The Two Banners
Numbers 2:32-34
These are those which were numbered of the children of Israel by the house of their fathers…

We can easily guess how in days of ancient warfare the standard was of much practical use. When it moved forward, then the warriors took up sword and shield and also advanced. When it halted, then they prepared to encamp around the station of their own particular standard. The devices of these old flags suggested a kind of primitive heraldry, and they knew where at once to find their loaders, or to rally for the last desperate defence! As in thought we float along the stream of history, we recall the brazen eagles of Rome, clasping which the legionaries took that solemn oath of fidelity which taught to the soldiers of Jesus that word "Sacrament," which to us means so much! Then we may remember how the cloak of St. Martin became the standard of the Frankish host, or how the sacred banner of mediaeval France was the renowned "Oriflamme." In England's history, too, we have the story of the great car which, surmounted by three flags, was the central point of the bloody "Battle of the Standard"; or we may sorrowfully think of that sad day when our country was torn asunder by internal strife, and the unfortunate Charles, king and martyr, raised his royal standard on a stormy day on the Castle Hill at Nottingham, and which was that very day blown down by the furious blasts — a sad and ominous beginning, which proved too truly prophetic. Lastly, there flashes across our memory that familiar story of Nelson ordering the flag of old England to be nailed to the mast, which has become a proverbial expression for pluck and resolution! But these legends of old times have for the Christian a lesson. There is a great conflict going on around us, a spiritual warfare of most real and eternal significance. Between the Church, which is the army of Christ, and the dark hosts of hell, the struggle seems daily to wax hotter and become more intense. The leaders on either side display their banners. "That of Satan," says an old writer, "is set up in the market-place of Babylon. It is inscribed with the alluring words, 'riches,' 'pleasures,' 'honours'; but these inscriptions are not to be trusted. Were they rightly inscribed they would assuredly bear instead, 'impiety,' 'idolatory,' 'impurity,' 'injustice,' and 'hatred against God.' But these true names he conceals with a dazzling magic, so that men are caught unawares by his false promises!" Under the standard of the Evil One are gathered together and assembled by him both evil spirits and bad men. These he sends forth throughout the whole world, that they should deceive and ruin the souls of men. To each of his adherents he gives a banner, a net, arid chains. The flag that they may allure, the net that they may capture, the fetters that they may bind fast their captives. But see on yonder side. From that dark valley, up those steep slopes, there comes a mighty host. Many drop off, many fall back, but still they pour on upwards. The sunlight of heaven rests on their helms, and before them comes borne aloft a mighty banner. It is the Standard of Jesus. Eighteen hundred years ago it was set up in the valley of humiliation at Jerusalem. Now He, the King of Humility, the Prince of Peace, is in the midst of His people, whose ranks He gazes on with loving eye. On His banner there is written, in letters of light and truth, the words, "repentance," "a Christian life," "paradise," "heaven!" Our Lord Jesus also sends His ministering servants throughout the world — angels, apostles, priests, and all who seek the saving of men's souls and the welfare of their bodies; bidding them teach the emptiness of earthly treasures, the true riches of penitence and faith; and that they should instruct all to persevere with patience till the golden gates are in view. The soldiers of Jesus advance, holding on high His banner, knocking at the door of all hearts, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is nigh"; "Take My yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest." These invitations are given in various ways, and by different methods; sometimes by good thoughts infused by the Divine Spirit into the soul, sometimes by useful words and pious writings, sometimes by good examples. Through all these ways and channels the Saviour speaks to us. They who listen, they who obey, follow His standard. Thus, with many alternations, the great battle goes forward, with its separate host on either side and its two standards. Under which will you fight?

(J. W. Hardman, LL. D.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: These are those which were numbered of the children of Israel by the house of their fathers: all those that were numbered of the camps throughout their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.

WEB: These are those who were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers' houses. All who were numbered of the camps according to their armies were six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty.

Contentment and Obedience
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