Numbers 14:25
Now since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and head for the wilderness along the route to the Red Sea."
Sermons
The Rule of the RoadH. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.Numbers 14:25
The Could not Enter in Because of UnbeliefW. Binnie Numbers 14:1-45
God grants the prayer of Moses for the people, and makes clear how small a boon it is by notifying at the same time their necessary exclusion from Canaan. The smallness of the boon compared with the greatness of the loss is still further shown when he goes on to make the promise to Caleb. Consider -

I. HOW CLEAR SUCH A PROMISE MAKES THE REASON WHY GOD'S PROMISES SEEM SO OFTEN UNFULFILLED. Men do not supply the conditions requisite for their fulfillment. The same claims, promises, and warnings were laid before others as before Caleb; but when they were rebellious he was obedient, and the end of it is indicated here. The law of sowing and reaping, of cause and effect, is at work. Let Christians consider how many promises given for the guidance and comfort of present life are yet unfulfilled in their experience. The power and disposition of God are toward us, as toward the Israelites, but the rebellious hearts are many and the Calebs few (Ephesians 1:19).

II. A BEAUTIFUL ILLUSTRATION OF SPECIAL PROVIDENCE. As we read on and learn that Caleb was to spend forty years in the wilderness before the fulfillment of the promise, then we discern how constantly he must have been under the eye of God, how. surely provided for and protected. He had known much of danger already: something as a spy and something as a faithful witness, and the lifting of stones against him was perhaps but an earnest of further perils from his own countrymen. And yet, although his wanderings were to be long and dangerous, God, speaking with that assurance which becomes God only, promises Caleb an entrance into the land at last. Who can tell what hearts this very promise made more hostile, and what special interpositions may have been required to protect him?

III. THE REASONS FOR GOD'S GRACIOUS TREATMENT OF CALEB. "He was a man of another spirit." Of another spirit as to his recollections of the past. The others thought much of the past, but it was in a selfish and groveling spirit. They hankered after the creature comforts and delicacies of Egypt, and continually bemoaned the simpler life of the wilderness. The ten misleading spies very likely took thoughts of Egypt into their inspection of Canaan, comparing it not with God's promises, but with what they recollected of the land they had left. On the other hand, Caleb's thoughts would run much on the bondage and oppression in Egypt. Humbly and devoutly observant of each wonderful work of God as it was being performed, be would have it more deeply impressed on his mind; and every time the thought returned there would be something of the power of a first impression. There would be the recollection also of God's forbearance and long-suffering with him in his own imperfect services. Of another spirit, consequently, as to his conduct in the present. To one who had learned to look on the past as he did, the present would appear in all its glory immeasurably better than the past. Hence, what made others mourn made him rejoice; while others were rebelling and hatching conspiracies, he was doing all he could to sustain Moses. May we not conjecture that be went on the search expedition not so much because he deemed it needful, as in order that one at least might bring back a faithful testimony? So let it be said of us that wherever the spirit of the world is manifested in greed, passion, false representation, or any other evil thing, we by our conduct in present circumstances, as they rise fresh and often unexpected day by day, show indeed another spirit. It is only by having the right spirit alive and strong within us that we shall be equal to the claims ever coming on Christ's servants. Of another spirit as to his expectations in the future. Every man who lives so that his present is better than his past has a growing assurance that the future will be better than the present. He who lives in the constant appreciation and enjoyment of fulfilled promises will consider the future as having in it the promises yet to be fulfilled. It would doubtless be a keen personal disappointment to Caleb when he found the people determined to retreat. He had known something of the future in the present when he visited the promised land, and joy would fill his thoughts at the prospect of speedy possession. A man of such a spirit as Caleb gives God the opportunity of accomplishing all his word. "He hath followed me fully." As fully, that is, as was possible for a sinful man in earthly conditions. God does not expect the service of glorified spirits during the life we live in the flesh. But wherever he finds diligence, caution, the spirit that says, "This one thing I do;" wherever he finds the loving heart, the giving hand, the bridled tongue, he is not slow to give approval. When the heart is fully set towards him, without division and without compulsion, he recognizes such a state in the most emphatic language. Hence, in spite of great blots faithfully recorded, Abraham is called the friend of God (James 2:23), and David the man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). So Caleb is described as having followed God fully; not that he was a faultless man, but there was that in him which in due time would make all the outward the full and beautiful expression of the inward. God sees the fruit within the seed, and speaks accordingly. Compare Caleb with the unbelieving multitude, and the words will not appear one whit too strong. Note in conclusion that Caleb was now required to exercise the high quality of patience. He himself deserved immediate entrance, but he must wait while the unbelieving generation died away, and those who at present were only striplings and infants rose to take their place. He had to be patient, but his patience was the patience of hope. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (Lamentations 3:26). Caleb had a spirit within him which could find the best things of Canaan even in the waste wilderness ('Paradise Regained,' 1:7). - Y.







The wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.
Every traveller has heard of the "rule of the road," which must be obeyed in order to avoid accidents. There are certain rules of the road also to be observed by the pilgrim band on our journey to the Eternal City.

1. First of all, there is only one road for Christ's people to walk in. Walk in the old path, the King's highway, the way of God's commandments. And this road of ours is by the way of the Red Sea — the Red Sea of Christ's most precious blood! We must always keep in sight of that.

2. Here is another rule of the road; do the duty which is nearest to you. There is an old English parsonage somewhere by the sea which has this sentence carved over its porch, "Do the next thing." Let it be our motto. Some of us do nothing, because we do not know where to begin; we are thinking of next week, when to-day's duty stands before us. Each day brings its own work; let us try to do it faithfully, prayerfully, cheerfully, trustingly, and then we may be sure we are going forward in the right way.

3. Another rule of the road is: be brave, " only be strong and very courageous." Be brave enough to do what is right, no matter at what cost. The world will laugh at you, sneer at you, misjudge you. "Trust in God and do the right."

4. Here is another rule of the road: be neighbourly. Never forget that you belong to one family, one army on the march — the Holy Catholic Church. Naturalists tell us that the pine tree is one of the most inhospitable, just as the oak is the most kindly, of trees. Beneath the shadow of the pine tree all is bare and desolate. No primrose opens its bright eyes there, no wild rose clings, no woodbine blossoms. There are some people like the inhospitable pine tree, they live only for themselves, and never offer help, or comfort, or shelter to another. Let us try by God's grace to make our path of life bright for others, not sad and desolate, like the pine wood.

5. Yet another rule of the road: keep in the sunshine. On the journey through life there is always a sunny side for the Christian. A certain king once asked a famous general if he had seen the eclipse of the sun, and the Duke of Alva answered that he had too much to do on earth to have time to look up to heaven. Ah! if any of us are melancholy, discontented, it is because we are looking too much at the earth, and not lifting up our eyes to heaven. I say to you, come out of the gloom of your own thoughts into the sunshine, and thank God — "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."

6. One last rule of the road now: remember the road leads home. In all earthly journeys, however long and tiring, this thought always strengthens the traveller — I shall soon be home. Home, even an earthly home, is the central spot of every man's life.

(H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

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