THE GOSPEL IN NUMBERS: The Invitation
THE INVITATION"One day Moses said to his brother-in-law, Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, We are journeying unto the place, of which the Lord said, I will give it to you--come with us, and we will do you good--for the Lord has spoken good concerning Israel." Numbers 10:29.
Israel's sojourn round the mount is over. The pillar is about to wave its beckoning hand. The silver trumpets are prepared to sound. The happy tribes are ready for the march. Soon all will be an onward progress toward the promised land.
The sight strongly arrests a Christian heart. Who can survey it, and not cry–'Blessed are those who follow a preceding God! Father, lead me, guide me, keep me to the end!'
At this moment the eye of Moses turns with tender yearning to his kinsman Hobab. He for a while had been the comrade of these tribes. Thus he had learned, that they were God's peculiar care. The mighty proofs of present Deity were all familiar to his mind. But outward evidence alone conveys not inward grace. He is not fixed. His feelings fluctuate. He hesitates. He casts a lingering look towards the attractions of an early home. The former ties retain their hold. The well-known scenes allure him back. Like Lot's wife, his eyes look back. While Israel girds the pilgrim-garb, he deliberates on going back.
Moses well knew, that to return was wreck of soul. It is no gain to move from God. There is no profit in forbidden paths. Happiness departs, when God is left. All earth is but a barren waste, without the dew of grace. All is a void, unless God smiles and fills.
Moses had the experience of the better choice. He scorned the courtly pomp. He had trampled on all Egypt's treasures. He had embraced affliction with God's people. And he had found God's favor to be wealth of wealth--the joy of joys.
Reader, make God your own, and you have all. To barter Him for lower things, is to clasp a shadow--snatch a husk--pursue a mocking candle--lean on a broken reed. There is no poverty like a worldling's lot. What is a crown upon a godless head? What is a scepter in a graceless hand? What is all gold to an impoverished soul? What were the plains of Sodom to ease-seeking Lot? Had Lazarus or Dives the happier heart?
Moses beholds the doubting Hobab. He pities--and he sincerely would win him to a wiser choice. Therefore he thus tenderly expostulates. "We are journeying to the Promised Land. Come with us and we will do you good, for the Lord has promised good things to Israel!"
He states the fact. We are indeed a moving camp. Our rest is yet far off. But we advance not as uncertainly. We follow no deceiving guide. There is a home conspicuously bright in view. It glitters in the rays of heavenly pledge. God's love, and word, and power, secure it.
And then he pressingly invites, "Come with us." Turn not away. Recede not to a heathen land. Join not again the people, whose home is darkness--whose walk is misery--whose end is woe. But cleave to us. All good is then your portion. We move not blindly. God's voice is gone forth, strewing blessings round us. Goodness and mercy from His courts walk, as companions, by our side. He dwells in us. We dwell in Him. Come then, come then with us.
So Moses reasoned--so he called.
1. His invitation shows FAITH'S HAPPY STATE. It is a mirror reflecting the features of calm trust. Full faith has eagle-eye. It penetrates all earthly mists. It gazes steadily on Zion's highest light. It is content to live a stranger-life on earth. It would not settle in this thorny nest. It would not lie down beside such poison-streams. This climate is too cheerless. It looks aloft. Its true affections center round a purer scene. So daily it moves forward. And nightly realizes, that an upward step is made. We are journeying unto the promised place.
What is this place? Faith gazes--it ever gazes with increasing rapture--but it fails fully to describe.
It is rest. The happy inhabitants go no more put. No further step is needed. No loftier summit can be scaled. The pilgrim lays aside his staff, and sits down in undisturbed delight. The warrior's wounds are healed. His struggles and his conflicts cease. The watch-tower is exchanged for sure repose. The sword has found its sheath. The shield wearies the arm no more. No foe can enter into victory's domain. Reader, do you not long to reach it?
It is perfect purity. Earth's misery is sin. Saints groan, because they so often stumble. The constant struggle and the frequent fall cause anguish. The flesh is weak. Temptations fiercely and most craftily assail. The garments contract stains. But in this place sin cannot come. The tempter is barred out. No step again can be unclean. No thought again can go astray. Heaven would not be welcome to a new-born man, unless it were one flood of godlike purity. Reader, do you not long to reach it?
It is joy. Where sin is absent, peace must reign. Where God is present, happiness must overflow. Heaven is a boundless ocean, in which each swelling wave is pleasure in the highest. It is a prospect ever widening, in which each scene is rapturous delight. It is skies, forever brightening, in which each orb is sparkling ecstacy. It must be so--for love is the one pulse in every heart--praise is the endless sound from every lip--hallelujah the one ceaseless echo. The blessed cannot cease to sing, because fresh views of their thrice-blessed state continually arise. It must be so--for they behold the glories of their Lord--not in dim distance--not through the varying medium of faith--but near, and never to depart--but clear, and ever clearer. Transporting joy! daily to read new glories in the face of Christ--daily to dive into the deep wonders of the love of God. Reader, do not you long to be there?
Faith holds the title-deeds of this celestial mansion. The word is spoken. "I will give it to you." It is a gift--and a gift worthy of the God, who gives--worthy of the blood, which bought--worthy of the Spirit, who calls to it. No human merit pays the price. No human strength can scale the steps. No human hand opens the gate. Some proudly hope for heaven, as if they had some claim. But none go proudly in. They all fall low before the throne, shouting glory to free grace--Salvation to the Lamb--"Christ is All."
But it is sure. "I will give it to you." Who utters this wondrous promise? Even the Lord, whose might is almightiness--before whom all men, and all the hosts of hell, are nothing, and far less. Let every foe swell into millions of ten millions--let all their power be thousand-fold increased--His arm can shiver them to dust--His breath can drive them, as a feather on the hurricane's wing. The Lord, whose word is truth--whose counsels are immutability--whose purpose ever stands--says, "I will give it to you." Faith hears and knows, that every wave and every gale convey it prosperously to the assured haven. "We are journeying unto a place, of which the Lord said, I will give it to you--come with us." Such is faith's happy state. Reader, have you this faith?
2. This invitation shows that FAITH IS AGGRESSIVE. "Come with us." Each heaven-set plant strives for expanse. True grace has one sure sign--it longs and labors to communicate its wealth. A saving view of Christ slays self--relaxes every icy band--widely extends embracing arms, and yearns to multiply delights. When the heart burns, the life must labor. Where is the fire, which emits no warmth? Where is the sun, which darts forth no rays? Thus the history of faith is a chart of plans and toils for Christ.
It looks around. It first marks the Hobabs of the home-circle. It stops not here. It takes a wider prospect. It surveys the neighboring abodes. It then mounts higher ground, and flies around the circumference of the native land. It still ascends, and in the telescopic gaze of love, it comprehends the world, with its broad circuit, and all its mass of people--kindred--tongues.
While it thus muses, what is the deep desire? Oh! that these souls might be the heirs of heavenly life! Their nature-state dooms them indeed to wrath. Their steps unturned must bear them down to hell. Their hearts unchanged must link them to the lost. But Jesus died, and in that death there is redemption. But Jesus lives, and while He lives, who can despair? If only they can hear of Him--if the sweet mercies of the Spirit help--if faith convey them to the cross--then soul-graves open--then endless misery flees, as night before the orb of day--then hell is robbed, and angels shout.
While faith thus pants with longing hopes, it asks, 'How shall this be?' The answer is at hand. God tells what aid must be employed. The means are the clear proclamation of the Gospel-truth. And this proclamation is from preachers' lips. Then preachers must be sent forth. The men of God, with Christ on their lips--the Bible in their hands--must take their stand between the living and the dead. They must lift high the Gospel-beacon amid a lost world's night. Rejoicing in their known salvation, they must importunately urge, "We are journeying unto the place, of which the Lord said, I will give it to you--come with us, land we will do you good."
Faith then will hasten to give far-flying wings to these appointed means. This holy zeal became the parent of missions to home-destitute, and distant heathen. Hence arose that precious brotherhood of combined believers, who send salvation's tidings far and near. But how scanty are their efforts before a world's need! How crippled are the sinews of their strength! How poor their coffers! How few their laborers!
Reader, are you the called of Christ? Are you a traveler to the promised place? Then show it by your self-denying support to these enlisting laborers. Help them, for they need it. Help them, for the time is short. Help them, for the Lord requires it. Help them, as you would have sure token in the day of Christ, that you obeyed His mandate, and that your faith was not a barren stock.
But perhaps some Hobab reads these lines, who is not pressing on to Zion's joys. Sir, pause and reflect. This tract, with Moses-like entreaty, grasps your hand, and looks you tenderly in the face, and knocks imploringly at your heart's door. It asks with loving zeal, Where do your footsteps tend? It prays you to turn and join yourself in heavenly fellowship to heaven-bound travelers. "Come with us."
Your present path is misery--briers--thorns--rough places--pitfalls--disappointments, all sloping towards hell. Before us there is peace, and an eternity of light. Turn, "come with us." The world, and sin, and Satan, pierce with death-wounds. But "we will do you good." Behold the Savior, whom we love, and trust, and serve. Can you depart from Him? Oh! mark His tender grace--His zeal for souls--His surety-sufferings--His guilt-expiating agony. Can you leave Him? Think of His patience--His frequent calls--His precious promises--His outstretched arms. Think of the rapture of His seen smile--the comfort of His felt presence--the calm delights of converse with Him, and the full glories of His near kingdom. Think of the dying Lamb--the risen Lord--the reigning and triumphant King. "Come with us." Jesus has spoken good concerning Israel.
May the mighty Spirit prompt the quick reply, 'Grace conquers, and I come!' May hesitation hide its face in shame! May wise decision make you Christ's forever.
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