The house of Joseph also attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them.
Into the motives that actuated him we need not pry. Chief of all was the great one of self-preservation. Was it honourable? Was it right for the soldiers of God to make use of such an instrument? There may have been other considerations that had weight with him. It might have been virtuous to resist the offer: was it necessarily vicious to yield to it?
I. THERE ARE MANY WHO HELP THE TRUTH FROM LOWER MOTIVES WHO MIGHT DO SO FROM HIGHER. Expediency; public benefits of religion; ties of relationship; reputation. How great the blessing to Christ's cause if the same things were done from higher motives!
II. THEY ARE BLESSED, BUT NOT AS THEY MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN. A better service would have secured a higher reward.
III. THEY CANNOT BE RELIED UPON, AND THEREFORE MAY NOT BECOME PART OF GOD'S PEOPLE. The conquering host could not trust the traitor whose help had won them the city. He must go forth with his reproach. Many churches contain the elements of weakness and ruin because they have failed to exercise a wise censorship over those admitted to their communion. The true Church is composed of those who serve God from the purest motives. - M.
The house of Joseph... went up against Bethel; and the Lord was with them.
This work of the house of Joseph which they went about, namely, to take this city Bethel, as God had injoined them, doth lively set before our eyes the duty of all God's people, that is to say, readily to go about and set upon the work that God hath appointed them, yea, and this is to be done, whatsoever discouragements may stand up in the way to hinder them. For hath not He commanded them? And is not He able to remove those impediments, rather than they shall hinder His work in the hands of His servants? For otherwise, if we look not to God by faith, but what let is in the way, and be hindered thereby, we shall cast the commandment of God behind our back, and do as they who observe the wind, and therefore sow not; and look too much to the clouds, and therefore reap not; and so for fear of inconveniences we shall let pass necessary duties. Again, when we thrive and have good success, we bless God, and are merry; but if we be crossed, we curse ourselves with impatience. Whereas it ought to be enough to us, that God hath brought it to pass either thus, or otherwise. And beside the authority He hath over us, His bountiful rewarding of us in His service, ought to encourage us to address ourselves to all such work; and not only so, but further, seeing He commandeth and would have us do it, as it may be most for our own ease, that is, willingly, readily, cheerfully; for the Lord loveth that, in all His service, as He loveth a cheerful giver. And we know (for our own parts) that men go untowardly about that work which they take in hand unwillingly. But I would that even they who are so, did go about that which they do by God's commandment cheerfully, and with delight for the Lord's sake; then should there many excrements be cut off from the infinite actions which are done in our lives, and with so much sin removed; many plagues and annoyances should be avoided from men's lives also.
The spies saw a man come forth
In this verse, where it is said that the spies met this man coming out of the city, somewhat is to be noted by occasion of the man and somewhat from the spies. By the man first, going in his simplicity out of the city (whether to save his life or upon some other necessary occasion), meeting with these spies, and falling into such a fright thereby, that either he must lose his life or betray the city (for the spies said to him, "Show us the way into the city and we will show thee mercy"). We may see what straits and difficulties we meet with in this life; for that peril which we neither fear nor once think of, may befall us, even to the hazarding of our lives, much more of our undoing, or the loss of the best of God's blessings that we enjoy, as wife, children, goods, dec. The Shunammite's child went into the field in the morning well, but died at noon. This we have to learn by occasion of the man. Now of the spies. The spies offered him kindness, if he would show them the way into the city; in that they dealt kindly with him, rather than roughly and cruelly, seeking such a matter at his hands, they did as became them. But he being one of the cursed nations, how could they promise him mercy? For though they did so to Rahab before, yet she turned to their religion; and so did the Gibeonites serve them as bondmen, and embraced their religion also. But no such thing can be said of this man, for he went unto the Hittites, out of the seven cursed nations, and dwelt there. I answer, we must interpret the laws of God against the Canaanites, and concerning the rooting them out, by mitigating them with this equity, that if they made peace with Israel, they should not root them out. And this appears by that which is written in Joshua, that these nations were rooted out, seeing none of them save the Gibeonites, made peace with the Hebrews. And this being so, teacheth all men to deal even with the bad kindly, and to be harmless toward them. And again, oh that we could deal pitifully, kindly, and lovingly with the miserable and the afflicted; and that all the gentlest means were used to reclaim offenders, of whom there is hope, such as are as this man of Bethel was, in great distress, which is not done but very rarely, and therefore is there much hardness of heart in those to whom it is neglected, and wilfulness, that carrieth them to all profaneness and impenitency.
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