Take the sum of all the congregation.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. THE APPARENT INSIGNIFICANCE OF HUMAN LIFE. How dull are the details, and how wearisome the repetitions of this chapter! What a number of obscure names of unknown persons it contains!
II. THE REAL IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN LIFE. This will appear if we consider that —
1. Every man has his own individuality of being and circumstances.
2. Every man has his own possibilities.
3. Every man has his own influence.
4. Every man has his own accountability.
5. Every man is an object of deep interest to God.To Him nothing is mean, nothing unimportant.
I. HERE IS THE COMMONPLACE.
II. HERE IS THE INTERESTING IN THE COMMONPLACE. If we look into this chapter carefully we shall discover certain words which are suggestive of deep and tender interests. "Sons" is a word of frequent occurrence so also is the word "children"; we also read of "daughters" (ver. 33), and of a "daughter" (ver. 46). A profound human interest attaches to words like these. They imply other words of an interest equally deep and sacred; e.g., "father," "mother." The humblest, dullest, most commonplace life has its relations. The least regarded person in all the thousands of Israel was "Homebody's bairn." We also read of "death" (ver. 19); most of the names which are here recorded belonged to men who, were gathered to their fathers; from the time of the twelve sons of Jacob here mentioned to the time of this census in the plains of Moab, many thousands of Israelites had died, of all ranks and of all ages. Reflection upon these facts awakens a mournful interest in the mind.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE COMMONPLACE. Impatience of the ordinary and the prosaic is an evidence of an unsound judgment and an unhealthy moral life.
1. Most of life's duties are commonplace. Yet how important it is that these duties he faithfully fulfilled!
2. The greater number of persons are commonplace.
3. The greater part of life is commonplace. Be it ours to give the charm of poetry to prosaic duties, by doing them heartily; and to ennoble our commonplace lives by living them faithfully and holily.
The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up.
I. THE INSIDIOUS CHARACTER OF SIN. Sin grows upon us; never trifle with it; safety in the opposing it. As the moth, dazzled with the light, &c., ends in being scorched or burnt, so it ever is with those who trifle with sin and parley with temptation.
II. THEY WARN US OF THE TERRIBLE EVIL AND DANGER OF SIN. Sin becomes our greatest curse; we have, indeed, nothing else to fear.
III. THEY SHOW US WHAT A CURSE BAD MEN ARE TO THEIR FAMILIES AND OTHERS. If there is any manhood left in one, this thought must arrest his attention.
IV. THEY SHOW US GOD'S DESIRE TO BENEFIT MAN.
Lay Preacher.I. A WARNING AGAINST THE COMMISSION OF SIN.
II. A WARNING AGAINST ASSOCIATION WITH SINNERS.
III. A WARNING AGAINST TEMPTING OTHERS.
Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
There was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of NunI. We are here furnished with A CONFIRMATION OF THE FACT THAT GOD WILL FULFIL HIS THREATENINGS AGAINST SINNERS.
1. We may conceive them to have counted upon their numerical strength. This has often been appealed to as a security against the punishment of crime. Nor can it be denied that, according as iniquity abounds in a community, it is the more rarely visited with its merited penalty. It is found, in such circumstances, not to be convenient to institute inquiry; and vice, with the colouring which the spirit of the age may have given to it, assumes not unfrequently the name of virtue. But it is far otherwise with Him whose power, holiness, and justice are infinite.
2. It is not improbable that, as a ground of security against threatened judgment, the Israelites in the wilderness counted on their privileges. On this principle many a sinner reasons to his own destruction; forgetting that the higher his privileges, the greater the punishment they involve, if unimproved. The execution of the sentence of death upon the Israelites was the more solemn, because executed amidst the enjoyment of the means of grace. They died, the monuments of Divine wrath — while on every side they were surrounded with privileges. They died, in that camp, which was the camp of the living God. They died, within sight of the Lord's tabernacle, and of the ark of the Lord's covenant. They died, while the manna from heaven was falling around them, and the stream from the smitten rock flowing before their eyes. They died, while the glory of the Lord was in their view — while the pillar in which the Lord Himself dwelt was over their head — while, as a cloud to refresh them, it was over them by day; and as a fire to give them light, was over them by night. These their privileges did not preserve them; and neither will yours preserve you.
3. The Israelites in the wilderness may have been tempted to infer that the Lord would not execute His threatened vengeance against them, because all were not at one and the same time visited with punishment. To some of them a respite of nearly forty years was granted. But, when apparently within reach of the Land of Promise — when its hills and mountains were in view before their eyes — when they had only to march forward one other stage and to cross the Jordan, in order to obtain possession of it — the last of the doomed generation died, and their burial there made it manifest that God's threatenings are sure.
II. But in our text we are furnished with an impressive illustration of the fact, that as God will fulfil His threatenings against sinners, so ALSO HIS PROMISES IN FAVOUR OF HIS OWN PEOPLE.
1. This, in the case of Caleb and Joshua, was made manifest, notwithstanding the crowd of the ungodly with which they were mingled. But, "the Lord knoweth them that are His." He loves them, as His chosen, with an everlasting love. They are "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of their inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession." Wherever thy lot may be cast, it is His sun that shines upon thy head; it is His stars that give thee light; it is His air that thou breathest; it is His food with which thou art supplied. "Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without Him; and the hairs of thy head are all numbered."
2. in the case of Caleb and Joshua, we are furnished with a confirmation of the truth of God's gracious promises to His people notwithstanding the dangers to which they are exposed.
3. In the instance referred to in our text we behold the fulfilment of God's gracious promises to His people, in opposition to every sentiment of distrust arising from the length and intricacy of their path.
(T. Doig, M. A.)
I. THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO HIS THREATENINGS. The judgment which God pronounced thirty-eight years previous He has now completely fulfilled (cf. Numbers 14:11-39).
1. The immense number of the condemned does not avail for the escape of any one of them. Sentence was passed upon upwards of six hundred thousand men; "and there was not left a man of them." "Though hand join in hand," &c (Proverbs 11:21).
2. The lapse of time before the complete execution of the sentence does not avail for the escape of any one. Thirty-eight years passed away before the judgment pronounced was fully carried out; but ultimately not one upon whom it was passed escaped.
II. THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO HIS PURPOSES.
III. THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD TO HIS PROMISES. He promised to spare Caleb and Joshua, and to bring them unto the promised land (Numbers 14:23-30); and He spared them, and in due season brought them into that land.
Hebrews 5:12). To revise the Church rolls so as to leave none but vigorous soldiers on the muster-roll would make us break our hearts over our statistics. May the Lord send us, for this evil, health and cure! When the second census was taken, it was found that the people were nearly of the same number as at the first. Had it not been for the punishment so justly inflicted upon them, they must have largely increased; but now they had somewhat diminished. It is of God to multiply a nation, or a Church. We may not expect any advance in our numbers if we grieve the Spirit of God, and if by our unbelief we drive Him to declare that we shall not prosper.
I. First, observe THE NOTABLE CHANGE WROUGHT AMONG THE PEOPLE BY DEATH (ver. 64). The entire mass of the nation had been changed.
1. Such changes strike us as most memorable. In the course of forty years, what changes take place in every community, in every Church, in every family! The march of the generations is not a procession passing before our eyes, while we sit, like spectators, at the window; but we are in the procession ourselves, and we, too, are passing down the streets of time, and shall disappear in our turn.
2. This change was universal throughout the whole camp. "There was not left a man of them." Thus is it among ourselves: no offices can be permanently held by the same men: "they are not suffered to continue by reason of death." No position, however lofty or lowly, can retain its old possessor. It is not only the cedars that fall, but the fir-trees feel the axe. "There is no discharge in that war." That same scythe which cuts down the towering flower among the grass, also sweeps down whole regiments of green blades.
3. The change is inevitable. We must soon quit our tents for the last battle. When the conscript number shall be drawn we may escape this year, and next; but the lot will fall upon us in due time. There is no leaping from the net of mortality wherein, like a shoal of fish, we are all enclosed.
4. All this change was still under the Divine control. Stern though the work may be, God's great and tender heart rules the ravages of death.
5. The change was beneficial. It was desirable that there should be a people trained in a better school, with a nobler spirit, fit to take possession of the promised land. The change was working rightly: the Divine purpose was being fulfilled. The incoming of new blood into the social frame is good in a thousand ways; it is well that we should make room for others who may serve our Master better.
6. These changes are most instructive. If we are now serving God, let us do so with intense earnestness, since only for a little while shall we have the opportunity to do so among men.
II. THE PERPETUITY OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. The nation is living, though a nation has died. It is the same chosen seed of Abraham with whom Jehovah is in covenant. God has a Church in the world, and He will have a Church in the world till time shall be no more. The gates of hell and the jaws of death shall not prevail against the Church, though each one of its members must depart out of this world in his turn.
1. Mark well, that "the Church in the wilderness" lives on. Everything has changed, and yet nothing has altered. Although the men who bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord wear other names, yet they fulfil the same office. The music of the sanctuary rises and falls, but the strain goes on. The hallelujah never ceases, nor is there a pause in the perpetual chorus, "His mercy endureth for ever."
2. The gaps were filled up by appointed successors. As one warrior died another man stepped into his place, even as one wave dying on the shore is pursued by another. God buries His workmen, but His work lives.
3. At this second numbering the people stood ready for greater work than they had ever done before.
4. It was Israel's joy that God's love was not withdrawn from the nation.
III. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE WORD OF GOD.
IV. THE ABIDING NECESSITY OF FAITH.
1. No man is, was, or ever shall be saved without faith.
2. No privilege can supply the lack of faith.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).