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Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah
These are the names of five women; the five women were five sisters; the five sisters were daughters of a man called Zelophehad. This man had five girls, but no boys. He was a quiet man, and took no part in a certain great rebellion against the Lord, in which Korah and his company justly perished. This man Zelophehad died in his own bed; he had committed no public sins; he had only sinned in the usual way, and died in the usual way, and so far there was an end of him. One day these five women put their heads together on a family subject. There was something that disturbed them, took away their sleep, and made them grievously discontented. The result of their deliberation was that they determined to make a public speech, and a great audience they had, viz., Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and the princes, and all the congregation of Israel, and they stood by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation and made their statement. They said, with wonderful conciseness of manner, keeping themselves strictly to facts, and coming to the point with admirable brevity: Our father died in the wilderness: he was not one of those who took part in the sin of Korah; he died quietly, not tragically; he had no sons, and according to the present law of Israel the name of our father dies, and it is just as if he had never lived, though he has left five girls who bear his name and love his memory; now we ask you to look at this case; it is peculiar; see if anything can be done under such extraordinary circumstances; and give us, women though we be, give us a possession in Israel, give us property in the land, create a legal status for us amongst the brethren of our father. It was a practical speech, and, as our judges say, it started quite a novel point. It was for Moses to say what should be done, but he could not speak on the spur of the moment, so he took time to consider, and "brought their cause before the Lord." The answer from heaven was, Certainly: the women ask only for that which is right; thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them, and out of this particular instance there shall arise a new law of succession in Israel, "If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter, and if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren, and if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren, and if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses." These are the circumstances which furnish us with our subject, and it will be for us now to discover what there is in them to instruct and comfort us.
1. The rectification of things that are wrong sometimes seems to come from man and not from God. Look at this case. It was the women themselves who began the reform. Providence did not stir first. The five women gave this reform to the economy of Israel. So it would seem on the face of the story, and many people look at the face and go no farther, and so they blunder and lie. Suggestions are from God. The very idea which we think our own is not our own, but God's. "Every good gift and every perfect gift... cometh down from the Father of lights." He inspires the prayer which he means to answer. He says, Arise, when he is prepared to meet us. An idea occurs to you, and you think it admirable, and call it your own; you will change your policy; enlarge your business; go to another town; strike out another line: you will alter the machinery, patent an invention, introduce yourself to a firm, and you think this is all your own doing. That is the fatal error. "We are fellow-workers with God." "He is Lord of all," of all good ideas, noble impulses, holy inspirations, sudden movements of the soul upward into higher life and broader liberty. This is his plan of training men. He seems to stand aside, and to take no part in some obviously good movements, and men say, "This is a human movement, a political movement, a non-religious movement," not knowing what they are talking about, forgetting that the very idea out of which it all sprang, came down from the Father of lights, that the very eloquence by which it is supported is divinely taught, that the very gold which is its sinew is his: they do not go far enough back in their investigation into the origin of things, or they would find God in movements which are often credited to human genius alone. We do not see all. The finest threadlets are hidden from us. Now and again, in a dream, we may catch a sight of the ladder connecting heaven and earth, but it is always there, the highway of angels, the path into the skies.
2. Everywhere the Bible is full of the very spirit of justice. It is the Magna Charta of the civilised world. This is the spirit that gives the Bible such a wonderful hold upon the confidence of mankind. Look at this case as an example. The applicants were women. All the precedents of Israel might have been pointed to as the answer to their appeal. Why create a special law for women? Why universalise a very exceptional case? Why not put these people down as sensational reformers? Yet, the case was heard with patience, and answered with dignity. O women, you should love the Bible! It is your friend. It has done more for you than all other books put together. Wherever it goes it claims liberty for you, justice for you, honour for you. Repay is service by noble endeavour to make it everywhere known. Not only were the applicants women, they were orphans. Their father dead, no brother to take their part, nothing left them but the memory of a man dead and gone. Yet the God of the Bible is their friend. He says, "They are right." He will not break the bruised reed. The weak are as the strong before him, and the friendless as those who are set in families. A God so just, so pitiful, so mindful of individual cases and special desires, is the God who will save the world! This God of justice is the God of love. We shall see more of him as we go from page to page of his book; one day we may see him on a Cross dying for man! Give any nation the Bible, and let that nation make the Bible its statute book, and every class in the community will have justice: masters will be just to their servants; servants will be just to their masters; family peace will be protected; social relations will be purified; common progress will be guaranteed. This spirit of justice is the social strength of the Bible. No life is to be tampered with; the small cause as well as the great is to be heard; no kid is to be seethed in its mother's milk; no fruit tree is to be cut down even in time of war; no bird's nest is to be wantonly destroyed; all men are to be honoured, helped, and saved. A book with a tone like this should be protected from the sneers of persons who have never actually studied its ennobling pages.
3. Every question should become the subject of social sympathy and matter of religious reference. These women were heard patiently. It is something to get a hearing for our grievances. Sometimes those grievances perish in the very telling; sometimes the statement of them brings unexpected help to our assistance. This case is what may be called a secular one; it is about land and name and inheritance; and even that question was made in Israel simply a religious one. It was not political. It was not an outside question. The Lord was King of Israel, and to the King the appeal must be made. Is Christianity farther from God than was Judaism? Are there some questions which we now take into our own hands? Does God take no interest in our merchandise, in our land, in our professions? Can he not still tell the physician what to do, the merchant what to buy, the mariner how to go, the lawyer how to plead? In ancient Israel, with its priestly system, men had to go to the leader and the priest first; in Christianity we can go straight to God; we have no priesthood but Christ; the way to the throne is open night and day. O wronged and suffering woman, tell thy case to the Father! O man, carrying a burden too heavy for thy declining strength, speak to God about the weight, and he will help thee with his great power.
In no history can there be found, save in the Bible, an equal number of charming female portraits. But the formative influence of female character as seen in the Bible must be referred to the pure and lofty religious ideas which the Biblical books in general present. If woman there appears as the companion and friend of man, if she rises above the condition of being a bearer of children to that noble position which is held by the mother of a family, she owes her elevation in the main to the religion of Moses and that of Jesus.... Bringing to bear on the domestic ties his own doctrine of immortality, our Lord made the marriage bond co-existent with the undying soul, only teaching that the connection would be refined with the refinement of our affections and our liberation from these tenements of clay in which we now dwell (Matthew 5:32 ; Matthew 19:3 , seq .; Matthew 22:23 , seq .). With views so elevated as these, and with affections of the tenderest benignity, the Saviour may well have won the warm and gentle hearts of Jewish women. Accordingly, the purest and richest human light that lies on the pages of the New Testament comes from the band of high-minded, faithful, and affectionate women who are found in connection with Christ from his cradle to his cross, his tomb, and his resurrection. These ennobling influences have operated on society with equal benefit and power. Woman, in the better portions of society, is now a new being. And yet her angelic career is only just begun. She sees what she may be, and what under the gospel she ought to be; and ere very long, we trust, a way will be found to employ in purposes of good energies of the finest nature, which now waste away from want of scope, in the ease and refinements of affluence, if not in the degradations of luxury a most precious offering made to the Moloch of fashion, but which ought to be consecrated to the service of that God who gave these endowments, and of that Saviour who has brought to light the rich capabilities, and exhibited the high and holy vocation, of the female sex.
Almighty God, teach us that a man must first come to himself before he can come to thee. Give us a considering mind. Help each of us to lock at himself as he really is, and to spare no searching into his condition, so that he may come to know that from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot all is wrong. We are only driven to prayer by hunger; we are turned towards heaven by pain and sharpness of discipline; for wherein we tread green pastures and rich wheatfields we soon become foolish, waxing fat and kicking against God. We are arrested by poverty; we are made to think by sickness; when the pain and fear of solitude seize the soul, then we begin to grope for thee. All this has meaning in it. Thou hast many servants; thy ministry is an incalculable host; fire, and sword, and vapour, and hail, and thick cloud, and all the beasts of the field are thine, and the stars in their courses fight against evil men, and the whole creation sets itself upon thy side. Thou hast made all things to wound the evil-doer. Thy universe becomes a serpent to bite the man who thrusts himself through a hedge. This is glorious; it is security; it is a proof of eternal defence. Thy throne is set in verity and judgment, and cannot be overturned; and they who set themselves against thee shall at last be flung down in mortal defeat. No man can fight against God and conquer. Thou art the Lord of hosts, the God of battle, a man of war; and to thy thunder there is no reply. But how good thou art to those that show themselves towards thee as children! Then thy grace is higher than heaven, more beautiful than summer, more persuasive than all we have ever known of music; then all things support and comfort them, and promise them immortality and heaven. May we be found in Christ; may we be found at the Cross; may our attitude be one of adoration and expectancy; and may our souls be satisfied with the words of heaven. We bless thee for a hunger which earth cannot appease, for a thirst which can drink up the rivers, and still be mad with the sensation of fire. This is our immortality; this is the declared image and likeness of God. Pity us wherein we are weak and foolish, and vain and self-considering; and pardon us wherein we are guilty before God of the breach of the whole law, and let the ministry of the Cross avail to redeem and reinstate, and to rekindle in the heart the lamp of hope. Be merciful unto us yea, so condescending as to touch us, to sit beside us, to breathe upon us, to explain secretly the word to our attentive hearts; and may we know of a surety that the Lord is near by a burning heart, a glowing love, an irrepressible desire to ascend into heavenly places, and a deep and sacred contempt for everything that would draw us downward, and fix our vision on perishable things. Amen.
Moses Ordered to Abarim
Here is a man receiving notice to prepare for death. We need not stumble at this reading as if it involved any impossibility, for if we were keener in vision, and more sensitive in response to providential intimations, we ourselves should know that it is quite common on the part of God to give men notice to quit this dark and narrow scene. The notice comes in various ways; but it certainly does come. We have the condemnation of death in ourselves. We know what we cannot always tell to other people. We are conscious of influences and actions which point in the direction of decay. Some men begin very early to die. That is wise. Dying should not be an act of closing the eyes in one little moment which is beyond the range of our reckoning. We may begin so soon to die as not to die at all. We should be familiar with death, and so reverently and religiously familiar with it as to abolish it Marvellous wonders can be done by expectation, by preparation, by accustoming the mind to certain issues and facts, so that when they transpire in the one critical moment which marks our history, we shall be superior to the event; the event which was expected to strike us on the head will sweep beneath our feet and pass on without leaving mark of wound or defeat upon us.
When we read these words we could amend the providence. It is marvellous how God exposes himself in Providence to adverse criticism. Only he could do this. Wooden gods make mechanical arrangements, and in their clockwork no flaw must be found, or down goes their deity. Never was any government so open to adverse comment as the government of the human family. Where is there a man so dull of mind that he could not amend the ways of God? God lets little children die before they can speak poor little speechless things that can only look their pain or smile their love. He allows good lives to pass away in the night time, so that in the morning they cannot be found. He permits vice for a time to ascend the highest places in the State, and to exercise the largest influence in human affairs, when he knows all the time that virtue is standing outside shivering with cold, wet with the dews of night, homeless, breadless, friendless. We cannot improve the sky, but who could not improve the earth? We cannot paint a lily without spoiling its beauty, but who could not raise into finer expressiveness of strength almost any human life? Things are so roughly huddled together. The men that ought to live a thousand years die before they touch the maturity of their strength; and gates that creak, creak on for ever, and lives destitute of fire and genius and nobleness, seem to be immortal. Why should Moses die? How we shall miss that man! It will be a sunset full of trouble. We do not want him to go, let Balaam die, if the heavens must needs look down on death. Balaam is a mighty man, a man of genius, of avarice and sensuality, combining the passions, why should not he die? He has been slain with the sword; but why might not he have been taken up to a mountain and made a specimen of in some grander way?
Not only does the Lord expose himself to adverse criticism, but he offends us morally. "For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin" ( Num 27:14 ). This makes us impatient. The punishment is out of proportion to the sin. These are little words; they take out of the occasion all its dignity. We are shocked. If the sin was so great, it should have been visited at the time. We ourselves being witnesses are bound to say Moses has deserved any Canaan under heaven. We must not allow our brother man to be run thus to earth. How, then, can we rid ourselves of the moral offence the pain of soul which afflicts us? By remembering that the fourteenth verse is really not in the history at all. The Speaker's Commentary very justly says this appears like a gloss. Even those who are not scholars feel that these words have no right to be here. We read on as if God were about to crown the man and to give him rest, saying, Noble soldier! thou hast done valiantly: come home and partake of the feast and enjoy the security of the immortals; instead of which, we begin to read about rebellion that happened long ago, and passions that had died out of the human heart, if ever they raged there. The words were written on the margin. We go back to find reasons for things, and with our blundering pens we often write on the margin our own condemnation. We will insert marginalia; we like to account for events. So, when some scribe had heard that Moses had been ordered into the mount of Abarim to see the land and hear the message of God, he began to wonder why; and then, going back in history, he found out the occasion of the rebellion in the desert of Zin, at the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, and accounted for the order to Abarim by that historical event. Do not let us attempt to account for everything. It is unprofitable work. Our great sphere of service, duty, and suffering is in the future. We shall find, in the long run, that those things, even in the divinest books, which have shaken our confidence, or offended our conscience, were only scribblings on the margin made by some ill-guided hand. Yet Moses himself might have written those very words, as we ourselves have done, on lower scales and on meaner occasions. When we have been driven into isolation, or had some heavy loss imposed upon us, or have been brought into very critical and bewildering situations, we have sat down to find the reason why, and in many a diary we have written this spiritual nonsense. We have thought of reasons, and magnified them, and fixed dates for events and causes for effects; and in the midst of our wisdom we have played the fool. The way of the Lord is right, and his judgment is good; verity and grace are the pillars of his throne.
All these things, which we mourn as untimely events, suggest that this life cannot be all. We are driven to that conclusion by events when we endeavour to resist it by logic. When the great preacher died at thirty-seven years of age, in the very act of retranslating the Bible into the latest speech of religious civilisation, we said, This is very hard. When the great missionary was just about to put on the top-stone of the temple he had built, and was taken away before he saw it finished, we said, This is cruelty, whoever did it. When the great leader has been smitten down just when the occasion became insufferably critical, and he alone seemed to have the power to overcome every difficulty, our hearts have sunk within us, and we have been too sorrowful to pray. Then we have had forced upon us the suggestion that this life cannot be all: there must be a place of explanation, there must be a time of enlightenment, there must be a heaven of reconciliation.
See how much out of place the fourteenth verse appears to be when Moses himself speaks: "And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd" ( Num 27:15-17 ). That prayer vindicates the character of Moses, a shepherdly prayer, an unselfish desire. He will not appoint one of his own family; he will have nothing to do with the thing personally and directly; it shall be God's action for it is God's Church, and he alone can make the bishop, the minister, and the guardian of the redeemed. In this very prayer Moses shows how appreciative he was of the difficulties of the situation. The only man who could undertake the work must be a divinely-selected and a divinely-appointed man. We cannot raise our leaders out of the ground: we must receive them from the opening heavens. If they can pray, they are God's gift to us; if they can speak the Word in small syllables so that little children may pick up somewhat of heavenly wisdom, they are God's great donations to the race. Herein is that word true, "I proceeded forth and came from God"; and herein, also, is that word true of the lesser servant, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." Moses held his office from the Lord. Every man must hold his appointment from the same hands, or he will be a hireling, tiring very early in the day, discontented with the service, stung by its disappointments, and overwhelmed by its responsibilities. Only Omnipotence can sustain a ministry of redemption.
Look for the consolations. They are abundant, but they can only be indicated by one or two examples. This interview took place between the Lord and Moses. Even if the sin was mentioned, it was mentioned in a whisper. Moses is not dragged forth before the whole congregation of Israel and condemned as an evil-doer. It was a secret interview. Jesus Christ had a secret interview with Simon Peter, who had denied him; they talked together on the lonely sea-shore, and what they said no man can tell. Moses was then honoured in the sight of Israel. "The Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him" ( Num 27:18 ). This does not read as if the sin were the active cause in the premature removal of Moses. The Lord recognises the whole ministry of his servant, and connects him with the past and with the future of Israel. "And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation" ( Num 27:19 ). Joshua was not called as Moses was called. Moses had his commission direct from the Most High; he was priest before Aaron prayed; but all other leaders are to be appointed otherwise, and have to pass the priestly recognition and receive the priestly touch. The Lord adds: "and give him a charge in their sight." This is not pouring contempt upon Moses; this is not visiting a sin upon the great and chivalrous leader; this is giving him crown upon crown, honour upon honour. This is the reading that the heart answers; the spirit of man says, This is the work of God. "And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord" ( Num 27:20-21 ). So Moses was still the leader of Israel. Good men are not cut oft ruthlessly. Such a sun as this is not allowed to set amid thunder-clouds and tokens of trouble. The man who thus closed his history did not die; let him go with his Lord somewhere, and let him pass upward without first going downward. It was the right end. The very mystery was part of the goodness; the concealment enlarged the dignity. They go well together, these two even the Lord and Moses; it is right that Moses should thus pass away. Do we ever hear of him again? We read of him in the account of the Transfiguration of Christ in another mountain. Moses and Elias appeared unto the Son of God to talk of the Exodus which he should accomplish at Jerusalem another Exodus. Moses had written one Exodus, Christ was to accomplish the spiritual decease or outgoing leading forth into liberty those who were held in the bondage of death. Do we ever hear of him at a remoter period of history? You will find the answer in the Revelation of John the Divine. When the seer listened to what was proceeding in heaven, he heard there the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. There is no speech about the sin in the desert of Zin, or the waters of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." God does not name their sins to his servants when they are about to die; He speaks to them of immortality, of heaven and higher service, of perfect and imperturbable rest. There is only one kind of forgiveness impossible, and that is self-forgiveness. God can forgive, but man cannot forgive himself; and it will be no wonder if in the dying time even what may be called the least sins should blot out the light of heaven: they will appear to be so great when looked at in contrast with the purity of God. Moses may have written the fourteenth verse, some scribe may have written it, it is not in the flow of the text, it is upon the margin of the book a suggested reason, rather than a divine visitation. If God were to mark our sins in this way, who could live? If man were to die for one sin, what man would be living? Read the whole passage together in its noble scope, its broad and urgent flow of thought and sentiment and sacred consolation, and you will find how God dismisses his servants: he gives them honour in the sight of the people; he crowns them on earth before he crowns them in heaven; the testimony they are enabled to leave behind them is an ascription of praise to him who sustained their life and energy. "What thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter." We wanted Moses to remain; we would have made him king of Canaan; we would have had a glad day when we touched the promised land together; the old man should still have been chief: we would have chaired him and throned him and gathered round him, and shouted acclaims of recognition and thankfulness and delight. That is the little heaven we would have made for him; and because God meant him for a greener Canaan, a fairer paradise, a larger sphere of service and worship, we complain, or wonder, or suspect. Have we lost dear friends? Let us weep for ourselves, not for them. Have we stood at the grave, wondering how deep it is and how dark and awful? Let us rather look up into the blue heavens, rich with morning glory, and say concerning dearest loved ones, They are not in the grave, they are risen. "Risen" is a height which has no measurement, an altitude that may go up for ever, a word of poetry rather than of literal definition. Risen! always rising still ascending. Inquire for the liberated soul at any moment, go back to the point where last you left him, and some angel will say, "He is not here, he is risen"; a speech worthy of an angel.
Almighty God, thou hast called us to the tent of meeting. We heard thy voice in the night time, and it spake of morning morning life, and morning hope, and morning hymns of praise. We were not disobedient to the heavenly trumpet; we heard its call, we answered its peal; we are here in the appointed place, and we wait the revelation of thy presence. Thou wilt not disappoint the expectation of love; thou wilt hasten to meet us; and whilst we are crying for thee to come, thou wilt prove by some touch, or glance, or odour of unknown flowers, that thou wert in the place before us, and waiting for those who supposed they were crying for thee. Thou art the first alway; no man may be in front of God. Thou art in the tent of meeting night and day; our coming is thy coming. Thou knowest our thought afar off, and before it is shaped into a purpose, behold, thou art standing at the altar. Thou hast called us all our life long: sometimes suddenly, always graciously, yea, though it has been along thorny ways, and up steep roads, and down amongst the stony places. Judging by these things, we have said, Surely the Lord hath not called us to these difficulties and burdens; he hath no pleasure in tears, and can find no delight in the distress of weakness. So our ignorance spoke; we knew not what we said: how could we? We know nothing; we are affrighted at the sound of our own voices: we feel as if in the company of someone unknown, when our own voice smites the ear. But we have lived to know that thy trumpet calls in all directions: to festival, to battle, to wedding banquets, and to mournful scenes. The trumpet is God's, the tone is God's, the tone is full of meaning varied according to thy purpose. We know all the meaning, though we cannot put it into words: we know the thunder, and have no pleasure in the sullen storm; we know the falling of the rain, and we bless thee that thou givest drink to the thirsty land; we know the sound of young voices, and take heart again under their silvery music. Speak, Lord, thy servants hear. If thou hast aught to say that the mid-day may not hear, and only the midnight can receive, call us up, that in the silence of eternity we may learn some lesson for the days of time. If thou canst speak to us in the great city, amidst tumult and roar, thy voice shall find its way to our heart, and we shall learn lessons of wisdom in the place of tumult and noise. We want to hear no other voice; we know thine by wisdom of our heart; we answer it as we answer none other with a glowing love, a spontaneous and vehement affection and trust. In this response we know that the joy of heaven begins. To answer thee is to gather strength for the duty which is imposed; to put forth the withered hand at thy bidding is to see it fully restored. We would do all thy bidding; we would carry out thine instructions to the letter; in all our ways we would acknowledge God, that our paths may be directed. We bless thee for this consciousness that thou art always speaking to us. We will listen for thee; we will hush almost the beating of our heart, lest we miss one tone of thy gospel. When we do not know which way to go, let us hear a voice in our ear saying, This is the way, walk ye in it. And when the roads are many in number, crossing one another in thick perplexity, let a light shine upon the road we ought to take, and we shall know that light to be the finger of God. We have walked upon wrong roads, but thou hast brought us back again. The wrong road is the heavy one; there is no rest in it: it does not go towards gardens, and still waters, and green pastures; but towards widening deserts, great wildernesses, and mockeries of stone. But thou hast called us home, and thy call has been an infinite persuasion. In obedience to it we stand before thee, claiming the name of Christ, trusting in the Cross of Christ, cleansed by the blood of Christ, made free by the Spirit of Christ. This is not our own doing; that we are here at all is God's miracle. Our hearts love the darkness and the tumult, and the altar of self-idolatry; and now that we find ourselves in God's house, and at Christ's Cross, we know that the victory is Heaven's. Regard all for whom we ought to pray. Thou needest not to be reminded of them, but by allowing us to think of them in prayer, thou dost ennoble and refine our love. Be with those who are in difficult places. Look pitifully upon men who cannot find the key of the high iron gate, or scale that gate who are standing outside barred against progress and liberty. Look upon those who are fighting ill-fated battles, to whom the morning brings no hope and the night no rest baffled, disappointed, sorely stricken. The Lord grant unto the soldier in the day of battle, and of fear, and of death too certain, confidence in right and truth and God. Pity those whose homes are battle-fields, though the war be fought many a mile away, for at home men die over again, and still worse death is died because of distance, imagination, and aggravated trouble. Comfort those to whom men may not speak, because of the sacredness of sorrow. Regard those who are on the sea, as if pursued by the winds, as if the storm were wreaking vengeance upon them, and tearing their frail ship to pieces; the Lord plant his footsteps on the sea, and make the storm a trumpet softening into gospel tones and filled with meaning which the heart alone can comprehend. Bring back the traveller; make his face radiant with joy; take the age out of his limbs, and let him run with the vigour of youth. Speak to the dying, and they shall not die. Touch the old man, and he will forget his earth-age in the hope of heavenly youth. Pardon our sin; it will make thy heaven higher if thou dost pardon penitent men yea, thine own Sabbath shall have a deeper calm because of this miracle of love. Bind our hearts together man and wife, parent and child, employer and employed, friend and friend; consolidate the people; fill them with the Spirit of Christ, in which Spirit there is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, circumcised nor uncircumcised; but an infinite life of pureness, and love and hope. Amen.
"Handfuls of Purpose"
For All Gleaners
"A man in whom is the spirit." Num 27:18
The spirit is the man. As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." There is no mistaking the true spirit. It is one of ardour, purity, self-sacrifice, unquenchable earnestness. We only know the true spirit by the effects which appear in the life. It is in vain to say we have the Spirit unless we bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Genius is the gift of God. The spirit of poetry is a gift sent down from heaven: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." The spirit was given to Be-zaleel and those who worked with him in connection with the tabernacle. The spirit we are to cultivate is the "spirit of judgment and of burning"; we are not to judge the spirit exclusively by what may be called romantic effects; the spirit may be shown in love, tenderness, simplicity, unselfishness: whatever effects may be displayed that are not accompanied by these graces are mere fireworks, utterly destitute of spiritual value. Here again another side is suggested by the text. We cannot disguise the evil spirit. That spirit is noticeable in the very tone of the voice, and in every manner and action of the life. It is a spirit of sneering and repulsion, mistaking rudeness for frankness, and even in its most reckless manifestations planning its own safety and honour. As for the indwelling Spirit of God, we have often need to adopt the caution not to judge by appearances, but to remember that God looketh on the heart. It is everywhere taught in the New Testament, that if we really desire the Spirit it will be granted unto us. The great and solemn prayer which should begin every day is, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Blessed are they who, without renown, riches, genius, have yet the spirit of a sound understanding and a devout loyalty to the doctrine and life of Christ.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 27". Parker's The People's Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent