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chosen heritage, as men more sinned against, than sinning, we behold Moses and Aaron, the prophet, and the priest, the leader, and the saint of God, overpowered by temptation, and falling into transgression.
Eight and thirty years had the hosts of Israel drank water from the rock in Horeb, which followed and refreshed them, in all their weary pilgrimage. The supply was now withdrawneither, because the stream had fallen into the Red Sea, at their last encampment near Ezion-Geber, or, because water might now be obtained without a miracle. They certainly lacked it not during their remaining journey, until they drank in safety and plenty from the springs of the promised land. This most necessary gift of divine providence was, however, withheld from the people for a little season, during their abode in Kadesh; probably as a trial of their faith, and, that it might be known, whether the present generation resembled their fathers, who had perished in the wilderness. Brief, however, as the experiment was, it served to shew, that as Adam, after his fall begat a son in his own likeness of iniquity, so the children of the smitten Israelites resembled their parents, in that spirit of murmuring, dis
! See Bishop Patrick's Commentary on Numb. xx. 2.
content, and ingratitude which had provoked the wrath of God to destroy them. It served, moreover, as a sad occasion of sin, to Moses and Aaron; and it brought upon them, from the impartial justice of God, the sentence of exclusion from the promised land. The command is given, the disobedience, and its punishment registered, for our instruction. May the Spirit of God apply and bless the record to our souls! Omitting many particulars, to which our attention might be directed, I consider the history as more especially leading us to examine
I. THE OFFENCE OF MOSES AND AARON.
Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the prophetess of Israel, had gone down to the grave in Kadesh, like a shock of corn, ripe in its season, after a life prolonged to an hundred and thirty years. At the time, when Moses was doubtless much afflicted by her loss, the supply from Horeb failed, and there was no water for the people. Such a privation called into exercise all the latent rebellion of their hearts. “They gathered themselves together against Moses, and against Aaron, and the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God, that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord. And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates ; neither is there any water to drink.” As usual, Moses and Aaron betook themselves to God. His glory appeared in their behalf. “ And the Lord spake to Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation, and their beasts drink.”. The command was obeyed, the rod was taken from before the Lord; and the congregation was assembled near the rock, on which the miracle should be wrought. “And Moses said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels ; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted
And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” Where then, it will, perhaps, be inquired, was the sin of Moses, and whence the indignation of God? There is little on the surface of this transaction to mark the prophet's conduct with an impress
of guilt and rebellion. But “ the Lord seeth not as man seeth.” It is his prerogative to search the heart, and judge the motive of every action.
We have, however, sufficient evidence to ascertain the offence of the man of God, and to vindicate the punishment with which it was repaid.
I. View the offence with reference to the Israelites, and judge, whether it did not look towards them with an aspect of injurious tendency? Moses was placed among them, as a city set upon a hill, to exhibit an illustrious pattern of meekness, faith, and patience, and to call upon
the people in the hour of trial, to be still, and know that Jehovah was God. Instead of such a manifestation of the power of religion, we behold him exhibiting an undue and causeless anger.
“ Hear now, ye rebels.” He had used this term on other occasions; but in a chastised and gentle spirit. That he was zealous for his God cannot be doubted; and that as the fire kindled he spake accordingly, is equally evident.
But it was the strange flame of an unhallowed burning. It resembled the mistaken zeal of the brethren, who would have called down fire from heaven upon the village that denied entrance and rest to their wearied Saviour. Israel provoked his spirit, so
that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. Alas, we know not what manner of spirit we are of! The wrath of man, however sacred the cause in which it may be excited, worketh not the righteousness of God. His great and glorious cause can never want the assistance of that warmth which is untempered by love, and of that zeal which occupies the mind, to the exclusion of some measure of that patience and longsuffering, which are continually exercised by God, in all his dealings with sinful men. God is love. He who dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. In such a spirit should every member of the family above stand forward, to defend the honour of his heavenly Father. That is the only justifiable reproof which is administered with the mind that was in Christ Jesus, who, while he condemned sin in the flesh, came filled with holy love for sinners. He bore with their contradiction. “When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth uprightly.” He prayed for his murderers, on the cross ; and his purchased salvation, among its first acts of mercy, on the day of pentecost, converted above three thousand of those who had been instrumental in crucifying the Lord of glory. Behold then, Christian, thy propitiation, in “ the