By J. W. Porter (1863 - 1937)
“We are journeying unto the place of which Jehovah said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for Jehovah hath spoken good concerning Israel” (Numbers 10:29).
Life in this world is a pilgrimage from the cradle to the grave. Here we have no continuing city, but we hope for, if we do not seek one, in the world to come. Across the barren wastes of time there are many pathways, but they all lead to one goal - the grave. Over hill and plain together we go and then “down the valley one by one.” Though brief our earthly pilgrimage, it determines our eternal destiny. At this moment we are, one and all, traveling the road that leads to eternal life or everlasting destruction. While crossing the Atlantic a ship passed us within hailing distance. The captain of the ship cried across the stormy waters, “Whither bound?” Back went the reply, “Liverpool.” I would ask of every soul in this presence, “Whither bound?” Our text is an invitation given by Moses to his father-in-law to accompany the Children of Israel to the Holy Land. Moses was, as we should be, deeply interested in those of his household. Sweet the thought of all the family, without the loss of one, reunited in the Kingdom of the Unsetting Sun. No more gracious or blessed invitation could have come to this man who was a stranger to Israel’s God. It was a great opportunity for service. What a mighty service he could have rendered the friends of God. Acquainted as he was with the trackless desert he would be, as Moses said, “eyes” for them.
It is true, they greatly needed him, yet he needed them even more. There are probably those here who could be of infinite service to the cause of Christ, but Christ can render infinitely greater service to them. We can serve, but Christ only can save that we may serve. Let us never imagine that God’s Kingdom cannot get along without us. Heaven will be none the poorer for the lack of our presence.
The invitation, perchance, seemed a trifle to this man of the desert, yet perfection is made up of trifles and perfection is not a trifle. It is not the extraordinary thing that is needed, but the ordinary thing done in an extraordinary way. After all, every timely invitation is a challenge and every rightful challenge a command. An opportunity for Christ is an obligation to God. We may reject the invitation to service, but we cannot escape the penalty of rejecting the invitation. When Christ invited Matthew to come with Him he did not hesitate but immediately rose up and followed Him.
There are but two things to do with the invitations of Christ - accept them or reject them. It is true the invitation involved hardship; yet in the Kingdom of God and man, there is no excellence without sacrifice and suffering. To have the power we must pay the price; to wear the crown we must endure the Cross. I would not have you believe that the Christian life is one of ease and comfort. To the contrary, it is one of toil and tears. I invite you to self-sacrifice and self-immolation. I invite you to lose your life here that you may find it by and by. I invite you to a living death that you may have a deathless life. In spite of the hardships of the way, it is the only way that leads home. It is our duty to enlist in His service, at whatever cost. We must choose between the firing line and the fate of the traitor.
When Commodore Dewey’s squadron was entering Manila Bay the commander of the ship that was leading the attack signaled, “Torpedoes ahead.” From Dewey’s flagship back flashed the reply, “Steam ahead.” A moment more and the signal, “Torpedoes are exploding about us.” Quick the answer, “Steam ahead.” In spite of screaming shell and bursting torpedo, they steamed ahead to glorious victory!
The journey would prove profitable to Hobab. In spite of appearances, it pays to be pious, and righteousness shall have its reward. God had promised good to Israel and he would share in the promised blessings. The reverse side of every invitation extended by Christ is a promise made by Christ. The question of accepting Christ is one of profit and loss, and what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Eternity with Satan, and without the Saviour! The soul which is lost is lost in spite of all that Christ could do to save that soul. Omnipotence exhausted itself in the act of Atonement. Hard by the railway there was a little cottage on the hillside. The little girl in the home would wave to the engineer as the train passed. On nearing the home the engineer would blow his whistle and quickly the child would appear, waving a passing welcome. One day he blew his whistle and gazed expectantly at the door of the humble home. Missing his little friend his eyes turned to the track, and not far ahead, in the center of the track, stood the little girl waving her tiny hands. As quick as thought, he reverses his engine, applies his brakes, and crawls along the boiler to the pilot. As the train moves slowly to the child he reaches out his hand and snatches her from the track. Overcome by the terrible strain, his heart ceases to beat and he falls dead from the pilot! At the cost of His own life Christ rescues a lost world from impending doom!
Like many a lost sinner, Hobab rejects the invitation to return to his own people. Happy the man who knows his friends and properly appreciates their advice. Not our best friends, yea, not even father or mother, or child, should be permitted to stand between the soul and its duty to God. Evermore it is true that unless we would be willing to forsake father and mother and houses and lands and take up our cross and follow Him, we are not worthy of Him. Shall we not say, “Master, we have left all and followed Thee”? Like Moses, will we not choose affliction with the people of God rather than the pleasures of sin for a season?
Fortunately, Hobab reversed his decision and walked in the path that led to the glory of God and the good of his own soul. He did accompany the despitefully of Him may one day sing His praises. The world-famed Gipsy Smith was converted while yet in a gypsy camp. He and his mother were stricken with smallpox. The mother grew steadily worse, while “Gipsy” continued to improve. The father, who was nursing both, left for a moment the bedside of his wife to visit the tent where a “gypsy boy lay.” Standing by his bedside he said, “Gipsy, your mother is mighty sick and I don’t know whether she knows about Jesus or not. Do you feel able to go and speak to her?” Hardly had he spoken the words when, from the nearby tent, came the words of the song, “My Lord calls and I must meet Him in the promised land.” The father supporting the son, silently and slowly they made their way to the mother’s tent. She lifted her eyes, fast closing upon the scenes of earth. A smile parted her lips, soon to be set in death. As they approached her bed she pointed her hand upward and fell asleep! She was dead! It was growing dark; night was at hand, but her soul had winged its way to the realms of endless day and everlasting light!
Oh, come with us and we will do thee good, for God has promised good to Israel. Come, before a numbness chills your soul and your doom forever sealed!
We are one and all rapidly approaching our journey’s end. To many of us it is, perhaps, much nearer than we have believed. Is there one here who cannot truthfully sing –
“One sweetly solemn thought,
Comes to me, o’er and o’er;
I am nearer my home today
Than I have been before.”
Certainly you are nearer death and judgment than ever before. The Christ of God and the Church of God alike bid you come. Come, for all things are ready. He died that you might live forever! A representative was elected from one of the districts in Georgia with the positive understanding he was to vote against General John B. Gordon for the senate. In an exciting election which soon followed in the Legislature he cast his vote for General Gordon. On his return home his constituency, much displeased, called a mass meeting and charged him with betraying his trust. After several had denounced him for casting his vote for General Gordon he was given a chance to defend himself. He frankly admitted that he had been elected with the express understanding he was to vote against the man he voted for. “I fully intended,” he said, “to vote against General Gordon, but just before casting my vote I happened to look to my right and my eyes fell upon his kindly face. On that fact I noted a scar that he received in fighting our battle. Fellow citizens, when I gazed upon that scar and thought of the courageous and chivalrous record of that man, I could not vote against him.” In a moment indignation had turned to tears. The silence was broken by a one-armed veteran, who mounted the platform and moved a vote of thanks to their representative for casting his vote for General John B. Gordon for a seat in the United States Senate. The motion passed without a dissenting vote. Oh, if you could but see the scars of Him whose visage was marred more than the sons of men, you could not reject His claim upon your life and your all.
“Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary.”
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
[From Christopher Cockrell, Editor, The Berea Baptist Banner, On-line edition, January, 2008. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More On J. W. Porter
Baptist History Homepage