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In discoursing on this remarkable event, we shall consider it as I. A typical history
The whole history of the Israelites, from their deliverance out of Egypt to their establishment in the land of Canaan, was altogether of a typical nature: but we shall limit our observations to the circumstances now under our consideration.
We may notice then a typical reference 1. In the conflicts which the Israelites maintained
[The Israelites were scarcely come out of Egypt, before they were attacked by the Amalekites, though no provocation had been given on their part. This represented the opposition which the world and Satan make to the true Israelites, as soon as ever they separate themselves from the ungodly, and set their faces towards the promised land. Though they do nothing to merit persecution, yea, though, in every point of view, they are become more excellent and praise-worthy, and desire nothing but to prosecute their journey peaceably through this dreary wilderness, yet are they hated, reviled, persecuted; nor can they obtain the inheritance prepared for them, without arming themselves for the combat, and “warring a good warfare."] 2. In the commander under whom they fought
[Joshua was appointed to set the army in array, and lead them
out to battle. Now the very name of Joshua is precisely the same with that of Jesus,a who is “ given to us of God to be our leader and commander.” He is “ the Captain of our Salvation,” under whom we are enlisted, and under whose banners we fight. Whether we bear more or less the brunt of the battle, it is He, who appoints us our respective stations; and it is to Him, that we must look for direction and support. And, while, “ as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we endure hardness” at his command, we may depend on hinn for all necessary provision, and for an abundant share of the spoils of victory.]
3. In the means by which they obtained the victory
[The rod of Moses was that with which he had wrought his wonders in Egypt; and it was a special emblem of the divine power. This he was to hold up in the sight of Israel on an adjacent hill: and, while he held it up, they prospered; but when, through infirmity, he let it down, their enemies prevailed against them. Now it is thus that we are to obtain the
a Acts vii. 45. Hcb. iv. 8.
b Isai. ly. 4,
victory against our enemies: we must have our eyes fixed on the power of God exerted in our behalf: as long as we have clear views of this, we shall vanquish every adversary; but, if at any time this cease to be exalted in our eyes, we shall surely faint and fail.
The lifting up of the hands of Moses may further depote the efficacy of prayer. And it is certain that our success will fluctuate according as our applications at the throne of grace are continued or relaxed.]
But this history may further be considered as affording us II. An instructive lesson
It may well teach us
1. That; whatever mercies we have received, we must still expect conflicts
[The Israelites had been brought through the Red Sea, and fed both with manna from heaven, and water from the solid rock: and they might have fondly dreamed of nothing but security and peace: but they were rather called to scenes of difficulty and danger. Thus it is with us, when we commit ourselves to the guidance of the pillar and the cloud. We may think perhaps that, because we are reconciled to God, and made heirs of his kingdom, we are henceforth to enjoy uninterrupted tranquillity: but we shall soon find, that we have to “wrestle; and that too, not only with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers." We may indeed be screened for a season by the good Providence of God; as the Israelites were kept from going through the territory of the Philistines, lest they should be discouraged by the opposition, that they would have met with from that warlike people: but we are men of war by our very profession; and, sooner or later, our courage and fidelity will be put to the test. It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the kingdom; and we must " fight the good fight of faith, before we can receive the crown of righteousness from the hands of our righteous Judge."]
2. That we must not despond, though our success for a time should appear doubtful
[The Israelites in this very first encounter were at times repulsed; and victory was long held in suspense, before it was finally declared in their favour. Thus we must expect, that our enemies, though frequently beaten, will return to the charge, and often threaten our very destruction. But, if wounded, we must apply to Christ for healing; if faint, we
c Exod. xii. 17.
must beg him to renew our strength; if driven before our enemies, we must rally, and resume the contest, ever remembering under whom we fight, and how much depends upon a victorious issue. We must also, like Aaron and Hur, assist each other; holding up each others hands, and animating ea others hearts; nor ever terminate our exertions, till God shall scatter all our enemies, and bruise under our feet the vanquished foe.]
3. That a believing use of the appointed means, how inadequate soever, or even useless they may appear, will be crowned with success at last
[Nothing can be conceived less connected with the event, than the means which were used by Moses; yet were they necessary: for, if, when through infirmity the use of them was intermitted, the scale of victory was instantly turned in favour of the Amalekites, much more, if he had disregarded them altogether, would the most fatal effects have followed; but the persevering use of them procured at last the desired success. Thus the attending of public ordinances, and waiting upon God in secret, may seem but ill calculated to produce such great effects as are said to depend upon them: but, as the occasional and unallowed neglect of these duties is attended with many painful consequences, so a wilful contempt of them would infallibly terminate in our destruction. On the other hand, a diligent and continued attention to them will and must prevail: our prayer shall go up with acceptance before God, and the word we hear shall
prove the power of God to the salvation of our souls.” Only let
up holy hands with out doubting," until the evening of life, and we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us.”] ADDRESS 1. Those who know nothing of spiritual conflicts
[If they, who are at ease in Zion, and experience no spiritual conflicts, were real Christians, there would be no resem. blance at all between them and the Israelites, by whom they were typically represented; and all that is spoken about the Christian warfare, the armour provided for us, and the General under whom we fight, would be altogether without a meaning. But in vain shall the true Israelites expect peace, as long as there are any Amalekites in the world. Our Lord“
came not to send peace on earth, but a sword:” and, though he may, in some instances, cause our enemies to be at peace with us, yet will they never be so much at peace, but that we shall have many to contend with: or, if men should cease from troubling us, we shall have enough, both from Satan and our own lusts, to call forth all our exertions, and to make us fervent in imploring help from God. Let those then, who fecl not these conflicts,
enquire, whether their peace be not the consequence of a captivity to their enemies, instead of a victory over then? Nor let them ever expect to reign with Christ, unless they first enlist under his banners, and fight after his example.]
2. Those who are ready to faint by reason of their conflicts
[Your insufficiency to withstand your enemies often discourages and disquiets you: but the Israelites prevailed, notwithstanding their inexperience in the art of war, because they had God on their side. Fear not then ye, “ whose hands are weak, whose knees are feeble, and whose hearts are faint; for behold your God shall come and save you."d Behold, his power is now exalted in your sight: look at it; remember what it has effected in the days of old and know, that it shall be exerted in your behalf, if you do but trust in it. Nor forget, what a Captain you are fighting under: the world, which molests you, has been overcome by him; and “the prince of this world has been judged” by him. Fight on then a little longer, assured that you shall ere long put your feet upon the necks of your enemies, and enjoy the fruits of victory for ever and ever.]
Isai. xxxv. 3, 4.
CXIX. THE JUDGMENTS INFLICTED ON THE ISRAEL
ITES TYPICAL OF THOSE WHICH HANG OVER OUR
1 Cor. X. 11. Now all these things happened unto them for
ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
THE holy scriptures were not given to the world, to amuse us with an account of past occurrences, but to instruct us in the way to eternal life. Nor are the historical parts less conducive to this end, than the preceptive; since they shew us, in a striking view, the characters of them that are saved, and of them that perish. The history of the Israelites would be entertaining as a romance; but, as an exemplification of God's dealings with his church, it is inestimable. Hence the apostle expresses great concern that the Corinthian church should be acquainted with the things that had happened to the Jewish nation; in order that they themselves might be on their guard, lest, resembling the Jews in their conduct, they should also resemble them in their fate.
Let us consider
The Jews, notwithstanding the mercies vouchsafed to them, perished in the wilderness for their iniquities
[Great, exceeding great, were the favours conferred upon them: they were brought, under the immediate direction of God, through the Red Sea, and were baptized thereby into the covenant which God made with them by Moses. They were also sustained by food miraculously afforded them, food, not carnal only, but " spiritual" if spiritually improved.
But, instead of following the Lord fully, “they forgat God their Saviour,” and addicted themselves to idolatry, to fornication, to distrust and murmuring.
For these, and other impieties, the heavy wrath of God came upon them; and two only, of all the adults who had come out of Egypt, were suffered to enter into the promised land.]
In this view they were intended as types and ensamplese to us
(St. Peter mentions the judgments inflicted on fallen angels, the antediluvian world, and the cities of the plain, as exemplifyng those which should come upon all, who at any period, should live and die in an ungodly state.d St. Jude, in addition to those instances, mentions also the Israelites, who perished in the wilderness. The former might properly represent the people, who are wholly ignorant of God; the latter may more particularly characterize those, who profess religion: and the disappointment, which they experience in consequence of their sins, was typical of that, which all must experience, who profess to have been called with an holy calling, and yet walk unworthy of their profession. In them we see that the greater our privileges, the heavier, if we abuse them, will be our condemnation.]
Being so deeply interested in the events recorded concerning them, we should consider attentively II. The admonitions they give us
The Jewish dispensation closed, and the Christian dispensation commenced, in the Apostolic age: and, this being the last that ever shall be given to the world, we,