The fulness of blessing

by Sarah Frances Smiley

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The Creation Concept

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Contents

Introduction

I. The land of Promise

II. The failure of unbelief

III. Change of Leadership

IV. The Boundary Line

V. The Triple Preparation

VI. The Ark of the Covenant

VII. Memorial Stones

VIII. The Reproach of Egypt

IX. The Passover in Canaan

X. The New Corn And Fruit of the Land

XI. Seeing The Captain

XII. The Good Fight of Faith

XIII. Failure and Mistakes

XIV. Choice Possessions

XV. The Last Charge of Joshua

CHAPTER XIV.

CHOICE POSSESSIONS.

"THERE REMAINETH YET VERY MUCH LAND TO A BE POSSESSED."--(Josh. xiii. I.)

"HOW LONG ARE YE SLACK TO GO TO POSSESS THE LAND WHICH THE LORD GOD OF YOUR FATHERS HATH GIVEN YOU?"--(Josh. xviii. 3.)

With the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Joshua we enter another section, which treats of the division of the land of Canaan, as the former treated of its conquest. The distribution of the country, varying widely as it did in natural advantages, and, therefore, sure to tell strongly upon the future character of the Tribes, was too important to be left to human decision. The Lord Himself had a choice for each. His plan for His people was as perfect in all its details, as it was grand and comprehensive. The charge respecting this division ran thus: "Ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit." [1] Yet the very terms of the lot left much to the judgment of those entrusted with the task, who had been previously designated by the Lord;--Eleazar the priest, Joshua, and one prince of every tribe. [2] The history shows us how many modifications of the original allotment were made, and what regard was had to special requests; so that finally the actual settlement was the result not only of the Lord's appointment, but also of the decision of the judges, and to some extent of their own desires--the same mingling, in fact, of divine and human agencies which we find everywhere in the developments of life.

This distribution of the Land while less marked by stirring incidents than the Conquest, was not inferior in importance, and has a large space allotted to it. Indeed, looking at the minuteness of this record, and that of the prophecies given here and there in Patriarchal blessings and high visions of God, we may well question if its mere geographical import has yet been appreciated. The future of this earth will make all these enigmas clear. As a man plants his Estate, and plants for far-off years, and gives to each tree the soil and situation it requires--so has the Lord planted this earth, and certainly with reference to a time not yet fulfilled; for when has Israel taken its priestly position among the families of the earth? The dying song of Moses waits yet, in part, for its accomplishment: "When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel." [3]

But passing from this to the spiritual lessons to be here gathered, we find in the first Epistle to the Corinthians a passage not unlike this allotment of the land: "There are varieties of Spiritual Gifts, but the same Spirit gives them all; and they are given for various ministrations, but all to serve the same Lord Jesus; and the inward working whereby they are wrought is various, but they are all wrought in every one of those who receive them, by the working of the same God. But the gift whereby the Spirit becomes manifest, is given to each for the profit of all. To one is given by the Spirit the utterance of Wisdom, to another the utterance of Knowledge, according to the working of the same Spirit; to another, the power of Faith through the same Spirit; to another, the gifts of Healing through the same Spirit; to another, the powers which work Miracles; to another, the gift of Prophecy; to another, the discernment of Spirits; to another, varieties of Tongues; to another, the interpretation of Tongues. But all these gifts are wrought by the working of that one and the same Spirit, who distributes them to each according to His will." [4] Thus a law like that which links in amity the nations of the earth, by the special wealth of each in produce and in art, was to link in holy charity the inheritors of Christ's great kingdom.

Yet this distribution admits the same practical modifications as did that of old. It appears more than probable that a basis for our spiritual gifts is provided in the individuality that is mapped out for each by the laws of transmission, in which we also inherit "according to the tribes of our fathers." Thus far it is "the lot cast into the lap," the whole disposing of which is of the Lord. But how much that narrows or enlarges the natural boundary of one's gifts, depends upon the care and the decisions of others. Again, in spiritual, as in natural things, our own earnest desires, and above all our faithful improvement of the talents given, are allowed a large influence. So that our lot is no portion thrust upon us, but rather that which is set before us.

It is indeed the side of human responsibility, and not God's secret decrees, that is first of all presented in the seven chapters devoted to this subject:--"There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed."

And who can read, with any thoughtfulness, the records of the Apostolic period, without recognizing the importance attached to the gifts of the Spirit; and at the same time admitting, in view of such an enumeration of them as that above cited, that the Church of Christ has scarcely any present possession of them. While the qualifications for the Apostolic office were plainly exceptional, and the gift of tongues is instanced as designed for a sign rather than service, yet taking these gifts as a whole, there is not a hint in Holy Scripture of their temporary use, and subsequent withdrawal; and without such an authority against it, it is but simply reasonable to regard the gifts of God as given in perpetuity to His Church. Nor dare we claim that the blessed truth of His bestowal, is a whit altered by the sad fact of our failure in receptive faith.

Joshua was old and well stricken in years when the Lord reminded him of the neglect of his people to possess the land; indeed, it would even appear that some of the possessions once theirs had relapsed to the enemy. But what was their delay and loss to ours? For nearly nineteen centuries the Church has had her Mighty Conqueror, and her Land of Promise; but while advancing here and there, what hold has she at large upon this vast heritage? Mental gifts have indeed been recognized and received often all possible culture; but how often have spiritual gifts--God's own special gifts--been given over to suspicion, and sarcasm, and scorn? It does not furnish the least excuse for this, that there has been so much of false pretence, and even imposture, and so much consequent delusion; for whatever of Truth God has given us, we are bound to take fearlessly, however counterfeited or perverted: still further, there will be counterfeits and perversions until we take it. [5] Error always thrives upon neglected Truth. How often it happens that in such errors we see the distorted and preposterous shadows of Truth before her light has fully risen. Again, there may be another solution of a certain class of errors which seem to contain a portion of truth. The basis only of such spiritual gifts having been laid in our nature at our birth, as a body prepared for a soul--this, if the real gift be not received from God's own Spirit, will still remain as a certain blind abortive power, working irregularly and fruitlessly. Had the Church of Christ retained her spirituality, she might never have been vexed with socalled Spiritualism. Had she had more simple faith, she would never have witnessed such silly credulity.

It is precisely these special personal gifts of the Spirit, rather than the more general blessings of the Gospel, that find their symbol in this distribution. All that is common in the heritage depends for development upon that which is peculiar; and it is this dependence, which renders the right reception of these powers a matter of such importance. The Church can only reach her true estate, as each one uses that gift which God has given for this very purpose:--"He gave some as Apostles; and some as prophets; and some as evangelists; and some as pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" [6]--this for the positive gain; and for the negative, a deliverance thus, and only thus, from all that is false and fanatical;--"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." [7]

But now let us gather up in order other, but often accordant lessons of the distribution of the Land. The first tribes mentioned are those of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, on the east of Jordan. Their inheritance was not given them by lot, and although included in the larger grant that was made to Abraham, it was not in that portion which at this time was assigned to them by the Lord--the land of Canaan. [8] While awaiting the end of the forty years, two of the tribes had settled upon Gilead as their future home, and preferred a request for this to Moses, with no attempt to conceal their motive: "The country is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle." [9] Their choice resembled that of Lot, who would have the well-watered plain, however near to Sodom. Moses was justly displeased, and saw clearly the tendency of such falling off from the great advance awaiting them, likening it to the sin of the spies in discouraging other hearts. Upon their promise to go over with their brethren, and help to fight their battles, after which they would return, Moses acceded to their wish rather than approved it. It very soon appeared how this choice exposed them to indifference and danger. In the sublime Song of Deborah we trace one of the first of these results:--

"At the brooks of Reuben were great resolutions of heart.
Why remainest thou between the hurdles,
To hear the piping of the flocks?
At the brooks of Reuben were great projects of heart,
Gilead rests on the other side of the Jordan." [10]

And so they had come rapidly to the pass, when their patriotism could evaporate in good resolutions and grand projects; when the soft shepherd's pipe could seduce them from the stern summons of the Trumpet. Further on we find that, exposed as they were to the advance of foreign enemies, their cities were the first to surrender; after which their idolatry and consequent captivity hastened apace. [11] Yet Reuben was Israel's first-born, and who can say what lot God held for him. But he could not wait for the slow giving of God. It was not the sin of him who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage; yet he who had chosen only a place for cattle, could never be chosen by God to furnish either prophet, judge, or king, to the house of Israel.

"Bring us not over Jordan," is still the entreaty of many a Christian. Ask us not to give up these worldly advantages: let our possessions lie among the things of earth: has not godliness the promise of the life that now is? We will not fail to help on the cause of Christ; we will be loyal to Him and to His Church; but ask us not to go further; we are content to take up a lower position. And God may hearken to them in this--giving them their desire, even while He sends "leanness into their soul." Alas, for the high hopes of all whose chief care is for cattle! Sooner or later they will learn that the Lord Jesus said not in vain, "Beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."

And yet while giving up all selfish choice, to let God choose our inheritance for us, we are at the same time even commanded to "Covet earnestly the best gifts." [12] Thus we find Caleb asking for one of the choicest portions, and receiving it as the first inheritance over Jordan; at the same time reminding Joshua of the events of forty-five years before, and of the good word which he had brought according as it was in his heart; for deep conviction and a conscience that held him true to this in his confession, had left no room in this noble heart for the cowardice of the ten spies. What memories must have revived in these two men, as he went on to say, "Thou knowest the thing which the Lord spake concerning me and thee, in Kadesh-Barnea:"--No need to cast the lot for Caleb!--he had known all those years where his possessions lay:--"Now, therefore, give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day." [13]

Long before he saw it, Hebron must have been dear to him by all hallowed associations. It was an old city when Abraham pitched his tent in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron. [14] It was there that Jehovah and His angels visited him. It was there that in bitter bereavement, he bought the only spot that was his by earthly title--a grave in which to bury his dead out of his sight. There he himself was buried. There Isaac came to sojourn in old age, and in his turn be buried. To the same tomb had been borne, in solemn state, the embalmed body of Israel. The spot itself was one of rare beauty; the hill--which still bears an ancient oak called "the Patriarch"-- overlooks a picturesque and fertile valley, and travellers tell us of the varied charms that complete the picture, in their most glowing language. But delightful as was the spot, it was the most difficult of all to win. Its name at that time marked it as the abode of giants--"Kirjath-arba, the city of Arba, the father of Anak." The sight of the Anakims had brought no dismay to the youthful heart of Caleb; and now while strong men had died in the wilderness, he still kept the undiminished vigor of his prime. Moreover, the Lord was with him:--"I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said;"--"And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel." [15] Henceforth, no longer the city of the giants, it was to bear that name which signified Communion, Fellowship;--as the Arabs call it to this day, "The friend of God." Nor is it surely without its meaning in a Book where names are so significant and typical, that it was at Hebron that David was anointed King of all Israel, and that there he reigned seven years before his throne was set up at Jerusalem. Blessings gather like a halo, around the very dwelling-place of him who wholly follows the Lord his God.

And still God has His choice possessions; and He gives them still to the "willing and obedient." They belong to those who, while others are doubting or denying His Word of promise, still serve Him steadfastly in all good conscience. Such a faith fears not to claim its possessions. Nor does it marvel when evil is heard saying:

"I thought the best, perverted, would be worst."

And so it turns not back from the hope of recovering God's primeval blessing, where all seems given over to the curse. Man's noblest powers and privileges are ever the first to be seized by Satan for his stronghold; but the Spirit of God is well able to dispossess him, though like the three Anakims, he sit there in his giant trinity of evil, keeping his goods in peace. Nothing in man has suffered loss like that which is highest in him, because most like God. Instead of that holy love that was to hold him with all his heart and strength to the Source of his life, that he might ever be enriched from Him whose name is Love--instead of that blessed love which was to knit him also to his kind, in all varied relationships and companionships, that so it might join all together in one body, and compact and supply all, as it thus made increase with the very increase of God--instead of this, the powers that were given for it, have stooped to the creature in place of the Creator, and so sunk into inordinate and vile affections, until the sacred name of Love has been often utterly lost in that of Lust. A very den of wild beasts, or at best, a city of the giants, is then, that heart of man which God created to love Him, and to love its fellow.

Yes, Love--Communion--Fellowship--this is the choice possession in all our Father's land. The gifts of intellect may be even glorious, and yet have no glory, by reason of one that excelleth. Love is set higher than knowledge, not only for her own sake, but because she has a wisdom all her own, which grows not in the slow way of gathering from without, but glows out from within, a light and a law unto itself! Love does not become rich; she is born an heiress. What privilege like that of being a "friend of God!" Such sublimating power lies in this blessed fellowship, that it is but a little step from it to glory. So Enoch walking with God, "was not, for God took him." So the face of Moses shines, and Stephen's becomes like that of an angel. The very life of God being most fully expressed in Love, it becomes the life of our life, feeding it, warming it, and cherishing it. It is the very Sun that shineth in its strength. What wonders might it not work on this poor, starving earth, so turned as it is from its true pole, that its short days can only shiver in a few slanting rays. Whenever man will let his God bring back this perverted love, to be true to Him, his whole nature will leap into luxuriance. Germs that lie utterly dormant, will then be developed. The world awaits this healing, quickening miracle of Love; and blessed indeed, are they who, meanwhile, follow the Lord so fully that He can give them this choice inheritance.

Yet we are taught also by this record that it is indeed,

"The most difficult of tasks to keep Heights which the soul is competent to gain."

Joshua had already taken Hebron; but now it needed to be retaken by Caleb, and yet again by David. "The expulsive power of a new affection" is needed not only to drive out, but to keep out all that is unhallowed. Here, then, first of all in this Citadel of Love and holy fellowship with the Father and with the Son, our King sets up His throne. [16] Here we make our covenant with Him, and He with us, and then when our love has been perfected, He will reign yet more royally in "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God."

In the portion of Caleb, there was one stronghold reserved by him for the prowess of another arm, that should at the same time secure a greater prize: "And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife." The little episode that follows is again repeated in the Book of Judges, as though its lovely lesson might possibly be overlooked. [17] The daughter knew her father's bounty, and so she moved her husband to ask of him a field; and along with this they needed springs of water:--for this she herself will ask him. Drawing nigh in her journey to her father, she alights in token of reverence and entreaty. But before her lips can shape a word, the father's heart is open:--"What wilt thou, my daughter?"

"Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water." "And he gave her the upper springs and the nether springs:"-- above all she had asked or thought; springs in the valley, and springs also upon the hills, so that she should lack no good thing. The lot was not so rigid as to exclude either rewards for the faithful, or free gifts for the filial, trusting heart. The patient endurance of a dry land might have been a good thing; but how much better the faith that drew her on! What dearth, what weary wanderings might have been her portion, had she never said at her father's feet, "Give ME A BLESSING!"

Whatever portion God has assigned to us, or whatever He has permitted our hand to win, what is anything or all, unless He add the blessing of these springs of water, of which He has told us, "The water that I shall give shall be within, a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." No simpler, stronger symbol of the Spirit, could be found than this. A Spring--a Well-spring--never dry--never turbid--from its clear depths, fed through the secret veins of earth, it gushes ever into life; it goeth not downward, but it springeth up. Resisting its own common law, it resists also the influences that meet it: in the fiery heat of summer it is the cool and satisfying spring; and the fierce frosts of winter can not bind it, for it is warm with central heat. The soul that has found all its springs in God, never knows its supplies to fail or vary. And we need both upper and nether springs: we need the Spirit of God in the highest regions of life; and down to its lowest level, the need is still the same. The thought of few of God's children is broad enough to embrace both in their asking. With some the thought is this--In the things of God we must have the Spirit of God; but it would derogate from His dignity to refer the commonplaces of life to Him. Such familiarity were fatal--our own judgment, our natural powers, are our resources here. Again, others have no true conception of spiritual things; never having been among these hills, they only aspire to live out life in the low valley of common duties, and to have these enriched by blessing from the Lord.

Meanwhile, our Father's thought is to harmonize these two regions of life, and no Christian can have real completeness of character without it. Who has not known good people--say holy men and women-- saints, indeed, in all spiritual things, with both knowledge and power--whom to meet was a delight;--but with whom to live were utter discord; -- they had no nether springs: spiritual, but not practical, they seemed better fitted for heaven than earth. Such a life is hot patterned after that of Christ. The Lord Jesus never overlooked the little things: one moment with His holy hands lifting the cold, folded palms of Jairus' little daughter, and saying from the heights of spiritual power, "Damsel, arise!"--the next moment, He commands the astonished and forgetful mother to give her something to eat! The faith that is fully poised forgets no earthly duty. Abraham, when he entertains angels, can run to the herd as the thoughtful host, to make ready their table; nor do even angels upon their side neglect the courtesy of partaking of his feast. What might not even the petty things of life--as we dare to call them--become, if thus purified and elevated by the permeating Spirit! How many a wife and mother finds that her lot has fallen in a valley, and that her field of service in itself is almost utterly arid. It is not a change of lot she needs--it is the fountain of living water. Coming to her Father in heaven not with murmuring, but thanksgiving, how graciously He listens to her plea, "Give me a blessing." It is there already--close beside her, but unseen by her weeping eyes, until God shows her the well. Then she thirsts no more; and He teaches her how to guide the gracious gift, till everywhere her valley home is green and glad.

We find next in order a request from the children of Joseph. Already Manasseh held the rich portion of all Bashan, and half of Gilead, [18] while the five daughters of Zelophehad had been allowed to count as so many heirs along with the five brethren of their father in receiving ten portions in Canaan. Ephraim also had one of the richest portions in all the land.

But covetous of still more, they brought their cause to Joshua, resting their claim not on any word of the Lord, but upon their own conceit:--"Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto?" The answer of Joshua, himself an Ephraimite, was both just and spirited. He challenges them to prove their greatness by cutting down the wood country, and driving out the giants. They object that they are not able to do this, since the Canaanites have iron chariots. But Joshua, even in virtually granting their request, abides by his first decision--"Thou art a great people, and hast great power; thou shalt not have one lot only; but the mountains shall be thine; for it is a wood and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine; for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong." [19] The rebuke belongs to all who desire God's immediate giving, to take the place of their own courage and energy; who would have Him even make up the deficit of their own timidity and indolence. There are many who aspire to be gifted by the Lord, who are slow to see how largely He gives through their own diligent use of what He has already given--the full cultivation and occupancy of their own lot. What an enlarging of all our lots would there be, if instead of vainly envying the gifts denied us, we gave all diligence in clearing the wilderness, in breaking up the fallow ground, and above all, in expelling every enemy. The clamor of conceit is ever--"Give me opportunity, and I will be great:" the answer for all such is, "Show yourselves great by first filling the sphere in which you already are."

After the allotment of the Land as far as the families of Judah and Joseph, the work was for a time suspended. No outward cause existed for this. Joshua said unto the children of Israel, that is, the seven remaining tribes which had not yet received their inheritance--"How long are ye slack to go to possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?" It seems almost incredible that after all this training, and preparation, and warfare, when there remained but one more simple step to the realization of God's great promise--even then they should come short of it. Jordan--Gilgal--Jericho--they had failed at none of these; yet now a spirit of sloth possesses them at the last critical moment. It is found needful to rouse them by a new expedient

Three men from each tribe were appointed to go through the land and describe it. Walking first through the entire country, they then "described it by cities into seven parts, in a book." This exploration not only served them essentially in the casting of lots, but was of far more importance in another way. When they had seen the land with their own eyes, and the people had heard from them this minute report, they wsre aroused to new eagerness to enjoy it.

Such slackness as theirs is found still in the Church of Christ, and as then, in by far the greater majority. Some indeed, like Judah and Joseph, press on at once to their possessions; but others linger until some one arises to stir them up. Inertia of spirit is one of the last besetments of the believer--the more to be feared, that it comes at a time when he needs to be especially alert. If the first step of our Christian course be decisive, so also is the last: "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." [20] The foot must not grow weary, till it has reached in its experience, the utmost length, and utmost breadth, of all the promises of God.

But to Christians collectively, how emphatically may it be still said, "There remaineth yet much land to be possessed." The Church has still to measure out with the lines of her knowledge even, as far as the revelation of the Gospel reaches. There are vast regions of glorious Truth that are little known to the many. How few venture into the wilderness of Prophecy, to pitch their tents! And who is there to go up that highest summit among all their holy mountains, and see what things they are which our Blessed Lord has "shewn unto His servants," and "which must shortly come to pass?" [21] What heart is found so full of holy courage, as to go forth alone, and year after year, steer steadily up to the great fountainheads of those mighty rivers, that have flowed so long from unknown sources? Alas, for Christianity, when she gave up that good old way of "faring forth" to seek the Truth--to go into her cloister, and there with infinite pains indeed, make out her maps from the old models of men whom she called her masters-- till at last she could settle down in a comfortable congratulation over their completeness! What room has she, indeed, in her beautifully executed systems of Theology, for the strange stories of these travellers and sight-seers!

It were wise for us to heed such a voice as that which charged the Pilgrim Fathers of our Land in their exile for conscience sake--"I am verily persuaded, I am very confident, that the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His holy Word." [22] Lengthen therefore thy cords, O Church of Christ.

Strengthen all thy stakes. "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitation." Arise! walk through the land, ye chosen men of God--Look from its Mountain-tops-- Sail out upon its Seas--Write it in many a book-- Describe it in the ears of all the people--Stir them from this slackness--Let them know what are the riches of the glory of this inheritance in Christ Jesus! The last of all to receive his possession in the Land of Promise, was Joshua. As it was given by special word of God, so had it also to be given by all the people, as his inheritance among them--Timnathheres--the portion of the Sun. Even so, when the Lord Jesus has secured to all His people the possessions which He has won for them, then will His tabernacle also be with men, and He will dwell among them.

There were still, however, two other classes to be provided for, without their receiving what might be called an inheritance. These classes were the two extremes of Society--the Manslayer and the Levite. Even for the poor fugitive fleeing from the Avenger of blood, there were to be cities where he might not only find a refuge, but a home;--a refuge in all cases until his cause was judged, and it was shown whether he was an unwilling slayer, or a murderer; and then a home, if delivered from judgment, till the death of the High Priest should restore him to his native city. Thus in dividing the land, the Lord did not forget the needs of the most distressed. The six cities selected were so situated, that some one of them was always within reach. So has the Saviour placed Himself within the reach of all, even of such as are in utmost peril of Vengeance. He is the Refuge, and the Home, and the final Restorer. It is surely most significant that instead of mean and unimportant cities being chosen, these six were all among the fortyeight Levitical cities. It showed not only the standing of all on common ground, but secured to the distressed the utmost sympathy and succor; for it is always found that the purest in heart, who dwell nighest to God, are the most compassionate and loving to them who are out of the way.

The Levites held their cities upon a different tenure from the other tribes. "Unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance, for the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He said unto them." [23] If they were denied in some sort an earthly portion, it was that they might claim more clearly the heavenly home. This distribution of the Levites among all the tribes of Israel is a most striking instance of the reversal of a curse; and again, taken in connection with a like scattering of Simeon, we see the same outward lot, so altered by inner conditions, as to present the very extremes of favor and displeasure. Both of them were to be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel. [24] Simeon, therefore, instead, of receiving a clearly-bounded territory, had only those portions of Judah which proved too much for that tribe. The cities assigned them were in various and remote groups, so as naturally to place them at a disadvantage, and in dependence upon others. Simeon is very significantly omitted from the last blessing upon the tribes of Israel; while in the case of Levi, we find a striking series of prophecies, extending from Genesis to Malachi, and leading from the depths up to the heights. Coupled with his brother Simeon, we hear the dying Israel recoil from their anger and self-will--"O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united." [25] What a change had come upon the children of Levi, when Moses gave his blessing--"They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law." [26] And, finally, to what honor had they been chosen, when we read in Malachi: "My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared Me, and was afraid before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with Me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity." [27] So a leaden curse, seeming like a millstone about their necks, is transmuted by the alchemy of grace into a sort of golden crown; and while the first is found to be the last, the last is first. Reuben, the first-born, has sheep-folds; and Levi, the outcast, has the service of the Most High God.

However bitter and dark the past record of any life, how dare any one despair in the face of such a fact as this? And what a stimulus is given here, as everywhere in God's Word, to choose the better part --to brave the self-denial and abnegations of service, for the sake of such a covenant of life and peace, and such abundant blessedness to others.

How many ministers of Christ--how many missionaries in their far greater sacrifices--must have had their souls sustained by the assurance," The Lord God is my inheritance." For us who so follow Christ, there is a standard of both wealth and honor, that the world wots not of. The True Riches outweigh the treasures of all earth; and looking to Him who said, "I am among you as He that serveth," we rejoice to make ourselves least of all, and servants of all, and thus in all lowliness and love--

"To fill the measure up of gentle deeds-- Even as we have learned that in these, That in the holy Christian charities, And the suppliance of the lowliest needs Of the most lowly, our true greatness is!"

The account of the distribution of the Land closes with a strong statement, that at first glance would seem unsupported by facts. But we have to bear in mind that the great reality of the Lord's giving was none the less true, for a failure here and there to receive, or to keep the good thing that had been given. It is the record of what the Lord had done, and therefore may not be sullied by the failures of man: "The Lord Gave unto Israel ALL The Land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it and dwelt therein. And THE LORD GAVE tHEM REST round about, according to all that He sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; THE LORD DELIVERED all their enemies into their hand. THERE FAILED NOT AUGHT of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; ALL CAME TO PASS." [28]

It was the triumph of that same Lord, who, "when He ascended up on high, led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." It is this same Lord, that will, without fail, give us the riches of the glory of His inheritance, but who, therefore, gives to every one of us all, some special gift of His Spirit. The very smallest of them all may not be hidden with impunity. It is even because the gifts so differ, that we are to be so diligent in using them.

Fellow-Christian, "stir up the gift of God that is in thee!" It is thy wealth; it is thy portion among thy brethren; be not slack to possess thy land. Church of Christ, claim all thy gifts! Thou mayest not say of one of them, as given to any member in all thy Body--"I have no need of thee."--But "COVET EARNESTLY THE BEST GIFTS."

Notes

1. Num. xxxiii. 54

2. Num. xxxiv. 17-29.

3. Deut. xxxii. 8. See on this subject a most suggestive volume, "Israel's Future," by Rev. Capel Molyneux.

4. 1 Cor. xii. 4-11--(Conybeare's rendering).

5. Christlieb, in the Preface to his "Modern Doubt and Christian Belief," says wisely--"Error is always assuredly a mixture of truth and falsehood, nor can be overcome so long as the elements of truth which it contains are unacknowledged, and not carefully separated from what is false." (See p. xi.)

6. Eph. iv. 11--13.

7. Eph. iv. 14.

8. See Num. xxxiv. 1-12.

9. Num. xxxii. 4.

10. Judges v. 15--17--Keil and Delitzsch.

11. 1 Chron. v. 25, 16.

12. 1 Cor. xii. 31.

13. Josh. xiv. 6-12.

14. Gen. xiii. 18.

15. Josh. xiv. 13, 14.

16. Cf. 1 Chron. xi. 1-7, and xxix. 27.

17. Cf. Josh. xv. 16-19, and Judges i. 12-15.

18. Josh. xiii. 29-31.

19. Josh. xvii. 14.-18.

20. Heb. iii. 14.

21. Rev. i. 1.

22. Neal gives this parting address of Pastor Robinson as follows:--

"Brethren:--We are now quickly to part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your faces on earth any more, the God of heaven only knows ; but whether the Lord has appointed that or no, I charge you before God and His blessed angels, that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

"If God reveal anything to you, by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded, the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of His holy Word. For my part I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the Reformed Churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no further than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things.

"This is a misery much to be lamented, for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God; but were they now living, would be as willing to -embrace further light as that which they first received. I beseech you remember it is an article of your Church-Covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written Word of God. Remember that, and every other article of your Sacred Covenant. But I must here withal exhort you to take heed what you receive as truth--examine it, consider it; and compare it with other Scriptures of truth, before you receive it, for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-Christian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once."--Neal's History of the Puritans, Vol. I., pp. 476, 477

23. Josh. xiii. 33.

24. Gen. xlix. 5-7.

25. Gen. xlix. 6.

26. Deut. xxxiii. 10.

27. Mal. ii. 5, 6.

28. Josh. xxi. 43-45.