Note to the reader: These devotionals are from Evenings with Jesus – A series of devotional readings for the closet and the family. Taken from the late Reverend William Jay.
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward…
We may consider this command three ways:
1. In reference to the journey of the Israelites.
Now, to judge of this command, we have only to reflect upon the condition of the people; the army of Pharaoh was behind them, and the sea was immediately before them, and to go forward would be to advance into the sea itself; but we may observe that God’s commands are so many intimations and assurances of success. “Go forward,” saith God to Moses. Did he say, “What, Lord and be drowned in the sea?” No; but they went forward, and the waters opened before them, and they passed through the sea as on dry ground. Now all this is very instructive and interesting. It teaches us to do all tings in religion “without murmurings and disputings,” and that nothing more becomes us than a childlike disposition, exercising implicit confidence in God, and unquestioning obedience to his commands. And this will apply to declarations as well as commands. What he has revealed we are to believe on the authority of the Speaker. It will also apply to the dispensations of divine providence. When any of these seem to be at variance with our views, we are to remember that “all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth.”
2. Let us consider this command in reference to ourselves.
For, if Christians, we are on our way from Egypt to Canaan, “seeking a better country, even a heavenly;” and it becomes us to be always advancing in “the way everlasting.” Christians are therefore enjoined to “go forward.” It is an awful thing when instead of this any go backward. The Ephesians went backward, and so were called to “repent” and do their “first works,” and to exemplify their “first love,” or lose the privileges with which they were indulged (See Revelation 2:1-4) . Christian went back in order to find and fetch the roll which had dropped from his bosom while he slept in the arbour (Pilgrims Progress, pp. 55-57). Alas! How far many Christians have gone back and are ready to say –
“Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?”
It is also a sad thing for Christians, instead of going forward to be only stationary. Let us then go forward, fighting the good fight of faith (See 1 Timothy 6:12), laying hold on eternal life.
3. Let us view this command in reference to the progress of time.
Time is always advancing. The hour-glass, the day or week, the years all “go forward.” We are another year nearer now than at the beginning of the past year. Nearer where – what? Conscience, answer. But how are we to go forward? Let us take the following admonitions for our march – First, go forward with humbleness of mind; Let us not go strutting into the new year as if we had been acting wisely, worthily, or meritoriously throughout the past year., but with penitent reflections upon the sins of our weekday, and of our Sabbath-day sins, so that we may gratefully acknowledge that “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not.” (See Lamentations 3:22) And therefore, secondly, With gratitude in remembrance of his mercies. They have been “new every morning.” What preserving, supplying, supporting, and satisfying mercies have we daily received. Thirdly, under a sense of present aid; in opposition to our complainings and murmurings, distinguishing between our deserts and supplies. Fourthly, With a firm confidence as to what may befall us in the future. His promises more than meet all our circumstances, and provide for all contingencies of futurity, for we know who hat said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” (See Hebrews 13:5) and that as our day so shall our strength be. Fifthly, With earnest and constant prayer; neglecting prayer, our souls will be constantly exposed to danger, whereas if we abound in this, our souls will “prosper and be in health.” Let us then be coming daily to the “throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and grace to help us in every time of our need;” and, lastly, with frequent thoughts of our journey’s end. And it will have an end, and we are brought one year nearer to it. We may die this year if we are Christians, we may this year get rid of a wicked world without, and a wicked heart within, and be introduced to Him whom our souls love, and see him as he is, and be like him, and be with him forever evermore.