When they came to the Valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes, which they carried on a pole between two men. They also took some pomegranates and figs.
I. THE SEARCH. The land passed over is indicated in a somewhat indefinite way. Contrast it with the definiteness of the tribal boundaries in Joshua (chapters 13-19). These were forty days of speculative and dangerous wandering, with no guiding cloud, though doubtless God protected them even when they felt not the protection; if for nothing else, for the sake of the faithful two who would yet serve his purposes and confirm his word. Forty days too of waiting in the wilderness of Paran - days, one may imagine, of much conjecture, full of apprehension to some, while by others ninny airy castles would be built, how soon to tremble at the first breath of God's approaching anger! Forty days was not much time to see even so small a land, geographically speaking, as Canaan. We know by our own land the ludicrous mistakes of travelers passing through it, and their sometimes serious mistakes; how they exalt exceptions into rules, and the eccentricities of the individual into the character and habits of the race. Live in a ]and, and then you shall report on it with the authority of experience. We have heard the story of the traveler who visited a Carthusian monastery in Italy. He admired the situation, and said to one of the monks, "What a fine residence!" "Transeuntibus," was the sad, satiric reply. If we wish to know the fatness, the beauty, and the safety of the land in which God's people dwell, we must have something more than forty days of superficial rambling. It is not Saul, with eyesight lost, and waiting at Damascus, crushed in spirit, for Ananias, who shall tell us how Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; but rather such a one as Paul the aged, thirty years later, sounding from the fullness of his experience, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12).
II. THE REPORT. After forty days riley came back, bearing on a staff between two of them the cluster of grapes - bearing it thus, as some think, because of its weight; as others, that the fruit might keep its shapeliness and bloom. And, indeed, along' with the pomegranates and figs, which were doubtless choice samples, this fruit was God's own beautiful testimony. Human messengers might differ and deceive, but these sweet silent messengers seemed to intimate that God had been making ready the land for his own people. So much for what the spies brought in their hands. But as to the verbal report, what a meager thing it is! As to the quality of the land, they content themselves with saying, Surely it floweth with milk and honey." Yes. God had said this very thing to Moses long before: it was the highest poetry of promise to speak thus; it was meant to excite large anticipations of something fertile and beautiful; but men who had been over the land for a personal inspection might have said something more prosaic and exact. Then as to the strong people, the walled towns, and the giants, God had indicated these very things as being in the future of his people, when he caused the fighting men to be numbered not long before. The report was meager, we may well believe, because not otherwise could it have been unanimous. As long as they kept to certain bare facts, and did not proceed to advise, the spies could agree, and yet it very speedily appeared how hollow their agreement was. Caleb and Joshua had to strike out their own path, no longer wasting time in trying to sustain vain compromises. - Y.
I. CONSIDER THE NARRATIVE ITSELF.
The place was called the brook Eshcol, because of the cluster of grapes.
Homilist.I. THE TRUE INQUIRERS INTO THE DIVINE WILL EVER HAVE THEIR REWARD. There are grapes for every student of God's Book.
II. THE REGION PROMISED TO THE GOOD IS RICH IN BLESSING. Their highest enjoyments on earth are only the taste of a few grapes of the heavenly world.
III. THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE HUMAN FAMILY HAVE EVER BEEN MARKED BY MEANNESS OF SOUL. Not only did these specimens fail to inspire the millions of Israel to go and take possession of the land, but even ten out of the twelve discoverers lost heart. Talk not of majorities!
1. The evil report. Not one word of encouragement do they offer — no reference do they make to that Divine protection which they had experienced during their perilous search — no exhortation do they utter, urging the people to obey the Divine command. Their report was essentially an "evil" one, calculated to dishearten the people — to raise prejudices in their minds. Now the conduct of these spies has always, and I think rightly, been regarded as illustrative of the conduct of those who are dismayed by the difficulties which attend a religious life. For it cannot be denied that these are numerous and formidable. This does not admit of a doubt and it ought not to be concealed.
2. Very different was the testimony which Caleb and Joshua bore. These faithful men thought and acted for themselves. Singularity for its own sake is always to be avoided, since it may arise from a desire to attract notice and thus be the mere offspring of vanity. But when truth is concerned, then, though we should stand alone, it becomes us to avow it. There never was a more false or dangerous maxim than that the voice of the people is the voice of God: it is much more frequently the voice of the devil — the voice of impulses which he has excited and of passions which he has stirred.
II. CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL LESSONS which this narrative suggests. Glimpses of the promised land! No Christian is without them, for there are foretastes of heaven even on earth.
1. There are glimpses of the promised land which we obtain by faith. God has discovered to us in His Word a better country, and though a wise reserve is maintained, yet much information is afforded us with regard to it.
2. There are glimpses of the promised land which we obtain when we possess the first-fruits of the Spirit. In the grace that you now receive you have a type of the glory which is yet to be revealed. In the peace which you now enjoy, you have a type of the perfect happiness you will soon experience. In the purity which you now possess you have a type of the spotless holiness in which you will be hereafter arrayed. In the communion which you now hold with God you have a type of that more intimate fellowship which is the privilege of heaven.
3. Glimpses of the promised land are often vouchsafed to the Christian at an early stage of his experience. But there was much for us to learn, and God sent us into the wilderness to learn it. After all, our experience was superficial — our feelings were stronger than our principles — our faith needed trial, and so, like the Israelites we have been "led about and instructed." Do not complain, therefore, because your experience is not what it once was. God gave you, at the outset of your Christian career, a glimpse of the promised land, and the memory of this may cheer you now when you mourn because of the travel and toil of the wilderness.
4. Glimpses of the promised land are often enjoyed by the believer at the close of life. This is not invariably the case, but it frequently is so, as a reward for eminent piety.
(H. J. Gamble.)
1. First, I console you with the Divinely sanctioned idea that your departed friends are as much yours now as they ever were. That child, O stricken mother! is as much yours this morning as in the solemn hour when God put it against your heart and said as of old, "Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give thee thy wages." It is no mere whim. It is a Divinely-planted principle in the soul, and God certainly would not plant a lie, and He would not culture a lie!
2. But I console you again with the fact of your present acquaintanceship and communication with your departed friends.
3. I console you still further with the idea of a resurrection. On that day you will get back your Christian dead. There is where the comfort comes in. And oh, the reunion; oh, the embrace after so long an absence! Comfort one another with these words.
(T. de Witt Talmage.)
(Dean Law.)— Land-birds of beautiful plumage greeted Columbus days before his eye caught a glimpse of the New World. A more southern voyager found himself in the fresh water of the Amazon before discovering the continent whence they came. So at the close of life's voyage do birds of paradise come hitherward, careering on bright wings, and the river of life sends its refreshing current far out into the briny sea of this world.1 Kings 7:18), embroidered on the priest's garments (Exodus 28:33).
I. Our religion should be DELIGHTFUL. The pomegranate is delightful to every sense; for it gladdens the eye, and is a favourite ornament. Its leaf is bright green and lustrous; its wood is yellow and graceful; its blossom is well shaped and scarlet. The good is the beautiful, beautiful with God's beauty. The pomegranate is also very fragrant. It sweetens the air and breathes benediction all around. You should behold flowers and plants not with the eyes of the gardener who plants them, nor of the child who plucks them, nor of the merchant who buys them, but of the Christian who finds in them sweet suggestions of the love of God. The pomegranate is also delightful to the taste, for its juice is very delicious. It was also in Bible times very delightful to the mind: for, like the olive it was an emblem of peace. Invading armies cut down the fruit trees, and one of the first to fall before the sword and fire was the pomegranate, as it was a shrub rather than a tree. This was one reason why it was so popular, as it was a sign of long-continued peace. It was thus a token of the religion of peace.
II. Our religion, like the pomegranate, should be VERY USEFUL. It was good for medicine. Every part of it had healing virtue, and it heals several of the diseases that are most common in the East — sore throat, dysentery, &c. You know that all green things are literally for the healing of the nations. The religion of Jesus, when real in the heart, always sweetens the breath of society and heals many sores. Our plant is also good for drink. It is very juicy, and has a remarkable quality of quenching thirst in these hot climes. Its delicate juice is often manufactured into wine, and is a great favourite with the sick, and indeed with all classes. It is also good for food. Do not suppose that the religion of Jesus is good for the world to come but not good for this. It is the sincere Christian alone who gets out of this present life all the good it can yield him. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.
III. Our religion, like the pomegranate, should be VERY FRUITFUL — fruitful both in ourselves and in the world. When our Saviour speaks of the fruit bearing of His disciples, He means such rich fruit as you find on the Syrian soil, and under the wonder-working Syrian sun. We never see anything like it in our cloudy clime. Why, the seeds in one pomegranate might soon fill a grove, if none of them were spoiled. I was allured the other day to a splendid horse-chestnut. I pulled one of its blossoms, but I was disgusted with it, and at once flung it away. It was ruffled and bedashed with rain, bored through by flies, discoloured with dust — I flung away the ragged, blighted, deflowered thing. Many a beautiful and promising young life soon becomes like that outcast blossom. One of the darkest things to me in the world is the ease with which a fine young life is sometimes injured. But if you yield your heart early to Christ, and gladly take Him as your Teacher, Saviour, and Guide, how delightful, useful, and fruitful your life may become — it may grow as the pomegranate. You can set no bounds to the possibilities of good that belong to the very humblest Christian. A portrait of Dante was discovered lately; he was ,holding a pomegranate in his hand. Perhaps it had charmed the poet as an emblem of what he desired to be.
(James Wells, D. D.)
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