PERIOD I, PART IV
FROM MOSES TO DAVID
I PROCEED to the fourth period, which reaches from Moses to David. I would show how the work of redemption was carried on through this also.
I. The first thing that offers itself to be considered, is the redemption of the church of God out of Egypt, the most remarkable of all the Old Testament redemptions of the church of God, and that which was the greatest pledge and forerunner of the future redemption of Christ, of any, and is much more insisted on in Scripture than any other of those redemptions. And indeed it was the greatest type of Christ’s redemption of any providential event whatsoever. This redemption was by Jesus Christ, as is evident from this, that it was wrought by him that appeared to Moses in the bush, for that was the person that sent Moses to redeem that people. But that was Christ, as is evident, because he is called the angel of the Lord, Exo. 3:2, 3. The bush represented the human nature of Christ, that is called the branch. The bush grew on Mount Sinai or Horeb, which is a word that signifies a dry place, as the human nature of Christ was a root out of a dry ground. The bush burning with fire, represented the sufferings of Christ, in the fire of God’s wrath. It burned and was not consumed. So Christ, though he suffered extremely, yet perished not, but overcame at last, and rose from his sufferings. Because this great mystery of the incarnation and sufferings of Christ was here represented, therefore Moses says, “I will turn aside, and behold this great sight.” A great sight he might well call it, when there was represented, God manifest in the flesh, and suffering a dreadful death, and rising from the dead.
This glorious Redeemer was he that redeemed the church out of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh, as Christ, by his death and sufferings, redeemed his people from Satan, the spiritual Pharaoh. He redeemed them from hard service and cruel drudgery, as Christ redeems his people from the cruel slavery of sin and Satan. He redeemed them, as it is said, from the iron furnace, as Christ redeems his church from a furnace of fire and everlasting burning. He redeemed them with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and great and terrible judgments on their enemies, as Christ with mighty power triumphs over principalities and powers, and executes terrible judgments on his church’s enemies, bruising the serpent’s head. He saved them, when others were destroyed, by the sprinkling of the blood of the paschal lamb, as God’s church is saved from death by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, when the rest of the world is destroyed. God brought forth the people sorely against the will of the Egyptians, when they could not bear to let them go, so Christ rescues his people out of the hands of the devil, sorely against his will, when his proud heart cannot bear to be overcome.
In that redemption, Christ did not only redeem the people from the Egyptians, but he redeemed them from the devils, the gods of Egypt. For before, they had been in a state of servitude to the gods of Egypt, as well as to the men. And Christ, the seed of the woman, did now, in a very remarkable manner, fulfill the curse on the serpent in bruising his head, Exo. 12:12, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt will I execute judgment.” Hell was as much and more engaged in that affair, than Egypt was. The pride and cruelty of Satan, that old serpent, was more concerned in it than Pharaoh’s. He did his utmost against the people, and to his utmost opposed their redemption. But it is said, that when God redeemed his people out of Egypt, he broke the heads of the dragons in the waters, and broke the head of leviathan in pieces, and gave him to be meat for the people inhabiting the wilderness, Psa. 74:12, 13, 14. God forced their enemies to let them go, that they might serve him, as also Zacharias observes with respect to the church under the gospel, Luke 1:74, 75.
The people of Israel went out with an high hand, and Christ went before them in a pillar of cloud and fire. There was a glorious triumph over earth and hell in that deliverance. And when Pharaoh and his hosts, and Satan by them, pursued the people, Christ overthrew them in the Red Sea. The Lord triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider he cast into the sea, and there they slept their last sleep, and never followed the children of Israel any more. As all Christ’s enemies are overthrown in his blood, which by its abundant sufficiency, and the greatness of the sufferings with which it was shed, may well be represented by a sea. The Red Sea did represent Christ’s blood, as is evident, because the apostle compares the children of Israel’s passage through the Red Sea to baptism, 1 Cor. 10:1, 2. But we all know that the water of baptism represents Christ’s blood.
Thus Christ, the angel of God’s presence, in his love and his pity, redeemed his people, and carried them in the days of old as on eagles’ wings, so that none of their proud and spiteful enemies, neither Egyptians nor devils, could touch them.
This was quite a new thing that God did towards this great work of redemption. God never had done anything like it before, Deu. 4:32, 33, 34. This was a great advancement of the work of redemption, that had been begun and carried on from the fall of man, a great step taken in divine providence towards a preparation for Christ’s coming into the world, and working out his great and eternal redemption. For this was the people of whom Christ was to come. And now we may see how that plant flourished that God had planted in Abraham. Though the family of which Christ was to come, had been in a degree separated from the rest of the world before, in the calling of Abraham. Yet that separation that was then made, appeared not to be sufficient, without further separation. For though by that separation, they were kept as strangers and sojourners, kept from being united with other people in the same political societies. Yet they remained mixed among them, by which means, as it had proved, they had been in danger of wholly losing the true religion, and of being overrun with the idolatry of their neighbors. God now, therefore, by this redemption, separated them as a nation from all other nations, to subsist by themselves in their own political and ecclesiastical state, without having any concern with the heathen nations, that they might so be kept separate until Christ should come, and so that the church of Christ might be upheld, and might keep the oracles of God, until that time, that in them might be kept up those types and prophecies of Christ, and those histories, and other divine previous instructions, that were necessary to prepare the way for Christ’s coming.
II. As this people were separated to be God’s peculiar people, so all other people upon the face of the whole earth were wholly rejected and given over to heathenism. This, so far as the providence of God was concerned in it, belongs to the great affair of redemption that we are upon, and was one thing that God ordered in his providence to prepare the way for Christ’s coming, and the great salvation he was to accomplish in the world, for it was only to prepare the way for the more glorious and signal victory and triumph of Christ’s power and grace over the wicked and miserable world, and that Christ’s salvation of the world of mankind might become the more sensible. This is the account the Scripture itself gives us of the matter, Rom. 11:30, 31, 32. The apostle there speaking to the Gentiles that had formerly been heathens, says, “As ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief, even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy, For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” It was the will of God, that the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, should be concluded in visible and professed unbelief, that so God’s mercy and Christ’s salvation towards them all might be visible and sensible. For the apostle is not speaking only of that unbelief that is natural to all God’s professing people as well as others, but that which appears, and is visible, such as the Jews fell into, when they openly rejected Christ, and ceased to be a professing people. The apostle observes, how that first the Gentiles, even the Gentile nations, were included in a professed unbelief and open opposition to the true religion, before Christ came, to prepare the way for the calling of the Gentiles, which was soon after Christ came, that God’s mercy might be the more visible to them, and that the Jews were rejected, and apostatized from the visible church, to prepare the way for the calling of the Jews, which shall be in the latter days. So that it may be seen of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, that they are visibly redeemed by Christ, from being visibly aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, without hope, and without God in the world.
We cannot certainly determine precisely at what time the apostasy of the Gentile nations from the true God, or their being concluded in visible unbelief, became universal. Their falling away was a gradual thing, as we observed before. It was general in Abraham’s time, but not universal. For then we find Melchisedec, one of the kings of Canaan, was priest of the most high God. And after this the true religion was kept up for a while among some of the rest of Abraham’s posterity, besides the family of Jacob, and also in some of the posterity of Nahor, as we have instances of, in Job, and his three friends, and Elihu. The land of Uz, where Job lived, was a land possessed by the posterity of Uz, or Huz, the son of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, of whom we read, Gen. 22:21. Bildad the Shuhite was of the offspring of Shuah, Abraham’s son by Keturah, Gen. 25:1, 2, and Elihu the Buzite, was of Buz the son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham. So the true religion lasted among some other people besides the Israelites, a while after Abraham. But it did not last long. And it is probable that the time of their total rejection, and giving up to idolatry, was about the time when God separated the children of Israel from Egypt to serve him, for they are often put in mind on that occasion, that God had now separated them to be his peculiar people, or to be distinguished from all other people upon earth, to be his people alone, to be his portion, when others were rejected. This seems to hold forth thus much to us, that God now chose them in such a manner, that this visible choice of them was accompanied with a visible rejection of all other nations in the world, that God visibly came, and took up his residence with them, as forsaking all other nations.
And so, as the first calling of the Gentiles after Christ came, was accompanied with a rejection of the Jews, so the first calling of the Jews to be God’s people, when they were called out of Egypt, was accompanied with a rejection of the Gentiles.
Thus all the Gentile nations throughout the whole world, all nations, but only the Israelites, and those that embodied themselves with them, were left and given up to idolatry, and so continued a great many ages, even from this time until Christ came, which was about fifteen hundred years. They were concluded so long a time in unbelief, that there might be a thorough proof of the necessity of a Savior, that it might appear by so long a trial, past all contradiction, that mankind were utterly insufficient to deliver themselves from that gross darkness and misery, and subjection to the devil, that they had fallen under, that it might appear that all the wisdom of the philosophers, and the wisest men that the heathen had among them, could not deliver them from their darkness, for the greater glory to Jesus Christ, who, when he came, enlightened and delivered them by his glorious gospel. Herein the wonderful wisdom of God appear, in thus preparing the way for Christ’s redemption. This the Scripture teaches us, as in 1 Cor. 1:21, “For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Here I might consider as another work of God, whereby the general work of redemption was carried on, that wonderful deliverance which he wrought for the children of Israel at the Red Sea, when they were pursued by the hosts of the Egyptians, and were just ready to be swallowed up by them, there being, to human appearance no possibility of an escape. But as this may be referred to their redemption out of Egypt, and considered as a part of that more general work, I shall not further enlarge it.
III. The next thing that I shall take notice of here, that was done towards the work of redemption, is God’s giving the moral law in so awful a manner at Mount Sinai. This was another new thing that God did, a new step taken in this great affair, Deu. 4:33, “Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? And it was a great thing that God did towards this work, and that whether we consider it as delivered as a new exhibition of the covenant of works, or given as a rule of life.
The covenant of works was here exhibited to be as a schoolmaster to lead to Christ, not only for the use of that nation in the ages of the Old Testament, but for the use of God’s church throughout all ages of the world, as an instrument that the great Redeemer makes use of to convince men of their sin and misery, and helpless state, and of God’s awful and tremendous majesty and justice as a lawgiver, and so to make men sensible of the necessity of Christ as a savior. The work of redemption, in its saving effect on men’s souls, in all the progress of it to the end of it, is not carried on without the use of this law that was now delivered at Sinai.
It was given in an awful manner, with a terrible voice, exceedingly loud and awful, so that all the people that were in the camp trembled, and Moses himself, though so intimate a friend of God, yet said, I exceedingly fear and quake, the voice being accompanied with thunders and lightning, the mountain burning with fire to the midst of heaven, and the earth itself shaking and trembling, to make all sensible how great that authority, power, and justice was, that stood engaged to exact the fulfillment of this law, and to see it fully executed, and how strictly God would require the fulfillment, and how terrible his wrath would be against every breaker of it, that men being sensible of these things, might have a thorough trial of themselves, and might prove their own hearts, and know how impossible it is for them to have salvation by the works of the law, and might see the absolute necessity they stood in of a mediator.
If we regard this law now given at Mount Sinai, not as the covenant of works, but as a rule of life, so it is made use of by the Redeemer, from that time to the end of the world, as a directory to his people, to show them the way in which they must walk as they would go to heaven. For a way of sincere and universal obedience to this law is the narrow way that leads to life.
IV. The next thing that is observable in this period, was God’s giving the typical law, in which I suppose to be included most or all those precepts that were given by Moses, that did not properly belong to the moral law, not only those laws that are commonly called ceremonial, in distinction from judicial laws, which are the laws prescribing the ceremonies and circumstances of the Jewish worship, and their ecclesiastical state. But also many, if not all those divine laws that were political, and for regulating the Jewish commonwealth, commonly called judicial laws, these were at best many of them typical. The giving this typical law was another great thing that God did in this period, tending to build up this glorious structure of redemption that God had been carrying on from the beginning of the world. There had been many typical events of providence before, that represented Christ and his redemption, and some typical ordinances, as particularly those two of sacrifices and circumcision. But now, instead of representing the great Redeemer in a few institutions, God gives forth a law full of nothing else but various and innumerable typical representations of good things to come, by which that nation were directed how, every year, month, and day, in their religious actions, and in their conduct of themselves, in all that appertained to their ecclesiastical and civil state, to show forth something of Christ, one observance showing one thing, exhibiting one doctrine, or one benefit, another, another. So that the whole nation by this law was, as it were, constituted in a typical state. Thus the gospel was abundantly held forth to that nation, so that there is scarce any doctrine of it, but is particularly taught and exhibited by some observance of this law, though it was in shadows, and under a veil, as Moses put a veil on his face when it shone.
To this typical law belong all the precepts that relate to building the tabernacle, that was set up in the wilderness, and all the form, circumstances, and utensils of it.
V. About this time was given to God’s church the first written Word of God that ever was enjoyed by God’s people This was another great thing done towards the affair of redemption, a new and glorious advancement of the building. Not far from this time, was the beginning of the great written rule, which God has given for the regulation of the faith, worship, and practice of his church in all ages henceforward to the end of the world, which rule grew, and was added to from that time, for many ages, until it was finished, and the canon of Scripture completed by the apostle John. It is not very material, whether the first written word that ever was, was the ten commandments written on the tables of stone with the finger of God, or the book of Job, and whether the book of Job was written by Moses, as some suppose, or by Elihu, as others. If it was written by Elihu, it was written before this period that we are now upon, but yet could not be far from it, as appears by considering whose posterity the persons were that are spoken of in it, together with Job’s great age, that was past before this was written.
The written Word of God is the main instrument Christ has made use of to carry on his work of redemption in all ages since it was given. There was a necessity now of the Word of God being committed to writing, for a steady rule to God’s church. Before this, the church had the Word of God by tradition, either by immediate tradition from eminent men that were inspired, that were then living. (For it was a common thing in those days, before there was a written word, for God to reveal himself immediately to eminent persons, as appears by the book of Job, and many other things that might be mentioned, in the book of Genesis.) Or else they had it by tradition from former generations, which might be had with tolerable certainty in ages preceding this, by reason of the long lives of men. Noah might converse with Adam, and receive traditions from him, and Noah lived until about Abraham’s time. And the sons of Jacob lived a considerable time to deliver the revelations made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their posterity in Egypt. But the distance from the beginning of things was become so great, and the lives of men become so short, being brought down to the present standard about Moses’ time. And God having now separated a nation to be a peculiar people, partly for that end to be the keepers of the oracles of God, God saw it to be a needful and convenient time now to commit his word to writing, to remain henceforward for a steady rule throughout all ages. And therefore, besides the book of Job, Christ wrote the ten commandments on tables of stone, with his own finger, and after this the whole law, as containing the substance of the five books of Moses, was by God’s special command committed to writing, which was called the book of the law, and was laid up in the tabernacle, to be kept there for the use of the church, as you may see, Deu. 31:24, 25, 26.
VI. God was pleased now wonderfully to represent the progress of his redeemed church through the world to their eternal inheritance, by the journey of the children of Israel through the wilderness, from Egypt to Canaan. Here all the various steps of the redemption of the church by Christ were represented, from the beginning to its consummation in glory. The state they are redeemed from is represented by Egypt, and their bondage there, which they left. The purchase of their redemption was represented by the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, which was offered up that night that God slew all the first born of Egypt. The beginning of the application of the redemption of Christ’s church in their conversion, was represented by Israel’s going out of Egypt, and passing through the Red Sea in so extraordinary and miraculous a manner. The travel of the church through this evil world, and the various changes through which the church passes, in the different stages of it, were represented by the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness. The manner of their being conducted by Christ, was represented by the Israelites being led by the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. The manner of the church’s being supported in their progress, and supplied from the beginning to the end of it, with spiritual food, and continual daily communications from God, was represented by God’s supplying the children of Israel with bread, or manna, from heaven, and water out of the rock. The dangers that the saints must meet with in their course through the world, were represented by the fiery flying serpents which the children of Israel met with in the wilderness. The conflicts the church has with her enemies, were represented by their battle with the Amalekites, and others they met with there. And so innumerable other things might be mentioned, wherein the things they met with were lively images of things which the church and saints meet with in all ages of the world. That these things are typical of things that pertain to the Christian church, is manifest from 1 Cor. 10:11, “Now all these things happened unto them from ensamples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Here the apostle is speaking of those very things which we have now mentioned, and he says expressly, that they happened unto them for types, so it is in the original.
VII. Another thing here must not be omitted, which was a great and remarkable dispensation of providence, respecting the whole world of mankind, which was finished in this period, and that was, the shortening the days of man’s life, whereby it was brought down from being between nine hundred and a thousand years, to be but about seventy or eighty. The life of man began to be shortened immediately after the flood. It was brought down the first generation to six hundred years, amid the next to between four and five hundred years. And so the life of man gradually grew shorter and shorter, until about the time of the great mortality that was in the congregation of Israel, after they had murmured at the report of the spies, and their carcasses fell in the wilderness, whereby all the men of war died. And then the life of man was reduced to its present standard. As Moses observes in that psalm that he wrote on occasion of that mortality, Psa. 90:10, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow: for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
This great dispensation of God tended to promote the grand design of the redemption of Christ. Man’s life being cut so very short in this world, tended to prepare the way for poor, mortal, short lived men, the more joyfully to entertain the glad tidings of everlasting life in another world, that are brought to light by the gospel, and more readily to embrace a savior, that purchases and offers such a blessing. If men’s lives were still commonly about nine hundred years, how much less would they have to move them to regard the proffers of a future life, how much greater temptation would they have to rest in the things of this world, they being of such long continuance, and to neglect any other life but this? This probably contributed greatly to the wickedness of the antediluvians. But now, how much greater motives have men to seek redemption, and a better life than this, by the great Redeemer, since the life of man is not one twelfth part of what it used to be. Men now universally die at the age when men formerly used to be but as it were setting out in the world!
VIII. The same work was carried on in preserving that people, of whom Christ was to come, from totally perishing in the wilderness, by a constant miracle of forty years continuance. I observed before many times, how God preserved those of whom the Redeemer wag to proceed in a very wonderful manner, as he preserved Noah and his family from the flood, and as he preserved Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with their families, from the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, and as he preserved Jacob and his family from perishing by the famine, by Joseph in Egypt. But this preservation of the children of Israel for so long a time in the wilderness, was on some accounts more remarkable than any of them, for it was by a continual miracle or so long duration. There was, as may be fairly computed, at first two millions of souls in that congregation, that could not subsist any better without meat and drink than other men. But if this had been withheld, they must all have perished, every man, woman, and child, in less than one month’s time, so that there would not have been one of them left. But yet this vast multitude subsisted for forty years together, in a dry barren wilderness, without sowing or reaping, or tilling any land, having their bread daily rained down to them out of heaven, and being furnished with water to satisfy them all, out of a rock, and the same clothes with which they came out of Egypt, lasting, without wearing out all that time. Never was any instance like this, of a nation being so upheld for so long a time together. Thus God upheld his church by a continual miracle, and kept alive that people in whom was the blessing, the promised seed, and great Redeemer of the world.
IX. God was pleased, in this time of the children of Israel’s being in the wilderness, to give a further revelation of Christ the Redeemer in the predictions of him, than had been before. Here are three prophecies given at this time that I would take notice of. The first is that of Balaam, Num. 24:17, 18, 19, “I shall see him, but not now, I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies, and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.” This is a plainer prophecy of Christ, especially with regard to his kingly office, than any that had been before. But we have another, that God gave by Moses, that is plainer still, especially with regard to his prophetic office, in Deu. 18:18, etc. “I will raise up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I command him,” etc. This is a plainer prophecy of Christ than any that had been before, in this respect that all the prophecies that had been before of Christ, were in figurative mystical language. The first prophecy was so, That the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “That in their seed all the families of the earth should be blessed,” were also mystical, which prophecy is not so particular, because the expression, thy seed, is general, and not plainly limited to any particular person. The prophecy of Jacob in blessing Judah, Gen. 49:8 is in mystical language, and so is that of Balaam, which speaks of Christ under the figurative expression of a star. But this is a plain prophecy, without being veiled in any mystical language at all.
There are several things contained in this prophecy of Christ. Here is his mediator office in general, Gen. 49:16. Here it is revealed how he should be a person to stand between them and God, that was so terrible a being, a being of such awful majesty, holiness, and justice, that they could not have come to him, and have intercourse with him immediately, without a mediator to stand between them, because, if they came to such a dreadful sin-revenging God immediately, they should die, God would prove a consuming fire to them. And then here is a particular revelation of Christ with respect to his prophetic office, “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee,” etc. And further, it is revealed what kind of a prophet he should be, a prophet like Moses, who was the head and leader of all the people, and who, under God, had been their redeemer, to bring them out of the house of bondage, was, as it were, their shepherd by whom God led them through the Red Sea and wilderness, and was an intercessor for them with God, and was both a prophet and a king in the congregation. For Moses had the power of a king among them. It is said of him, Deu. 33:5, He was king in Jeshurun, and he was the prophet by whom God as it were built up his church, and delivered his instructions of worship. Thus Christ was to be a prophet like unto Moses, so that this is both the plainest and fullest prophecy of Christ that ever had been from the beginning of the world to this time.
The next prophecy that I shall take notice of, respects only the calling of the Gentiles, which should be after Christ’s coming, of which God gave a very plain prophecy by Moses in the wilderness, Deu. 32:21. Here is a very plain prophecy of the rejection of the Jews and calling the Gentiles. They moved God to jealousy by that which was not a god, by casting him off, and taking other gods, that were no gods, in his room. So God declares that he will move them to jealousy in the like manner, by casting them off, and taking other people, that had not been his people, in their room. The Apostle Paul takes notice of this prophecy, as foretelling the calling of the Gentiles, in Rom. 10:19, 20, “But I say, Did not Israel know! First, Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not, I was made manifest to them that asked not after me.”
Thus you see how the light or the gospel, which first began to dawn and glimmer immediately after the fall, gradually increases the nearer we come to Christ’s time.
X. Another thing by which God carried on this work in this time, was a remarkable pouring out of his Spirit on the young generation in the wilderness. The generation that was grown up when they came out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, was a very disobedient and perverse generation. They were tainted with the idolatry and wickedness of Egypt, and were not weaned from it, as the prophet Ezekiel takes notice, Eze. 20:6, 7, 8. Hence they made the golden calf in imitation of the idolatry of Egypt, that was wont to worship a bull or an ox, and therefore cattle are called the abomination of the Egyptians, i.e. their idol. This generation God was exceeding angry with, and swore in his wrath, that they should not enter into his rest. But the younger generation were not so, the generation that were under twenty years old when they came out of Egypt, and those that were born in the wilderness, the generation spoken of, Num. 14:31, “But your little ones, who ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land that ye have despised.” This was the generation with whom the covenant was renewed, as we have an account in Deuteronomy, and that entered into the land of Canaan. This generation God was pleased to make a generation to his praise, and they were eminent for piety, as appears by many things said in Scripture about them, as, particularly, Jer. 2:2, 3, “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness to the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase.” Here the generation that went after God in the wilderness, is spoken of with very high commendations, as eminent for holiness, “Israel was holiness to the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase.” And their love to God is spoken of as distinguished like the love of a bride at her espousals. The going after God in the wilderness that is here spoken of, is not the going of the children of Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness of Sinai. But their following God through that dreadful wilderness, that the congregation long wandered in, after they went back from Kadesh-barnea, which is spoken of, Deu. 8:15, “Who led thee through the great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water.” Though this generation had a much greater trial, than the generation of their fathers had before they came to Kadesh-barnea, yet they never murmured against God in any wise, as their fathers had done. But their trials had a contrary effect upon them, to awaken them, convince, and humble them, and fit them for great mercy. They were awakened by those awful judgments of God that he inflicted on their fathers, whereby their carcasses fell in the wilderness. And God poured out his Spirit with those awakening provisions toward their fathers, and their own travel in the wilderness, and the word preached to them by Moses, whereby they were greatly awakened, and made to see the badness of their own hearts, and were humbled, and at length multitudes of them converted, as Deu. 8:2, 3, “And thou shalt remember the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years In the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee,” etc. And, Deu. 8:15, “Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end.” And therefore it is said, Hos. 13:5, “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.” God allured them, and brought them into that wilderness, and spake comfortably to them, as it was foretold that he would do afterwards, Hos. 2:14.
Those terrible judgments that were executed in the congregation after their turning back from Kadesh-barnea, in the matter of Korah, and the matter of Peor, were chiefly on the old generation, whom God consumed in the wilderness. Those rebellions were chiefly among the elders of the congregation, who were of the older generation that God had given up to their hearts lust. They walked in their own counsels. God was grieved with their manners forty years in the wilderness.
But that this younger congregation were eminent for piety, appears by all their history. The former generation were wicked, and were followed with curses. But this was holy, and wonderful blessings followed them. God did great things for them, he fought for them, and gave them the possession of Canaan. And it is God’s manner, when he hath very great mercies to bestow on a visible people, first, to fit them for them, and then to bestow them on them. So it was here. They believed in God, and by faith overcame Sihon and Og, and the giants of Canaan, and are commended for cleaving to the Lord. Jos. 23:8, “Joshua says unto them, Cleave unto the Lord, as ye have done unto this day.” And so Israel did all the while that generation lived. But when Joshua and all that generation were dead, there arose another generation that knew not the Lord. This pious generation showed a laudable and fervent zeal for God on several occasions, on occasion of Achan’s sin, but especially when they suspected the two tribes and a half had set up an altar in opposition to the altar of burnt offering. There never was any generation of Israel that so much good and so little evil is mentioned of, as this generation. It is further observable, that in the time of this generation was the second general circumcision, whereby the reproach of Israel was fully rolled away. They became pure. When afterwards they were polluted by Achan, they purged themselves again.
The men of the former generation being dead, and God having sanctified this younger generation to himself, he solemnly renewed his covenant with them, as we have a particular account in the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy. We find that such solemn renovations of the covenant commonly accompanied any remarkable pouring out of the Spirit, causing a general reformation. So we find it was in Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s times. It is questionable whether there ever was a time of so great a flourishing of religion in the Israelite church, as in that generation, and as, in the Christian church, religion was in its most flourishing circumstances in the day of its espousals, or first setting up of that church, in the days of the apostles. So it seems to have been with the Jewish church in the days of its first establishment in Moses’ and Joshua’s times.
Thus God at this time did gloriously advance the work of redemption, both by his word and Spirit. By this pouring out of the Spirit of God, the work of redemption was promoted, not only as it was in itself a glorious instance of the carrying on of that redemption in the application of it. But as this was what God made use of as a means of the good and orderly establishment of the church of Israel at its first beginning, when it was first settled in the regular observance of God’s ordinances, Canaan, even as the pouring out of the Spirit, in the beginning of the Christian church, was a great means God made use of for the well establishing the Christian church in the world in all succeeding ages.
XI. The next thing I would observe, was God’s bringing the people of Israel under the hand of Joshua, and settling them in that land where Christ was to be born, and which was the great type of the heavenly Canaan, which Christ has purchased. This was done by Joshua, who was of Joseph’s posterity, and was an eminent type of Christ, and is therefore called the shepherd, the stone of Israel, in Jacob’s blessing of Joseph, Gen. 49:24. Being such a type of Christ, he bore the name of Christ. Joshua and Jesus are the same name, only the one is Hebrew, the other is Greek. And therefore, in the New Testament, which was originally written in Greek, Joshua is called Jesus, Acts 7:45. “Which also our fathers brought in with Jesus,” i.e. Joshua, Heb. 4:8, “If Jesus had given them rest, he would not have spoken of another day,” i.e. if Joshua bad given them rest.
God wonderfully possessed his people of this land, conquering the former inhabitants of it, and the mighty giants, as Christ conquered the devil, first conquering the great kings of that part of the land that was on the eastern side of Jordan, Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and then dividing the river Jordan, as before he had done the Red Sea, causing the walls of Jericho to fall down at the sound of the trumpets of the priests, that sound typifying the sound of the gospel by the preaching of the gospel ministers, the walls of the accursed city Jericho signifying the walls of Satan’s kingdom, and after this wonderfully destroying the mighty host of the Amorites under the five kings, causing the sun and moon to stand still, to help the people against their enemies, at the prayer of the typical Jesus, plainly holding this forth, that God would make the whole course of nature to be subservient to the affair of redemption, so that everything should yield to the purposes of that work, and give place to the welfare of God’s redeemed people.
Thus did Christ show his great love to his elect, that he would make the course of nature, in the frame of the world that he had made, and that he governed, to give place to their happiness and prosperity, and showed that the sun and moon, and all things, visible and invisible, were theirs by his purchase. At the same time, Christ fought as the captain of their host, and cast down great hailstones upon their enemies, by which more were slain than by the sword of the children of Israel. And after this Christ gave the people a mighty victory over a yet greater army in the northern part of the land, that were gathered together at the waters of Merom, as the sand of the sea shore, as it is said, Jos. 11:4.
Thus God gave the people whence Christ was to proceed, the land where he was to be born, and live, and preach, and work miracles, and die, and rise again, and whence he was to ascend into heaven, as the land which was a great type of heaven, which is another thing whereby a great advance was made in the affair of redemption.
XII. Another thing that God did towards carrying on this affair, was his actually setting up his stated worship among the people, as it had been before instituted in the wilderness. This worship was appointed at Mount Sinai, wholly in subservience to this great affair of redemption. It was to make way for the coming of Christ, and the innumerable ceremonial observances of it were typical of him and his redemption. This worship was chiefly instituted at Mount Sinai, but it was gradually set up in practice. It was partly set up in the wilderness, where the tabernacle and its vessels were made, but there were many parts of their instituted worship that could not be observed in the wilderness, by reason of their unsettled, itinerant state there. And then there were many precepts that respect the land of Canaan, and their cities and places of habitation there, which therefore could not be put in practice, until they came into that land. But now, when this was brought to pass, God set up his tabernacle in the midst of his people, as he had before promised them, Lev. 26:11, “I will set up my tabernacle amongst you.” The tabernacle was set at Shiloh, Jos. 18:1, and the priests and Levites had their offices appointed them, and the cities of refuge were appointed. And now the people were in a condition to observe their feasts of the first fruits, and their feasts of ingathering, and to bring all their tithes and appointed offerings to the Lord, and most parts of God’s worship were set up, though there were some things that were not observed until afterwards.
XIII. The next thing I would take notice of, was God’s wonderfully preserving that people, from this time forward, when all the males went up, three times in the year, to the place where God’s ark was. The people of Israel were generally surrounded with enemies, that sought all opportunities to destroy them, and dispossess them of their land. Until David’s time there were great numbers in the land of the remains of the Canaanites, and the other former inhabitants of the land, that were bitter enemies to the people of Israel. And these had from year to year, three times in the year, a fair opportunity of overrunning their country, and getting possession of their cities, when all the males were gone, and only the women, and those who were not able to go up, were left behind. And yet they were remarkably preserved throughout all generations at such seasons, agreeable to the promise that God had made, Exo. 34:24, “Neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year.” So wonderfully did God order affairs, and influence the hearts of their enemies, that though they were so full of enmity against Israel, and desired to dispossess them of their land, and had so fair an opportunity so often in their hands, that the whole country was left naked and empty of all that could resist them. It would have been only for them to have gone and taken possession. They could have had it without opposition. They were so eager to take other opportunities against them. Yet we never read, in all their history, of any of their enemies taking these opportunities against them, which could be no less than a continual miracle, that God, for the preservation of his church, kept up for so many generations, even throughout the ages of the old Testament. It was surely a wonderful dispensation of divine providence to maintain and promote God’s great design of redemption.
XIV. God’s preserving his church and the true religion from being wholly extinct in the frequent apostasies of the Israelites in the time of the judges. How prone was that people to forsake the true God, that had done such wonderful things for them, and to fall into idolatry! and how did the land, from time to time, seem to be almost overrun with idolatry! But yet God never suffered his true worship to be totally rooted out. His tabernacle stood, the ark was preserved, the book of the law was kept from being destroyed, God’s priesthood was upheld, and God still had a church among the people, and time after time, when religion seemed to be almost gone, and it was come to the last extremity, then God granted a revival, and sent some angel or prophet, or raised up some eminent person, to be an instrument of their reformation.
XV. God’s preserving that nation from being destroyed, and delivering them from time to time, although they were so often subdued and brought under the dominion of their enemies. It is a wonder, not only that the true religion was not wholly rooted out, and so the church destroyed that way, but also that the very nation in which that church was, was not utterly destroyed, they were so often brought under the power of their enemies. Once while they were subdued by Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia, another while they were brought under the Moabites, and then they were sold into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan. Then they were under the dominion of the Midianites. Then were sorely distressed by the children of Ammon, and then by the Philistines. But yet God, in all these dangers, preserved them, and kept them from being wholly overthrown. And from time to time, when it was come to extremity, and God saw that they were upon the very brink of ruin, then God raised up a deliverer, agreeable to Deu. 32:36, “For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left.”
Those remarkable dispensations of Providence are very lively and elegantly set forth by the Psalmist, Psa. 106:34. etc.
These deliverers that God raised up from time to time were all types of Christ, the great redeemer and deliverer of his church, and some of them very remarkably so, as, particularly, Barak, Jephtha, Gideon, and Samson, in very many particulars, and above all in the acts of Samson, as might be shown, were it not that this would take up too much time.
XVI. It is observable, that when Christ appeared to manage the affairs of his church in this period, he often appeared in the form of that nature that he took upon him in his incarnation. So he seems to have appeared to Moses from time to time, and particularly at that time when God spake to him face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend, and he beheld the similitude of the Lord (Num. 12:8) after he had besought him to show him his glory, which was the most remarkable vision that ever he had of Christ. There was a twofold discovery that Moses had of Christ. One was spiritual, made to his mind, by the word that was proclaimed, when he proclaimed his name, saying, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation,” Exo. 34:6-7, etc. Another was external, which was that which Moses saw, when Christ passed by, and put him in a cleft of the rock, and covered him with his hand, so that Moses saw his back parts. What he saw was doubtless the back parts of a glorious human form, in which Christ appeared to him, and in all likelihood the form of his glorified human nature, in which he should afterwards appear. He saw not his face, for it is not to be supposed that any man could subsist under a sight of the glory of Christ’s human nature as it now appears.
So it was an human form in which Christ appeared to the seventy elders, of which we have an account, Exo. 24:9, 10, 11, “Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: and they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet, as It were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” So Christ appeared afterwards to Joshua in the form of the human nature, Jos. 5:13, 14, “And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho, he lift up his eyes, find looked, and behold, there stood a man over against him, with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay, but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” And so he appeared to Gideon, Jdg. 6:11. etc. and so also to Manoah, Jdg. 13:17-21. Here Christ appeared to Manoah in a representation both of his incarnation and death, of his incarnation, in that he appeared in a human form, and of his death and sufferings, represented by the sacrifice of a kid, and by his ascending up in the flame of the sacrifice, intimating, that it was he that was the great sacrifice, that must be offered up to God for a sweet savor, in the fire of his wrath, as that kid was burned and ascended up in the flame. Christ thus appeared, time after time, in the form of that nature he was afterwards to take upon him, because he now appeared on the same design, and to carry on the same work, that he was to appear in that nature to work out and carry on.
XVII. Another thing I would mention, done in this period towards the work of redemption, is the beginning of a succession of prophets, and erecting a school of the prophets, in Samuel’s time. There was something of this spirit of prophecy in Israel after Moses, before Samuel, Joshua and many of the judges had a degree of it. Deborah was a prophetess, and some of the high priests were inspired with this spirit, particularly Eli. And that space of time was not wholly without instances of those that were set apart of God especially to this office, and so were called prophets. Such an one we read of. Jdg. 6:8, “The Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them,” etc. Such an one he seems to have been that we read of, 1 Sam. 2:27, “And there came a man of God to Eli,” etc.
But there was no such order of men upheld in Israel for any constancy, before Samuel, the want of it is taken notice of in 1 Sam. 3:1, “And the word of the Lord was precious in those days, there was no open vision.” But in Samuel there was begun a succession of prophets, that was maintained continually from that time, at least with very little interruption, until the spirit of prophecy ceased, about Malachi’s time. And therefore Samuel is spoken of in the New Testament as the beginning of this succession of prophets, Acts 3:24, “And all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after as many as have spoken, have foretold of these days.” After Samuel was Nathan, and Gad, and Iddo, and Heman, and Asaph, and others. And afterwards, in the latter end of Solomon’s reign, we read of Ahijah, and in Jeroboam and Rehoboam’s time we read of prophets, and so continually one prophet succeeded another, until the captivity. We read in the writings of those prophets that are inserted into the canon of the Scriptures, of prophets as being a constant order of men upheld in the land in those days. And in the time of the captivity there were prophets still, as Ezekiel and Daniel, and after the captivity there were prophets, as Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi.
And because God intended a constant succession of prophets from Samuel’s time, therefore in his time was begun a school of the prophets, that is, a school of young men, that were trained up under some great prophet, who was their master and teacher in the study of divine things, and the practice of holiness, to fit them for this office as God should call them to it. Those young men that belonged to these schools, were called the sons of the prophets, and oftentimes they are called prophets. These at first were under the tuition of Samuel, Thus we read of Samuel’s being appointed over them, 1 Sam. 19:20, “And when they saw the company of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them.” The company of prophets that we read of, 1 Sam. 10:5, were the same. Afterwards we read of their being under Elijah. Elisha was one of his sons, but he desired to have a double portion of his spirit as his successor, as his first born, as the eldest son was wont to have a double portion of the estate of his father. Therefore the sons of the prophets, when they perceived that the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha, submitted themselves to him, and owned him for their master, as they had done Elijah before him, as you may see, 2 Kin. 2:15, “And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho, saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they bowed themselves to the ground before him.”
And so after this Elisha was their master or teacher, he had the care and instruction of them, as you may see, 2 Kin. 4:38, “And Elisha came again to Gilgal, and there was a dearth in the land, and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and see the pottage for the sons of the prophets,” In Elijah’s and Elisha’s time, there were several places where there resided companies of these sons of the prophets, as there was one at Bethel, and another at Jericho, and another at Gilgal, unless that at Gilgal and Jericho were the same. And possibly that which is called the college, where the prophetess Huldah resided, was another at Jerusalem, see 2 Kin. 22:14. It is there said of Huldah the prophetess, that “she dwelt in Jerusalem, in the college.” They had houses built, where they used to dwell together, and therefore those at Jericho being multiplied, and finding their house too little for them, desired leave of their master and teacher Elisha, that they might go and hew timber to build a bigger, as you may see, 2 Kin. 6:1, 2.
At some times there were numbers of these sons of the prophets in Israel, for when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, it is said, that Obadiah took an hundred of them, and hid them by fifty in a cave, 1 Kin. 18:4.
These schools of the prophets being set up by Samuel, and afterwards kept up by such great prophets as Elijah and Elisha, must be of divine appointment, and accordingly we find, that those sons of the prophets were often favored with a degree of inspiration, while they continued under tuition in the schools of the prophets. And God commonly, when he called any prophet to the constant exercise of the prophetic office, and to some extraordinary service, took them out of these schools, though not universally. Hence the prophet Amos, speaking of his being called to the prophetic office, says, that he was one that had not been educated in the schools of the prophets, and was not one of the sons of the prophets, Amos 7:14, 15. But Amos’ taking notice of it as remarkable, that he should be called to be a prophet that had not been educated at the schools of the prophets, shows that it was God’s ordinary manner to take his prophets out of these schools, for therein he did but bless his own institution.
Now this remarkable dispensation of Providence that we are upon, viz. God’s beginning a constant succession of prophets in Samuel’s time, that was to last for many ages. And to that end, establishing a school of the prophets under Samuel, thenceforward to be continued in Israel, was a step that God took in that great affair of redemption that we are upon. For the main business of this succession of prophets was, to foreshadow Christ and the glorious redemption that he was to accomplish, and so to prepare the way for his coming, as appears by that aforementioned place, Acts 3:24, and by Acts 10:43, “To him give all the prophets witness,” and by Acts 3:18, “But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.”
As I observed before, the Old Testament time was like a time of night wherein the church was not wholly without light, but had not the light of the sun directly, but as reflected from the stars. Now these prophets were the stars that reflected the light of the sun, and accordingly they spoke abundantly of Jesus Christ, as appears by what we have of their prophecies in writing. And they made it very much their business, when they studied in their schools or colleges, and elsewhere, to search out the work of redemption, agreeable to what the apostle Peter says of them, 1 Pet. 1:10, 11, “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired, and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what, or what manner of time the spirit of Christ that was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” We are told, that the church of the Redeemer is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, the Redeemer himself being the chief corner stone, Eph. 2:20.
This was the first thing of the nature that ever was done in the world, and it was a great thing that God did towards further advancing this great building of redemption. There had been before occasional prophecies of Christ, as was shown. But now the time drawing nearer when the Redeemer should come, it pleased God to appoint a certain order of men, in constant succession, whose main business it should be, to foreshadow Christ and his redemption, and as his forerunners to prepare the way for his coming. And God established schools, wherein multitudes were instructed and trained up to that end, Rev. 19:10, “I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”