Verse 16. Let thy work appear unto thy servants. See how he dwells upon that word servants. It is as far as the law can go, and Moses goes to the full length permitted him henceforth Jesus calls us not servants but friends, and if we are wise we shall make full use of our wider liberty. Moses asks for displays of divine power and providence conspicuously wrought, that all the people might be cheered thereby. They could find no solace in their own faulty works, but in the work of God they would find comfort.
And thy glory unto their children. While their sons were growing up around them, they desired to see some outshinings of the promised glory gleaming upon them. Their Sons were to inherit the land which had been given them by covenant, and therefore they sought on their behalf some tokens of the coming good, some morning dawnings of the approaching noonday. How eagerly do good men plead for their children. They can bear very much personal affliction if they may but be sure that their children will know the glory of God, and thereby be led to serve him. We are content with the work if our children may but see the glory which will result from it: we sow joyfully if they may reap.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 16. And thy glory unto their children. That is to say, that our children may see the glorious fruit of this affliction in us, that so they may not be discouraged thereby to serve thee, but rather the more heartened, when they shall see what a glorious work thou hast wrought in and upon us by afflicting us. --William Bradshaw.
Verse 16-17. "Thy work." "The work of our hands." You will observe a beautiful parallelism between two things which are sometimes confounded and sometimes too jealously sundered: I mean God's agency and man's instrumentality, between man's personal activity and that power of God which actuates and animates, and gives it a vital efficacy. For forty years it had been the business of Moses to bring Israel into a right state politically, morally, religiously: that had been his work, And yet, in so far as it was to have any success or enduringness, it must be God's work. "The work of our hands" do thou establish; and this God does when, in answer to prayer, he adopts the work of his servants, and makes it his own "work", his own "glory", his own "beauty." --James Hamilton.
Verse 16-17. There is a twofold Rabbinical tradition respecting this verse and the preceding one; that they were the original prayer recited by Moses as a blessing on the work of making the Tabernacle and its ornaments, and that subsequently he employed them as the usual formula of benediction for any newly undertaken task, whenever God's glorious Majesty was to be consulted for an answer by Urim and Thummim. --Lyranus, R. Shelomo, and Genebrardus, quoted by Neale.
Verse 16-17. -- They were content to live and to die as pilgrims, provided only they could feel that in his sterner dealings with them, God was, however slowly, preparing the way for that display of glorious blessedness which should be the lot of their descendants. In a similar spirit they ask God to establish the work of their hands, though they reckoned not that they should behold its results. Their comfort in sowing was the belief that their children would reap. --Joseph Francis Thrupp.
Verse 16-17. It is worthy of notice that this prayer was answered. Though the first generation fell in the wilderness, yet the labours of Moses and his companions were blessed to the second. These were the most devoted to God of any generation that Israel ever saw. It was of them that the Lord said, "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase." It was then that Balaam could not curse, but, though desirous of the wages of unrighteousness, was compelled to forego them, and his curse was turned into a blessing. We are taught by this case, amidst temporal calamities and judgments, in which our earthly hopes may be in a manner extinguished, to seek to have the loss repaired by spiritual blessings. If God's work does but appear to us, and our posterity after us, we need not be dismayed at the evils which afflict the earth. --Andrew Fuller.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- Our duty -- "work", and our desire about it.
- Our children's portion -- "glory", and our prayer in reference to it.