And the LORD said to Moses, Why cry you to me? speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward:
We have been spared to see the beginning of another year, we may therefore think of ourselves as having reached a certain halting-place in our journey.
I. WE SHOULD BELIEVE IN CHRIST, AND ALSO OBEY HIM. Without believing in Christ, we have no true love to God in our hearts; and without love, we cannot give Him the obedience of children.
II. WE ARE TAUGHT HERE ALSO THAT WE SHOULD BOTH WORSHIP GOD AND WORK FOR HIM. I have heard of a heathen king who was wounded in battle, and who, in his dying hours, sending for his trusted servant, said to him, "Go, tell the dead I am come." That soldier-servant, without hesitating for a moment, drew his sword and stabbed himself to the heart, that he might go to the dead before his master, and prepare them for his coming. Oh! that we had this spirit of service and of sacrifice for the King of kings! In His dying hour, He also said to us, "Go, tell the dead, I come." He asks us to go to a world dead in trespasses and sins, to tell them of His coming, and to preach to them glad tidings of great joy. Alas! how many of us are content to worship Him, and say, "O King, rule for ever!" without spending and being spent, that His kingdom may come.
III. THIS PASSAGE FURTHER TEACHES US, THAT, WHILE WE ENJOY RELIGIOUS PRIVILEGES, WE SHOULD SEEK TO MAKE YEARLY AND DAILY PROGRESS BY MEANS OF THEM. We should become liker to Christ, and seek to learn more perfectly the language of heaven. Christ's work for us is complete. Christ's work in us is only begun, and God loves to see His believing children growing in likeness to that Elder Brother who is the very image of Himself. If you ask me why you should thus go on towards perfection, I answer —
1. It is the will of God. We are to be perfect as our Father who is in heaven is perfect; and we see, from all that goes on around us and within us, that this perfection is not to be reached by a single effort, or in a single day.
2. But not only should we go forward in obedience to the will of God; we should also feel that it is needful for our own sakes to obey our heavenly Father. For —
(1) If we refuse to go forward, it is ruin to our highest interests. On the lake of Geneva, some years ago, I saw a gloomy castle where prisoners used to be confined; and in it there was a dark dungeon, with a dreadful staircase, called the oubliettes. I was told that sometimes the keeper went to a poor prisoner confined in that dungeon-castle, and told him that now he was to obtain his life and liberty, and requested him to follow him. The prisoner was delighted, and left his cell, and went along very thankful and very glad, with hopes and visions of home and happiness. He reached the staircase I have spoken of, and was told to go down, step by step, in the darkness, that he might reach the castle gate, and so be free. Alas! it was a broken stair! A few steps down into the darkness, and the next step he took he found no footing, but fell down fifty or sixty feet, to be dashed to pieces among rocks, and then to have his mangled body buried in the lake. So the sinner thinks that the way of self-indulgence and self-pleasing he takes will give him all he wishes, but it leads to death. And if we willingly and knowingly go back to our sins, as the Israelites might have gone back with Pharaoh's hosts, our last condition will be worst than our first. But, as it is death to disobey, so —
(2) It is life to go forward in the way of obedience and persistent service. The pleasures of sin, indeed, we cannot have. But the Christian's is, after all, the better part. "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." We have the light of Christian knowledge, the blessings of religious faith, the hope of a happy immortality, and the blessedness of holy love. Before I conclude, let me give you this one counsel: Do not, as pilgrims of immortality, think lightly of little steps. These Israelites had to go all their long journey to Canaan one step at a time, and so it is with you. And, alas! you may go a far way from the path of duty, and the path of safety, though you only take one step at a time. And, as bad persons become wicked step by step, so it needs many little steps to go forward to the love and likeness of Christ. It was told of a painter, that he had "no day without its line." Every day he added some touches to his picture. So let it be with ours. Thus we shall make it liker and liker to Christ, the perfect image of the invisible God.
(W. H. Grey, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: