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stone me." Even the leader of God's people feared death, and sinned not in fearing. Life is worthy to be dear to all; especially to him whom public charge hath made necessary. Mere fear is not sinful; it is impotence and distrust that accompany it, which make it evil. How well is that fear
bestowed, that sends us the more importunately to God! Some man would have thought of flight: Moses flies to his prayers; and that not for revenge, but for help. Who but Moses would not have said, This twice they have mutinied, and been pardoned; and now again thou seest, O Lord, how madly they rebel, and how bloodily they intend against me! Preserve me, I beseech thee, and plague them. I hear none of this; but, imitating the long-suffering of his God, he seeks to God for them, which sought to kill him for the quarrel of God.
Neither is God sooner sought than found. All Israel might see Moses go towards the rock: none but the elders might see him strike it. Their unbelief made them unworthy of this privilege. It is no small favour of God to make us witnesses of his great works; that he crucifies his Son before us, that he fetches the water of life out of the true rock in our sight, is an high prerogative: if his rigour would have taken it, our infidelity had equally excluded us, whom now his mercy hath received.
Moses must take his rod; God could have done it by his will, without a word, or by his word, without the rod; but he will do by means, that which he can as easily do without. There was no virtue in the rod, none in the stroke; but all in the command of God. Means must be used, and yet their efficacy must be expected out of themselves.
It doth not suffice God to name the rod, without a description; "Whereby thou smotest the river." Wherefore? but to strengthen the faith of Moses, that he might well expect this wonder from that which he had tried to be miraculous. How could he but firmly believe, that the same means which turned the waters into blood, and turned the sea into a wall, could as well turn the stone into water? Nothing more raises up the heart in present affiance, than the recognition of favours, or wonders passed. Behold, the same rod that brought plagues to the Egyptians, brings deliverances to Israel. By the same means can God save and condemn; like as the same sword defends and kills.
That power which turned the wings of the quails to the wilderness, turned the course of the water through the rock. He might, if he had pleased, have caused a spring to well out of the plain earth; but he will now fetch it out of the stone, to convince and shame their infidelity.
What is more hard and dry than the rock? what more moist and supple than water? That they may be ashamed to think they distrusted, lest God could bring them water out of the clouds or springs, the very rock shall yield it.
And now, unless their hearts had been more rocky than this stone, they could not but have resolved them into tears for this diffidence.
I wonder to see these Israelites fed with sacraments: their bread was sacramental, whereof they communicated every day. Lest any man should complain of frequence, the Israelites received daily; and now their drink was sacramental, that the ancient church may give no warrant of a dry communion. Twice, therefore, hath the rock yielded them water of refreshing; to signify that the true spiritual Rock yields it always. The rock that followed them was Christ. Out of thy side, O Saviour, issued that bloody stream, whereby the thirst of all believers is comfortably quenched. Let us but thirst (not with repining, but with faith); this rock of thine shall abundantly flow forth to our souls, and follow us, till this water be changed into that new wine, which we shall drink with thee in thy Father's kingdom.
The Foil of Amalek: or the Hand of Moses lift up.
No sooner is Israel's thirst slacked, than God hath an Amalekite ready to assault them. The Almighty hath choice of rods to whip us with, and will not be content with one trial. They would needs be quarrelling with Moses without a cause; and now God sends the Amalekites to quarrel with them. It is just with God, that they which would be contending with their best friends, should have work enough of contending with enemies.
In their passage out of Egypt, God would not lead them the nearest way, by the Philistines' land, lest they should
repent at the sight of war; now they both see and feel it. He knows how to make the fittest choice of the times of evil, and withholds that one while, which he sends another, not without a just reason why he sends and withholds it: and though to us they come ever, as we think, unseasonably, and at sometimes more unfitly than others, yet He that sends them knows their opportunities.
Who would not have thought a worse time could never have been picked for Israel's war than now? In the feebleness of their troops, when they were wearied, thirsty, unweaponed; yet now must the Amalekites do that, which before the Philistines might not do. We are not worthy, not able to choose for ourselves.
To be sick, and die in the strength of youth, in the minority of children; to be pinched with poverty, or miscarriage of children in our age, how harshly unseasonable it seems! But the infinite wisdom that orders our events, knows how to order our times. Unless we will be shameless unbelievers, O Lord, we must trust thee with ourselves and our seasons, and know, that not that which we desire, but that which thou hast appointed, is the fittest time for our sufferings.
Amalek was Esau's grandchild, and these Israelites the sons of Jacob. The abode of Amalek was not so far from Egypt, but they might well hear what became of their cousins of Israel; and now, doubtless out of envy, watched their opportunity of revenge for their old grudge. Malice is commonly hereditary, and runs in the blood, and, as we use to say of runnet, the older it is, the stronger.
Hence is that foolish hostility which some men unjustly nourish upon no other grounds, than the quarrels of their forefathers. To wreck our malice upon posterity, is, at the best, but the humour of an Amalekite.
How cowardly and how crafty was this skirmish of Amalek! They do not bid them battle in fair terms of war, but, without all noise of warning, come stealing upon the hindmost, and fall upon the weak and scattered remnants of Israel.
There is no looking for favour at the hands of malice: the worst that either force or fraud can do, must be expected of an adversary; but much more of our spiritual enemy, by how much his hatred is deeper. Behold, this Amalek lies in ambush to hinder our passage unto our land of promise, and
subtilely takes all advantages of our weaknesses.
not be wise or safe if we stay behind our colours, and strengthen not those parts where is most peril of opposition.
I do not hear Moses say to his Joshua, Amalek is come up against us, it matters not whether thou go against him or not; or if thou go, whether alone or with company; or if accompanied, whether with many or few, strong or weak; or if strong men, whether they fight or no; I will pray on the hill: but," Choose us out men, and go fight."
Then only can we pray with hope when we have done our best. And though the means cannot. effect that which we desire, yet God will have us use the likeliest means on our part to effect it. Where it comes immediately from the charge of God, any means are effectual: one stick of wood shall fetch water out of the rock, another shall fetch bitterness out of the water: but in those projects which we make for our own purposes, we must choose those helps which promise most efficacy. In vain shall Moses be upon the hill, if Joshua be not in the valley. Prayer without means is a mockery of God.
Here are two shadows of one substance; the same Christ in Joshua fights against our spiritual Amalek, and in Moses spreads out his arms upon the hill; and, in both, conquers. And why doth he climb up the hill rather than pray in the valley? Perhaps that he might have the more freedom to his thoughts, which, following the sense, are so much more heavenly, as the eyes see more of heaven. Though virtue lies not in the place, yet choice must be made of those places which may be the most help to our devotion; perhaps that he might be in the eye of Israel.
The presence and sight of the leader gives heart to the people: neither doth any thing more move the multitude than example. A public person cannot hide himself in the valley; but yet it becomes him best to shew himself upon the hill.
The hand of Moses must be raised, but not empty; neither is it his own rod that he holds, but God's. In the first meeting of God with Moses, the rod was Moses' it is like, for the use of his trade; now the propriety is altered: God hath so wrought by it, that now he challenges it, and Moses dare not call it his own.
Those things which it pleases God to use for his own ser
vice, are now changed in their condition. The bread of the sacrament was once the baker's, now it is God's: the water was once every man's, now it is the laver of regeneration. It is both unjust and unsafe to hold those things common wherein God hath a peculiarity.
At other times, upon occasion of the plagues, and of the quails, and of the rock, he was commanded to take the rod in his hand; now he doth it unbidden. He doth it not now for miraculous operation, but for encouragement.
For when the Israelites should cast up their eyes to the hill, and see Moses and his rod, (the man and the means that had wrought so powerfully for them), they could not but take heart to themselves, and think, There is the man that delivered us from the Egyptian; why not now from the Amalekite? There is the rod which turned waters to blood, and brought varieties of plagues on Egypt; why not now on Amalek?
Nothing can more hearten our faith, than the view of the monuments of God's favour: if ever we have found any word or act of God cordial to us, it is good to fetch it forth oft to the eye. The renewing of our sense and remembrance, makes every gift of God perpetually beneficial.
If Moses had received a command, that rod, which fetched water from the rock, could as well have fetched the blood of the Amalekites out of their bodies. God will not work miracles always; neither must we expect them unbidden.
Not as a standard-bearer, so much as a suppliant, doth Moses lift up his hand. The gesture of the body should both express and further the piety of the soul. This flesh of ours is not a good servant, unless it help us in the best offices. The God of spirits doth most respect the soul of our devotion; yet it is both unmannerly and irreligious to be misgestured in our prayers. The careless and uncomely carriage of the body helps both to signify and make a profane soul.
The hand and the rod of Moses never moved in vain; though the rod did not strike Amalek, as it had done the rock, yet it smote heaven, and fetched down victory. And that the Israelites might see the hand of Moses had a greater stroke in the fight than all theirs, the success must rise and fall with it. Amalek rose, and Israel fell, with his hand falling: Amalek fell, and Israel rises, with his hand raised. O the wondrous power of the prayers of faith! All heavenly favours are derived to us from this channel of grace. To