(From “The Gospel in Numbers”)
“And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.” Numb. 10:35, 36.
When the ark moves, a praying voice is heard. When the tribes halt, and tents receive them, again it sounds. Prayer consecrates the going forth and coming in. It opens the door for departure. It bolts the resting-place. It is the vanguard to precede. It is the rear-guard to lock in. It sanctifies the extreme links–and so the entire chain.
My soul, often view this teaching fact. Moses begins and ends with hands–with eyes–with heart–uplifted. The first–the last look, is towards heaven. He seeks a journeying blessing, before he stirs. He asks resting blessing, when he rests.
This is true wisdom and real grace. Happy the life, which is one flow of prayer! It is the pilgrim’s staff–the warrior’s sword–the pillow of the weary–the refuge of distress–the cry, which proves the man to be new-born. It is the wing, on which the soul flies upward. It is the tongue, which asks–the hand, which takes–great things. It has free access to a mercy-seat, and there it carries on a gainful trade.
Believer, to you each day is a new journey. Each circumstance is an onward step. Each morning calls you to a march. Each night is as the spreading of a resting tent. Each finished work is as another pause in your advancing pilgrimage. Let then your progress be one stream of supplication. None ever prayed enough. Many in life and death bewail soul-poverty. The cause is poverty of prayer. Much is badly done–much is undone–because prayer is not well-done. What scales can weigh the profit, which might thus be earned! What thought can estimate the loss, which prayerless hours incur!
“Rise up, Lord.” “Return, O Lord.” Such is the Rising and the Resting Prayer. There is strong significance in the petitions. They are as arrows wisely pointed to a mark. They breathe a definite design. They are not weak in vagueness of unmeaning generality. Some prayers are forms, in which no feature is exact. The words are many, but clear thought is rare. But true grace always realizes need. And then distinctly seeks relief. It asks with known and felt intent.
Let, now, the substance of these prayers be sifted.
1. THE RISING PRAYER. “Rise up, Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered–and let those who hate You, flee before You.” Here is confession, that Israel’s onward path was thronged with foes. It is so still, and so will always be. Opposing armies are in front. Each step must be through hostile ranks. The rest is reached through many a fight. The Canaanite–the Amorite–the myriads of Satan’s seed–still live. They leave no stratagem untried–no weapon unemployed. There is no hour, when sword and shield may hang unused.
Next Moses feels, that his own might is nothing–vain are his counsels–powerless is his arm. When not upheld, he falls. Unaided, he is driven back. His hope–his trust–his strength–his armor–his success–his triumph–are from God. Therefore to God he flees. “Rise up, Lord.” So now, if God’s right hand be not our help, the tide of foes must bear us down. But God is moved by importunities of faith. “Rise up, Lord,” is a cry, which brings all heaven to aid. It puts sure victory on the wing.
Observe here, how the prayer of faith yearns for God’s glory. “Let Your enemies be scattered.” These enemies hate God. They would impede the progress of His truth. They would extinguish His word’s light. They would cast down His righteous rule. Can faith sit still and see Him thus dethroned? Oh! no. It agonizes with desire, that He would vindicate His holy cause–uphold His honor, and add trophies to His name. “Rise up, Lord, and let those who hate You, flee before You.”
Believer, act out this pattern. Be zealous for God’s kingdom. Let every thought center in Him. Strive that He may increase. Let Him be magnified–exalted–glorified–and then care not, that SELF lies low.
Realize, too, your oneness with the Lord. His life is your life. His death is your death. His resurrection is your revival. In Him you died, and rose, and sit now at God’s right hand. So, too, His cause, His foes, are yours; and yours are His. Thus, when temptations fiercely try, you may appeal to Him, These are Your conflicts–“Rise up, Lord.” These weapons seek Your injury–“Rise up, Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered–and let those who hate You, flee before You.”
2. THE RESTING-PRAYER. “Return, O Lord, to the many thousands of Israel.” The going forth would have been ruin, except the Lord moved in the front. The rest will be no rest, unless the Lord return. Prayer called Him to precede their steps. Prayer calls Him to abide around their resting tents. Vast was the multitude. But what are numbers without God? His presence is their power–their peace–their joy–their glory–their strength–their fortress–their shield, and their repose. They know it, and they cry, “Return, O Lord.”
Reader, what is your home–what is your heart–if God be absent? That family alone is blessed, in which God has His constant seat. The table is a sweet feast, when He presides. The home circle beams with pure delights, when He is seen in every smiling look. The house is sheltered, when His wings spread the canopy around.
But is God willing to abide with men? His word expels all doubt. The promises hang in clusters. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Jam. 4:8. Do you ask, ‘But how can one so vile, so base–so hateful through iniquity–so stained with sin’s polluting filth–draw near to one so holy and so high?’ A ready path is open. Christ is the way. In Christ distance is swallowed up–and union is cemented.
Hear next Christ’s sweet assurance. “If a man loves me, he will keep my words–and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14:23. Make His commands your constant walk.
Heed, too, the wondrous word, “Thus says the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy–I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.” Is. 57:15. Then ask the Spirit to lead you along humility’s low valley. God will meet you there, and make your heart His home. Thus you may be filled with all the fullness of your God–your soul may be a present heaven–your eye may ever rest upon His smile–your ear may ever hear the whispers of His love. At the close of every hour–duty–conflict, pray with undoubting faith, “Return, O Lord,”
We are next taught, that these petitions have enduring life. They are a model to the end of time. Let none suppose, that, when the ark crossed Jordan, they were cast aside. No rather, they flow on a never-failing stream. They blossom, as an over-verdant tree. Let David give the proof. When ages had flown by, he brought the ark, with joyful pomp, to Zion’s hill. Where shall his heart find fitting praise? These words supply it. “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered–let them also, who hate Him flee before Him.” Ps. 68:1. My soul, may you, too, ever use this Prayer–at all times fit!
But these high words from David’s lips open a more glorious view. When he thus sings beside the ark, he has an onward look to Christ. He sees redemption’s Lord riding in redemption’s chariot. He lauds Him, as the mighty conqueror traveling in triumph’s pomp. Else, why should he add, “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” Ps. 68:18. You have done gloriously, as salvation’s captain. All your foes, where are they? They have fled. They are all scattered, as the dust before the wind.
Thus the Rising and the Resting Prayer beside the rising and the resting ark lead us directly to our conquering and our coming Jesus. Faith claps the hand, and sings aloud, ‘Here is my Lord’.
Yes. The moving ark is type of Jesus going forth to cast down rebel foes. It is high joy to trace the Antitype’s victorious march. How mightily the Lord advanced! The strength of God was in His arm. His sword was Deity. His darts were barbed with all Jehovah’s might. “He had on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:16. His foes, indeed, strove mightily. It was no easy work, to rescue souls from Satan’s grasp–or to lay low the prison-house of darkness. The enemy rushed on, clad in his fiercest armor–wild in his keenest rage–wily in his deadliest crafts. He plied His every temptation, as a terrific battery. But the true Ark never quailed. The adversary licked the dust. Malignant passions maddened in opposing breasts. The kings stood up–rulers took counsel–all plots were laid–the ignominious death was planned and executed. But still the Ark moved on.
The cross gave aid–not injury. The grave could not detain. Death could not vanquish. The gates of hell fly open. The mighty conqueror appears. And as in Canaan, the ark ascended Zion’s hill amid triumphant shouts, so Jesus mounts on high. The heaven of heavens receives Him. The Father welcomes the all-conquering Savior. Angelic hosts adore the glorious God-man. The Rising Prayer has full accomplishment, “Rise up, Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.”
And now from glory’s throne He cheers His humble followers in their desert-march. Their toils, their conflicts, and their fears are many. They ofttimes seem, as a poor worm beneath the crushing feet. But they survive–they prosper–they lift up the head. As of old the ark was victory–so Jesus is victory now. Yes–every child of faith shall surely set a conquering foot upon the host of foes. Hear this, you mad opposers, and desist. Where are the nations, who resisted Israel? Where are the Pharaohs–the beleaguered kings–the Herods–the chief-priests–the Pilates? Share not their malice, lest you share their end. Read in this word your near destruction, “Rise up, Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.”
And as the Rising Prayer has never failed, so, too, the Resting Prayer now teems with life. “Return, O Lord.” Jesus is ready to fly back. Israel’s many thousands wait, but wait not in vain. “Yet a little while, and He who shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Heb. 10:37. Oh! joyful day–triumphant sight! What ecstacy–what shouts–what glory! Salvation’s Lord returns. Welcome–welcome to Him!
Reader, what will be your state on that bright morn? Will your lips shout, “This is the Lord, we have waited for Him?” What is the answer of your heart? Is it now swelling with the cry, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly?”–“Return, O Lord, to, the many thousands of Israel.”
This is the grand event, for which the earth now sighs. And will it tarry long? Scripture has long since said, “The coming of the Lord draws near.” “The Judge stands before the door.” Jam. 5:8. Believer, be wise. Be looking from your watch-tower. Are there no rays streaking the horizon? Extend the listening ear. Is there no sound of chariot-wheels in startling events?