And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.
The mass of this mixed multitude which left Egypt with Moses, would consist of foreign settlers in the Delta, victims, like the Hebrews, of the tyranny of the Pharaohs, and, like them, glad to take this opportunity of making their escape (cf. Exodus 1:10). The enthusiasm of a great body of people is contagious. When the Israelites left Egypt, numbers would be moved to leave with them. Recent events, too, had doubtless produced a powerful impression on these mixed populations; and knowing that God was with Israel, they naturally expected great benefits from joining the departing nation. They had not calculated on the trials of the desert, and afterwards "fell a-lusting" (Numbers 11:4), provoking Israel to sin, and bringing wrath upon the camp.
I. MULTITUDES JOIN THE RANKS OF THE CHURCH WHO HAVE LITTLE IN COMMON WITH HER SPIRIT AND AIMS. They are like the mixed crowd of hangers-on, which left Egypt with Israel. Their ideas, traditions, customs, maxims of life, habits of thought and feeling generally, are foreign to those of the true Israel of God. Yet they are moved to join the Church -
1. From motives of self-interest.
2. Under transient convictions.
3. Caught by a wave of religious enthusiasm.
4. Under partial apprehensions of the importance of religion.
5. Because others are doing it.
They hang of necessity on the outskirts of the Church, taking little interest in her work, and acting as a drag upon her progress.
II. THERE ARE MANY BY WHOM THE CHURCH WILL NOT BE BENEFITED, WHOSE ADHERENCE SHE IS YET NOT ENTITLED TO REFUSE. The "mixed multitude" were not forbidden to go with Israel. Because, perhaps, they could not altogether be prevented. It is kindlier, however, to believe that Israel allowed the mixed crowd to accompany it, in the hope of ultimately incorporating them with the people of Jehovah. The Church is certainly not at liberty to encourage nominal adherence. She must do her very utmost to dissuade men from mere empty profession. Neither to swell her numbers, nor to add to her wealth, nor to increase her respectability in the eyes of the world, nor under a mistaken idea of "comprehension," must she open her doors to those who are known to be ungodly, or who give no evidence of serious religious intentions. Yet neither must she draw her lines too stringently. She must not presume to judge the heart, or to deal with men otherwise than on the ground of their professed motives and beliefs. She must teach, exhort, warn, and rigorously exclude all whose lives are openly inconsistent with the Gospel; but she must at the same time exercise great charity, and rather include ten who may possibly prove unworthy, than mistakenly exclude one whom Christ would be willing to receive. The responsibility in the matter of religious profession must, in great measure, be allowed to rest with the individual who professes. The Church is to consider, not only what is best for her, but the duty she owes to the world, in laying hold of those who are yet very imperfect, and training them for Christ.
III. NOMINAL ADHERENTS, HOWEVER, ARE NO SOURCE OF STRENGTH, BUT A GREAT WEAKNESS TO THE CHURCH. It may be the Church's duty to bear with them, but she can never derive benefit from them. She may benefit them, and in that hope should treat them tenderly, but they will never benefit her. They will be a drag upon her activity. In proportion to their numbers they will exert a chilling and detrimental influence. They will stand in the way of good schemes. They will "fall a-lusting," and provoke discontent. The morale of a Church can scarcely avoid being lowered by them. What then? Put them out? Not so. We shall work in vain to separate tares and wheat, and we are forbidden to act on this principle (Matthew 13:24-31). But,
1. Let us do what we can to keep down their number. Many churches and church office-bearers are greatly to blame for the indiscriminate way in which they receive persons to communion. We are bound to abide by the principles above laid down; but consistently-with these principles it should be our care to keep down nominal adherence as far as that is possible. Many of the character of the "mixed multitude" will find their way into the Church without our seeking for them, or giving them any encouragement.
2. Let us do what we can to change their nominal adherence into real adherence. Seek their good. Be not overcome by their evil, but try to overcome it by superior goodness.
3. Beware of their influence, and seek to keep it in check. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.