Do not despise an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land.
The sting in God's curse is its irreversibleness. The bitter draught is dashed with mercy when we have prospect that it shall cease.
I. THE CONDUCT OF SOME MEN IS A STRANGE ADMIXTURE OF GOOD AND BAD. There were some fine traits in Esau's character commingled with coarse and selfish obstinacy. Light was interfused with darkness. The treatment of Israel by the Edomites was not the most friendly, nor was it decidedly hostile. It was marked by haughty reserve rather than by malignant hostility. So also the Egyptians were not wholly antagonistic to Israel. For more than four hundred years the Hebrews had found sustenance and shelter in Goshen. If the last Pharaoh had oppressed them with bitter bondage, a former Pharaoh had blest them with unusual kindness. From desolating famine, Egypt had shielded them. This shall not be forgotten; it shall temper chastisement. The remoter peoples shall be admitted to God's kingdom, while those nearer at hand shall be excluded.
II. SUCH CONDUCT RECEIVES DUE MEASURE OF CHASTISEMENT. It is impossible to entertain the best feelings of affection towards such persons. Yet we are to be just in our estimate of them. We are not to fasten our eyes only on the dark side of their characters. As far as it is possible we should be generous in feeling. "Thou shalt not abhor them." The present generation of such, and their children, shall be excluded from the privileges of the righteous. But there the ban shall terminate. If children of wisdom, we shall endure such chastisement with patient resignation -
"For patient suffering is the link
That binds us to a glorious morrow."
III. THE INHERITANCE OF BLESSING IS IN REVERSION. "Weeping may endure for a night: joy cometh in the morning." The night is temporary; the day will be eternal. However dark be their present lot under the frown of Jehovah, the light of hope shines beyond - lights up the future. We live in our children. It alleviates our present burden when we are assured that our children shall be exempt. More often should we stand in awe of sin, if we did but perceive the miseries we were entailing on posterity. The revelations of the future are a valuable guide for the present. - D.
The Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing.
Here a difficult question meets us. Was there any reality whatever in Balaam's curse! Or was it altogether a harmless thing — in fact, nothing at all? If there was nothing in it, why should it have been averted Why should it be said that God "would not hearken unto Balaam"? Why not let it be pronounced? The result would have shown that there was no power or reality in it. On the other hand, it is difficult to suppose that such power could reside in a curse, especially when spoken by such a man as Balaam. One thing is certain, that God Himself never did give false prophets power to curse. Could they, then, derive it from any other quarter? Why not from Satan? No creature is absolutely independent; all are instruments in the hands of another. If through grace we have been placed in the kingdom of light, then we are instruments in the hands of God. If we are in the kingdom of darkness, we can only he instruments in the hands of Satan; a curse and not a blessing to others. Now, heathenism is one great territory of Satan's power — one chief part of his kingdom of darkness. He reigns supreme there. We believe, then, that within the sphere of his kingdom of darkness Satan has power to employ false prophets as his instruments — has power to enable them to curse, and to fulfil their curse when pronounced. The conflict here, then, was not merely one between the king of Moab and Israel, but between the kingdom of light in Israel and the kingdom of darkness in Moab and Midian. Balaam's curse would have been the utterance of the power of darkness; but he was obliged, however reluctantly, to confess his impotency before God. It was an act of Divine power when God turned the curse into a blessing. It showed His watchful care and love towards His people. And what is it that God is accomplishing now by the gift of His son and the power of His grace, but turning the curse into a blessing? Oh, there is a widespread curse, which has long been resting upon this guilty world, the curse pronounced on man's disobedience; and what makes it so awful is, that it is a righteous curse. Wherever we look we see its tokens — man doomed to a life of weary labour, suffering from different kinds of sickness, and at last seized with the irresistible hand of death; so that St. Paul says, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." But to the children of God this three-fold curse is changed by the grace of God into a blessing. Look at the lowest element of the curse, that of labour, according to the sentence, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." How wearisome is ceaseless toil in itself! But to the true Christian how different is toil and labour! He consecrates his powers to Him who has redeemed him with His precious blood! Or look at sickness. What is it but the visible reflection of a spiritual disease within? If the image of God had not been obliterated from the soul by sin there would have been no sickness or sorrow in the world. No miracle is exerted to exempt the Christian from this trial. But its nature is changed; there is no longer any curse in it. How many can bless God for it, painful as it may have been — can bless God for His sanctifying and sustaining power — for the near communion with Jesus which they then enjoyed — for the hallowed impressions made upon their souls; and, most of all, for the manifestations of God's faithfulness and tenderness — of His power and gentleness. But of all the elements of the curse the most manifest and the most awful is death — so universal in its reign — so tremendous in its power — so mysterious in its nature. We can scarcely stand by a dying bed without the question pressing itself upon our thoughts — oh, why this convulsion? Why this distressing and humiliating close to our life here? One answer can only be given — It is because of sin. "Death passed upon all men in that all have sinned." To the Christian its sting is drawn. It is but the rending of the veil which separates his soul from the visible presence of his Redeemer.
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