The Mixed Multitude
As now, there was mixture in the Christian profession in Paul’s day: “for many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they [are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end [is] destruction, whose god [is] the belly, and [their] glory in their shame, who mind earthly things”. In contrast to these we have the heavenly–minded ones “for our commonwealth” (citizenship, conversation, politics—it has been variously rendered) “has its existence in [the] heavens, from which also we await the Lord Jesus Christ [as] Saviour” (Phil. 3: 18–20). Verse 17 should also be noticed in this connection: “Be imitators [all] together of me, brethren, and fix your eyes on those walking thus as you have us for a model”. The “walking” here doubtless refers to taking outwardly the Christian place. Those who “walk” in verse 18 are those who have at least the outward appearance of pilgrims, and yet are actually enemies of the cross of Christ!
Such persons were not new—they walked with God’s people in Moses’ day. The very same chapter that describes the children of Israel starting on their journey after having been sheltered by the blood of the lamb, tells us that “a mixed multitude went up also with them” (Ex. 12: 38, my emphasis). They were neither out and out worldlings like the Egyptians, but nor where they really part of God’s people. Outwardly, perhaps, one might have had difficulty in distinguishing these from the elect nation, but their real character came out in the wilderness. In Numbers 11 we get the cry of those who were enemies of the cross of Christ (typically of course). They had never entered into what the judgment of the Red Sea should have taught them, of separation from Egypt and its lusts: “And the mixed multitude that was among them lusted; and” (sad result) “the children of Israel also wept again and said, Who will give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; and now our soul is dried up: there is nothing at all but the manna before our eyes” (vs 4–6). And yet the manna spoke of Christ come down in grace to meet His people’s need (see John 6: 32)! In despising the manna they (in type) despised Christ. With His beauty temporarily obscured by our association with those of whom the apostle warns us “even weeping” (Phil. 3: 18), we lose our appreciation of the Lord, though He be “like cake with honey” (Exod. 16: 31) for sweetness, and brought by “the dew” (v14)—ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit. For manna the children of Israel had no heart—far rather would they have the flesh and fish of Egypt, and the fruits for which they must grovel on the ground, or dig into the earth. So it ever is when the cross has lost its charm for our souls, and when we can no longer say, “far be it from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom [the] world is crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6: 14).
Have we not all known something of the deadening influence of the mixed multitude who walk in the Christian ‘way’ and “have a fair appearance in [the] flesh” (Gal. 6: 12) but whose hearts are still in the world—a world they would engage our hearts with too? Oh let us remember that leeks, onions and garlic all leave their odour behind! You cannot feast on things like these without spiritual loss. Perhaps you fancy that a little worldliness and a little indulgence of the flesh will not hurt your testimony, nor mar your enjoyment of divine things. You imagine it will never be noticed by others, particularly those for whose piety you have respect and who watch for your soul. If you do allow yourself to go on in measure with the world, then you are at least regularly out to the meetings and show an interest in the Gospel! Be assured it is just as impossible to dine on garlic and not have the odour on your breath, as it is to taste of the world's follies in any form without manifestly lowering the tone of your spirituality. A night in worldly company, how it tells on one! Indulgence in earthly vanities, worldly things and careless ways, how they eat out the spiritual life and cause the soul to loathe the manna! You cannot enjoy the world and Christ at the same time: One will inevitably crowd the other out.
I judge that there is a marked distinction between the mixed multitude and murmuring Israel, just as we are called upon to distinguish between the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction (not merely chastening) and the Philippian saints who are warned against such. If unwatchful, even the saint is in danger of becoming in measure like these false professors in ways, though, in reality, one with them he can never can be. Believers are often forgetful of the cross of Christ—sad that it should be so—but enemies they could not be. 1 Cor. 10: 1–11 is addressed to all: “For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of a spiritual rock which followed [them]: (now the rock was the Christ;) yet God was not pleased with the most of them, for they were strewed in the desert. But these things happened [as] types of us, that we should not be lusters after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed fornication, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt the Christ, as some of them tempted, and perished by serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them [as] types, and have been written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come”. Wisdom’s children take heed and are kept safe, but the foolish pass on and are punished.
The great characteristic of false Christians is earthly–mindedness: “whose god [is] the belly, and [their] glory in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3: 19). In this their connection with the mixed multitude of Moses’ day is very marked. Their two prominent characteristics are the desire for personal gratification (take what form it may) and love of the scene from which the cross has supposedly separated them.
Let us, dear fellow–pilgrim, beware of any who would tempt us to seek our enjoyment in the sphere that has cast out our Lord. His cross has come in between us and the world. Do we, then, want anything out of it, or a place in it? If so, in heart we go back to Egypt. To do that, Israel had to go around the Red Sea (see Jer. 43: 1–7)—through it they could not go. It is a dreadful thing to thus set the cross aside. It is not necessarily denying an interest in the death of Christ or in the shedding of His blood. These truths may be acknowledged and confessed in measure, where the cross—symbol of His shame and bitter sorrow—has really been ignored.
It is the cross that has stained all the glory of this world, even as of old the “cedar–wood, and scarlet, and hyssop” were stained with the blood of the bird of the heavens, slain in “an earthen vessel over running water” (Lev. 14: 4, 5). Christ the heavenly One, in the body prepared for Him, offered Himself through the eternal Spirit a sacrifice for our cleansing (see Heb. 9: 14). To faith, all the world’s glory has disappeared in the death of Christ. It has no glory since it became guilty of the murder of the Son of God, and since it nailed our Lord to the tree. All its objects of beauty, its religious splendour, its society, its culture—everything on which it prides itself—all is blood–stained now.
This is what those “who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3: 19) deny. Refusing the truth that Christ is outside this scene of man’s pride and folly, they seek to attach His name to the world that cast Him out. Of old they cried, “Crucify him.” (Mark 15: 15), now they would garnish His sepulchre. They cannot utterly ignore Him—His impress is too strong and clear for that. It was impossible that God in manhood’s form could be in the world and yet not leave some evidence of His presence behind Him. So they claim Him now as one like unto themselves. Have you noticed that—how every body wants to claim Jesus (and it is always only Jesus and never Lord Jesus), even though they hate His cross? They speak of Him as the great Exemplar, the Teacher, the Martyr—anything you will, but that He died to “deliver us out of the present evi1 world” (Gal. 1: 4)—that His cross is the dividing line—this they will not have.
In contrast to these “who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3: 19), how good it is to read of some whose “commonwealth has its existence in [the] heavens” (v20). Here they have no “abiding city” (Heb. 13: 14)— they seek one to come. The Lord’s lonely path of sorrow and separation is the one they would tread in such a world as this. Identified by faith with a rejected Christ, and possessors of His life, they cannot be at home in the scene of His deep sufferings and awful shame. A separated, “peculiar people” (Titus 2: 14), they confess plainly that they “seek [their] country” (Heb. 11: 14) and are content to wait for glory rather than have the temporary pleasures of sin. His path of isolation and strangership is dearer by far than any of earth’s fair byways, just because it was He who left us “a model that ye should follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2: 21). Marked is the contrast now. Marked will it be at the close. Caught up to be forever with Him will be all those who knew Him as Lord and Saviour. Left in the earth of their own choosing and hopes will be those who were the enemies of His cross.
Let us see to it, beloved, that we walk in holy separation from them now, “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23). As strangers and pilgrims, may it be ours to press on in haste to the land where He has gone who won our hearts by dying for us on the cross, and who is soon coming to take us to be with Himself in His Father's house. How paltry and poor will Egypt’s fare look then when we feast upon the “hidden manna” (Rev. 2: 17)! “If therefore ye have been raised with the Christ, seek the things [which are] above, where the Christ is, sitting at [the] right hand of God: have your mind on the things [that are] above, not on the things [that are] on the earth; for ye have died, and your life is hid with the Christ in God” (Col. 3: 1-3).