The happiness of Israel in God’s government is here further made out by some particular instances of his administration, especially with reference to those that were, in their day, the prime leaders and most active useful governors of that people—Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, in the two former of whom the theocracy or divine government began (for they were employed to form Israel into a people) and in the last of whom that form of government, in a great measure, ended; for when the people rejected Samuel, and urged him to resign, they are said to reject God himself, that he should not be so immediately their king as he had been (1 Sam. 8:7), for now they would have a king, like all the nations. Moses, as well as Aaron, is said to be among his priests, for he executed the priest’s office till Aaron was settled in it and he consecrated Aaron and his sons; therefore the Jews call him the priest of the priests. Now concerning these three chief rulers observe,
I. The intimate communion they had with God, and the wonderful favour to which he admitted them. None of all the nations of the earth could produce three such men as these, that had such an intercourse with Heaven, and whom God knew by name, Exod. 33:17. Here is, 1. Their gracious observance of God. No kingdom had men that honoured God as these three men of the kingdom of Israel did. They honoured him, (1.) By their prayers. Samuel, though not among his priests, yet was among those that called on his name; and for this they were all famous, They called upon the Lord; they relied not on their own wisdom or virtue, but in every emergency had recourse to God, towards him was their desire, and on him their dependence. (2.) By their obedience: They kept his testimonies, and the ordinances that he gave them; they made conscience of their duty, and in every thing made God’s word and law their rule, as knowing that unless they did so they could not expect their prayers should be answered, Prov. 28:9. Moses did all according to the pattern shown him; it is often repeated, According to all that God commanded Moses, so did he. Aaron and Samuel did likewise. Those were the greatest men and most honourable that were most eminent for keeping God’s testimonies and conforming to the rule of his word. 2. God’s gracious acceptance of them: He answered them, and granted them the things which they called upon him for. They all wonderfully prevailed with God in prayer; miracles were wrought at their special instance and request; nay, he not only condescended to do that for them which they desired, as a prince for a petitioner, but he communed with them as one friend familiarly converses with another (Ps. 99:7): He spoke unto them in the cloudy pillar. He often spoke to Samuel; from his childhood the word of the Lord came to him, and, probably, sometimes he spoke to him by a bright cloud overshadowing him: however, to Moses and Aaron he often spoke out of the famous cloudy pillar, Exod. 16:10; Num. 12:5. Israel are now reminded of this, for the confirming of their faith, that though they had not every day such sensible tokens of God’s presence as the cloudy pillar was, yet to those that were their first founders, and to him that was their great reformer, God was pleased thus to manifest himself.
II. The good offices they did to Israel. They interceded for the people, and for them also they obtained many an answer of peace. Moses stood in the gap, and Aaron between the living and the dead; and, when Israel was in distress, Samuel cried unto the Lord for them, 1 Sam. 7:9. This is here referred to (Ps. 99:8): “Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God! and, at their prayer, thou wast a God that forgavest the people they prayed for; and, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions, yet thou didst not cut them off from being a people, as their sin deserved.” “Thou wast a God that wast propitious for them (so Dr. Hammond), for their sakes, and sparedst the people at their request, even when thou wast about to take vengeance of their inventions, that is, when thy wrath was so highly provoked against them that it was just ready to break in upon them, to their utter overthrow.” These were some of the many remarkable instances of God’s dominion in Israel, more than in any other nation, for which the people are again called upon to praise God (Ps. 99:9): “Exalt the Lord our God, on account of what he has done for us formerly, as well as of late, and worship at his holy hill of Zion, on which he has now set his temple and will shortly set his King (Ps. 2:6), the former a type of the latter; there, as the centre of unity, let all God’s Israel meet, with their adorations, for the Lord our God is holy, and appears so, not only in his holy law, but in his holy gospel.”