The daughters of Zelophehad.
I. In respect to ITS GENERAL TEACHING.
1. I would exhibit for your imitation the faith which these five young women, the daughters of Zelophehad, possessed with regard to the promised inheritance.
2. There was this feature, too, about the faith of these five women — they knew that the inheritance was only to be won by encountering great difficulties.
3. I commend the faith of these women to you because, believing in the land, and believing that it would be won, they were not to be put about by the ill report of some who said that it was not a good land.
4. Being thus sure of the land, and feeling certain about that, we must next commend them for their anxiety to possess a portion in it. Why did they think so much about it? I heard some one say the other day, speaking of certain young people, "I do not like to see young women religious; they ought to be full of fun and mirth, and not have their minds filled with such profound thoughts." Now, I will be bound to say that this kind of philosophy was accredited in the camp of Israel, and that there were a great many young women there who said, "Oh, there is time enough to think about the good land when we get there; let us be polishing up the mirrors; let us be seeing to our dresses; let us understand how to put our fingers upon the timbrel when the time comes for it; but as for prosing about a portion among those Hivites and Hittites, what is the good of it? We will not bother ourselves about it." But such was the strength of the faith of these five women that it led them to feel a deep anxiety for a share in the inheritance. They were not such simpletons as to live only for the present. These women were taken up with prudent anxious thoughts about their own part in the land. And let me say that they were right in desiring to have a portion there, when they recollected that the land had been covenanted to their fathers. They might well wish to have a part in a thing good enough to be a covenant-blessing.
5. But I must commend them yet again for the way in which they set about the business. I do not find that they went complaining from tent to tent that they were afraid that they had no portion. Many doubters do that; they tell their doubts and fears to others, and they get no further. But these five women went straight away to Moses. He was at their head; he was their mediator ; and then it is said that "Moses brought their cause before the Lord." You see, these women did not try to get what they wanted by force. They did not say, "Oh, we will take care and get our share when we get there." They did not suppose that they had any merit which they might plead, and so get it; but they went straight away to Moses, and Moses took their cause, and laid it before the Lord. Dost thou want a portion in heaven, sinner? Go straight away to Jesus, and Jesus will take thy cause, and lay it before the Lord.
II. With a view of giving the whole incident A PARTICULAR DIRECTION —
1. Does it not strike you that there is here a special lesson for our unconverted sisters? Here are five daughters, I suppose young women, certainly unmarried, and these five were unanimous in seeking to have a portion where God had promised it to His people. Have! any young women here who would dissent from that? I am afraid I have! Do you not desire a portion in the skies? Have you no wish for glory? Can you sell Christ for a few hours of mirth? Will you give Him up for a giddy song or an idle companion? Those are not your friends who would lead you from the paths of righteousness.
2. Has it not a loud voice, too, to the children of godly parents? I like these young women saying that their father did not die with Korah, but that he only died the ordinary death which fell upon others because of the sin of the wilderness; and also, their saying, "Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family because he had no son?" It is a good thing to see this respect to parents, this desire to keep up the honour of the family.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE REQUEST OF THE DAUGHTERS OF ZELOPHEHAD.
1. Was presented in an orderly and becoming manner. "They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest," &c. (ver. 2). The made their request a regular manner, and to the proper authorities!
2. Was eminently fair and reasonable While their father, by reason of sin, was, in common with the generation to which he belonged, excluded from the promised land, yet he had not done anything for which his children should be deprived of an inheritance therein.
3. Indicated becoming respect for their father. They vindicate him from the guilt of sharing in any of the rebellions except the general one; and they evince an earnest desire for the perpetuation of his name and family.
4. Implied faith in the promise of God to give Canaan to the Israelites.
5. Implied an earnest desire for a portion in the promised land.
II. THE DIVINE ANSWER TO THEIR REQUEST.
1. Was given by Jehovah to Moses in response to his inquiries. Notice here —(1) The humility of Moses. He does not presume to decide the case himself, &c.(2) The direction which God grants to the humble. "The meek will He guide in judgment," &c.
2. Commended the cause of the daughters of Zelophehad. "The daughters of Zelophehad speak right."
3. Granted the request of the daughters of Zelophehad. "Thou shalt surely give them a possession," &c. (ver. 7).
4. Included a general law of inheritance. "And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel," &c. (vers. 8-11). Thus a great benefit accrued to the nation from the request of the daughters of Zelophehad.
1. The rectification of things that are wrong sometimes seems to come from man and not from God. Look at this case. It was the women themselves who began the reform. Providence did not stir first. The five women gave this reform to the economy of Israel. So it would seem on the face of the story, and many people look at the face and go no farther, and so they blunder. Suggestions are from God. The very idea,, which we think our own is not our own, but God's. "He is Lord of all," of all good ideas, noble impulses, holy inspirations, sudden movements of the soul upward into higher life and broader liberty. This is His plan of training men. He seems to stand aside, and to take no part in some obviously good movements, and men say, "This is a human movement, a political movement, a non-religious movement," not knowing what they are talking about, forgetting that the very idea out of which it all sprang came down from the Father of lights, that the very eloquence by which it is supported is Divinely taught, that the very gold which is its sinew is His: they do not go far enough back in their investigation into the origin of things, or they would find God in movements which are often credited to human genres alone.
2. Everywhere the Bible is full of the very spirit of justice. It is the Magna Charta of the civilised world. This is the spirit that gives the Bible such a wonderful hold upon the confidence of mankind. Look at this case as an example. The applicants were women. All the precedents of Israel might have been pointed to as the answer to their appeal. Why create a special law for women? Why universalise a very exceptional case? Why not put these people down as sensational reformers? Yet, the case was heard with patience, and answered with dignity. Oh, women, you should love the Bible! It is your friend. It has done more for you than all other books put together. Wherever it goes it claims liberty for you, justice for you, honour for you.
3. Every question should become the subject of social sympathy and matter of religious reference. These women were heard patiently. It is something to get a hearing for our grievances. Sometimes those grievances perish in the very telling; sometimes the statement of them brings unexpected help to our assistance. This case is what may be called a secular one; it is about land and name and inheritance; and even that question was made in Israel simply a religious one. In ancient Israel, with its priestly system, men had to go to the leader and the priest first; in Christianity we can go straight to God; we have no priesthood but Christ; the way to the throne is open night and day. Oh, wronged and suffering woman, tell thy case to the Father! Oh, man, carrying a burden too heavy for thy declining strength, speak to God about the weight, and He will help thee with His great power.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Numbers 36:1-5). The "fathers" of the house of Joseph must be heard as well as the "daughters." The faith of the latter was most lovely; but there was just a danger lest, in the elevation to which that faith had raised them, they might forget the claims of others, and remove the landmarks which guarded the inheritance of their fathers. This had to be thought of and provided for. It was natural to suppose that the daughters of Zelophehad would marry; and moreover it was possible they might form an alliance outside the boundaries of their tribe; and thus in the year of jubilee — that grand adjusting institution — instead of adjustment, there would be confusion, and a permanent breach in the inheritance of Manasseh. This would never do; and therefore the wisdom of those ancient fathers is very apparent. We need to be guarded on every side, in order that the integrity of faith and the testimony may be duly maintained.
(C. H. Mackintosh.)
(R. S. Storrs, D. D.)
Thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.Romans 7:7). One great purpose for which the law is given is just to teach us what we are- utterly sinful, utterly lost in ourselves. It requires perfect obedience; and, behold, in many things we offend. It makes no provision for transgression, proclaims no forgiveness. It can give no peace. The voice is terrible to the guilty. Whenever it fulfils its true purpose in the soul it empties it of self-righteousness, lays it prostrate in the dust, and makes it take the lowest place. Thus St. Paul says, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (Galatians 2:19). And, again, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (chap. Galatians 3:24). Are you? Under Moses or Christ? What is your hope of glory? Is it that you have not sinned so much as others? that your life is very exemplary? that you leave no duty willingly unperformed, or service unattended? Do you think that somehow or other Christ must be yours, if your life is so excellent? Are these your thoughts? Then we must faithfully tell you that you are still under Moses, still clinging to a broken law; and we must remind you that the law can never bring you to heaven. It is Christ only who can save you, and bring you into the Land of Promise — Christ only who can reconcile you to God, and we can never come to Christ without utterly renouncing our own righteousness, and our own works, as entitling us to God's favour.
1. As an engagement to us to think often of dying. We are not better than our fathers or brethren; if they are gone, we are going; if they are gathered already, we must be gathered very shortly.
2. As an encouragement to us to think of death without terror, and even to please ourselves with the thoughts of it, it is but to die as such and such died, if we lived as they lived, and their end was peace; they "finished their course with joy"; why, then, should we fear any evil in that melancholy valley?
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.
Homilist.I. THE WORLD'S NEED OF SPIRITUAL LEADERS.
1. The great majority of every generation are uninventive, unaspiring, cringing, servile, thoughtless, ignorant. They not only walk in moral darkness, but lack the desire, if not the capacity, to struggle into the light of moral principles.
2. Clearly, then, they require spiritual leaders, men who shall point out to them the way of honesty, truth, purity, and holiness, marching before them in all the stateliness of the Christly morality.
II. THE GENUINE TYPE OF SPIRITUAL LEADERS.
1. The true spiritual leader must be a man. Not an idiot, not a charlatan, not a functionary. A "man" is a person who has right convictions of moral duty, and honestly embodies them in his daily life.
2. The true spiritual leader must be a man inspired by God. No man can be a true moral leader of the people who has not within him, as the all-animating and directing force, an unutterable abhorrence of wrong and an invincible attachment to the right, whose whole nature does not beat and beam with the soul of Divine morality.
III. THE DIVINE SUCCESSION OF SPIRITUAL LEADERS. They are all in the hands of God.
1. He takes the greatest spiritual leaders away by death.
2. He raises others to supply their place. One enters into another's labours.
I. THAT THE PERSON ORDAINED SHOULD BE CHOSEN OF GOD FOR HIS WORK. Moses asked the Lord to "set a man over the congregation," &c. (vers. 16, 17). "And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua," &c. So now the Christian minister should be —
1. Called by God to His work.
2. Appointed by God to his sphere of work.
II. THAT THE ORDINATION IS TO THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK.
III. THAT THE ORDINATION SHOULD BE CONDUCTED BY TRIED MEN.
IV. THE ORDINATION SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED WITH THE IMPOSITION OF HANDS.
V. THAT THE ORDINATION SHOULD INCLUDE A CHARGE TO THE ORDAINED, "Give him a charge." The duties and responsibilities of the office should be laid before those who are being set apart to it; and the experience of godly and approved men should be made available for the direction of the inexperienced. What wise and inspiring things Moses would say to Joshua in this charge! What sage counsels drawn from his ripe experience! &c.
VI. THAT THE ORDINATION SHOULD BE CONDUCTED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE PEOPLE. Moreover, such an arrangement —
1. Is more impressive to the person being ordained. There present with him are the immortal souls for whom he has to live and labour.
2. Tends to influence the people beneficially. As they hear of the important duties and solemn responsibilities of their minister, they should be awakened to deeper solicitude and more earnest prayer on his behalf, and to heartier co-operation with him.
VII. THE ORDINATION SHOULD CONFER HONOUR UPON THE PERSON ORDAINED.
VIII. THAT A PERSON SO CHOSEN OF GOD, SHOULD SEEK SPECIAL DIRECTION FROM HIM, AND SEEKING, SHALL OBTAIN IT.
1. A warning against self-sufficiency.
2. A source of encouragement and strength.
I. THE AFFECTING VIEW HERE FURNISHED OF THE AGENCY AND DOMINION OF GOD IN CONNECTION WITH THE HUMAN MIND.
1. God imparts the powers of the spirit. We have nothing self-derived.
2. He claims the affections of the spirit.
3. He heals the disorders and sympathises with the sorrows of the spirit.
4. He alone can constitute the happiness of the spirit.
5. He will decide upon the future destiny of the spirit.
II. THE MORAL USES OF THESE CONTEMPLATIONS.
1. Let them teach you reverence for the human mind.
2. Let them impress you with thoughts of the vast importance of personal religion.
3. Let them inspire you with practical efforts to benefit and bless society. By education-by missions, &c.
4. Let them kindle hope for the prospects of the human race.