And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the LORD toward Israel. They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.
~ Numbers 32:14, Psalm 78:42,
And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.
~ Ezekiel 20:44
He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap. And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.
~ Psalm 78:13, Psalm 136:24, Exodus 15:19, Exodus 14:31
But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
~ Proverbs 1:25, Hebrews 3:8-10, Jeremiah 2:32
And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
~ Numbers 13:32
How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me. Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,
~ Numbers 14:27-29
A Commentary on Psalm 106:6-33, by Charles Spurgeon.
Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all his praise? Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times. Remember me, O LORD, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; That I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness: To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands. They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore. They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.
~ Psalm 106:1-33
Verse 6. We have sinned with our fathers. Here begins a long and particular confession. Confession of sin is the readiest way to secure an answer to the prayer of verse 4; God visits with his salvation the soul which acknowledges its need of a Saviour. Men may be said to have sinned with their fathers when they imitate them, when they follow the same objects, and make their own lives to be mere continuations of the follies of their sires. Moreover, Israel was but one nation in all time, and the confession which follows sets forth the national rather than the personal sin of the Lord’s people. They enjoyed national privileges, and therefore they shared in national guilt. We have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Thus is the confession repeated three times, in token of the sincerity and heartiness of it. Sins of omission, commission, and rebellion we ought to acknowledge under distinct heads, that we may show a due sense of the number and heinousness of our offences.
Verse 7. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt. The Israelites saw the miraculous plagues and ignorantly wondered at them: their design of love, their deep moral and spiritual lessons, and their revelation of the divine power and justice they were unable to perceive. A long sojourn among idolaters had blunted the perceptions of the chosen family, and cruel slavery had ground them down into mental sluggishness. Alas, how many of God’s wonders are not understood, or misunderstood by us still. We fear the sons are no great improvement upon the sires. We inherit from our fathers much sin and little wisdom; they could only leave us what they themselves possessed. We see from this verse that a want of understanding is no excuse for sin, but is itself one count in the indictment against Israel. They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies. The sin of the understanding leads on to the sin of the memory. What is not understood will soon be forgotten. Men feel little interest in preserving husks; if they know nothing of the inner kernel they will take no care of the shells. It was an aggravation of Israel’s sin that when God’s mercies were so numerous they yet were able to forget them all. Surely some out of such a multitude of benefits ought to have remained engraven upon their hearts; but if grace does not give us understanding, nature will soon east out the memory of God’s great goodness. But provoked him at the sea, even; at the Red sea. To fall out at starting was a bad sign. Those who did not begin well can hardly be expected to end well. Israel is not quite out of Egypt, and yet she begins to provoke the Lord by doubting his power to deliver, and questioning his faithfulness to his promise. The sea was only called Red, but their sins were scarlet in reality; it was known as the “sea of weeds, “but far worse weeds grew in their hearts.
Verse 8. Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. When he could find no other reason for his mercy he found it in his own glory, and seized the opportunity to display his power. If Israel does not deserve to be saved, yet Pharaoh’s pride needs to be crushed, and therefore Israel shall be delivered. The Lord very jealously guards his own name and honour. It shall never be said of him that he cannot or will not save his people, or that he cannot abate the haughtiness of his defiant foes. This respect unto his own honour ever leads him to deeds of mercy, and hence we may well rejoice that he is a jealous God.
Verse 9. He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up. A word did it. The sea heard his voice and obeyed. How many rebukes of God are lost upon us! Are we not more unmanageable than the ocean? God did, as it were, chide the sea, and say, “Wherefore dost thou stop the way of my people? Their path to Canaan lies through thy channel, how dare you hinder them?” The sea perceived its Master and his seed royal, and made way at once. So he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. As if it had been the dry floor of the desert the tribes passed over the bottom of the gulf; nor was their passage venturesome, for HE bade them go; nor dangerous, for He led them. We also have under divine protection passed through many trials and afflictions, and with the Lord as our guide we have experienced no fear and endured no perils. We have been led through the deeps as through the wilderness.
Verse 10. And he saved them from the hand of them that hated them. Pharaoh was drowned, and the power of Egypt so crippled that throughout the forty years’ wanderings of Israel they were never threatened by their old masters. And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. This was a redemption by power, and one of the most instructive types of the redemption of the Lord’s people from sin and hell by the power which worketh in them.
Verse 11. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. The Lord does nothing by halves. What he begins he carries through to the end. This, again, made Israel’s sin the greater, because they saw the thoroughness of the divine justice, and the perfection of the divine faithfulness. In the covering of their enemies we have a type of the pardon of our sins; they are sunk as in the sea, never to rise again; and, blessed be the Lord, there is “not one of them left.” –Not one sin of thought, or word, or deed, the blood of Jesus has covered all. “I will cast their iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Verse 12. Then believed they his words. That is to say, they believed the promise when they saw it fulfilled, but not till then. This is mentioned, not to their credit, but to their shame. Those who do not believe the Lord’s word till they see it performed are not believers at all. Who would not believe when the fact stares them in the face? The Egyptians would have done as much as this. They sang his praise. How could they do otherwise? Their song was very excellent, and is the type of the song of heaven; but sweet as it was, it was quite as short, and when it was ended they fell to murmuring. “They sang his praise, “but “they soon forgat his works.” Between Israel singing and Israel sinning there was scarce a step. Their song was good while it lasted, but it was no sooner begun than over.
Verse 13. They soon forgat his works. They seemed in a hurry to get the Lord’s mercies out of their memories; they hasted to be ungrateful. They waited not for his counsel, neither waiting for the word of command or promise; eager to have their own way, and prone to trust in themselves. This is a common fault in the Lord’s family to this day; we are long in learning to wait for the Lord, and upon the Lord. With him is counsel and strength, but we are vain enough to look for these to ourselves, and therefore we grievously err.
Verse 14. But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness. Though they would not wait God’s will, they are hot to have their own. When the most suitable and pleasant food was found them in abundance, it did not please them long, but they grew dainty and sniffed at angel’s food, and must needs have flesh to eat, which was unhealthy diet for that warm climate, and for their easy life. This desire of theirs they dwelt upon till it became a mania with them, and, like a wild horse, carried away its rider. For a meal of meat they were ready to curse their God and renounce the land which floweth with milk and honey. What a wonder that the Lord did not take them at their word! It is plain that they vexed him greatly, And tempted God in the desert. In the place where they were absolutely dependent upon him and were everyday fed by his direct provision, they had the presumption to provoke their God. They would have him change the plans of his wisdom, supply their sensual appetites, and work miracles to meet their wicked unbelief: these things the Lord would not do, but they went as far as they could in trying to induce him to do so. They failed not in their wicked attempt because of any goodness in themselves, but because God “cannot be tempted, “–temptation has no power over him, he yields not to man’s threats or promises.
Verse 15. And he gave them their request. Prayer may be answered in anger and denied in love. That God gives a man his desire is no proof that he is the object of divine favour, everything depends upon what that desire is. But sent leanness into their soul. Ah, that “but!” It embittered all. The meat was poison to them when it came without a blessing; whatever it might do in fattening the body, it was poor stuff when it made the soul lean. If we must know scantiness, may God grant it may not be scantiness of soul: yet this is a common attendant upon worldly prosperity. When wealth grows with many a man his worldly estate is fatter, but his soul’s state is leaner. To gain silver and lose gold is a poor increase; but to win for the body and lose for the soul is far worse. How earnestly might Israel have unprayed her prayers had she known what would come with their answer! The prayers of lust will have to be wept over. We fret and fume till we have our desire, and then we have to fret still note because the attainment of it ends in bitter disappointment.
Verse 16. They envied Moses also in the camp. Though to him as the Lord’s chosen instrument they owed everything, they grudged him the authority which it was needful that he should exercise for their good. Some were more openly rebellious than others, and became leaders of the mutiny, but a spirit of dissatisfaction was general, and therefore the whole nation is charged with it. Who can hope to escape envy when the meekest of men was subject to it? How unreasonable was this envy, for Moses was the one man in all the camp who laboured hardest and had most to bear. They should have sympathised with him; to envy him was ridiculous. And Aaron the saint of the Lord. By divine choice Aaron was set apart to be holiness unto the Lord, and instead of thanking God that he had favoured them with a high priest by whose intercession their prayers would be presented, they cavilled at the divine election, and quarrelled with the man who was to offer sacrifice for them. Thus neither church nor state was ordered aright for them; they would snatch from Moses his sceptre, and from Aaron his mitre. It is the mark of bad men that they are envious of the good, and spiteful against their best benefactors.
Verse 17. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Korah is not mentioned, for mercy was extended to his household, though he himself perished. The earth could no longer bear up under the weight of these rebels and ingrates: God’s patience was exhausted when they began to assail his servants, for his children are very dear to him, and he that toucheth them touches the apple of his eye. Moses had opened the sea for their deliverance, and now that they provoke him, the earth opens for their destruction. It was time that the nakedness of their sins was covered, and that the earth should open her mouth to devour those who opened their mouths against the Lord and his servants.
Verse 18. And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. The Levites who were with Korah perished by fire, which was a most fitting death for those who intruded into the priesthood, and so offered strange fire. God has more than one arrow in his quiver, the fire can consume those whom the earthquake spares. These terrible things in righteousness are mentioned here to show the obstinacy of the people in continuing to rebel against the Lord. Terrors were as much lost upon them as mercies had been; they could neither be drawn nor driven.
Verse 19. They made a calf in Horeb. In the very place where they had solemnly pledged themselves to obey the Lord they broke the second, if not the first, of his commandments, and set up the Egyptian symbol of the ox, and bowed before it. The ox image is here sarcastically called “a calf”; idols are worthy of no respect, scorn is never more legitimately used than when it is poured upon all attempts to set forth the Invisible God. The Israelites were foolish indeed when they thought they saw the slightest divine glory in a bull, nay, in the mere image of a bull. To believe that the image of a bull could be the image of God must need great credulity. And worshipped the molten image. Before it they paid divine honours, and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” This was sheer madness. After the same fashion the Ritualists must needs set up their symbols and multiply them exceedingly. Spiritual worship they seem unable to apprehend; their worship is sensuous to the highest degree, and appeals to eye, and ear, and nose. O the folly of men to block up their own way to acceptable worship, and to make the path of spiritual religion, which is hard to our nature, harder still through the stumblingblocks which they cast into it. We have heard the richness of Popish paraphernalia much extolled, but an idolatrous image when made of gold is not one jot the less abominable than it would have been had it been made of dross and dung: the beauty of art cannot conceal the deformity of sin. We are told also of the suggestiveness of their symbols, but what of that, when God forbids the use of them? Vain also is it to plead that such worship is hearty. So much the worse. Heartiness in forbidden actions is only an increase of transgression.
Verse 20. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass. They said that they only meant to worship the one God under a fitting and suggestive similitude by which his great power would be set forth to the multitude; they pleaded the great Catholic revival which followed upon this return to a more ornate ceremonial, for the people thronged around Aaron, and danced before the calf with all their might. But in very deed they had given up the true God, whom it had been their glory to adore, and had set up a rival to him, not a representation of him; for how should he be likened to a bullock? The psalmist is very contemptuous, and justly so: irreverence towards idols is an indirect reverence to God. False gods, attempts to represent the true God, and indeed, all material things which are worshipped, are so much filth upon the face of the earth, whether they be crosses, crucifixes, virgins, wafers, relics, or even the Pope himself. We are by far too mealy mouthed about these infamous abominations: God abhors them, and so should we. To renounce the glory of spiritual worship for outward pomp and show is the height of folly, and deserves to be treated as such.
Verse 21. They forgat God their saviour. Remembering the calf involved forgetting God. He had commanded them to make no image, and in daring to disobey they forgot his commands. Moreover, it is clear that they must altogether have forgotten the nature and character of Jehovah, or they could never have likened him to a grass eating animal. Some men hope to keep their sins and their God too–the fact being that he who sins is already so far departed from the Lord that he has actually forgotten him. Which had done great things in Egypt. God in Egypt had overcome all the idols, and yet they so far forgot him as to liken him to them. Could an ox work miracles? Could a golden calf cast plagues upon Israel’s enemies? They were brutish to set up such a wretched mockery of deity, after having seen what the true God could really achieve. “Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea”. They saw several ranges of miracles, the Lord did not stint them as to the evidences of his eternal power and godhead, and yet they could not rest content with worshipping him in his own appointed way, but must needs have a Directory of their own invention, an elaborate ritual after the old Egyptian fashion, and a manifest object of worship to assist them in adoring Jehovah. This was enough to provoke the Lord, and it did so; how much he is angered every day in our own land no tongue can tell.
Verse 23. Therefore he said that he would destroy them. The threatening of destruction came at last. For the first wilderness sin he chastened them, sending leanness into their soul; for the second he weeded out the offenders, the flame burned up the wicked; for the third he threatened to destroy them; for the fourth he lifted up his hand and almost came to blows (Ps 106:26); for the fifth he actually smote them, “and the plague brake in among them”; and so the punishment increased with their perseverance in sin. This is worth noting, and it should serve as a warning to the man who goeth on in his iniquities. God tries words before he comes to blows, “he said that he would destroy them”: but his words are not to be trifled with, for he means them, and has power to make them good. Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach. Like a bold warrior who defends the wall when there is an opening for the adversary and destruction is rushing in upon the city, Moses stopped the way of avenging justice with his prayers. Moses had great power with God. He was an eminent type of our Lord, who is called, as Moses here is styled, “mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” As the Elect Redeemer interposed between the Lord and a sinful world, so did Moses stand between the Lord and his offending people. The story as told by Moses himself is full of interest and instruction, and tends greatly to magnify the goodness of the Lord, who thus suffered himself to be turned from the fierceness of his anger. With disinterested affection, and generous renunciation of privileges offered to himself and his family, the great Lawgiver interceded with the Lord to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. Behold the power of a righteous man’s intercession. Mighty as was the sin of Israel to provoke vengeance, prayer was mightier in turning it away. How diligently ought we to plead with the Lord for this guilty world, and especially for his own backsliding people! Who would not employ an agency so powerful for an end so gracious! The Lord still harkens to the voice of a man, shall not our voices be often exercised in supplicating for a guilty people? Verse 24. Yea, they despised the pleasant land. They spoke lightly of it, though it was the joy of all lands: they did not think it worth the trouble of seeking and conquering; they even spoke of Egypt, the land of their iron bondage, as though they preferred it to Canaan, the land which floweth with milk and honey. It is an ill sign with a Christian when he begins to think lightly of heaven and heavenly things; it indicates a perverted mind, and it is, moreover, a high offence to the Lord to despise that which he esteems so highly that he in infinite love reserves it for his own chosen. To prefer earthly things to heavenly blessings is to prefer Egypt to Canaan, the house of bondage to the land of promise. They believed not his word. This is the root sin. If we do not believe the Lord’s word, we shall think lightly of his promised gifts. “They could not enter in because of unbelief” –this was the key which turned the lock against them. When pilgrims to the Celestial City begin to doubt the Lord of the way, they soon come to think little of the rest at the journey’s end, and this is the surest way to make them bad travellers. Israel’s unbelief demanded spies to see the land; the report of those spies was of a mingled character, and so a fresh crop of unbelief sprang up, with consequences most deplorable.
Verse 25. But murmured in their tents. From unbelief to murmuring is a short and natural step; they even fell to weeping when they had the best ground for rejoicing. Murmuring is a great sin and not a mere weakness; it contains within itself unbelief, pride, rebellion, and a whole host of sins. It is a home sin, and is generally practised by complainers “in their tents, “but it is just as evil there as in the streets, and will be quite as grievous to the Lord. And hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. Making a din with their own voices, they refused attention to their best Friend. Murmurers are bad hearers.
Verse 26. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness. He swore in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest; he commenced his work of judgment upon them, and they began to die. Only let God lift his hand against a man and his day has come; he falls terribly whom Jehovah overthrows. To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands. Foreseeing that their descendants would reproduce their sins, he solemnly declared that he would give them over to captivity and the sword. Those whose carcases fell in the wilderness were, in a sense, exiles from the land of promise, and, being surrounded by many hostile tribes, they were virtually in a foreign land: to die far off from their father’s inheritance was a just and weighty doom, which their rebellions had richly deserved. Our own loss of fellowship with God, and the divisions in our churches, doubtless often come to us as punishments for the sins out of which they grow. If we will not honour the Lord we cannot expect him to honour us. Our captains shall soon become captives, and our princes shall be prisoners if we forget the Lord and despise his mercies. Our singing shall be turned into sighing, and our mirth into misery if we walk contrary to the mind of the Lord.
Verse 28. They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor. Ritualism led on to the adoration of false gods. If we choose a false way of worship we shall, ere long, choose to worship a false god. This abomination of the Moabites was an idol in whose worship women gave up their bodies to the most shameless lust. Think of the people of a holy God coming down to this. And ate the sacrifices of the dead. In the orgies with which the Baalites celebrated their detestable worship Israel joined, partaking even in their sacrifices as earnest inner court worshippers, though the gods were but dead idols. Perhaps they assisted in necromantic rites which were intended to open a correspondence with departed spirits, thus endeavouring to break the seal of God’s providence, and burst into the secret chambers which God has shut up. Those who are weary of seeking the living God have often shown a hankering after dark sciences, and have sought after fellowship with demons and spirits. To what strong delusions those are often given up who cast off the fear of God! This remark is as much needed now as in days gone by.
Verse 29. Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them. Open licentiousness and avowed idolatry were too gross to be winked at. This time the offences clamoured for judgment, and the judgment came at once. Twenty-four thousand persons fell before a sudden and deadly disease which threatened to run through the whole camp. Their new sins brought on them a disease new to their tribes. When men invent sins God will not be slow to invent punishments. Their vices were a moral pest, and they were visited with a bodily pest: so the Lord meets like with its like.
Verse 30. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. God has his champions left in the worst times, and they will stand up when the time comes for them to come forth to battle. This righteous indignation moved him to a quick execution of two open offenders. His honest spirit could not endure that lewdness should be publicly practised at a time when a fast had been proclaimed. Such daring defiance of God and of all law he could not brook, and so with his sharp javelin he transfixed the two guilty ones in the very act. It was a holy passion which inflamed him, and no enmity to either of the persons whom he slew. The circumstances were so remarkable and the sin so flagrant that it would have involved great sin in a public man to have stood still and seen God thus defied, and Israel thus polluted. Phinehas was not of this mind, he was no trimmer, or palliator of sin, his heart was sound in God’s statutes, and his whole nature was ablaze with zeal for God’s glory, and therefore, though a priest, and therefore not obliged to be an executioner, he undertook the unwelcome task, and though both transgressors were of princely stock he had no respect of persons, but dealt justice upon them as if they had been the lowest of the people. This brave and decided deed was so acceptable to God as a proof that there were some sincere souls in Israel that the deadly visitation went no further. Two deaths had sufficed to save the lives of the multitude.
Verse 31. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore. Down to the moment when this psalm was penned the house of Phinehas was honoured in Israel. His faith had performed a valorous deed, and his righteousness was testified of the Lord, and honoured by the continuance of his family in the priesthood. He was impelled by motives that what would otherwise have been a deed of blood was justified in the sight of God; nay, more, was made the evidence that Phinehas was righteous. No personal ambition, or private revenge, or selfish passion, or even fanatical bigotry, inspired the man of God, but zeal for God, indignation at open filthiness, and true patriotism urged him on. Once again we have cause to note the mercy of God that even when his warrant was out, and actual execution was proceeding, he stayed his hand at the suit of one man: finding, as it were, an apology for his grace when justice seemed to demand immediate vengeance.
Verse 32. They angered him also at the waters of strife. Will they never have done? The scene changes, but the sin continues. Aforetime they had mutinied about water when prayer would soon have turned the desert into a standing pool, but now they do it again after their former experience of the divine goodness. This made the sin a double, yea a sevenfold offence, and caused the anger of the Lord to be the more intense. So that it went in with Moses for their sakes. Moses was at last wearied out, and began to grow angry with them and utterly hopeless of their ever improving; can we wonder at it, for he was man and not God? After forty years bearing with them the meek man’s temper gave way, and he called them rebels, and showed unhallowed anger; and therefore he was not permitted to enter the land which he desired to inherit. Truly, he had a sight of the goodly country from the top of Pisgah, but entrance was denied him, and thus it went ill with him. It was their sin which angered him, but he had to bear the consequences; however clear it may be that others are more guilty than ourselves, we should always remember that this will not screen us, but every man must bear his own burden.
Verse 33. Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. Which seems a small sin compared with that of others, but then it was the sin of Moses, the Lord’s chosen servant, who had seen and known so much of the Lord, and therefore it could not be passed by. He did not speak blasphemously, or falsely, but only hastily and without care; but this is a serious fault in a lawgiver, and especially in one who speaks for God. This passage is to our mind one of the most terrible in the Bible. Truly we serve a jealous God. Yet he is not a hard master, or austere; we must not think so, but we must then rather be jealous of ourselves, and watch that we live the more carefully, and speak the more advisedly, because we serve such a Lord. We ought also to be very careful how we treat the ministers of the gospel, lest by provoking their spirit we should drive them into any unseemly behaviour which should bring upon them the chastisement of the Lord. Little do a murmuring, quarrelsome people dream of the perils in which they involve their pastors by their untoward behaviour.
Hints to the Village Preacher
Verse 6. In what respects men may be partakers in the sins of their ancestors.
1. On man’s part a darkened understanding, ungrateful forgetfulness, and provocation.
2. On God’s part: understanding discovering a reason for mercy; memory mindful of the covenant; patience revealing its power.
1. A special provocation; they murmured at the Red Sea.
2. A special deliverance; “Nevertheless”, etc.
3. A special Design; “For his own sake”; “That he might make his power known.” –G.R.
Verse 8. Salvation by grace a grand display of power.
“Why are men saved?” See “Spurgeon’s Sermons”, No. 115.
1. The glorious Saviour, “He.”
2. The favoured persons, who are they?
(a) They were a stupid people: “Our fathers understood not”, etc., Ps 106:7.
(b) An ungrateful people: “They remembered not”, etc., Ps 106:7,13,24, etc.
(c) A provoking people.
3. The reason of salvation: “He saved them for his name’s sake.” The name of God is his person, his attributes, and his nature. We might, perhaps, include this also: “My name is in him” –that is, in Christ; he saves us for the sake of Christ, who is the name of God. He saved them that he might manifest his nature: “God is love.” He saved them to vindicate his name.
4. The obstacles removed: “Nevertheless.”
Verse 9. Israel at the Red Sea. See “Spurgeon’s Sermons”, No. 72.
1. Israel’s three difficulties.
(a) The Red Sea in front of them. This was not put there by an enemy; but by God himself. The Red Sea represents some great and trying providence placed in the path of every newborn child of God, to try his faith, and the sincerity of his trust in God.
b) The Egyptians behind them, –the representatives of the sins which we thought were dead and gone. (c) The third difficulty was faint hearts within them.
2. Israel’s three helps.
(b) Their knowledge that they were the covenant people of God.
(c) The man, –Moses. So the believer’s hope and help is in the God man Christ Jesus.
3. God’s grand design in it. To give them a thorough baptism into his service, consecrating them for ever to himself (1Co 1-2).
Verse 9. (second clause). Dangerous and difficult paths rendered safe and easy by God’s leadership.
Verse 11. (second clause). Song over sins forgiven.
Verses 12-14. The faith of nature, based on sight, causes transient joy, soon evaporates, dies in utter unbelief, and conducts to greater sin.
1. Mercies are sooner forgotten than trials: “They soon forgat”, etc. We write our afflictions on marble, our mercies upon sand.
2. We should wait for God, as well as upon God: “They waited not,” etc.
3. Immoderate desire for what we have not of worldly goods, tempts God to deprive us of what we have: Ps 106:14.
4. Prayer may be answered for evil as well as for good: “He gave them their request”, then smote them with a plague.
5. Carnal indulgence is inimical to spiritual mindedness: Ps 106:15. Better have a lean body and healthy soul, than a healthy body and leanness of soul. “Poor in this world, rich in faith.” There are few of whom it can be said, “I wish thou mayest prosper and be in health,” etc. (3Jo 2). G.R.
Verse 14. The wickedness of inordinate desires.
1. They are out of place–“in the wilderness.”
2. They are assaults upon God–“and tempted God.”
3. They are despisers of former mercies–see preceding verses.
4. They involve solemn danger–see following verse.
Verse 16. The sin of envy. Its base nature, its cruel actions its unscrupulous ingratitude, its daring assaults, its abomination before God.
Verse 19. The sinner as an inventor.
1. The Sin remembered.
(a) Idolatry: not forgetting God merely, or disowning him, but setting up an idol in his place.
(b) Idolatry of the worst kind: changing be glory of God into the similitude of an ox, etc.
(c) The idolatry of Egypt under which they had suffered, and from which they had been delivered.
(d) Idolatry after many wonderful interpositions of the true God in their behalf.
2. The Remembrance of Sin.
(a) For Humiliation. It was the sin of their fathers.
(b) For self condemnation. “We have sinned with our fathers.” It was our nature in them, and it is their nature in us that has committed this great sin.
Verse 23. Moses, the intercessor, a type of our Lord. Carefully study his pleading as recorded in Ex 32:1-35.
1. Mediation required: “He said that he would destroy them,” etc.
2. Mediation offered: “Moses stood before him in the breach.”
3. Mediation accepted: “To turn away his wrath”, etc. Ex 32:1-35. G.R.
Verse 24-26. Murmuring.
1. Arises from despising our mercies.
2. Is fostered by unbelief.
3. Is indulged in all sorts of places.
4. Makes men deaf to the Lord’s voice.
5. Provokes great judgments from the Lord.
1. The Rest promised: “The pleasant land.”
2. The Refusal of the Rest: “They despised”, etc.
3. The Reason of the Refusal: unbelief. “They could not enter in because of unbelief.” –G.R.
Verse 30-31. The effects of one decisive act for God; immediate, personal, and for posterity.
1. The afflictions of God’s people are for the trial of their faith.
2. The trial of their faith is to bring them from dependence upon circumstances to depend upon God himself.
3. The forbearance of God with his people is greater than that of the best of men. G.R.
1. What it is so to speak unadvisedly.
2. What is the great cause of it–“they provoked his spirit.”
3. What the results may be.