By Horatius Bonar
"From the top of the rocks I see him." -- Numbers 23:9
IT was of Israel and Israel's glory that the false seer of Pethor spake. He stood upon the top of Moab's barren rocks, and gazed down on the happy nation, whom God had delivered from Egypt, had brought through the desert, and was about to lead into the land flowing with milk and honey. It was with wonder, perhaps with envy too, that Balaam looked on the goodly tents beneath him. So, from this desert land and these desert hills, we gaze upon the church on her way to Canaan, about to be settled in the blessed land and holy city. And when we gaze, what do we see?
I. The ruggedness of the land of our present sojourn. It is the region of hostility as well as barrenness. This is not our rest. These dark mountains are not our home. We may pitch our tents among them for a season, or climb to the top to gaze around us. But they are no dwelling-place for us. We may look on Canaan from Pisgah, but Pisgah will not do for a home. Nebo lies hard by Pisgah, and Nebo tells of death, not of life, --mortality is here. This is the land, not of Israel, but of Moab; and its gods are Baal, not Jehovah. We could not abide here.
II. The glorious land. Afar off just now, but still visible, still beautiful. It is the Paradise of God; it is the new Jerusalem; the city which hath foundations; the new' heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. The vision gives us a wondrous contrast between what we are and what we shall be, making us long for the day of entrance.
III. A people delivered from a present evil world. Once in bondage, now free; once groaning under oppression, now in the service of a heavenly Master, and heirs of the world to come; the red sea crossed, and now between them and their persecutors as an iron wall. Forgiven and redeemed; with their backs on Egypt, and their faces to Jerusalem. "A people saved by the Lord."
A people sustained by Jehovah Himself. Theirs is the hidden manna, the water from the smitten rock. Jehovah feeds them; Jehovah gives them the living water. It is not man but God who cares for them. All that they have they owe to Him who has delivered them. They feed on angel's food; nay, better, the very bread of God; on Him whose flesh is meat indeed, whose blood is drink indeed.
A pilgrim band. They are strangers on the earth; this is not their home; here is not their city. Their loins are girt, and their staff is in their hand, and they are hastening onward. No sitting down; no taking ease; no folding of their hands. Forward, still forward, is their watchword! Theirs is a pilgrimage, not a pleasure-tour. They must not tarry.
VI. A people bought with a price. Their ransom has been blood; and they are not their own. Another life has gone for theirs. They have been plucked from death and the grave; because another has died and risen for them. To that other they belong, not to themselves, nor the flesh, nor the world.
VII. A people loved with an infinite love. The banner that is over them is love. The song they sing is love, "Unto Him that loved us." It is a love which passeth knowledge; a love without bound or end; a love eternal and divine. All around and above them is love,--the love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They are the monuments of love; the witnesses of love,--free love, forgiving love, redeeming love; love beyond that which angels know,--a love which constrains them, purifies them, urges them forward, gladdens all their way.
VIII. A people preparing to pass over to the goodly land. It is within sight; a few days, perhaps less, will bring them over. Their journey is nearly done. Their toil and weariness will soon be exchanged for rest and glory. And "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." From the top of the rocks they can see Jerusalem, and Olivet, and Bethlehem; and get glimpses of the whole outstretched land. It is a land of plenty, where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; it is a land of light, where there is no night; a land of blessing, where there is no curse; a land of gladness, where sorrow comes not; a summer land, where the frosts of winter chill not; a calm sunny land, where storms vex not and shadows fall not; a land of health, where the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; a land of peace, where the war-trumpet never sounds; a land of life, where corruption and mortality enter not, where death and the grave are unknown; a land of union, where broken ties are all reknit, and broken hearts all healed. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes! (Revelation 7:17.) There Jesus reigns; there we reign with him.