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ARE COMMANDED NOT TO FEAR. [ch. "consumed and dead from among the people,”(Deu. ii 14.) that the children of Israel set forward again on their journey to the land of Canaan : and we may observe that the Lord continued to direct them in their course, for though it is here mentioned that they pitched in the valley of Zared, yet if we compare
with Deut. ii. 13. we shall find it was at the express command of God; for there it is written, “Rise up, and get you over “the brook Zered," or valley as it expressed in the margin.
We read also in the same chapter, that not only the Edomites, but the children of Ammon and the Moabites being descendants of the righteous Lot, (see Gen. xix. 37. 38.) were likewise to be spared in the general destruction which awaited the Canaanites : for the time was now at hand for the fulfilment of that prophecy, contained in the song of Moses, “The people shall hear, and be afraid
sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina."
“Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed ; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold
them; all “ the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.'
“Fear and dread shall fall upon them ; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone, till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, "which thou hast purchased.” (Ex. xv. 14. 16.)
Now compare this with Deut. ii. 25. “ This day will I
begin to put the dread of thee, and the fear of thee upon “the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall “hear report of thee, and shall tremble and be in anguish « because of thee.”
“Fear not, I am thy shield,”'(Gen. xv. 1.) was the consoling assurance given to Abraham, and the same promise of protection was now extended to his posterity.
“ Dread not, neither be afraid of them. The Lord "your God which goeth before you, he shall tight for you,
according to all that he did for you in Egypt before "your eyes."(Deut. i. 29, 30.)
GOD OUR GUARD.
171 In like manner may the faithful Christian console himself with the conviction, that in all his conflicts with his spiritual enemies the arm of the Almighty is equally stretched forth in his defence, and that even as the Lord hardened the spirit of Sihon king of Hesh bon, that he might deliver him into the hands of the Israelites, (see Deut. i. 30.) so will he “bruise Satan under his feet,” (Rom. xvi. 20.) and thus secure his entrance into the promised land, purchased for him by the blood of his Saviour.
Israel in Moab-Balak and Balaam-Balaam's Parable-Idolatry of the Israelites-Phinehas.
The several journeys of the Israelites being now ended, they took up their station in the plains of Moab, where they remained until after the death of Moses.
* And Moab was sore afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was distressed because of the « children of Israel.”
Balak king of Moab, could not behold with unconcern this vast multitude established in his country,-a people of whom he had doubtless heard such marvellous doings, as could leave no doubt of their being under the protection of a superior Being.
saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites," and though they shewed no hostile intention towards himself, yet in number they were "many,” and in strength they were "mighty," and he might feel if any provocations should arise between them, how vain it would be to oppose human strength, against a people who were evi. dently fighting under the banners of an invisible power, and by whom so many had already been subdued.
He resolved therefore to adopt other means of ridding himself of the children of Israel,-means, which at once betrayed the weakness of his mind, and his disbelief of a true God.
He sent for Balaam a “soothsayer,” (Josh. xiii. 22.) to curse the people; thinking to oppose the voice of man
ainst the oninipotence of the Almighty !
It was a superstitious ceremony among the heathens to utter curses against their enennies, under the idea that their Gods enabled them by this means to devote them to destruction, and Balaam being a prophet of note, it was doubtless thought that his imprecations would therefore have the greater effect.
But woe to them that devise iniquity.” (Mic. ii. 1.) “A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth “his steps;" (Prov. xvi. 9.) and we shall see how the Lord, by the words which he put into the mouth of his prophet, brought " the counsel of the heathen to nought," and rendered his “ device of none effect.” (Ps. xxxiii. 10.)
Balaam though a heathen was nevertheless as I observed above, a true prophet, and though his religion was blended with the superstitions of the idolaters around him, yet that he worshipped the true God is evident, by his calling the Lord his God, and seeking counsel of him in prayer. But though he spake with his lips, yet his "heart was not "right with God.” (Ps. lxxviii
. 37.) He sought counsel, bnt he heeded it not, and he could not withstand the temptations held out to m.
“Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse “ the people, for they are blessed,” was the answer he received from Heaven. Nevertheless, he not only listened to the messengers of Balak, but even induced them to stay, in hopes that a second application might be more favorably received. But with God there “is no variable
ness, neither shadow of turning;” (James i. 17.) and though he permitted him to go, it was doubtless in order to bring him back to a sense of his duty, as well as to magnify his own power in the sight of the Heathen.
[ch. That Balaam went in direct opposition to the will of God, is evident, since it is said in the next verse, that “God's anger was kindled because he went.” He had provoked the Lord by his importunities, and had incurred his displeasure ; " and the angel of the Lord stood in the "way for an adversary against him."
The Almighty works out his purposes by various ends, and adopts various ways of reclaiming his sinful creatures, and it pleased him now by a miracle, to open Balaam's eyes to the sinfulness of his conduct. He sent an angel to withstand him, “because his way was perverse before him." (see v. 32.) Thus was Balaam " rebuked for his iniquity, “the dumb ass speaking with man's voice, forbad the “madness of the prophet. (2 Pet. ii. 16.)
“And Balaam said unto the angel of the Lord, I have "sinned.”
He was now brought to an open acknowledgment of his fault, and expressed his readiness to return back, if such was the will of God.
But no—God's purpose was not yet fulfilled. The heathen king had yet to learn that there was a God above who could frustrate the evil intentions of the wicked : who could " turn the curse into a blessing.” (Deut. xxiii.5.)
Before we close this chapter, let us reflect upon the character of Balaam, and we shall find that the sin which caused him to go astray and act in disobedience to God's commands, was covetousness. He knew what was his duty, for God had expressly told him he was not to go; he could not therefore plead ignorance as his excuse, but listened to the evil suggestions of a selfish passion, and thus suffered himself to be led astray from the path he ought to have pursued.
May his example teach us to guard especially against this sin. “ Take heed and beware of covetousness," says our Saviour, "for a man's life consisteth not in the abund"ance of the things which he possesseth.” (Luke xii. 15.) And St. Peter in still stronger language speaks of those. who. “ exercise their heart with covetous practices” as