Exodus 32:26 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
THE LORD’S PEOPLE TO BE DECIDED AND FIRM
Exo 32:26. Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me.
THESE are the words of Moses: and they were spoken on a very particular occasion. Whilst he had tarried on the top of Mount Sinai for the space of forty days, Aaron and the people of Israel, despairing of his return, had made a golden calf to represent Jehovah, and had worshipped that as their God. Moses, on his return, found them in the very act of performing their idolatrous rites; and, filled with indignation against them, he broke the two tables of the Law which he had received from Jehovah, in token that the covenant which God had made with them was altogether dissolved: and he reduced the golden calf to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the people to drink of it; that so they might have within themselves a testimony of their folly, and be assured that a cup of merited affliction should one day be put into their hands. And it is remarkable, that the Jews in general conceive that, in all their afflictions, there are, as it were, some grains of this golden calf even to this very day. For Aaron, Moses interceded, and obtained forgiveness [Note: Deu 9:20.]. And on behalf of the people, too, he so far prevailed, that only the ringleaders in this rebellion should be punished in the first instance; though, at a future period, this sin should surely be visited upon them all. To punish those who were most bold and daring in this impiety, and were walking abroad as not ashamed of it, Moses called to him those who were zealous for God’s honour, and ordered them to go through the camp and indiscriminately slay all they met with, without regarding even their nearest and dearest relatives. This was doubtless a most painful service to all who were engaged in it: but they executed it with fidelity, and brought thereby a blessing on their own souls.
Now, let it not for a moment be imagined that God’s faithful servants are called to any such office now. Christianity provides no such bloody employment for its votaries: it consigns the sword altogether to the civil magistrate, who alone is empowered to use it for the punishment of evil-doers. Still, however, there will arise many profitable lessons from this passage: to elicit which, I shall make some observations upon,
The inquiry instituted—
Amongst the people of Israel there were, especially of the tribe of Levi, some who had not joined in the idolatrous rites, but had remained faithful to their God: and Moses, standing in the gate of the camp, called them to his assistance, saying, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Now from hence we observe,
That there are two classes, and two classes only, into which the whole world must be divided—
[There are some who are “on the Lord’s side;” and there are others who are on the side of sin, and the world, and Satan. That in these two great parties there may be many subdivisions, I grant: but there is no third party. Amongst the godly there may be persons of different sentiments and different habits: and among the ungodly there may also be many different degrees of impiety, and different states of mind: but, still, the great leading features of both parties sufficiently and infallibly attest to which they belong. The distinguishing marks of each I shall trace presently: at present I have only to shew, that two parties do actually exist, and must of necessity exist, as long as there continues an ungodly man on earth. They may be very unequal in their numbers, as was the case in the history before us: an immense multitude, with Aaron at their head, were on the side of idolatry; and a little remnant, with Moses at their head, were “on the Lord’s side.” It is probable, that, at that time, the friends of idolatry poured contempt on the godly as a party, just as the ungodly world do at this day on the advocates of true religion; forgetting that they themselves also are a party, no less than their opponents. But whose fault is it if the godly are a party? Are they to blame for adhering to their duty, and siding with their Lord? No, surely: the blame must attach altogether to those who turn from their God, and are disobedient to his will. And if the godly be but “a little flock” in comparison of their opponents, it may be their misfortune, but it is not their fault, any more than it was the fault of Noah, or of Lot, or of Elijah, that they were so circumstanced in the ages and places wherein they lived. Let it not be thought that I am justifying what is usually called a party spirit; for I cannot but reprobate that as a very great evil: hut I do, and must maintain, that to serve our God with fidelity is our bounden duty, even though the whole world, with Aaron at their head, should depart from him: and, if they choose to designate us as a party, I would have no man ashamed of belonging to a party, of which our Lord and Saviour is himself the Head.]
That it is of great importance to ascertain to which class we belong—
[Both are alike in this respect, that they are rational and nmortal beings: but in many respects they differ widely from each other: the one are “partakers of a divine nature” through the influence of the Spirit of God upon their souls; the others are altogether carnal, possessing nothing but what they brought into the world with them. The one live altogether for God; the others, for themselves. The one are in favour with God; the others are under his just and heavy displeasure. The one will, ere long, stand at the right hand of their Judge; the others will be turned to his left hand, differing as widely from the former as goats from the sheep. The one will be exalted to heaven, and be seated for ever on the throne of God; the others will be cast down to hell, and take their portion in the lake of fire and brimstone for ever and ever. Can these differences be contemplated for a moment, and any doubt remain whether we ought to examine to which class we belong? Methinks the matter should not be left in suspense one single moment; more especially since the means of ascertaining the point are close at hand, and easy to be used. The blessed word of God, if studied with prayer, will enable us to form a very correct judgment. True it is, that we cannot determine the question in relation to each other, because we know not what passes in the hearts of men, and can therefore judge of each other by the outward conduct alone: but we have an internal monitor, that will faithfully discharge its office, if we will listen to it, and will declare to us all that it has seen in the inmost recesses of our hearts: and, if we will but lay, to our own souls, “judgment for a line, and righteousness for a plummet,” we shall soon discover “whose we are,” and with whom we must expect our everlasting abode.]
To this I will add some observations on,
The direction given—
Moses, in calling to him the faithful servants of the Lord, shewed, that the Lord’s people should on all occasions manifest,
A readiness to confess him—
[Neither the authority of Aaron, nor the rage of all Israel, was to deter any one from shewing himself on the Lord’s side. So neither should any of us be afraid to confess Christ openly in the face of an ungodly world. We err exceedingly if we fancy that there is any third party to which we may adhere with safety to our souls. There are but two governors, to one or other of which we must adhere; “the god of this world,” and the God of heaven. The servants of Satan are bold in serving him; and the servants of the Lord Jesus must be bold in confessing him: and if, from any motive whatever, we deny him, he will be ashamed of us, and deny us, in the presence of his Father and of the holy angels. I mean not to say, that Christians are to distinguish themselves by foolish singularity in matters of indifference: but in matters of plain duty they are to differ from the ungodly as widely as light from darkness: “they are to come out from among them, and be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing,” if they would have “God for their Father,” and approve themselves to him as “his sons and daughters”— — —]
A determination of mind to sacrifice every thing for him—
[Moses, in his farewell discourse, at the distance of forty years, particularly commends this conduct of Levi, in that “he said unto his father and his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children: but he had observed God’s word, and kept his covenant [Note: Deu 33:9.].” And this shews, that, though we are not called to follow his act, we are to imbibe and manifest his spirit, so far at least as to sacrifice every thing to, and for, our God. Our blessed Lord distinctly and frequently inculcates this important lesson: “We are to forsake all for him—father, mother, brother, sister, houses, lands, yea, our very life also, if we would be his disciples:” yea, we are to “hate them all for him,” that is, in comparison of him [Note: Luk 14:26.]. Doubtless, in the execution of this duty, we may appear unkind, undutiful, and cruel; but we must be firm, and suffer nothing to divert us from the path of duty: however painful it may be to discharge it, we must proceed, and, in dependence on divine strength, endure firmly unto the end. No doubt, if we are called to advance in opposition to the will of those who have the rule over us, we should be much on our guard, that we give them no unnecessary offence. We are to take great care that we contend for nothing but what is of vital importance, and that in our necessary conflicts we manifest nothing of an unhallowed spirit. But proceed we must in obedience to our God; and if called to an account for it by any human authority whatever, our answer must be, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye; for we cannot but do what is commanded us by our God.”]
As a further improvement of this subject, we will proceed,
To prosecute the inquiry—
[“Who amongst you is on the Lord’s side?” I have before said, that this is easy to be ascertained: and now let us address ourselves to the inquiry. By nature, we are all “enemies to God,” and “children of wrath.” It is by grace alone that our state can be changed, so that we can with justice be numbered as the servants of the Lord. Who then, amongst you, has been made sensible of his guilty and undone state? Who, amongst you, has fled to the Lord Jesus Christ for refuge from the wrath of God? and who is yet daily imploring mercy at the hands of God in his name? Who has given up himself unreservedly to God, as his reconciled God in Christ Jesus? and who is living altogether to the glory of his holy name? These are questions to be asked, and answered, in order to ascertain the point in hand. You must remember, that your having been baptized into the name of Christ will by-no means determine the point: for all the Israelites had been circumcised, and had been “baptized also unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea:” and as their profession was insufficient to prove them the Lord’s, so also is ours. Nor will any transient impressions of joy and gratitude prove the point: for such emotions had been lately experienced by all Israel at the Red Sea, though now, alas! they were altogether forgotten. It is the daily life and conversation that alone can determine this all-important point. “Examine yourselves then, my Brethren, and prove your own selves.” Try whether you are ready to obey the call of God, and to abandon all for Christ. See whether you resemble your Lord and Saviour in the whole of his spirit and deportment. See whether, whilst you profess to be on the Lord’s side, you are really “walking as he walked,” and giving up yourselves entirely to him. Decide not the question on any doubtful or insufficient grounds, lest you deceive your own souls, and perish amidst the enemies of God. One thought only I will leave upon your minds; and it is this: ‘If you be not on the Lord’s side, can you reasonably hope that ever he should be on yours? And if you have not him for your friend and portion in the day of judgment, how awful will be your condition!’ But an hour before, the whole camp of Israel was filled with the noise of joy and shouting: and in another hour, thousands were smitten down by the swords of their own brethren. So in a few more hours may the most thoughtless amongst you be consigned over to the jaws of death, by the hands of an angry and avenging God. Oh! may God awaken you to your condition ere it be too late! and may you be found of that party, of which God himself is the acknowledged and eternal Head!]
To enforce the direction—
[“Come unto me,” says Moses: and I also would say, “Go unto him.” If you belong truly to the Lord, you must go and learn from Moses what the will of the Lord is. The tables of the Law must be to you a rule of life and duty. “The whole Law is comprehended in these two commandments, To love God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and To love your neighbour as yourselves.” This is “the law of charity, which if you fulfil, you will do well.” This is the law of Christ, which every follower of Christ is bound to obey. Go then, daily, and sit at the feet of Moses. For your principles and motives you must go to Christ alone: but for your directory in the path of duty, you must go to the law of Moses, which is a perfect transcript of God’s mind and will. Never can I enforce this too strongly, and especially after what I have said of sacrificing all for Christ. The command to honour your father and your mother is “the first commandment with promise:” and this shews how high it stands in the estimation of your God. Let it not be less high in your estimation also: and remember, that, except in those things which are directly contrary to God’s revealed will, the commands of earthly superiors should be regarded by you as the commands of God. A sword is indeed put into your hands; but it is for the purpose of slaying, not men, but sin, and Satan, with whom you are to contend, till they are “bruised under your feet.” Gird yourselves, therefore, for the occasion; and go through the whole camp of your spiritual enemies, and spare neither small nor great. So shall the blessing of God come upon you, both in time and in eternity.]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.