Moses is now commissioned and authenticated as Israel's
deliverer. Still he hesitates. "O my Lord," he says, "I am not eloquent neither
heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech,
and of a slow tongue."
How hard it is, amid what we call "second causes,"
to trust simply in God alone! All God's power, for a Moses even, is not
sufficient without an eloquent tongue! Paul was wiser when he came to the
Corinthians "not with excellency of speech or of wisdom," that their "faith
might not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." Our idolatry of
means thus affects and characterises our work. The work will show the workman.
The motives, the thoughts, which influence us, and which we suppose hidden in
our hearts, will manifest themselves in those who are the fruit of our
God does not gift Moses with an eloquent tongue, but He allows part
of his honour to be transferred to Aaron, who becomes his spokesman to the
people. Thus provided, Moses starts; but before he reaches Egypt, the divine
holiness which cannot pass over the uncircumcision of his house is made
manifest. At the inn on the way, Jehovah seeks to kill His accredited
messenger, whose life is only saved by Zipporah's performance of the neglected
rite. Thus he is warned as well as commissioned.
Now, he and Aaron
gathering the people, deliver their message and show the signs of their
authority: and the people believe with a facile faith, soon to be tested as to
its depth and reality, for Pharaoh does not mean to let his bond-slaves step so
easily out of his hands. Here begins that prolonged contest between Jehovah and
the king of Egypt, in which God's judgments fall with increasing severity upon
the devoted land, until He finally brings His people with a strong hand and an
out-stretched arm through the sea itself, overwhelming their enemies in it.
These plagues represent the judgment of God upon the natural man, as the eye,
divinely opened, sees it: they expose the hopeless evil of man's condition; and
the world, stripped of its bloom and attractiveness, is turned into a desert
under Divine wrath, until the one so convicted is forced to abandon it and
accept rejoicingly God's deliverance from it all. Then the wilderness path
begins indeed. And, while the world is thus being exposed as under
condemnation, the beauty, extent and purport of God's salvation become more and
more told out.
It is a "feast to Jehovah" that they are to hold in the
wilderness. Gladness is characteristic of His presence, when once the heart is
free to enjoy that presence. Then we learn that the feast is to be connected
with a sacrifice - a sacrifice which alone averts God's judgment, and enables
the heart to be in His presence without fear.
"The God of the Hebrews hath
met with us. Let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the wilderness,
that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God, lest He fall upon us with
pestilence or with the sword."
Thus, first, God's heart is revealed, then
man's guilt and need, which the blood of sacrifice alone can meet.
Egypt, however, can that feast be held; for on the ground of nature no true joy
in God or worship in the Spirit is possible. From this there must be three
days' remove-the distance between death and resurrection alone can carry us
into our place of blessing and intimacy with God. But this will be developed
At once, however, Pharaoh's spirit is declared: "I know not the
Lord, neither will I let Israel go." The flesh in us never does; its obduracy,
allied with the prince of this world, Pharaoh fully exemplifies. At the very
outset, when faith begins to move in us, and the good news of salvation begins
to be really that, we find the opposition of that in which "dwelleth no good
thing," and is but enmity to God as revealed in Christ and the gospel. Sin's
reign is a despotic one, and terrible it is to find, from the first moment in
which we would do good, evil present with us, and how "he that committeth sin
is the slave of sin." Israel, beginning already to think salvation come, find
instead augmented labour and the stripes of taskmasters. So that their
transient joy is swallowed up in worse sorrow, and unbelief takes the place of
faith: "The Lord look upon you and judge," they say to Moses and Aaron,
"because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in
the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us."
even Moses betrays his impatience in a bitter complaint to God. How many a
worker since in like manner would have salvation at once realised, not
understanding the necessity of all this parleying with Pharaoh - in experience
of sin and of sin's bondage.
But as God assures them, if they are made
afresh to realise the burdens of the Egyptians, it is only that they may
realise redemption out of them by His own hand, and that they may know Him in
their salvation, bringing them out from under these burdens. Fresh promises,
however, fail to revive the drooping hearts of the people, and Moses himself is
discouraged. God, however, gives to him and Aaron a solemn charge to bring the
children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
And here it is that the
genealogy of Moses and Aaron is introduced, the double type of a Saviour whom
accumulated types fail fully to express. The sons of Reuben and Simeon are also
given here, though set aside for Levi, the third son; and how plain the
spiritual purport of this is, which looked at superficially seems without
meaning. Reuben is the eldest, and his four sons have beautiful names, full of
promise; but it is "first that which is natural, and afterwards that which is
spiritual." So he is set aside. Simeon, too, with his six sons is passed over;
and Levi is chosen - the third son (spiritually, child of resurrection) in
whose name, "joined," the mediatorship of Christ, only fully reached in
resurrection, is surely implied.
And now ensue the plagues which are to
manifest Jehovah's power, and make His name known throughout all the earth.
Long and stubbornly Pharaoh resists, but is at last, though unchanged in
spirit, overpowered. Upon the history in detail I cannot dwell, but we may look
at the compromises which Pharaoh attempts to make with God or with Moses as to
the people; they illustrate not less the breadth of His salvation than the
treachery of the heart which would impose limits to His sovereign grace.
The first attempt is to secure the retention of Israel in Egypt. They may
sacrifice - he will permit that - but let them do it in the land, and not leave
it. His object is to retain his hold upon them, which three days' journey into
the wilderness would assuredly loosen. The spiritual meaning is also manifest.
Worship in Egypt is worship in the flesh, Cain's worship, which owns not our
ruin, nor Christ as meeting it. Death and resurrection have no place there.
Redemption there is none, and, therefore, practically no Redeemer. Moses'
answer shows this: "It is not meet so to do, for we shall sacrifice the
abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the
abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone
The word "abomination" stands here as often elsewhere for idolatry, as
Chemosh "was the abomination of the Moabites, and Milcom of the Ammonites." The
worship of Egypt was that of Apis - the sacred bull. It was paramount amid
their animal deities; and it came up in the minds of the children of Israel
when they worshipped Jehovah in the golden calf. It is throughout Scripture the
type of the labourer, and is preeminently seen in the sacrifices as God's
Labourer, who to do His will in behalf of man, laid down His life.
such a Worker, and of such a work, Egypt knew nothing; and to maintain the
truth of this will ensure decisive rejection at the hands of those whom the
Egyptians represent. That cross by which the world is crucified to us, and we
unto the world, can never be but an offence in it; and the true place of
witness to this, as the only possible place of keeping the sacrificial feast,
is three days' journey into the wilderness - the full remove of death and
By His death Christ has passed out of the world, and in
resurrection has taken a new place for us before God. We therefore, who in His
death have died, are by His resurrection put also into this place, and
according to His own words, "are not of the world, even as He is not of the
world." The old standing is gone; the place is changed. The separation is not
of our own effecting, but of His, who has cancelled for us the long dark
history of what we were, and instead of our place of distance, has given us His
of nearness to God: "Who died for our sins, that He might deliver us from this
present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father." Thus our
feast is connected with His sacrifice.
This new place with God is given us
(apart from anything of our own) by the death and resurrection of our Lord; but
it is ours to find, through faith in this work of His, our place in the
wilderness, where alone the feast is to be kept. Here Israel is our type. Their
journey to Sinai is a picture of what must be a veritable journey (spiritually)
on our part, though by faith alone we travel it - not by sense nor in any
mystical way. Faith's acceptance of the work of Christ puts us upon this road,
and carries us into a place of actual separation from the world - the sign of
our practical apprehension of our position. The wilderness-place is not
positional but practical; not "standing," as we say, but state; the state
resulting from a believing appreciation of the position which God's grace has
given us - apart from and not measured by our apprehension of it. Let us not
ignore the actuality of this journey. Let us not confound it with the position
which Christ's work secures and which faith apprehends. And again, let us not
suppose any mystical realisation, but of what faith produces. Faith is a
reality, connecting the soul with the living God. It is not content to accept a
heavenly inheritance without setting its face, pilgrim-wise, towards it. Unseen
things become substance and reality to it, and every truth received by it
becomes living and fruitful. Hence the journey. The Word is not a description
of lands separated from us by impassible seas, but is a pilgrim's guide-book,
meant for use and to be put to use. The things we shall have put before us are
like mile-stones, which measure so much actual travel, or they have no
Let us keep faith and practice ever thus together: they will not
live divorced. For if faith without works is dead, works that are not of faith
are "dead works" also. It is plain how to this first device of Pharaoh the
large proportion of Christians have yielded themselves up. They are worshiping
in Egypt without the knowledge of re-demption: therefore not free. And they
have so assimi-lated their worship to Egyptian patterns, that instead of being
stoned for it they have taught the men of the world to join in with them. But
this, alas, is no victory, but defeat.
Salvation, in God's thought of it,
takes you out of the world. You are no more of it than Christ is. And though we
have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more; for
Christ has passed out of the world altogether, and left it under the
condemnation of the cross. We are either in Him before God, and so out-side it,
or involved in its condemnation.
But let us look at the second
go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our
daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go: for we must hold a
feast unto the Lord. And he said, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let
you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you.
go now ye that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire."
the limits of salvation are attempted to be nar-rowed in another direction. The
men may go; the little ones must remain. In God's plan, however, the little
one's place was with the parents. Pharaoh's thought was to retain hold of the
fathers by means of the children; God's thought is to save the children with,
and by means of, the fathers. Noah's house, in the ark with him, is the first
example; then the blessing of Abraham's seed, and circumcision of the
Israelite's house gives the divine rule for the old economy. The new is still
more full of this: "This day is salvation come to this house," says the Lord as
to Zaccheus. "The promise is unto you and to your children," says the apostle
on the day of Pentecost. To Cornelius the angel says: "Who shall tell thee
words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." And once again to the
Philippian jailor: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,
and thy house."
This then is the universal tenor of Scripture. God's
all-embracing love would make His people reach out to others, and of the human
ties which He has established, He forms links toward the new creation. He would
thus claim for His own that which, with no acquiescence of His, has departed
from Him, and use for this the natural affection which, fallen as it is, is not
incapable of being renewed and spiritualised. Thus He meets and satisfies the
deepest instincts of our manhood; the Divine Father manifesting Himself as not
strange to what is best in human fatherhood, and teaching us to feel in
ourselves the original likeness in which at first He created us to Himself.
The children of believers are of course like others: we impart to them the old
nature; the new is only given of God. In this respect they differ in nothing
from others. The universal law, "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God" applies to them as to others." Nor does it follow as a
matter of course, that if a man is saved himself, his house will be. In
Abraham's case-pattern as he is in so many ways for the believer - God says: "I
know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and
they shall keep the way of the Lord. . . that the Lord may bring upon Abraham
that which He hath spoken of him."
Thus we have a clear testimony of
Abraham's exercise of authority over his household and their keeping the way of
the Lord connected with the fulfilment of the promise to him. The wise man's
saying also is, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old
he will not depart from it." Here is the thing which tests us; and here, as
elsewhere, what we sow, especially in the ductile mind of a child, we do not
fail to reap. But it is not our words only that bear fruit: it is the combined
influence of our words and ways. That three days' remove from Egypt, if really
taken, will have immense effect. If not, teaching as to Egypt will not avail.
The coming out to keep a feast to the Lord will give the positive side of this,
and prevent the other from being a cold and hard asceticism. Let but this be
real, it will not fail to have its effect; and though we may have shortcomings
tc mourn over, and faith too may be tried in us, the Lord we serve is tender
and pitiful, and faith that counts upon Him will not count in vain.
things are our types, and the God of Israelis as full of power to-day as ever
He was. Let us credit Him with it, and fear not.
Now we come to the third
and last compromise: -"And Pharaoh called unto Moses and said, Go ye, serve the
Lord; only let your flocks and herds be stayed; let your little ones also go
with you. And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and
burnt-offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Our cattle also
shall go with us, there shall not an hoof be left behind: for thereof must we
take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the
Lord until we come thither."
Thus if Pharaoh cannot prevent their going
out, he would make them as poor as he can. Their flocks and herds were the main
part of what as a shepherd-people they possessed. They are thus the type of our
possessions - that which we have in the world. Our business relations are
evidently connected with things termed "secular," which so often are divorced
from the "sacred," and in relation to which we may be, and are, something other
than "men in Christ."
How successful is this snare among us! How few in
fact have their all out of Egypt, honestly owning God's title to all! How few
are in relation to their business or worldly connections just what in the
Assembly they claim to be! How few have the riband of blue, the mark of
heavenly character, right down to where their garments touch the earth! A
certain claim upon their worldly things, no doubt, every one recognises the
Lord to have; but the things are theirs, outside this tax on them. They do not
look on it as connected with their salvation, as part of their deliverance
itself - that what they have should be the Lord's as they themselves are. But
does not the one involve the other? Does it not show that we know little what
it is to be in Christ, while we have another self with independent aims and
This then is the salvation of which we are the subjects. We have
yet to trace it out in detail; but it is plain that Israel's deliverance was
from the power of Pharaoh under which they groaned. And for this there was much
more needed than the display of power, even Divine. There was needed the
Passover night as well as the Red Sea deliverance. They had to learn in the
blood applied, that grace alone, through atonement, could take them up and
rescue them from the enemy's power. And their rescue was not complete until the
other side of the sea was reached. Then it was, when horse and rider had been
cast into the sea, and their proud tyrants were carcases upon the shore, that
they sang how the Lord had triumphed gloriously.
And so the apostle does not
stop with justification by Christ's blood, in the Epistle to the Romans; he
rests not till in His cross we know "that our old man is crucified with Him,
that the body of sin may be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve (or
be slaves to) sin." This is the bondage, and this the deliverance; and we must
keep this steadily before us if we are to penetrate these shadows, and possess
ourselves of their divine realities.