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MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:1
THE HARDENING OF PHARAOH’S HEART
Moses and Aaron are once more commanded to visit Pharaoh, even though they are told that he will not yield to their entreaty. This is the method of Heaven to render rebellious sinners unexcusable. The ministers of God are not readily to abandon a wicked soul. It is here said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. How?
I. By a manifestation of rich mercy that ought to have melted the heart of the King. God had indeed manifested great mercy and forbearance towards Pharaoh; He had spared his life. through a long series of plagues, and through continued sin. The King had no claim to such mercy. Yet it was given in abundant measure. And when mercy is abused by the sinner it has a hardening effect upon his moral nature. No man can reject the love of the great Father, the cross of Jesus Christ, and the warnings of the pulpit, without becoming more and more obdurate in heart. This is a natural law of man’s spiritual life. The soul of man is so constituted that the rejected mercies of truth leave it less sensitive to them. This is the experience of men. How many who have sinned through a long life, and who have resisted many gospel appeals, now feel they are less sensitive to Divine influences than ever they were. This is the ordination of God, and hence when He is said to harden the heart of man, it is by mercy that ought to have produced repentance, and not by any arbitrary decree.
II. By a manifestation of great power that ought to have subdued the heart of the King. The Divine Being not merely brought His mercy to bear upon the heart of Pharaoh, but also His power. Some men are more sensitive to power than they are to the appeals of mercy. They are not likely to be touched into tears by compassion; but they are awed by the exhibition of power. They are men of inferior moral temperament. They are influenced by the lower motives. They are wrought upon by fear. Pharaoh was evidently a man of this kind. A plague was more likely to subdue him than a word of tender pity, than a message of love. Hence, God tried this method, but it was only productive of a temporary repentance. Frequently is the soul of man brought to feel the power of God, in affliction and in pain. But the power of God ever recognises the free agency of man, and when it does not conquer, it hardens the sinner.
III. By a manifestation of severe justice that ought to have rebuked the heart of the king. God had shown Pharaoh that Heaven was just in its demands, and that it would come to the relief of the oppressed. This ought to have awakened a feeling of equity within his own heart, which should have ended in the freedom of Israel. All the plagues exhibited the justice of the Divine rulership, and rebuked the cruelty of the proud king. They were calculated to humble him. God does sometimes give sinners terrible visions of His justice, which are designed to lead them to rectitude of life. When men resist the manifestations of Divine justice, they are correspondingly hardened in soul to the rightful claims of heaven.
IV. By sending his servants to influence the heart of the king to the right. God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to influence him to the freedom of Israel. They were sent continuously. Moses was a good worker. Aaron was a good speaker. They wrought miracles. But wicked men will not yield their unbelief, their sin, to the best Christian talent, to the most faithful Christian service; but by rejecting the servants of God they become hard in heart. Hence, God did not harden the heart of Pharaoh by a sovereign decree, by omnipotence, so that the king could not obey His command, but by ministries appropriate to salvation, which were calculated to induce obedience, and the constant neglect of which was the efficient cause of this sad moral result. There was no alternative but the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. God could not withdraw his demand for the freedom of Israel. It was not consistent with the ordinary methods of the Divine government to remove the king by death; nor would this have answered the purpose, for probably his successor would have been equally rebellious. Hence there was none other course open than the hardening of Pharaoh, which was the outcome of his own rebellion, and which would prove to be his eternal ruin. LESSONS:
1. That man has the ability to resist the saving ministries of heaven.
2. That when man resists the saving ministries of heaven he becomes hard in heart.
3. That hardness of heart is itself a natural judgment from God.
4. That hardness of heart will finally work its own ruin.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:1. God sends His minister to hardened souls:—
The means which God sends to save wicked men aggravates their sin, and hardens their spirits.
1. In companies.
2. Patterns of judgment.
3. Tokens of indignation.
4. The cause of plagues.
5. The curse of the world.
6. Still followed by the minister of God.
Exodus 10:2. What things I have wrought] A special word is here used, and it is used in a special conjugation, and both circumstances unite to give life and beauty to the expression in the original. The verb עלל is “not applied to working off, forming or doing a thing at once, but to constant, repeated turning and moving about in work or action.”—Fürst. How beautifully this suits the infliction of plague after plague on Egypt, any one can see at a glance. And then the form of the word התעללתי puts it in the reflexive conjugation, one of the uses of which is to show that the action is done to or for oneself;—thus keeping up the avowal of Jehovah that in his visitations on the Egypt he sought to glorify himself in the eyes of men. It is difficult, many times, to translate all that is in the original without resorting to paraphrase; as, here, we are tempted to render: “What I wrought out for myself by a series of acts.” We shall be glad if, by these notes, we can kindle in some minds the determination to spare no pains requisite to be able to repair to the fountain-head.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:2
THE SIGNS OF GOD TO THE GENERATIONS OF THE FUTURE
God respects the general good of the race in multiplying retributive evils upon individuals. Hence the plagues sent upon Pharaoh and his nation were calculated to instruct the generations of the future, as well as to punish Pharaoh. Children must be instructed in the ways of God, and neglect of this tuition is sinful and contrary to the Divine command. What are the signs of God made known by the plagues of Egypt for the moral instruction of future generations?
I. That God is supreme over the kingdom of nature. The plagues that came upon Egypt would give to future generations abundant demonstration of this fact, that the rivers, the dust of the ground, the atmosphere, the thunder, lightning and the hail are all at the immediate control of God. Man may have a certain power over nature, but it is limited, and subject to the Divine. Science places the natural universe under the command of man. This is the Divine ordination. But man’s power over nature is derived; God’s is underived and independent. Hence,
1. He can inflict pain on the wicked.
2. He can protect the good from harm.
3. He can send famine or plenty.
II. That God is supreme over the cunning and power of the Devil. The magicians of Egypt were agents of the Devil. They were inspired by him in their opposition to Moses and Aaron. They were aided by his cunning. Their defeat was his defeat also. Satan cannot work a miracle. He may perform a marvel. He is subject to the control of God. This is evident in the history of the plagues. If he could have resisted the power of heaven, it would have been to his interest to have done so, and he would have done so. He may deceive men. He cannot protect them from the wrath of God. Hence:
1. God can deliver men from the power of the Devil.
2. God can destroy the works of the Devil.
3. God can frustrate the designs of the Devil. Teach this blessed truth and glorions fact to the youthful; that the good agencies of the universe are more potent than the bad. This will lead youthhood to confide in God.
III. That goodness is happiness, and that conflict with God is the misery of man. This is clearly taught by the plagues of Egypt. In them we see the history of a man in conflict with God; and what a record of pain and woe! When men contend with God they are sure to be plagued. Life is happy in proportion as it is good, and as it is in harmony with the Supreme Being of the universe. When men commit sin they must expect to be plagued. This must be taught to the youthful, that purity of life and true enjoyment are inseparably connected. To be happy we must be at peace with heaven. The Divine supremacy over nature, the Divine power over Satan, the greatness of God, the safety of the good, and the misery of sin, are God’s signs, manifested in the history of Pharaoh to the generations of the future. LESSONS:
1. That in the lives of individuals we have signs of God.
2. That all the signs of God in human life are to be carefully noted and taught to the young.
3. That all the signs of life are evidence of the Divine supremacy.
THE MINISTRY OF SIN
God makes Pharaoh “to stand” for the benefit of Israel, and in them for the benefit of humanity. It was for Pharaoh in the first instance to resist Divine light and grace, and oppress Israel,—it was then for God to economize the tyrant and his wrath. The conduct of the Egyptian king served—
I. To reveal God. “That ye may know how that I am the Lord.” The cloud of evil in its very nature is calculated to eclipse the Divine glory, and hide the Divine One from the eves of mankind, but as the sun overmasters the clouds of the sky, and makes them to enchance his splendour, so God causes the cloud of evil to become the back ground on which His glorious shape and infinite perfections are the more clearly and forcibly displayed. Pharaoh’s perverseness revealed all the more fully.
1. The Divine love. The more the Children of Israel were wronged the more God’s grace and kindness were demonstrated to them.
2. Divine righteousness. Each successive miracle exhibited more impressively the righteousness of God’s administration.
3. The Divine power. Each judgment, rising in severity, declared the more unmistakenably the absolute sovereignty and awful power of God. And so throughout the whole world, and throughout all life, sin which would hide God, reveals Him, sin which would dethrone God only shows the strength and splendour of His awful throne. Evil was not necessary for the revelation of the Divine Being, but since evil has invaded the universe, such is the perfection of God’s wisdom and might, that devils become the heralds of His glory, and the dissonant voice of evil swells into fuller power the pœan of His praise. And the perverse conduct of the Egyptian king serves—
II. To further the interests of Israel. Their highest interest was furthered by their attaining a fuller knowledge of God, and their permanent interest was secured by these wonders impressing themselves on the popular mind. “And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt.” Sin was not necessary to the development of mankind, but since it has forced its way into the universe, God overrules it to high and happy issues. From the sin of Egypt came the higher education of Israel, and through them the higher education of mankind at large, and from sectional evil God still educes general good. God reigns, and confounds evil, making that serve which was designed only to blast and destroy. Bad man are apostles, missionaries, martyrs, redeemers of society; but, alas! apostles whom Christ will deny, missionaries without Heaven’s smile, martyrs without the palm, redeemers to whom pertains the cross without the crown. Unconsciously, unwillingly, they glorify God, and serve society. Let not the Church fear, let the sinners be afraid. He “that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” (Psalms 2:4-7.)—W. L. Watkinson.
TRANSMITTING THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE GOD
The world had then nearly lost the knowledge of the True God. The ordinary operations of his hands did not reveal him to men’s callous hearts. Idols usurped his throne. He therefore manifested himself by “signs.” The silence of uniformity was broken. He wrought wonders.
I. Jehovah made himself known to the Israelites in Egypt as the only true God by signs. He separated Himself form the idols of Egypt by overthrowing their power and bringing them into contempt. His wondrous acts revealed His supremacy. Miracles manifest the presence of the True God. Acts reveal character. The Bible, which contains the fullest revelations of God, is a record of His acts. The plagues did not however fully reveal the character of God. Judgment is His strange work. God adapts Himself in His revelations to the spiritual condition of men. The Israelites were in a state of of spiritual infancy. God revealed to them his power and faithfulness. He asserted His supremacy over all false deities, His power over nature and ability to protect his chosen people, and His truth in “remembering His covenant” with their forefathers. He revealed himself more fully in after years. Christ is the fullest revelation of the true God.
II. That this knowledge is to be transmitted from generation to generation. God would have Himself known. He delights to reveal Himself to men. He acts in one age for all time. Divine knowledge must not be hidden. Men have to transmit it. Posterity should be cared for. The knowledge of useful inventions, scientific discoveries, social achievements is gladly transmitted, how much more this which is far more valuable! The young should be instructed in this knowledge above everything else. This is a public duty. Society should make provision for the transmission of the knowledge of the true God. Especially is this a parental duty. Tell it “in the ears of thy son and of thy son’s son.” Relationship, peculiar affection, and the tender solicitude which every parent feels for the welfare of his children should lead him to instruct them in Divine knowledge. To shew them His acts is to reveal Him. To give to them a clear conception of the true God is to bestow upon them the greatest of all blessings. Parents can impart no higher good. It is eternal. It is greater than wealth, or rank, or any other temporal advantage. Parental influence the most potent in telling of God’s acts. No lips teach like the lips of loving authority. Some parents neglect this solemn duty. Ever ready to speak about worldly enterprises, the acts of great men, their own, but they are silent about God’s. Such neglect is ruinous to their children, and dishonouring to God.
III. In the transmission of the knowledge of the true God is the hope of the world. Wherever the knowledge of the true God prevails, righteousness and peace are found. Idolatry has ever been the bane of mankind. A false conception of God debases. Worship becomes a degradation. Men’s ideas of God affect not only their religious views but their moral principles and social customs. In knowing the true God is true life. “This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” Just as men acknowledge and serve the God that revealed himself by Moses in Egypt, and afterwards more fully by Jesus Christ are they elevated, saved, and blessed. In the spread of this knowledge is every uplifting influence. Superstition, violence and error will disappear. The Heavenly Jerusalem will be built on earth. God being known will be loved and obeyed. “Men rising from the ruin of the fall” will be “one with God, and God be all in all.” For the sake of future ages God’s mighty acts should be told in “the ears of thy son and of thy son’s son.” In the instruction of the young is the truest hope of the advancement of mankind. The future of the world depends upon how much knowledge of the true God is possessed.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:2. The acknowledgment of God in His Church is the main end of His wonderful plagues.
1. Showing the woe of sin.
2. The folly of human malice.
3. The justice of God.
4. The safety of the Church.
The Divine supremacy:—
1. Rejected by the proud.
2. Received by the good.
3. Revealed by the works of God.
4. To be acknowledged by all.
1. Their nature.
2. Their locality.
3. Their design.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:3
THE DELAY OF SOUL-HUMILITY
I. In what does soul-humility consist?
1. Soul-humility does not consist in mournful verbal utterances. Pharaoh had given utterance to sad and mournful words. He had spoken in doleful language of his afflictions and of his sin. But he was at the same time far from being humble in soul. His pride was not subdued. Nor was he willing to yield to the demands of heaven. And so we cannot judge the temper of the soul from the utterance of the lips. A humble word may conceal a proud spirit. And it often happens that those who talk the most about humility have the least of it.
2. Soul-humility does not consist in the outward manifestations of repentance. Pharaoh had, to all outward appearance, been a true penitent. But humility of soul does not consist in loud confessions of evil, or in sending for the minister of God in the hour of peril. It is rather evinced in calm resignation to the will of God as revealed in His Word, and as made known in the conscience by the Holy Spirit. True humility of soul is unpretentious. It is modest. It seldom speaks of self. It does not parade its religion. It yields implicitly to the will of heaven.
II. How is soul-humility to be obtained?
1. By having a clear conception of the will of God and of the beauty of truth. Those who see clearly the will of God in reference to their life and being will have a real incentive to humility. They will view the power of God as contrasted with their own weakness; the wisdom of God as contrasted with their own ignorance; and the littleness of their life will indeed beget a proper spirit of humility. And let men get but a clear vision of the unveiled Truth, and they must be humble. A proud soul cannot have beheld the inner glory of truth, or it would pay immediate homage.
2. By allowing the varied discipline of life its due effect upon the soul. If Pharaoh had allowed the sad discipline to which he had been subjected its proper influence upon him, he would indeed have been humble before God. The plagues were sent to humble the proud Monarch. But in vain. And so, the discipline of life is intended and calculated to humble the soul; and if men would reverently submit to it, and co-operate with its holy purpose, they would attain this glorious issue. Pain ought to humble a man. It should remind him of his mortality, and of his return to the dust.
3. By submitting to the gentle influences of the Holy Spirit. A man who has the Divine Spirit within him, will be humble in all his dispositions and activities. Spiritual influences produce humility; they permeate the discipline of life, and render it effective and remedial; they lead the soul to the cross, where humility is the condition of all good. Are we clothed with humility?
III. Why is soul-humility so long delayed?
1. Because men will not give up their sins. Sin as a dominant influence cannot co-exist with true humility. If sin is in the soul humility will be absent. Pharaoh was covetous; he did not wish to give up his profitable slaves. He was self-willed, and did not like to be defeated in any of his national plans. Unless sin is given up, humility will never be put on. Humility is the outcome of purity.
2. Because men will not yield to the claims of God. God has claims upon men. They are unheeded. They are rejected. They are rejected in a spirit of defiance and self-sufficiency. They are the most humble who accept the claims of God and obey them. They give proof of their humility.
3. Because men are rendered proud by exalted social position. Kings are in danger of pride from the fact of their elevated position, and from the servile flattery to which they are exposed. Hence social position may delay the advent of humility to the soul.
4. Men can give no satisfactory reason for the delay of soul-humility. Humility is the richest and best ornament of the soul, and no good excuse can be assigned for neglecting to wear it. This ornament is but seldom seen in this vaunting age. It is welcome to the eye of heaven.
1. Soul-humility should be manifested by man.
2. God’s ministers should enforce it.
3. God’s people should cultivate it.
4. Its absence cannot be excused.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:3. God’s true servants make no delay in keeping His commandments.
God’s servants use His name in their message, which the wicked make a reproach.
God by His ministers expostulates bitterly with sinners for their delay of humbling themselves under judgments.
God will never cease demanding His Church from the wicked world, till it be freed.
How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself?
1. Till I plague thee more?
2. Till thou are destroyed?
3. Till thou hast no opportunity to do so?
4. Have you not delayed long enough?
5. Can you gain any advantage by delay?
Exodus 10:4. Locusts] ’Arbch (ארכה): prob., the gryllus gregarius—Ges., Dav., Fü.; G. & D. understanding the word to mean “swarmers,”—F., “browsers.”
Exodus 10:8. But who are they that shall go?] One is ready to smile at the simplicity of this speech. It will be seen that there is no conjunction in the Heb. answering to our “but,” thus showing an almost amusing precipitancy in the interrogatory, as if the speaker would retract his permission before it is well uttered: mi’ wa-mi’ ha-ho-lekhim’!, “who and who are the going ones?”
Exodus 10:9. We will go, etc.] Again would we call attention to the style of the Hebrew: here to the arrangement of the words—to the vigourous inversion by which the full demand of Moses is made to smite the ear of Pharaoh with the utmost force. “WITH OUR YOUNG AND WITH OUR OLD will we go: WITH OUR SONS AND WITH OUR DAUGHTERS, WITH OUR FLOCKS AND WITH OUR HERDS, will we go; for A FESTIVAL TO JEHOVAH [is] ours!”
Exodus 10:10. As I let you go] “As certainly as I let you go;” or, “whenever I let you go.” It is clearly the language of defiance.
Exodus 10:11. For that ye did desire] It is necessary to lay stress on “that” and “ye” successively, to bring out the true meaning: “For—THAT—YE—did desire” = for THAT is what YE were desiring.”
MAIN HOMILETICS ON THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:4-11
THE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS THREATENED
I. It was threatened in case that Pharaoh would not give the Israelites the freedom demanded by God. (Exodus 10:4.) God has now been in controversy with Pharaoh for a long time, and we should have thought that the latter would have experienced quite enough of retribution to make him yield. But now another plague is threatened. God will continue to plague men till they give up sin. He will not yield the welfare of His own despised people to the obstinacy of a wicked ruler. The good have in God a stern Defender.
II. That some men are much more sensitive to the threatenings of God than others. (Exodus 10:7.) The servants of Pharaoh give tokens of submission; but they are more fearful than penitent. They endeavour to persuade the king to come to terms with Moses. Pharaoh consents to their wish. Calls the two servants of God. He endeavours to bargain with them. But in vain. He wants to retain the young children of Israel in bondage. He knew that they would grow up to be of value to his nation. Satan does not like to let children go out of his service. Parents should not leave their young ones behind when they set out in the service of heaven. If men were sensitive to the threatenings of God, what judgments would they avert!
III. That Divine threatenings must make ministers faithful in the discharge of their duty. (Exodus 10:9.) Moses gives the king to understand that there would be no compromise in the matter; that he must either let Israel go, or suffer the penalty of disobedience. Moses was fearless. He was faithful. He was true to his mission. And so in the times of threatened retribution it behoves the minister of God to be faithful, to denounce all attempts at moral compromise.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:4-6. To-morrow:—
1. A judgment.
2. A mystery.
3. A crisis.
4. An anxiety.
5. A hope.
If thou refuse:—
1. Then man can refuse to obey God.
2. Then man can dare the judgments of God.
3. Then man takes a great responsibility upon himself.
1. Very grievous.
2. Darkening the light.
3. Devouring the fruit.
4. Entering the houses.
Good men should leave sinners when they have declared the message of God:—
1. As a reproof.
2. As a contempt.
3. As a prophecy.
4. As a relief.
Exodus 10:7. A REMONSTRANCE AGAINST SIN
I. It was addressed by inferiors to their Superior. Pharaoh was remonstrated with by his servants, by the chief men of his realm. Hitherto they appear to have been silent. Now they become impatient of the suffering brought upon them. How much good would be accomplished if advisers would always remonstrate with kings in conflict with the Eternal! The conduct of these men was,
(3) needed; and if inferiors would endeavour to check those above them when they are about to do evil, they would prevent much crime, they would render themselves blameless, and would do a brave and a faithful thing.
II. It was inspired by a deep feeling of terror. The servants of Pharaoh were concerned for their own safety as well as for the welfare of the nation, which was endangered by the plagues. They regarded Moses as a snare unto them. And so men are animated by varied motives in their remonstrances against sin—sometimes pure and lofty, at other times mean and selfish. These servants did not feel sin to be sin, but a punishment, and hence their entreaty with the king. But it is well for men under any circumstances to cry out against moral evil.
III. It was influential for temporary good. Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh. The king saw that his chief advisers were against him, and regarded their utterance as representative of the national feeling. He had misgivings. The remonstrance made him halt in his rebellion. And many a remonstrance since has made the sinner hesitate in a course of evil, even though it has not reformed his life. Some men are apparently more accessible to the advice of their comrades than they are to the commands of heaven. The wicked servant may preach the gospel to his despotic master.
IV. It was ultimately disregarded. The servants had given Pharaoh good advice, they had influenced him aright, and they had uttered an unconscious prophecy of his future; yet they were finally disregarded. When a man disregards God, he is not likely to pay much heed to the remonstrance of his comrades. Many a wise man has had the pain of seeing his good advice rejected by the sinner. LESSONS,
1. Remonstrate with the sinner.
2. Show him the folly and woe of sin.
3. You are not responsible for the result of such a remonstrance.
Exodus 10:8. RENEWED OPPORTUNITIES OF MORAL GOOD, “And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh.”
I. Consequent upon the faithful rebuke of friends. The king was led through the rebuke of his servants to seek another interview with Moses and Aaron, and hence to have another opportunity afforded him of yielding to the command of God. Men have repeated opportunities given them for moral improvement in their lives; often through the plain fidelity of a friend.
II. Through contact with a holy man. Pharaoh was again brought into the companionship of Moses and Aaron. He would feel the influence of their characters upon him. Every time we are brought into contact with a bright and beautiful moral character we should seek to catch something of its radiance. Such contact is an opportunity for soul improvement.
III. May be left unused through the perverseness of the soul. Pharaoh was none the better for this renewed interview with these two servants of God. He only manifested his obstinacy more fully. It is awfully possible to allow all the renewed opportunities of the soul for moral good to pass away unimproved.
Exodus 10:9. Captious questions from wicked men are plainly answered by God’s servants.
Ministers must faithfully declare the purpose of God with regard to His Church.
Little ones as well as great must be carried along with the Church of God to their rest.
The work of the Church after redemption is to serve Jehovah, and to keep a feast to Him.
Exodus 10:10-11. Proud persecutors terrified with judgments, though they yield a little to God, yet scorn to give Him His terms.
It is the policy and cruelty of persecutors to keep in thraldom the little ones of the Church.
Persecuting powers threaten the Church with evil, as God threatens them.
Whatever persecuting powers seem to yield to the Church, they resolve it shall not be so as God would have it.
Persecuting powers shall tell God who shall serve Him, and allow no more.
God’s servants are driven out with contempt from powers, when they serve not their turn.
Driving away the servants of God:—
1. It is to drive away a good friend.
2. It is to drive away a faithful monitor.
3. It is to drive away a real benefactor.
4. It is to drive away an angel of God.
THE THREATS OF THE WICKED, Exodus 10:10, latter clause.
God’s servants need to be courageous men. They have often to stand before rulers for His sake, and oppose them. They are surrounded by the machinations of powerful adversaries. They are often threatened.
I. Evil men often seek to retard God’s servants in their works by threats. God’s purposes often come into collision with the actions of wicked men. They often regard His servants as their enemies. Divine work always opposes evil. God’s servants have to break in pieces the deceptions, wrongs, and tyrannies of their age. Evil is often entrenched in triumphant positions. Men find their interest in upholding it. Wicked men defend it, and attack those who assail it. They think that they can terrify God’s servants and hinder their work, but their threats are vain. God sustains all whom He sends. No opposition, however virulent, can retard them from doing His work. They may be weak and few, but He is their strength. The lives of reformers, martyrs, and philanthropists attest this. His presence has made them valiant and persevering.
“But saved by a Divine alliance
From terrors of defeat.
Unvauntingly, yet with defiance,
One man the world may meet.”
II. That the threats of evil men need not be feared. Moses and Aaron were safe though Pharaoh might threaten evil. They were, humanly speaking, but the champions of slaves, and he was a mighty potentate; yet they were stronger than he, and had less cause for fear. We may fear evil just in proportion as we separate ourselves from God and resist His purposes. Tyrants have often proved their powerlessness to injure God’s ambassadors. God has His eye upon them, and a “hook for their jaws.” Nothing can really harm God’s servants. They may have to suffer, but suffering will be turned into triumphant joy. They may be cast into prison, but their prison walls will gleam with celestial splendour; and like the saintly Rutherford, they will find that their enemies have only sent them to reside for a while in one of God’s palaces; they may be robbed of their earthly possessions, but their true riches will be increased; they may be put to a cruel death, but this will only hasten them home from their toils to receive an eternal reward. Real evil cannot befall them. Those who are doing God’s work are invincible. They are covered with the shield of the Almighty; and their work ever goes on. No fulmination of malice can stop it. They and their work are alike secure. They have no cause to fear evil.
III. That the evil threatened, menaces the threatener. Threats often fall upon those who utter them. What evil was before Pharaoh! Thus evil men, deceived by their pride, lose sight of their own dangers. They threaten when they ought to fear. Secure in their own fancied strength, they have hurled their malice upon the servants of the Most High; but their words have recoiled upon themselves. They have digged a pit and have fallen into it. The gallows that has been erected for Mordecai has borne the body of Haman. They proudly boast,
“But an hour comes to tame the might man
Unto the infant’s weakness.”
They forget God. As Luther said concerning the Potentates of his day, who did not remember the overruling might of God in their projects: “Our Lord God says unto them: For whom then do ye hold Me? for a cypher? Do I sit here above in vain, and to no purpose? You shall know that I will twist your accounts about finely, and make them all false reckonings.” So it was with Pharaoh when he threatened Moses and Aaron.—W. O. Lilley.
THE IMPERIOUSNESS OF UNBELIEF, seen (“And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence” Exodus 10:11):—
I. In its reluctance to grant concessions. Impressed by the terrible evidences of Jehovah’s power, and urged by his terror-stricken advisers, the proud king seems willing at length to release the people. But half repenting the permission, he asks “But who are they that shall go?” (Exodus 10:8.) So is it ever with unbelief. When compelled to make admissions, it does so with hesitation and with regret. They are wrung from a mind too proud to admit defeat.
II. In its irritable impatience in listening to the voice of reason. Moses claimed that the whole nation should depart, male and female of all ages, along with their flocks and herds. There was nothing unreasonable in this. Even the Egyptians held religious festivals at which it was customary for the women to accompany the men. But the capricious monarch, in the most indignant and scornful manner, swears the little ones shall not be allowed to go, nor any other than the men (Exodus 10:10.) Thus he showed his contempt, not only for Jehovah’s ambassadors, but for Jehovah Himself. So is it ever with unbelief. It is impatient of control; inaccessible to reason, especially of the highest kind; and manifests an impotent rage against the arguments it cannot answer.
III. In its ignominious treatment of religious teachers. The wrath of the tyrant king rose beyond all control, and he imperiously waved Moses and Aaron out of his sight. “And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.” Foiled and confounded by the simple but unanswerable presentation of the truth, unbelief vents its passion in spiteful invective.
The utmost rage of unbelief is powerless to daunt the courage of God’s messengers. When Valens, the Arian Emperor, threatened Basil with bonds and banishment, the fearless bishop exclaimed—“Let him threaten boys with these. The Emperor may take away my life, but not my faith: my head, but not my crown.”—G. Barlow.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:12-15
THE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS; OR, THE RESIDUE OF HUMAN COMFORT AND ENJOYMENT DESTROYED BY THE RETRIBUTION OF GOD
It has been observed that the plagues of Egypt, as they succeeded each other, were characterised by increasing severity. This one appears an exception to the rule. But only on first sight. The very name of locust was a terror to the Egyptians. They were an awful infliction (Joel 1:6-12). There were various species of locusts, which are called in the Bible by various names; the name in this place signifying “multitudinous:” and it is probable that the visitation consisted of several different kinds. Hence the land that had previously been visited by hail and fire, must now have been utterly desolated. Hence we see how human joys are devastated by the retributions of heaven.
I. That sometimes the retributions of God leave a residue of comfort to the lives of men. We read that though the flax and the barley were smitten by the hail and the fire, the “Wheat and the rie were not smitten.” Hence there was something valuable left to Egypt after the severe retribution had ceased. And so it is generally with individual life; the retributions of heaven do not take all away from a man at a stroke; they leave some hope and comfort behind. It is so in bereavement; if the wife is taken, the child is left. It is so in business; if the capital is lost, it may be the reputation is saved. It is so in personal attributes; if one sense grows dim, another remains yet more active. If the flax and barley are destroyed, the wheat and the rie are left. This is more than is deserved. It is merciful. But it is the kind way of heaven.
II. That upon continued sin the residue of human comfort may be entirely removed by the retributive anger of God. If the hail and the fire do not accomplish their mission to the soul of man, the locusts will be sent to “eat the residue of that which is escaped.” “They shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field,” His method of retribution appears pitiless and destitute of consideration for the consequent woe of man; but it is the just outcome of obstinate sin. How many lives have been spoiled of their comforts and left in solitary and defenceless pain by such a retribution! Sin is the explanation of much of the calamity we find around us. If men will not heed the voice of God, the locust will succeed the hail, and complete their woe; then all their glad things will vanish.
III. That upon continued sin the remaining comforts of man may be destroyed by the co-operation of primary and secondary causes. “And the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.” Hence the retributions that are intended to destroy the remaining joys of the wicked are sent through the ordinary agencies of nature, and along the ordinary channels of life. God sends them by the agency of the east wind. The sceptic may say that the east wind alone brought the locusts upon his green things; but this is unreasonable and atheistical. Men in these days have too much Scripture knowledge to regard nature as the origin of their trouble. God commissions the wind that works desolation upon the hope of the wicked.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:12. When persecutors drive out God’s servants, He hastens determined plagues on them.
The hand of man, stretched out at God’s word for plagues, is a terrible sign to His enemies.
The plague signified shall come by God’s word to verify the sign given.
The plague coming shall do full execution upon God’s enemies and creatures for their sakes.
God can make a latter plague finish that which a former plague only began to destroy.
Exodus 10:13-15. At God’s command of signals to denote His word His servants must use them.
God’s true ministers show readiness and exactness in giving forth signs commanded by Him.
At God’s set times His plagues do come and are not delayed.
Locust plagues, as well as others, extend themselves and rest where God will have them.
Incomparable vermin God can create to plague persecutors of His Israel.
Locust plagues and the like cover over and transform the face of the earth at God’s word.
Devouring and killing plagues to creatures, God sends upon wicked persecutors.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:16-20
A FALSE REPENTANCE
Pharaoh had driven Moses and Aaron from his presence, but now he recalls them in great haste, and with much respect. The day will come when all rebellious souls will be glad to engage the intercessions of the good; even though they may despise them now. Hence the plague of locusts made a great impression upon the king, and he became very anxious for its removal. A False Repentance:—
I. It proceeds from the impulse of the moment, and not from conscientious conviction. This token of repentance was the outcome of impulse. The king was awe-stricken by the plague of locusts, and for the moment was bowed in repentant mood. His confessions of sin were prompted by the feeling of the hour, and would be silenced by the removal of the plague. His repentance was not a matter of deep conviction. His soul felt no agony for sin. It had no vision of an offended God, of a broken law, or of a woful destiny to come. It saw only a temporary retribution. A truly penitent spirit will look through all the pain that occasions its grief to that Being who alone can pardon its sin. Conviction rather than impulse must mark the commencement of a new life, and can alone give it permanent reality. The repentance of impulse is but of short duration.
II. It is marked by selfish terror, and not by a godly sorrow for sin. Pharaoh evinces a slavish dread, and a fear of death. He had no thought about the sin he had committed. He was not filled with genuine sorrow on account of his wilful rejection of the Divine claims. His cries were those of a despairing soul; they were not the utterances of a contrite heart. He felt the force of the retribution that rested upon him. He had no means whereby to escape it. Death was before him. He saw little hope of mercy; in fact, mercy in the true sense of the word he did not seek. And a false repentance has always a large element of terror in it, and that sorrow for sin, which is so true and refreshing, is unknown to it.
III. It craves forgiveness of an immediate offence rather than a thorough cleansing of the heart. Pharaoh sought the forgiveness of his sin this once; he did not ask for the purification of his moral nature. He had spent a long life in sin, he had been guilty of continued opposition to God, and his repentance ought to have had reference to his entire life. But he cared not for the cleansing of his soul, he only wanted the removal of the plague. A false repentance only contemplates the sin that is nearest the trouble that has come upon the sinner, and which seems to have brought it. It does not imagine that the cleansing of the heart is the first condition of freedom from retribution. One plague may be removed, but if the soul is unchanged in its mood, another will succeed it. The heart must be pure before the plague will cease, before heaven will smile upon the soul.
IV. It confides in the intercession of a fellow-mortal rather than in the personal humbling of the soul before God. Pharaoh asked Moses to pray for him, but was not much inclined to pray for himself. False repentance always substitutes the petitions of others for its own pleadings with the Almighty. It has more faith in the supplications of the good than in its own selfish prayers. In the work of repentance the soul must be intensely personal. It must think for itself. It must feel for itself. It must pray for itself. The ministers of God may direct and aid a soul in the hour of sorrow for sin, but beyond this they are useless. The soul must come direct to God if it seeks mercy. Christ is the only mediator. A human priest usurps the Divine prerogative.
V. It regards God more as a terrible Deity whose wrath is to be appeased, than as the Infinite Father whose love is better than life. Pharaoh regarded the great God as a Despot whose wrath he had awakened, and whose retribution he had invited. He saw the Divine character through the medium of retribution. He beheld not the mercy of the Infinite. A false repentance always has wrong notions of the character and government of God. It sees the tyrant where it ought to see the Father. It sees the despot where it ought to see the Judge.
VI. It expresses a promise of amendment which is falsified by previous dissemblings. A false repentance is always loud in its promises of reformation, which are generally falsified by the subsequent conduct of the sinner. Some men have appeared penitent so often that it is difficult to know when their sorrow is real and whether it is likely to be abiding. Repentance is such a beautiful thing that Satan is sure to try to imitate it, and satisfy men with its counterfeit if he can so delude them. LESSONS:
1. To be sure that our repentance is genuine.
2. To bring forth fruit meet for repentance in daily conduct.
3. Not to pass a hasty judgment on the repentance of men. Half the Revivalists of the day would have called Pharaoh a true convert; time tests conversion.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:15-17. Vengeance may make persecutors call in God’s servants for help as hastily as they drove them out.
Double confession of sin many hypocrites make under plagues, yet not in truth.
Proud persecutors may be forced to acknowledge their guilt against man and God.
It is only death which troubled sinners deprecate.
Exodus 10:18-20. The winds are in the hand of God. God spares the wicked in answer to the prayer of the good.
God can make winds take away plagues as well as bring them.
Miraculous is God’s healing, as well as plaguing, at the desires of His servants.
Judgments of removing and heart hardening from God may be coupled together in the wicked.
Exodus 10:21. Darkness which may be felt] Fürst takes the Heb. to mean: “to grope about in the dark.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:21-23
THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS; OR, A TYPE OF THE SAD MORAL CONDITION OF UNREGENERATE HUMANITY
The land of Egypt is now covered in palpable darkness. We cannot tell how this darkness was produced. It was a miracle. It may have been produced by a deprivation of sight (Deuteronomy 28:27-29). It may have been caused by a storm, or by a thick cloud resting upon the earth (Exodus 14:20). The Egyptians worshipped the sun under the name of Osiris. Thus their god had forsaken them, or he was dethroned. This darkness was not relieved by any artificial light; but the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
I. That unregenerate humanity is in a condition of moral darkness. This is abundantly evident to a devout and thoughtful mind. It is demonstrated by the pages of inspiration, by the record of history, and by the experiences of human life. Darkness is upon the face of the earth.
1. The unregenerate are ignorant. Darkness is an emblem of ignorance. All unregenerate men are ignorant. They may be men of science, or students of the mysteries of the material universe; they may be versed in all secular knowledge; yet they are ignorant, they are ignorant of God as their Father, of Christ as their Saviour, of the Holy Spirit as their Comforter, and of the glories of the moral universe in which their souls are called to live.
2. The unregenerate are miserable. How miserable would be the Egyptians during these days of palpable darkness; a true emblem of the moral wretchedness of the sinner. He is destitute of the glorious light of heaven, the true illumination of the soul. He gropes in darkness to an awful destiny of woe. He knows not the higher enjoyments of being. He lives in a dark world.
3. The unregenerate are in danger. Men in the dark are in danger. This is true of the soul. Without the light of truth and without the light of the Eternal Spirit, it must perish. It is under the condemnation of heaven.
II. That unrenewed humanity is in moral darkness through sin. As the darkness was brought upon Egypt by sin, so it has been brought upon mankind. The race was born into the glad enjoyment of moral light. The light was lost by disobedience. Hence all men are now born in soul-darkness. They only emerge into light as they come to the cross, where they are illumined by the Sun of Righteousness. Then they walk as children of the light.
III. That unrenewed humanity is in great straits through, and has no artificial alleviation of, its moral darkness.
1. The moral vision of humanity is impeded. The Egyptians were not able to see each other. If men were pure, with what visions of soul would they be enriched; they would see the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending upon them. But, alas! they are in darkness because of sin.
2. The moral activity of humanity is suspended. The Egyptians were not able to rise from their places. Sin imprisons the activities of the soul. It renders men unable to accomplish the mission of life. This darkness of the soul can only be removed by Christ. No artificial light can chase it away. LESSONS:—
1. To seek to relieve the woe of those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
2. To see the effect of sin.
3. To seek light from the cross of Christ.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:21-23. God falls upon sinners without warning, when they deal falsely with Him.
The same signal God may command for several uses.
Palpable darkness is a judgment from God.
Chains of darkness can God make to hold fast sinners in prison.
God executes His judgments on the world with discrimination to His people.
Egypt’s darkness is Israel’s light.
LIGHT IN THE DWELLINGS OF THE GOOD
I. In the dwellings of the good there is the light of revealed truth.
II. In the dwellings of the good there is the light of providential guidance.
III. In the dwellings of the good there is the light of moral character.
Home light, Exodus 10:23—last clause. The light which the Israelites had in their dwellings during this plague was doubtless supernatural. God still gives light to His people while the world around them dwells in darkness. Earth has no light in itself; neither has man. All light is from God. All may possess spiritual light. Some prefer darkness. The true Israel still have light in their dwellings. Light in the heart brings light in the home.
I. There is supernatural light in the dwellings of God’s people. Light may be regarded as an emblem of spiritual truth. There is a light brighter than the light of the sun. God’s people dwell in it. The light of the glory of God has shone in upon them.
“ ’Tis not the morning light
That wakes the lark to sing;
’Tis not a meteor of the night,
Nor track of angel’s wing;
It is an uncreated beam,
Like that which shone on Jacob’s dream.”
“God is light.” He dwells with His saints. Christ is the true Light. He riseth upon them as the “Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.” God’s Word is a light: this Divine lamp ever shines in their homes. Light is an emblem of love, of purity, of knowledge, of joy. These virtues ever brighten and beautify domestic duties and parental anxieties. No other light, but that which comes from God, and is apprehended by the eye of the soul, can truly illumine our dwellings. No creations of worldly wisdom, wealth, or philosophy can give this heavenly light. There is darkness that may be felt where it does not shine. Approaching the metropolis one winter’s evening in the train, the lights gleaming from its myriad houses as we dashed along attracted the notice of the passengers. “Ah,” said a poor woman, “the houses look bright enough, but the true light is where the love of God is.” She had been taught of God. This is the truth. Only those who have His love have “light in their dwellings.”
II. That this light is the source of manifold blessings. Comfort under trial; strength in weakness; peace in disquietude; lessons of resignation, patience, and fortitude: sanctification of affliction; sympathy with the suffering members of the household; preservation in calamitous times; sustaining trust in God under perplexing circumstances; hope of eternal felicity. Happy is the home where this light shines. Men from such homes have a celestial brightness about them; children reared in such dwellings become “burning and shining lights in the world. Happy is the people that is in such a case.” (Psalms 144:12-15.)
III. That this light is a foregleaming of that glory which will be enjoyed by God’s people for ever. The light that shines in pious homes is the same that brightens heaven. When John saw that holy dwelling-place he says, “The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” God’s love in Christ is the light of every true Israelite’s dwelling on earth, and that is the light of heaven. Christian homes ought to be “spangles of celestial brightness on this darksome earth.” The light here is sometimes dimmed. Heaven is its native sphere. It suffers there no eclipse. Our vision too will be clearer. Every spiritual truth which natural light symbolises, and is but its material shadow, will be seen in all its harmonious sympathies and grandest proportions. We shall see light in God’s light. The light will penetrate us more fully: we shall be glorified by it. We now know in part, but then face to face. The light is the same; but it has now to pass through the murky atmosphere of our sinfulness. This light gleams upon us to prepare us for its fuller manifestations in heaven. The home of the true Israelite is bright with the celestial glory: it has much of heaven in it: it is distinguished by heaven’s light; and those who pass from such dwellings into heaven go from one Divine glory to another; going from God’s light on earth to His light in heaven.
The dwellings of the good:—
1. Their light.
2. Their beauty.
3. Their protection.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:24-26
THE RELUCTANCE WITH WHICH MEN YIELD A COMPLETE OBEDIENCE TO THE IMPERATIVE CLAIMS OF GOD
I. The fact of this reluctance on the part of man to yield complete obedience to the claims of God.
1. This reluctance is seen in the judgments that are sent to overcome it. What judgments were sent to overcome the reluctance of Pharaoh to a complete surrender to the claims of God! How varied! How numerous! How afflictive! And yet all in vain. He continued to defy the servants of heaven. He sought to make a compromise with God and duty. There are many like him in our own times. They are afflicted by a providence designed to bring them to the performance of duty; yet they refuse subjection to the will of heaven.
2. This reluctance is seen in the mercy that is despised.
3. This reluctance is seen in the faithful ministries that are rejected. Moses and Aaron were many times sent to urge the king to compliance with the commands of God; but in vain. How many faithful and persuasive appeals have been made to us to give up all sin, and to render an unreserved service to the King of heaven! That men resist these judgments, these ministries, and the abundant mercy of God, is complete evidence of their great reluctance to surrender all for Him.
(1.) This reluctance is a matter of revelation.
(2.) This reluctance is a matter of history.
(3.) This reluctance is a matter of experience.
II. The reasons of this reluctance on the part of man to yield complete obedience to the claims of God. These reasons are obvious:—
1. Depravity of nature. Man is depraved in soul. He has fallen away from God. He has lost the love of God from his heart. Hence he has an aversion to the Divine service. He is at enmity with the Being who demands obedience. This is one reason of man’s reluctance.
2. Pride of heart. Man is proud and does not like to be humiliated by surrendering all to God. Pharaoh likes to keep his slaves. He fancies that they augment his importance, and the prowess of his nation. Men imagine that sin is an exaltation; hence they are unwilling to give it up.
3. Selfishness of motive. Pharaoh was selfish. He would not give up the wealth brought to his treasury by the energies of his slaves. Men imagine that sin is a gain and a profit; hence they are reluctant to make an entire surrender of it at the call of heaven.
4. Obstinate in will. Pharaoh was obstinate. He did not wish to yield to Jehovah, of whom he had but little knowledge. Men obstinately resist a fancied invasion of their rights, and hence will not yield to the claims of God.
III. The folly of this reluctance on the part of man to yield complete obedience to the claims of God.
1. Because it provokes painful judgments.
2. Because it is useless to contend with God.
3. Because final overthrow is its certain outcome. Surely we see the folly of this reluctance in the case of Pharaoh, in the plagues it brought on him and his people, in the useless conflict he conducted with the Infinite, and in his final overthrow in the Red Sea. Men who will not yield to the claims of God are ultimately overtaken with sad calamity. Are we reluctant to yield entire obedience to the claims of duty? LESSONS:—
1. That man will consent to any terms rather than yield a complete submission to the will of God.
2. That God will only be satisfied by an entire surrender to His will.
THE WAY IN WHICH MEN ENDEAVOUR TO COMPROMISE THE SERVICE OF GOD
I. That men endeavour to compromise the service of God by nominal allegiance. Pharaoh consented that Moses and the Israelites should worship God in the land of Egypt (Exodus 8:25). He would then have rendered any assistance for the service; as it would not much have interfered with his selfish and despotic purpose. After the worship the slaves could have returned to their bondage and toil. There are many who seek thus to compromise the service of God. They consent to the worship of God, but they wish to do it in their own way, and at their own time, and so to nullify its design. They seek to pay homage to heaven and yet to retain their sins. Their homage is only nominal. It is the outcome of fear or policy.
II. That men endeavour to compromise the service of God by an occasional performance of duty. Pharaoh told Moses that Israel might go into the wilderness and sacrifice, provided they did not go very far away; so that they might afterwards return. And so some people try to satisfy the claims of God by going occasionally into the wilderness to sacrifice to Him. They go to the wilderness for this purpose once a month, and then spend all the rest of their time in rejection of the Divine will. This is mockery. It shows that men know better, but that they have not sufficient moral resolution to do better. The service of heaven cannot be compromised in this manner. Men cannot serve God and Satan.
III. That men endeavour to compromise the service of God by a public profession of it accompanied with private reservations. Pharaoh gave permission for the men to go with Moses to sacrifice to God (Exodus 10:10-11). But the little ones were to remain in bondage. Thus he hoped to satisfy the Divine claims upon him. He no doubt thought this a great concession. And there are people who seek to be religious by letting their great sins go, but they reserve their little faults. They make outwardly a great pretence of goodness, whereas inwardly there are reservations of heart displeasing to God.
IV. That men endeavour to compromise the service of God by excluding it from their worldly pursuits. Pharaoh gave Moses permission to go and sacrifice to God, only he was to leave the flocks and herds behind, in the possession of the tyrant. And how many business men, who feel the claims of God’s service resting upon them, seek to let all go but the flocks and the herds! They are not willing to bring religion into their business. They think that they would suffer loss by so doing. Such a compromise can never be allowed. LESSONS:—
1. That men must not compromise the service of God.
2. That ministers must warn men against compromising the service of God.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:24-26. God’s instruments of redemption seek not only liberty of persons but of means to serve Him.
True worship and true sacrifice to God, is the duty of God’s redeemed people.
God’s ministers must be resolute, and not abate a jot of what God requires.
All the exactions of ministers must be made for God’s service.
God’s servants know not themselves, but depend upon His discovery for what they must offer to Him.
THE PICTURE OF AN UNREGENERATE SOUL
I. It is opposed to the service of God.
II. It is loath to part with its evil possessions.
III. It is slow to heed the voice of the servants of Truth.
“Every hoof to be brought out”—part of Exodus 10:26. Evil personified in Pharaoh. Egypt our sinful condition that clings around us, and brings us into bondage. God’s will is that we should be completely set free. This will be accomplished. Repeated conflicts first.
I. The truth suggested that our deliverance will be complete.
(1.) Our natures will be entirely freed from the thraldom of sin. Every power of body, mind, and soul will ultimately escape from the dominion of evil. The body shall be delivered from the grave. Every faculty—even the lowliest—shall be set free for God. Not a hoof, &c.
(2.) Our families shall be saved. Often there is much anxiety about the wayward and the fallen; but every truly pious parent should expect the salvation of his children. No child that is sincerely prayed for and worked for will be left to perish in Egypt.
(3.) The whole Church will be saved. Christ will deliver all who believe in Him. Not one of His true followers shall finally be left in the bondage of evil. The weakest, the most desponding, the poorest and most insignificant, shall all escape. Not one faithful soul shall be missing: for Not a hoof, &c.
II. The encouragement that may be derived from this truth. We need encouragement. The bondage is often bitter, and hope fails. The enslavers powerful and the chains strong. We groan to be delivered from our bondage, and deliverance is delayed. But a deliverance, complete, triumphant, and eternal, is sure. This ought to lead us—
1. To live in the expectation of perfect freedom from all evil.
2. To continue to strive, believe, and pray for it.
3. To pray and labour zealously for the salvation of our families.
4. To sympathise with and aid the weak and lowly in the Church. Nothing is too hard for God; He can overthrow the most direful bondage. He has declared by His servants that He will bring His people, and all that they possess, out of the land of Egypt.
W. Osborne Lilley.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 10:27-29
THE INTERCOURSE OF LIFE
I. That good men are often brought into contact with bad men. Moses was brought into constant contact with Pharaoh. Thus we see:—
1. That good men are brought into contact with bad irrespective of moral character. The degraded tyrant and the faithful servant of God meet together in the common intercourse of life. Sometimes on errands of moral significance. What a diversity of character is observable in the throngs of life. The pure soul shines all the more brightly for its contrast with the unholy by whom it is surrounded.
2. That good men are brought into contact with bad irrespective of mental temperament. Pharaoh and Moses were opposite in mental temperament. The one was selfish, the other was generous; the one oppressed the weak, the other defended the weak (Exodus 2:17); the one was proud, the other was humble; the one was deceptive, the other was conscientious and faithful; the one was hard of heart, the other was meek in disposition. And so, men of the most divergent temperaments and dispositions are brought together in the ordinary intercourse of life.
3. That good men are brought into contact with bad irrespective of social position. The despised Hebrew is brought into contact with the proud King of Egypt; the humble shepherd is brought into the presence of the great monarch. And so, men of the extremes of social position are brought together in the ordinary intercourse of daily life. And why?
1. That men may be imbued with the ideas of a common manhood.
2. That class prejudices may be destroyed.
3. That charity may be developed.
4. That life may become a unity.
II. That when good men are brought into contact with bad men the meeting should be educational to both.
1. The companionship of the good should be influential to the moral improvement of the bad. Pharaoh ought to have been morally improved by his contact with Moses and Aaron; he ought to have profited by their instruction, by their fidelity, and by a study of their characters. Their method of life ought to have been a rebuke to him. Bad men should gather inspiration from the actions, words, and silent but holy influence of a godly life. These are educational.
2. The companionship of the bad should inspire the good with feelings of gratitude and humility. Would not Moses and Aaron be grateful that they were different in moral disposition from the tyrant Pharaoh? They would adore the distinguished mercy of God to them. A sight of the conduct of a wicked man ought to awaken a pure soul to a remembrance of the mercy of heaven. It also ought to produce deep humility; in that good men might have been far otherwise than they are.
III. That when good men are brought into contact with bad men, the meeting is not always valued as it ought to be and its opportunity for good is often unimproved. Pharaoh did not value as he ought to have done the companionship of Moses and Aaron, who were divinely sent to influence him aright. He did not make a good use of the opportunity they presented to him of understanding God and truth. He was the worse for their advice. And so it is, if wicked men do not profit by the companionship of the good, they are morally injured by it. LESSONS:—
1. That a good life is a heavenly ministry.
2. That good men should seek to influence the bad aright.
3. That good men may learn lessons from wicked lives.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 10:27-29. The more persecutors are hardened the more they oppress God’s Church.
Hardened sinners command God’s ministers to depart from them when they faithfully speak for God.
The way in which hardened sinners treat the messengers of God:—
1. With contempt.
2. With threatenings of evil.
3. With banishment.
The way in which messengers of God treat hardened sinners:—
1. They scorn their taunts.
2. They impart to the language of the wicked a deeper significance than was intended.
3. They are courageous.
4. They bid them a sad farewell.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Soul-Humility! Exodus 10:3. It is not that God exults in showing us that He is greatest, and we must yield. Rabshakehs and Cæsars may take pleasure in forcing rebels to humble themselves; but it affords Jehovah no satisfaction to put the conqueror’s foot upon the captive’s neck. Such is not the treatment which humble souls receive at His hands. Cyrus and Antiochus might want to get the princes of surrounding sovereignties, where they could lord it over them, and show their power. No so God. He could do that better by our continued resistance than by our surrender; by our contending in strife against Him with all our power to the last. But He sought to bring Pharaoh and his subjects to a real spirit of soul-humility, that He might exalt them—that He might extend towards them the sceptre of gracious acceptancy—and that He might shower down upon their homes and hearts—not plagues but privileges.
“Complete Thy purpose, that we may become
Thy perfect image, O our Lord and God.”
Locusts! Exodus 10:4. There are several species. They are described in Jamieson’s Commentary as resembling a large, spotted, red-and-black, double-winged grasshopper, with two hind legs working like hinged springs of immense strength and elasticity. They are frequently referred to in the Bible as one of the great scourges of the East, and the details concerning them have been verified by numerous travellers—justifying Pharaoh’s exclamation in Exodus 5:17, “this death.” No doubt, the distance which these dark locust masses had come would whet their naturally voracious appetites, and aggravate the appalling desolation which they were accustomed to leave behind. In one of the papyri, the locust is mentioned as the common enemy of the husbandman. In the province of Nejed, in Arabia, having destroyed the harvest, they penetrated by thousands into the private dwellings, and devoured even the leather of the water vessels. Major Moore describes a cloud of locusts extending over 500 miles, and so compact on the wing that, like an eclipse, it completely hid the sun. Such are the judicial visitations of Divine Providence upon the godless nations of the earth, the devouring appetites of the moral and social locust-hosts of anarchy, the God-obscuring properties of the cloud-throng of infidelity. See Joel 1:6 and Nahum 3:15. And these judgments are appointed
“Thus to keep daring mortals more in awe.”
Wicked Heart! Exodus 10:10. A sceptic once asked Dr Nettleton how he came by his wicked heart? The Christian replied, “That is a question which does not concern you so much as another, viz., how you are to get rid of it.” As the man manifested no wish to hear anything on that point, but still pressed the question of how he came by his wicked heart, Dr Nettleton told him that his condition resembled that of a man who is drowning, while his friends are attempting to save his life. As he rises to the surface of the water, he exclaims, “How came I here?” From the bank one of his friends shouts, “Never mind that now; but take hold of the rope.” Suppose the infatuated man repeated his inquiry as to how he got into the foaming torrent, and spurned all proffered aid until his question was answered; what would be said as he sank to the bottom? What, but that he caused his own death, and deserved the doom? Thus
“Whether we drive, or whether we are driven,
If ill, ’tis ours; if good, the act of Heaven.”
Repentance! Exodus 10:11. In the Greek it means a change of mind; and in the Hebrew it implies comfort of heart. There can be no abiding consolation of spirit, where there has been no genuine transformation of the mind. This is twofold:—attrition, as when a rock is broken by the springing of a mine; contrition, as when an iceberg floating southward, gradually melts beneath the warm of the gulf stream and the genial rays of the sun. The repentance of Pharaoh had not this latter. His heart resembled that asphalte pavement of our streets, which is softened temporarily under the potent influences of the summer noontide sun, but which is all the harder at the midnight hour for the previous partial softening.
“ ’Tis to bewail the sins thou didst commit,
And not commit those sins thou hast bewailed.”
East Wind! Exodus 10:13. Locusts generally came into Egypt from Libya and Ethiopia; as Diodorus says, “In the spring-time, the south winds rise high, and drive an infinite number of locusts out of the desert of an extraordinary size.” But on this occasion they were brought from Arabia. Keil says that the fact of the wind blowing a day and a night before bringing the locusts shows that they came from a great distance, and therefore proved to the Egyptians that the omnipotence of Jehovah reached far beyond the borders of Egypt. How often God sends judgments from remote and far-away places to convince them that He is Jehovah afar off as well as nigh at hand!
“Soul of the world, supremely High,
Where—where shall man Thy potence fly?”
Locust-Symbols! Exodus 10:15. In Revelation 9:3, the Apocalyptic seer beholds locusts coming out of the smoke upon the earth. Unto them was given power as the scorpions of the earth. Their teeth were the teeth of lions, and their power was to hurt men. The locust was esteemed sacred in Greece, and the Athenians wore golden cicadæ or grasshoppers in their hair to denote the antiquity of their race. It was King James who said: “By locusts and grasshoppers understand monks and friars, who seem to fly a little from the earth, but are great devourers. They go in swarms, and seize upon the meadows, the fat and pleasant parts of the land.” As Volney says, The Tartars themselves are a less destructive enemy than these little animals. One would imagine that evil had followed their progress. Wherever they went, they caused the dreary image of winter to succeed in an instant to the rich scenery of spring. But Elliott shows that not of the myriad-hosts of monks are locusts a scriptural symbol. The locust-woe was really the invasion of the Saracenic armies, and the pest Mohammedanism which they brought with them. And just as through the forbearance of God, the plague passed off from Egypt without annihilating all; so the aggressive character of the Saracenic woe rolled away. As Gibbon says: The passion of the Saracens for war ceased. The luxury of the Caliphs, now established (712 A.D.) quietly at Bagdad, relaxed the nerves and terminated the progress of the Arab empire.
“It floats awhile, then floundering, sinks absorbed
Within that boundless sea it strove to grasp.”
Help! Help! Exodus 10:16. How intensely dark the night was, as a traveller started on his journey along an unfamiliar road. It was a broad way—smooth and pleasant enough to all appearance, and the man was hopeful and void of apprehension. As he went on, he was encountered by a stranger, who very urgently begged him not to proceed further, as ahead the road was rough and dangerous—passing through a lonely wild—with bogs and quagmires on each side. But the traveller laughed to scorn the sage advice, and proceeded on his way. The darkness deepened—the hedgerows disappeared—and the road could no longer be discerned from the rest of the surrounding country. Lonely cries were heard, which the traveller recognised as the call of the marsh-birds; so that he knew there were fenny places—possibly deep ditches and gloomy tarns around. Scarcely had he arrived at this conclusion than he plunged into a morass. The more he struggled to free himself, the more did he feel his limbs sinking in the mire, and his head and arms becoming entangled amongst the flags and rushes. Worn out and alarmed, he uttered a loud cry for help. It is answered, and presently a man with a lamp in hand appears to help him out. The foolish mocking traveller recognises his monitor on the earlier part of the road; but he does not now scorn his assistance. Pharaoh had ridiculed the remonstrances of Moses against pursuing a path of antagonism to God; now he appeals to Moses for help. Moses’ intercession prevailed, and so often do the prayers of the saints, urgently solicited by sinners, avail for the removal of Divine judgments.
“And beneath the great arch of the portal,
Through the streets of the City Immortal,
Is wafted the fragrance they shed.”
Locust-Lessons! Exodus 10:17. These insects are used for food. John the Baptist fed on them, and the Hottentots are glad when the locusts come, for they fatten upon them. Thus as locusts gathered, prepared, and eaten, prove a common and nutritious food; so trials properly used may become blessings. Out of the eater went forth meat, and out of the strong sweetness, is as true of the locust as the lion, and may be as true of the judgments of God as of the locusts. It is well for men to derive all the good they may and can from the trials of Divine appointment.
“Sometimes the souls He loves are riven
By tempests wild, and thus are driven
Nearer the better land.”
West Wind! Exodus 10:19. Orosius mentions a locust plague about 125 B.C., which happened in Africa, and adds that, after these living vermin had consumed all the herbage of the field, and had gone so far as to devour the bark and solid timber of the trees, a violent wind came and wafted them away in different portions ultimately to plunge them in the sea. Pliny states that the winds carry them off in vast swarms, upon which they fall into the ocean and seas of waters. Oh! when the breath of the Spirit of the living God is wafted upon the serried ranks of the locust-devourers of infidelity, how these voracious and selfish principles are swept away into the sea of oblivion! As a scourge upon the nations God uses them; and when their ungrateful task is done, He drowns them in the deep ocean of forgetfulness.
“A wave of dark oblivion’s sea
Then sweeps across their place.”
Darkness-Symbolism! Exodus 10:21. It has been remarked by Salter that darkness is the proper image and metaphor by which to represent moral ignorance. At midnight all that is fair and beautiful in nature is concealed. There are fields and forests, brooks and fountains, rivers and valleys; but gloom and confusion rest upon all this loveliness. And in like manner, as long as a man continues in moral darkness, there is a veil and confusion (as it were) upon God and Christ, upon heaven and eternity. These, bright and glorious in themselves, and bright and glorious in their radiance to the believer who walks in the light, are hid from the eyes of the walker in darkness. He sees—but how? As the traveller in the night, who mistakes some lovely rosebush for a demon being of unholy birth.
“Reason may strive, but reason strives in vain;
It cannot break the adamantine chain.”
Darkness-Lessons! Exodus 10:22. Men in the dark are in danger. Sailing once along a coast where a friend had suffered shipwreck, the scene which recalled his danger filled us with no fear. Why was this? Because, while his ship, on the night she ran ashore, was cutting her way through the gloom of a dense fog, we were ploughing the waters of a silver sea, where noble headlands, and pillared cliffs, and scattered islands, and surf-beaten reefs stood bathed in the brightest moonshine. There was no danger just because there was no darkness. The robe of night
“With sparkling brilliants guide the vessel on,
And now the land appears—the port is won.”
Artificial Light! Exodus 10:22. Herodotus records that at the sacrifice at Sais the assembly is held by night. They suspend before their houses in the open air lamps, which are filled with oil mixed with salt; a wick floats on the top, which will burn all night. The feast is called the Feast of Lamps. Such of the Egyptians as do not attend the ceremony burn lamps in like manner before their houses; so that all Egypt is illuminated. When, therefore, the great horror of darkness chained them to their seats, these worshippers would bethink themselves of the brilliant illumination of their artificial light. But in vain! They could have no lights whatever. And, when God leaves the hardened sinner in the outer darkness of condemnation, all artificial lights of human reason and philosophy falsely so called will be of no avail. They will be beyond the sinner’s reach, and will also themselves be quenched in the blackness of darkness. So that whatever show of courage sinners may display whilst their artificial lights gleam, yet all self-assurance will forsake them—
“As heroes, dauntless in the thickest fight,
At phantoms tremble in the darksome night.”
Darkness-Effects! Exodus 10:23. Modern discoveries have shown that the seeds of epidemic and miasmatic diseases are generated and exert their activity during the night, and in places unvisited by the solar beams. Darkness is favourable to their development. This is a true picture of the cause of sin’s development and growth. In proportion to the density of the gloom of mental and moral ignorance is the increase and fructification of sin. The Jews have a tradition that there were terrible alarms under the Egyptian canopy of darkness; that the devil and his angels were let loose during those three dreadful days, and that they had a wider range, a greater liberty than usual for working mischief. Such a thing seems to be referred to in Psalms 78:49. He sent, i.e., He permitted, evil angels among them. Certainly wherever moral ignorance prevails, there Satan and his spirits of evil are busily employed.
“’Tis dark—that dreary, witching hour of night,
When restless spirits steal in mortal sight,
And grisly specters stalk their dreary round.”
Light-Lessons! Exodus 10:23. A young prince having been chastised by his royal parent for doing something wrong, was full of discontent and displeasure. Passing, by and by, through the palace gate, he encountered a street-Arab, who had left his father’s home, but who, however free from chastening, was lean and wretched, miserable and woebegone. The young prince dried his tears very quickly with the reflection that it was far better to be a chastened prince than a wretched beggar-boy. He looked down upon the ragged urchin’s condition with the greatest conceivable pity and thankfulness, even though he himself was smarting from the rod. God had chastened Israel, and they had expressed displeasure. By and by, when they saw how the hearts and homes of the Egyptians were draped in darkness, while they themselves, as the children of the Heavenly King, were enjoying light, doubtless they would compare their own condition with the misery of the oppressors, and would look upward with gratitude to Almighty God, who, though He chastened them, nevertheless crowned their lives with the light of His countenance. And thus—
“Their streams of joy would more enriching grow,
As they adored the source from whence they flow.”
Pride! Exodus 10:24. On the shore of the Scandinavian Peninsula stands the ancient city of Bergen, facing the prevailing winds from the west and south-west. Behind it rise the towering rugged peaks and mountains of Norway. These attract the clouds charged to the full with moisture, and force them to pour their torrents of rain on the surrounding country. Thus what, from its position, facing the rainy quarter, ought to be abundantly supplied with rain, is comparatively rainless. How often do the lofty mountains deprive the soul of those divine droppings of grace which refresh the spiritual life!
“So keen the grasp, so vast is human pride,
When pampered most—the least ’tis satisfied.”
Conscience! Exodus 10:25. The manager of a cotton-mill received a complaint from the girls in the weaving-room that they could not make the bobbin-boys hear them call for more bobbins. Having bought several bells, he instructed the boys to answer these when rung by the girls. For a time all went well. No matter where the boys were, the bells were heard above the clatter of the looms. But by and by the girls began to complain that the boys were getting careless, and hindered them more than before; while the boys answered that the girls did not ring loud enough. The manager therefore went to the room, and experimented by ringing one of the bells again and again; yet, though the bobbin-boy was not far off, he paid no attention. Suddenly it flashed across the manager’s mind that the bells must be at fault. On inspection, he found that the girls had been in the habit of snatching up the bells by the metal instead of the handles, and that they had thus covered the bells with oil from the machinery. The bells were accordingly cleaned, and all went well. To how many people has the clear voice of conscience become a dull sound! Not at once; but gradually—gradually as the bell decreased its tone—gradually as Pharaoh progressed in sin—
“Till, like a frozen mass, his heart was chilled,
Its upward movement stayed, and conscience stilled.”
Heart-Hardness! Exodus 10:27. Away on the wide ocean, at the midnight hour, when the winds howled and the clouds loured heavily, floated a man clutching a plank riven by the storm from the deck of the gallant barque which but twenty-four hours before he had commanded, but which now was buried fathoms deep within the heart of the ocean. A godless and profane captain had he been; but he lifts up his anguished eyes to heaven, and amid the gloom and tempest vows that, if the offended Majesty of heaven will but send a ship to his rescue, oaths shall never again pass his lips. Scarcely had he solemnly pledged himself to be a humble servant of God, than a ship hove in sight—a shout was heard, for some one had perceived the dark spot floating, and guessed its cause. The vessel’s course was changed—the lifebuoy was flung to the drowning mariner—the crew easily dragged him on board. The vows were soon forgotten, and the reckless sinner revelled in his profanity and godlessness as soon as he was once more in safety. Such was the position of Pharaoh. His resolutions declared under the pressure of suffering perished when the judgment was removed—
“And his regrets were like the flitting light
Which feebly glimmers in despair’s dark night.”
Obstinate Folly! Exodus 10:28. Traversing the sandy wastes at the noontide hour beneath the burning sun, horsemen became aware of a dark cloud in the distance, as if rising from the earth. It is the sandrift swept before the whirlwind; and it comes on like a black wall, rising higher and higher till sky and sun are obscured. Whole caravans have been buried beneath that heavy canopy; and the great question is how to escape? There are two possibilities:
1. To flee; and
2. To fight. The first is chosen. The spurs are applied, and the horses seemingly conscious of the danger, urge themselves to their utmost speed. On and on they spur! The riders look back, only to perceive the dark mass in swift pursuit, from which it is vain to flee. They turn their holes’ heads to face it. On comes the dense cloud! The horses press towards it, with thick-drawn breath from the particles of sand. They pant and press; but all in vain. What folly to contend! When the last breath of the fierce whirlwind passes by, and the sun shines forth bright and clear upon the sea of glittering sand, the dark wall has settled down in a line of undulating mounds, beneath which lie horsemen and horses in death. Pharaoh first fled from the cloud of Divine judgment; now he attempts to fight with it. A vain contention!
“As crime increased, so swelled the threat’ning storm,
The clouds assumed a still more awful form.”
Moses! Exodus 10:29. The calmness of Moses is conspicuous all through the contest. The Divine discipline of adversity had accomplished this in him. No more was his spirit to be like the stream which, though coursing through verdant meads, chafes at every pebble, and from its own shallowness murmurs and frets as it flows. Adversity had deepened the channel. Purer, calmer, clearer it rolled on. If it had to plunge down into depths of sorrow in the wilderness wanderings, it had yet sunshine resting upon it; and even from tears was that rainbow formed which—unshaken by tumult, undimmed and unbroken—like that spanning the cataract’s verge, shines with all the soft tints of the skies—
“Whose fleecy clouds, in radiant splendour glow,
While heaven is mirrored in the sea below.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany