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< 020601 > EXODUS Our previous chapter closed with Moses turning unto the Lord in most unbecoming petulancy and daring to call into question the Divine dispensations. The Lord’s servant had been severely tried: he had gone in unto Pharaoh and demanded him to let the Hebrews go so that they might sacrifice unto their God. But not only had the haughty king refused this most reasonable request, he had also given orders that his slaves should have additional burdens laid upon them. The officers of the children of Israel had interviewed Pharaoh, but had been mocked for their pains. They then sought out Moses and Aaron and called down a curse upon them, for this we take it is the force of their words, “The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savor to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh” ( 5:21).
The reference seems to be to the fact that he had committed his way unto the Lord before he had interviewed the king, and now after his seeming failure, he turns again to the throne of grace.
The discouragements which Moses had met with were more than flesh could stand, and he asks Jehovah, “Wherefore hast Thou so evil entreated this people? and why is it that Thou hast sent me?”, ending by saying “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all.” Moses was right in tracing the afflictions which had come upon the Hebrews to God Himself, for all things are “of Him and through Him” ( Romans 11:36) ; but He certainly did wrong in questioning the Almighty and in murmuring against the outworking of His counsels. But it is written, “He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust”, and again, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” ( <19A314> Psalm 103:14,8).
Fully was that manifested on this occasion. Instead of chastising His servant, the Lord encouraged him; instead of setting him aside, He renewed his commission; instead of slaying him. He revealed Himself in all His grace. “Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land” (v. 1).
The Lord made no answer to Moses’ impatient queries but re-affirmed His immutable purpose. The defiant Pharaoh might insist I will not let Israel go ( 5:2), but the Most High declared that he should, nay, that he would even drive them out of his land. There was no need for Moses to be alarmed or even discouraged: the counsel of God would stand, and He would do all His pleasure ( Isaiah 46:50). This is a sure resting-place for the heart of every servant, and for every Christian too. No matter how much the Enemy may roar and rage against us, he is quite unable to thwart the Almighty — “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord” ( Proverbs 25:30).
This is the high ground that the Lord first took in encouraging the drooping heart of His despondent servant. Said He, ‘With a strong hand shall he (Pharaoh) let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of the land”. There were no “ifs” or “perhaps” about it. The event was absolutely certain, and therefore invincibly necessary, because Deity had eternally decreed it. Similar is the assurance God gives His servants today: “So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth. It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” ( Isaiah 55:11).
It is also to be noted that in strengthening the heart of His servant the Lord pointed Moses forward to the goal — “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh”. There was much that was to happen in between, but the Lord passes over all that would intervene, and speaks of the last act in the great drama which was just opening. He bids Moses consider the successful outcome, when the great enemy of His people should be vanquished. There is much for us to learn in this. We defeat ourselves by being occupied with the difficulties of the way. God has made known to us the triumphant outcome of good over evil, and instead of being harassed by the fiery darts which the Evil One now hurls against us, we ought to rest on the assuring promise that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” ( Romans 16:20). “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord:
Abraham knew “the name” of Jehovah, for we read that he “called on the name of the Lord ” ( Genesis 13:4). Of Isaac, too, we read, “And he built an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord ” ( Genesis 26:25).
And of Jacob we read of him praying, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee, I am not worthy of the least of all Thy mercies”, etc. ( Genesis 32:9,10).
It is, therefore, clear that the patriarchs were acquainted with God’s name of Jehovah. What, then, did the Almighty mean when He said here to Moses, “by My name JEHOVAH was I not known to them”? It is clear that this is one of many scriptures which cannot be interpreted absolutely, but must be understood relatively. We believe that the key to the difficulty is supplied by what follows, where the Lord says, ‘I have also established My covenant with them”.
The Divine-titles are a most important subject of study for they are inseparably connected with a sound interpretation of the Scriptures. Elohim and Jehovah are not employed loosely on the pages of Holy Writ. Each has a definite significance, and the distinction is carefully preserved. Elohim (God) is the name which speaks of the Creator and Governor of His creatures. Jehovah (the Lord) is His title as connected with His people by covenant relationship. It is this which explains the verses now before us.
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were acquainted with the Jehovistic title, but they had no experimental acquaintance with all that it stood for. God has entered into a “covenant” with them, but, as Hebrews 11:13 tells us, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises”. But now the time had drawn nigh when the Lord was about to fulfill His covenant engagement and Israel would witness the faithfulness, the power, and the deliverance which His covenant-name implied. God was about to manifest Himself as the faithful performer of His word, and as such the descendants of the patriarchs would know Him in a way their fathers had not. “And I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of your pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers” (v. 4).
Here then was the next encouragement which the Lord set before His fearful servant. He reminds him how that He had established His covenant with the patriarchs, to whom He had pledged Himself to give them the land of Canaan. How impossible was it, then, that the Egyptians should continue to hold them as slaves. How foolish and how wicked Moses’ unbelieving fears. If Jehovah had established a covenant it must be fulfilled, for that covenant was an unconditional one. A similar ground of assurance have we to stay our hearts upon in the midst of the trials of this scene. Says our God, “Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David”, i.e. “the Beloved” ( Isaiah 55:3) — note how the apostle Paul quotes from this very verse in his sermon at Antioch ( Acts 13:34). There are those who say that the saints of this dispensation are not related to God by covenant bonds, but this is a mistake. They are, as Hebrews 13:20 makes abundantly clear, for there we read of “the blood of the everlasting covenant”. Before time began the Father entered into a covenant with our glorious Head, (cf. Titus 1:2) and that covenant was sealed by blood. And just as the covenant God made with Abraham guaranteed “an heritage” ( Exodus 6:8), so the covenant which the Father made with the Son (cf. Hebrews 7:22) has an inheritance connected with it, even an inheritance which is “incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven” for us ( 1 Peter 1:4). May our faith so lay hold upon it that even now we shall live in the enjoyment of it. “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant” (v. 5).
Additional comfort was this for God’s servant. Moses had told the Lord how that since he had spoken to Pharaoh he had done evil to the Hebrews ( 5:23). The Lord needed not to be told this. He was neither oblivious nor indifferent to their sufferings. He had heard the “groaning of the children of Israel”. And, fellow-Christian, thou who art tried beyond endurance, the Lord has heard thy groanings; every tear has been recorded in His book ( Psalm 56:8); and what is more, He sympathizes with thee, and is touched with the feeling of thine infirmities ( Hebrews 4:15).
Though there may be much of unfathomable mystery as to why God permits our “groanings”, nevertheless, here is much cause for comfort — God “hears them”! “Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and (1) I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and (2) I will rid you out of their bondage, and (3) 1 will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And (4) I will take you to Me for a people, and (5) I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
Observe that these verses commence with the word “Therefore” which looks back to the closing words of the previous verse: “I have remembered My covenant ”. The contents of these verses, thee, grow out of the covenant which the Lord made with Abraham, and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob. It will be noted that in them the Lord makes seven promises, prefacing them with the declaration “I will”.
In Genesis 17 we find recorded another seven “I will’s” of Jehovah: “And (1) I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and (2) 1 will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And (3) I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And (4) 1 will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and (5) 1 will be their God. ... and (6) I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. But My covenant (7) I will establish with Isaac” (vv. 6, 7, 8, 19, 21).
With these passages should be compared the “new covenant” recorded in Jeremiah 31:33,34. Here, too, we find seven promises from the Lord: “After those days, saith the Lord, (1) I will put My law in their inward parts, and (2) write it in their hearts; and (3) will be their God, and (4) they shall be My people. And (5) they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: and (6) I will forgive their iniquity, and (7) I will remember their sin no more”. Let us now consider, though briefly, each of the seven promises which God here made to Moses: (1) “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. This speaks of God’s gracious purpose. His people were groaning beneath the intolerable demands made by their cruel taskmasters. For many weary years they had toiled under a load which was becoming more and more unendurable. Was there then no eye to pity, no hand to deliver? There was.
The covenant God of their fathers had promised that at the end of four hundred years’ affliction they should be emancipated (see Genesis 15:13-16). And now the time had come for God to make good His word.
He declares, therefore, that He will bring them out from under their burdens. So, too, this is what God does for each of His elect today. The first thing of which we are conscious in the application of salvation to our souls is deliverance from the burdens of our lost condition, of conscious guilt, of our unpreparedness to die. (2) “And I will rid you out of their bondage”. As another has said, “This was something far more than mere relief from their burdens: it was a complete severance from their previous condition. A slave may be sold to a kind master, and his burden removed, but he would remain a slave still; and Israel’s burdens might have been removed, and they still remain captives in Egypt. But this was not God’s way. He would rid them clean out of the land of bondage. Instead of them toiling in the kilns of Egypt, He would have them out in the wilderness, in communion with Himself. This is still God’s way. The one who receives Christ as his Savior is delivered from the bondage of sin, of Satan, of the fear of death”. (3) “I will redeem you”. To redeem means to purchase and set free.
Evangelical redemption is by price and by power. The price is the shedding of atoning blood: the power, the putting forth of an all-mighty hand. It was thus God would deliver Israel. First the slaying of the paschal lamb and then the display of Divine omnipotence at the Red Sea. Thus it is with the Christian: we have been redeemed, not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the Lamb ( 1 Peter 1:18,19) ; we are not our own, but “bought with a price” ( 1 Corinthians 6:20).
Almighty power was put forth at our regeneration, for we read of “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe” ( Ephesians 1:19). (4) “And I will take you to Me for a people”. For Israel this meant that henceforth they, as a nation, would occupy an unique relationship to God: they would be His peculiar treasure, the objects of His special care and favor. Marvelous indeed was it that the great Jehovah should own as His a down-trodden nation of slaves. But He did! And on what ground? The ground of redemption. He had redeemed them unto Himself. The same blessed truth is set forth on the pages of the New Testament. We, too, belong to God as His peculiar people. Utterly unfit and unworthy in ourselves, yet precious in the sight of God for Christ’s sake — “Accepted in the Beloved”. (5) “And I will be to you a God”. How fully was this exemplified in the sequel! Who but God could have made a way through the Sea so that His redeemed passed over dry shod; and who but He could have caused that Sea to turn back and drown the hosts of the Egyptians? Who but God could have guided His people through that trackless desert by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? Who but God could have quenched their thirst from a rock, and fed a hungry multitude for forty years in a wilderness? Truly He was a “God” unto Israel. And such is His promise to us: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” ( Corinthians 6:16). And daily does every believer receive a performance of this promise. None but God could preserve to the end a people so ignorant, so weak, so fickle, so sinful, as each of us is. (6) “I will bring you in unto the land”. Not only did the Lord bring His people out of the land of bondage, but He also brought them into the land which He had sworn to give unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is true that many, many individuals fell in the wilderness, but nevertheless, the nation of Israel God brought into Canaan. They were not consumed by the Amalekites (Exodus 17). Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, might “gather all his people together” and go out against Israel (Numbers 21), and Balak might hire Balaam to curse the people of God, but the Lord speedily brought to naught their efforts. God did bring Israel into the promised land. And He will bring each of us, His blood-bought ones, safely to Heaven. The world, the flesh, and the Devil may array themselves against us, but not a single sheep of Christ shall perish. (7) “And I will give it you for an heritage”. This was the goal toward which God was working. All was done in order that they might enjoy that which He had promised to their fathers. Not yet has this been completely fulfilled. It is in the Millennium that Israel shall enter fully into their covenanted portion. In like manner, the full enjoyment of our heritage is future. Already we have “the earnest of our inheritance” ( Ephesians 1:14); soon shall we have the portion itself. And note this is a gift. It is not by works of merit, but solely by sovereign grace. “Note how these seven ‘I will’s’ are enclosed in a framework of Divine assurance. They are prefaced and summed up with the words, ‘I am Jehovah’. As if God would fix their eyes on Himself as the Almighty One, before He utters a single ‘I will’; and then, at the close of the unfolding of His wondrous purposes, He would still keep their eye on the fact that it is He, the Almighty, who speaks.
Every doubt and difficulty would vanish if faith but grasped the fact that it is ‘I am’ who has pledged His word. Faith remembers with calm and unruffled peace, in spite of circumstances, that ‘With God all things are possible’” (Dr. Brookes). “And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel; but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage” (v. 9).
How this exposes the heart of the unregenerate! The condition of the poor sinner is vividly portrayed in these earlier chapters of Exodus. First, groaning in bondage; second, ignorant of that grace which God had in store for them; and now unable to value the precious promises of Jehovah.
While we are in bondage to sin and Satan, even the promises of God fail to bring us any relief. Relief never comes until the shed blood of the “lamb” is applied ! It was so with Israel; it is equally true with men today. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt. that he let the children of Israel go out of his land” (vv. 10, 11).
Moses was not to be afraid of the haughty monarch, but must interview him again, and speak plainly and boldly, not in a supplicatory, but in an authoritative way, in the name of the King of kings. This was before the Lord proceeded to punish Pharaoh for his disobedience, that His judgments might appear more manifestly just and right. “And Moses spake before the Lord, saying. Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?” (v. 12).
Why did Moses refer again to the impediment in his speech? Was it because that he thought the Lord ought to have removed it, and because he was dissatisfied at having Aaron to act as his mouthpiece? “And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel Out of the land of Egypt” (v. 13).
The Lord having previously answered this same objection of Moses ( 4:10-12) makes no further reply to it now, but instead, gives him a charge unto his own people-to comfort and direct them how they should conduct themselves in the interval before God’s deliverance arrived — and unto Pharaoh.
From verses 14-37 we have a list of genealogies brought in here to show us the ancestors of God’s ambassadors, and also to demonstrate the Lord’s sovereign grace. Only those genealogies of the Hebrews are here given which concern the offspring of the first three of Jacob’s sons. The sons of Reuben and of Simeon are named, but not from either of them did God select the honored instrument of deliverance. The order of grace is not the order of nature. It was from the tribe of Levi which, along with Simeon, lay under a curse ( Genesis 49:5-7) that God called Moses and Aaron.
And here too we may see grace exemplified by giving Moses, the younger, the precedency over Aaron, the senior. It should also be noted that Levi was the third son of Jacob — the number which ever speaks of resurrection — that the deliverer came The last three verses of our chapter connect the narrative with verse 10. As another has said, “The objection of Moses in verse 30 is evidently the same as in verse 12. And yet there is a reason for its repetition. In chapters and 4 Moses makes five difficulties in reply to the Lord; here in the 6th, are two, making seven altogether. It was therefore the complete exhibition of the weakness and unbelief of Moses. How it magnifies the grace and goodness of the Lord; for in His presence man is revealed; it also brings to light what He is in all the perfections of His grace, love, mercy and truth” ( E. Dennett).