the frown as in the smile. He has chastened us sorely; but He has never given us over unto death.
4. And, what is more, when my text says, "The Lord hath blessed me hitherto," there is a kind of prophecy in it, for "hitherto" has a window forward as well as backward. You sometimes see a railway carriage or truck, fastened on to what goes before, but there is also a great hook behind. What is that for? Why, to fasten something else behind, and so to lengthen the train. Any one mercy from God is linked on to all the mercy that went before it; but provision is also made for adding future blessing. All the years to come are guaranteed by the ages past.
II. THE ARGUMENT: "Forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto."
1. This is cause for holy wonder and amazement. Why should the Lord have blessed me?
2. Be full of holy gratitude. Get into the state of that poor man who was so greatly blessed to pious Tauler. He wished the man a good-day. The man replied, "Sir, I never had a bad day." "Oh, but I wish you good weather." Said he, "Sir, it is always good weather. If it rains or if it shines, it is such weather as God pleases, and what pleases God pleases me." Our sorrows lie mainly at the roots of our selfishness, and when our self-hood is dug up, our sorrow to a great extent is gone. Let us, then, utter this text, "Forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto," with hearty gratitude for His holy will. Summing up gains and losses, joys and griefs, let us say with Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord."
3. Say also, with holy confidence, "The Lord hath blessed me hitherto." Speak as you find. If any inquire, "What has God been to you?" answer, "He hath blessed me hitherto." The devil whispers, "If thou be the son of God"; and he then insinuates, "God deals very hardly with you. See what you suffer. See how you are left in the dark!" Answer him, "Get thee behind me, Satan, for surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; and if God takes from me any earthly good, shall I receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall I not receive evil?" He who can stand to this stands on good ground. "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." But he that gets away from this drifts I know not where.
4. Furthermore, if this be true, let us resolve to engage in enlarged enterprises. If the Lord has blessed us hitherto, why should He not bless us in something fresh?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
If thou be a
1. It is not a brave and wholesome thing to be too eager for favours and for help from others. There are men of this class in every community. They want to rise in the world, but they would rise on the exertions and sacrifices of others — not their own. We find the same in spiritual life. There are those who sigh for holiness and beauty of character, but they are not willing to pay the price. They would make prayer a substitute for effort, for struggle, for the crucifying of self. They want a larger spiritual inheritance, but they have no thought of taking it in primeval forests which their own hands must cut down. The truth is, however, that God gives us our inheritance just as He gave Joseph's lot to him. Our promised land has to be won, every inch of it. You must train your own faith. You must cultivate your own heart-life. You must learn patience, gentleness, and all the lessons of love yourself. No one can give you any Christian grace.
2. True friendship ofttimes declines to do for men what they can do for themselves. If you can wake up a young man, arouse his sleeping or undiscovered powers, so that he will win a fortune with his own hands and brain, that is an infinitely better thing to do for him than if you were to give him a fortune as a present. In the former case, in getting his fortune, he has gotten also trained powers, energy, strength, self-reliance, disciplined character and all the elements that belong to strong manhood. In the other case he gets nothing but the money. A little poem tells the story of two friends. One brought a crystal goblet full of water which he had dipped from flowing streams on far-off mountain heights. The hills were his, and his the bright, sweet water. But the water did not refresh his friend. The other looked upon him kindly, saw his need, and gave him — nothing. With a face severe he bade him seek his own hard quarry, hew out the way for the imprisoned waters, and find drink for himself. He obeyed, and the water gave him satisfaction. That is God's way with us. He does not make life easy for us. Surely it is a wiser love that puts new strength into your heart and arm, so that you can go on with your hard duty, your heavy responsibility, your weight of care, without fainting, than would be the love which should take all the load away and leave you free from any burden.
3. True greatness should show itself, not in demanding favours or privileges, but in achieving great things. The way a commander honours the best regiment on the field of battle is, not by assigning it to some easy post, to some duty away from danger. He hot, ours it by giving it the most perilous post, the duty requiring the most splendid courage. So it is in all life — the place of honour is always the hardest place, where the most delicate and difficult duty must be done, where the heaviest burden of responsibility must be borne. It is never a real honour to be given an easy place. Instead of demanding a place of honour as a favour of friendship, which gets no seat of real greatness upon our brow, we should win our place of honour by worthy deeds and services. The truth is far-reaching in its applications. It should sweep out of our thought for ever all feeling that others owe us favours; all that spirit which shows itself in self-seeking, in claims for place or precedence over others. The law of love is that with whatsoever we have we must serve our fellow-men. The most highly dowered life that this world ever saw was that of Jesus Christ. Yet He demanded no recognition of men. He claimed no rank. He never said His lowly place was too small, too narrow, for the exercise of His great abilities. He used His greatness in doing good, in blessing the world. He was the greatest among men, and He was the servant of all. This is the true mission of greatness. There is no other true and worthy way of using whatever gifts God has bestowed upon us. Instead of claiming place, distinction, rank, position, and attention, because of our gifts, abilities, wisdom, or name, we must use all we have to bless the world and honour God.
(J. R. Millar, D. D.)
1. If great, why not clear the forest? Great power demands corresponding enterprise! Some financially are great; if so, let your contributions be beyond others who are not in such a position. If possessed of a superior education, prove it by your exertions to benefit others. Some are great in position as standard-bearers in God's army; prove it by your faith; show what faith will do; go up and clear the forest by your zeal and consecration — the more advantages we claim the more obligations we contract.
2. If cramped for room, why not clear the ground you have? Some are always asking for more scope, from the village to the town, from the town to the city, forgetting that in their own sphere they have not done all they could do. When this is done God will open up a larger sphere. Do thoroughly all that in which you are engaged. The man who looks after the ones and twos God will bless with other larger spheres for usefulness. Greatness does not lie in pretensions but in actions.
(A. G. Brown.)
1. Apply this cure for complainings to the winning of culture. How often we complain, "in our circumstances, with our limitations, with our business, &c., no chance for culture." And we settle to the newspaper or fill up the chance moments with a hurried reading of the last novel — not the last best; too often the last worst. But the cure for such complainings is, with God's help, to go forth and seize culture. Take up the Chautauqua scheme for reading, for example. Take it up, go through with it, put the energy into doing your work and not into complaining, and you will grow in culture surprisingly.
2. Apply this cure for complainings to the maintaining a consistent Christian profession. Think of the saints in Caesar's household. By God's help determine to be a saint, whatever your circumstances.
3. Apply this cure for complainings to the duty of becoming Christian. What Canaanites and Perrizzites of objections men are apt to make — e.g., do not understand whole Bible; it is a hard thing to serve God; it is gloomy to be Christian; I am afraid God will not receive me; so many hypocrites among professing Christians; I don't know that I am one of the elect; I have not time; I am not fit; I will meet a good deal of opposition; I don't feel; I am afraid if I do become a Christian I will not hold out; I cannot believe; I am willing to be a secret Christian, &c., illimitably. But stop complainingly conjuring such objections. Go forth in the promised help of Christ to Christ, any way. So at once get cure for your complainings and surely find the forgiveness and peace of Christ.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
Thou shalt drive out the Canaanites.I. WE MUST DRIVE THEM OUT. Every sin has to be slaughtered. Not a single sin is to be tolerated.
1. They must all be driven out, for every sin is our enemy. Any pretence of friendship with iniquity is mischievous.
2. Sin is our Lord's most cruel enemy. Saved by Jesus, will you not hate sin as He did? Would any person here lay up in his drawer as a treasure the knife with which his father was murdered? Our sins were the daggers that slew the Saviour. Can we bear to think of them?
3. Remember, also, that a man cannot be free from sin if he is the servant of even one sin. Here is a man who has a long chain on his leg — a chain of fifty links. Now, suppose that I come in as a liberator, and take away forty-nine links, but still leave the iron fastened to the pillar, and his leg in the one link which is within the iron ring, what benefit have I brought him? How much good have I done? The man is still a captive.
II. THEY CAN BE DRIVEN OUT. I do not say that we can drive them out, but I say that they can be driven out. It will be a great miracle, but let us believe in it; for other great wonders have been wrought.
1. Note first that you and I have been raised from the dead. Is it not so? "You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." If a dead man has been raised, then anything can be done with the man who is now made alive.
2. You have also by Divine power been led to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as the result of Divine grace within your heart, what is there that you cannot do? If you have been enabled to believe, you can be enabled to be holy. He that led you to exert faith, can lead you, by faith, to overcome any and every iniquity.
3. You have already conquered many sins. He that has helped you so far can surely help you even to the conclusion of the fight. Do not doubt that the almighty power of Divine grace, which has achieved so much, can achieve yet more. Be strong and very courageous, for the Lord of hosts Himself is at your side.
4. Have you not seen other Christians conquer? Oh, let your memory charge you now with brethren and sisters in whom you saw great infirmities and sins at the commencement of their spiritual career; but how they have grown! How they have vanquished inbred sin! What God has done for them He can do for you.
III. THEY SHALL BE DRIVEN OUT.
1. This is what Christ died for, to save His people, not from some of their sins, but from all their sins.
2. This is what Christ lives for. Christ in heaven is the pattern of what we shall be, and He will not fail to mould us after His own model. We shall one day be perfectly conformed to His image, and then we shall be with Him in glory. Our Lord's honour is bound up with the presentation of all His saints in spotless purity to Himself in the day of His glorious marriage.
3. This is what the Holy Spirit is given for. He is not given to come into our hearts, and comfort us in our sins, but to deliver us from all evil, and to comfort us in Christ Jesus. He quickens, He directs, He helps, He illuminates; He does a thousand things; but, chiefly, He sanctifies us. He comes into the heart to drive out every other power that seeks to have dominion there.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. These sins are sometimes those which have gained their power — their chariots of iron-through long habit. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?" No, he never shall, but the grace of God can work the change.
2. Some sins get their chariots of iron from being congenial to our constitution. Certain brethren and sisters are sadly quick-tempered; and as long as ever they live, they will have to be on their guard against growing suddenly angry, and speaking unadvisedly with their lips. They are quick and sensitive, and this might not in itself be a serious evil; but when sin wields that quickness and sensitiveness, evil comes of it. How many a sincere child of God has had to go for years groaning, as with broken bones, because of the quickness of his temper! As for these constitutional sins, you must not excuse them. Everything that is of nature — ay, and of your fallen nature when it is at its best — has to be put under the feet of Christ, that grace may reign over every form of evil.
3. Frequently the chariot of iron derives its force from the fact that a certain sin comes rushing upon you on a sudden, and so takes you at a disadvantage. Yet we must not say, because of this, "I cannot help it," for we ought to be all the more watchful, and live all the nearer to God in prayer.
4. Sometimes these sins get power from the fact that, if we do not yield to them, we may incur ridicule on account of them. I would not, if I could, prevent any of you from being persecuted in your measure. Should not soldiers fight? I would stay the persecution for the sake of the persecutor; but for the sake of you who have to bear it, I would hardly lift a finger to screen you, because the trial is an education of the utmost value.
5. Perhaps one of the things that is worst of all to a Christian is, that certain sins are supposed to be irresistible. It is a popular error, and a very pernicious one.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).