A Study of Numbers 11:23
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’s hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee, or not?”
The description given here in this chapter of the people’s unbelief is exactly a picture of our own when the Lord has given us any promise, we soon begin to question whether He will perform it or not, and this short sentence is an answer to it.
“Is the LORD’s hand shortened?”
We keep looking at the difficulties in the way, instead of at the Lord’s hand which is able to manage them all, whatever they may be. If He has made you ever so small a promise, you may rest assured He will fulfil it, and let this short word at all times answer your unbelieving fears and questionings, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened?”
In the 23rd chapter it is said, “God is not a man that he should lie, hath he said and shall he not make it good?” Look at this, instead of looking at the difficulties, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerrubabel thou shalt become a plain.” We watch the mountain, we had better watch Zerrubabel instead, who means Jesus Christ. It goes on to say, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, or seen perverseness in Israel.” This is looking to His people in Jesus Christ, in Him He sees them without sin.
Are you in affliction? He is watching over you all the while, that no evil should overtake you. What He does is to cleanse or purify your soul, and make you, a rebel, meet for His use. He will not suffer any other person to afflict you. Whatever befalls you is His doing, therefore you must not say, if I had not done this or that, or if such a person had not done so, then this trouble had not befallen me; these are the thoughts of fools. God has the overruling of all events, and though He afflict you Himself, no other shall do it, except to accomplish His intentions.
It goes on to say here, “The LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.” What, as we may say, are we to shout before we get out of the wood? Yes, God’s Word is sufficient, “Thou shalt see now whether my word to thee will come to pass or not.”
In the 50th chapter of Isaiah, he says, “I clothe the heavens with blackness. Behold at my rebuke, I dry up the sea.” What is this? He brings affliction, and empties us from vessel, we think it is much to bear and that we shall do without so much; but if he leaves off, we are not to be trusted, we soon get back as bad as ever; it is thus he makes us hear his voice. It is not only in the Bible that he speaks to us, but in every dispensation towards us; have they not all some voice in them? He takes away the limbs of one, and the eyes, or the hearing of another, and the judgment of another, and the worse of all is when we cannot see what it is all for.
It says, “The Lord hath given me the tongue of the learned that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.”
What is this word in season?
“Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Are your ears opened to hear this word in season?
Christ says, “He hath opened mine ears, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back, I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off my hair.” This smiting is the law in its condemning power, which the Lord Jesus endured for His people that they might be delivered from it. For their sakes, “He hid not his face from shame and spitting.” As it respects his people, this giving the back to the smiters and the cheeks to them that plucked off the hair is, falling down completely helpless and lost, if Christ does not come and save you. Now some of you have been here, and have found help. “Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.” It says then, that is, when they are brought to this low place of feeling utterly lost in themselves.
In the 2nd chapter of Joel, verse 12 it is said, “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even unto me with all your heart and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” This is true godly sorrow and repentance, not rending the garments like the Papists, but rending the heart with grief.
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders.”
Who are all these?
All the broken hearted, sorrowful, repenting sinners, who have rent their hearts, and turned to the Lord with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning, let “these altogether with one heart weep and say, Spare thy people O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen (or the heathen principle in our hearts), should rule over them, and say, where is thy God.” Then, where there is this earnest cry for mercy which the Lord will put into the hearts of all his true people, then will he be jealous for his land, and pity his people? “Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil.” The corn is the Bread of life; the wine is the sweet refreshing application to the heart, which restores our life and vigour; and the oil is the blessed anointing of the Holy Ghost, and ye shall be satisfied therewith; and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen; all shall acknowledge that the Lord hath blessed you. Be glad then ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he hath given you the former rain moderately, not that you should be content with this moderate supply, but should still crave after more, as it says, “The floor shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil.” Let this teach you to “Open your mouth wide that he may fill it.” The 25th verse says, “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the canker worm, and the caterpillar, my great army that I sent among you.” These set forth the Devil working in various ways on the corruptions of our nature, and eating up all our increase; God says, all our loss here shall be made up; and ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied and praise the Lord your God who hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be ashamed. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
“Can a woman forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” This is an answer to what Zion says in the verse before, “Zion said, my Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.” Zion says this, not the world; the world cares nothing about being forsaken and forgotten of God, neither can they make that claim and say, “My Lord hath forgotten me.” But don’t you know what it is to say, “My Lord?” That is, don’t you fear and tremble before him? Then He is your God; why does he not forget you? He says, because, “I have graven thee on the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me,” therefore I cannot forget. Sing O heavens, and be joyful O earth, for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy on his afflicted. Thy children shall make haste, thy destroyers and they that make thee waste shall go forth of thee. These destroyers are all the vanities that come into our minds, and prevent us from praying and seeking his face, how many of these do we find, but they shall all go forth, and be taken out of the way, when the Lord comes in and gives us access to him, and this will be when he puts a cry into our hearts, and draws near to answer it, as it says in Matthew, “Ask, and ye shall have, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you.” I have been at this for long, but would not find that my prayers were heard, till now; but I believe fully that they have been indeed. Some say, I do ask but cannot get anything; but the Lord looks at the heart, sometimes our prayers are scarcely perceptible to ourselves, they seem so small, and as if they did not go up, and we think surely they cannot bring us in anything; at other times they may seem to us much stronger, as if they did go upward; but perhaps those last will not be so effectual as the former, lest we should think we got it for our prayers and not, “because the Lord will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and will be gracious to whom he will be gracious.”
In the 103rd Psalm it says, “He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever.” Nothing makes us think the Lord chides more than our not receiving answers to prayer; when we feel shut out, and cannot draw nigh because the Scripture is not held out to us, this always comes as if the Lord chided us; but we must pray on, and remember, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”
Don’t you feel this, that so are His dealings with you, not according to your sins, but according to His free mercy in Christ Jesus?
Then take this for a token for good, that you will yet find his mercy to abound more and more toward you. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him.” I had such a testimony that I feared Him, that He had himself put His fear in my heart, which was a fountain of life, to keep me from all the snares of death, that I could plead it before Him, and say, “Lord, thou knowest thou hast done it for me. Lord wilt thou grant that this compassion of a tender Father, which thou declares thou hast towards them that fear thee, and this mercy of thine from everlasting to everlasting, may be sensibly ours forever and ever.”
By James Bourne