"When they came to what is now known as the valley of
Eshcol, they cut down a cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them
to carry it on a pole between them!" Numbers 13:23
"They came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from
thence a branch with one cluster of grapes." Numb. 13:23.
We reach the valley of Eshcol through a humbling path.
Before we touch its clustering grapes, let the dark steps be traced. The
story shows, how vile is man–and how gracious is our God! It proves our
proneness to transgress. It then presents an emblem of the heavenly bliss.
When Sinai is left, the march of Israel advances
prosperously. There is no check. No enemy annoys. No difficulties hinder.
Each day the intervening wilderness decreases; and the desired land is
neared. And now the very borders are in view. A few more steps will plant
the pilgrim-host in Canaan.
Surely courage will now brace each nerve--joy will beat
high in every heart--and with triumphant praise they will plant conquering
banners. But is it so? Alas! they pause--they hesitate. Jehovah's ancient
covenant fades from their view. The pledged support--the daily help--the
experienced favor--are forgotten, as an unsubstantial dream. The unworthy
thought creeps in--perchance the nations are too strong for us--their walled
cities, and their iron gates may beat back our assault.
Thus they distrust--and tremblingly propose to search the
country by spies. They take weak counsel with their carnal minds. They
follow sight--not faith. They cast behind their backs the oath to
Abraham--the repeated promise to their fathers--and the rich map of the
luxuriant plains, so often drawn by God's describing hand.
Such are the workings of vile unbelief. And that
dark monster is not dead. Yet--yet it lives. It lurks in corners of each
heart. It ever watches to bring its disguise to every eye--its
poison-draught to every lip. It is crafty to whisper, that perhaps God's
many promises may fail; that faith may be pursuing a vain shadow; and may
lie down at last misled--deceived--undone.
Reader, beware--look inward. If you discern the slightest
trace of this beguiling serpent, oh! spare it not--seize it and slay it on
the altar of revealed truth. Take for the solid pavement of your steps, "It
is written." Then manfully advance. Grasp tight the promises; and boldly
march toward your pledged inheritance. Let nothing tempt you to test
heaven's counsels at the bar of human sense. He is the fool of fools, who
tests divine assurances in the scales of mortal vision.
But this timid policy befools Israel's camp. The spies
are named. They are sent forth to ascertain, whether their God be true. They
pass from place to place. They view the mountains and the valleys. Then in
their progress they reach Eshcol's brook. Here fruit before unknown for
size, for beauty, and for luxuriant juice, meets their admiring gaze. They
pluck one cluster from the vine. The treasure needs two men to bear it. Upon
a staff they prop it up. And thus they seek the camp, laden with a trophy of
the country's wealth.
Here let the spies be left. Here let a curtain fall on
their sad errand and their sin. Their sin--for they bring back a false
report--and while they show the fruit, they largely dwell upon the walled
towns, and monster-forms, and other formidable sights. But from such conduct
let us turn. It is more solacing to contemplate that cluster, which they
bear--that earnest of rich fields.
The Spirit teaching, we may draw hence a foretaste of the
full riches of our celestial land. These grapes are proof of Canaan's
exuberant fertility. The giant-produce testifies abundance. So, too, there
is a heavenly Eshcol before faith's eye. It shows delicious clusters.
And should we not delight to walk in the enchanting ground, and cheer our
spirits with the glowing prospect? Surely Eshcol's luxuriance portrays our
glorious Canaan. It pictures heaven--our looked-for rest--the mark, to which
we press--the haven of our storm-tossed voyage--the end of weary
pilgrimage--the soul's eternal home--the land of every delight. This Eshcol
should be ever in our view.
The joy before Christ cheered His heart. The joy before
us should gird up our loins. The racer bounds, when he discerns the goal in
sight. The mariner is alert, when land is seen. The soul spreads swifter
wings, when heaven seems to open.
Reader, come, then, in Eshcol's grapes, read faith's
But here thought flags--mind fails--all words seem
emptiness--all images fall short. No angel's tongue can adequately paint the
brightness of those realms. Mortal powers shrink into very nothingness. None
can describe heaven, but those who enter it. And those who enter it, find
their delight an ever-swelling flood--an ever-brightening day--an
ever-opening flower--a volume, which eternity cannot read through!
Heaven! It is the palace of the great Eternal. Salvation
is its walls--its gates are praise. Its pavement is purity's most golden
luster. Its atmosphere is perfect love. Heaven! It is the home prepared by
God before the worlds were made, for His redeemed children. It is the
mansion, which the ascended Jesus still labors to make fit. Heaven! It is so
attractive, that all Jehovah's skill cannot increase the beauty--so full,
that nothing can be added--so rich, that it can hold no more.
But Eshcol's luxuriance allures us to more close
examination. Let us draw nearer. This cluster was the vine's perfection. So,
too, perfection is the essence of our heaven. Nothing can enter there to
stain--to soil--to vex--to humble. Oh! what a contrast to our present state!
We would be holy--but, alas! a treacherous adversary rolls us in the mire.
Our hearts are daily pierced. We loathe and we abhor ourselves. But our high
home is barricaded against sin. Never--never--never--can iniquity again
intrude. The soul forever joys--righteous, as God is righteous--pure, as God
is pure. Reader, seek heaven. But heaven is more than this.
Here on earth, the foul tempter all day long is
spreading nets. There is no saint too saintly for his vile approach. In Eden
he approached the innocent. To Jesus he said, 'Worship me'. His whispers,
his bold lies, as keenest anguish, haunt the regenerate heart. And while
life lasts, there is no respite. He watches every dying bed. But in heaven
this misery has ceased. No serpent crawls along that pavement! Satan
is outside--far off--the bottomless pit has shut its mouth upon him. Reader,
seek heaven. But heaven is more than this.
Here on earth, fears rush in. The ground is
slippery. A precipice is near. We tremble on the brink. Fiery darts fly
round. We shudder, lest some poison penetrate our veins. The torturing
thought breaks in, 'Will my frail bark hold out! Will even God's own grace
endure my daily provocations! May I not, after all, fail of salvation! May
not my end be with the lost!' But fear dies at heaven's gate! The happy
company realize, that they are lofty above injury. Their throne is safety in
the highest. They know it--what then can they fear? Reader, seek heaven. But
heaven is more than this.
Earth is affliction's home. A troop of sorrows
compass us about. Tears stream. The bosom sighs. The brow is furrowed by the
lines of care and worry. Death tears away the much-loved friend. Sickness
invades the frame. The home is desolate. The table is destitute. We look to
the right-hand, and there is trouble--on the left, and still fresh troubles
frown. But heaven is a wide sea of bliss without a ripple. All tears are
wiped away. All faces beam with one enraptured smile. All lips confess, 'The
cup of happiness overflows'. We bathe in oceans of delight. Reader, seek
heaven. But heaven is more than this.
Here unbelief often gathers, as a chilly cloud. It
mantles the soul in darkness. It suggests apprehension, that His love has
ceased, and that desertion is, or may be, our lot. This is a miserable
condition. When God is felt to be a God at hand, woe ceases to be woe, and
burdens are all light. But in heaven a present God is always everywhere.
We cannot move beyond the sunshine of His love. His countenance is
universal brightness. Reader, seek heaven. But heaven is more than this.
Here ignorance leads us in a floundering path. We
thirst for knowledge, but we reach it not. How much concerning God is
utterly beyond our grasp! Blindness curtails our perspective. Clouds narrow
our view. But heaven is a realm without horizon. We know God, as we are
known. We love intelligently. We understand, whom we adore. Reader, seek
heaven. But heaven is more than this.
Sin is shut out--temptations banished--fears buried in an
unfathomable grave--sorrow and unbelief have fled away--knowledge is
perfect--our souls are purity--our bodies are imperishable beauty--we
completely share the glory of our all-glorious Lord. How much is this! But
yet this is not all.
In the true Eshcol's cluster there is this richer
fruit--Jesus is seen. This is the crown of heaven. This is the pinnacle of
bliss. The rising of the sun makes day. The presence of the king constitutes
the court. The revelation of the Lord, without one intervening cloud, is the
grand glory of the endless kingdom. Heaven is full heaven, because Christ
shines there exactly as He is--seen and admired of every eye.
Faith searches for Him now in types, and shadows, and
prophetic forms, and sacraments, and holy emblems. This sight is
precious--gratefully to be enjoyed--devoutly to be improved. But these are
faint outlines of the eternal vision. These often are obscured. But in
heaven Jesus ever stands conspicuous in one undiminishable blaze.
Believer, what will it be to gaze on the manifested
beauty of Him, who is so altogether lovely! What! to read clearly all the
deep mysteries of His redeeming will! What! to dive down to the vast depths
of His unfathomable heart! What! to fly upward to the very summit of His
boundless love! What! to trace clearly all His dealings in providence and
grace! What! to comprehend all that Jesus is! What! never to lose sight of
Him--no, not for a moment! What! to be ever drinking fresh raptures from His
present smile! What! to feel, that this joy is mine forever! What! to shout,
'Come on, you ages of eternity, you never part me from my Lord!' This--this
is heaven. This--this is Eshcol's full cluster.
Reader, are you a traveler towards this heaven? When you
behold the grapes of Eshcol, do you know, that the vineyard is your sure
heritage? The question may be solved. This kingdom is for the subjects of
the King--this palace is for His sons. Are you, then, His by faith? They,
who are in Him now, will dwell with Him forever. They, who live Christ on
earth, go to Him in the upper world. Then ask, "Is your soul knit to Him?
Are you a branch engrafted in the heavenly stem? Are you the bride espoused
to the Lamb?" Conscience well knows.
The link, which thus connects, is faith. This is that
precious grace, which sees His worth--flees to Him--embraces Him--and holds
Him tight. This is that heaven-given power, which, with glad hand, receives
the title-deeds of heaven. This is that Spirit-implanted confidence, which
looks to Eshcol, and claims all Canaan, as a promised home.
Reader, never rest, then, until, standing on firm
Gospel-ground, you can look up and cry, "Lord, I believe." Then daily feed
on Eshcol's grapes. Then daily move towards Canaan. You soon will hear,
"Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from
the foundation of the world." Matt. 25:34.