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Exodus 6:1-2.6.4. Then the Lord] We can scarcely err in saying that this verse should go with chap 5; and, as furnishing the immediate answer of Jehovah to the complaint of Moses, it brings the narrative to a resting place. Exodus 6:2 begins a new section. 2 By my name Jehovah was I not known to them] We here come upon what appears to be a grave difficulty. It does not at once approve itself to our minds as consistent with fact to say that the fathers of the Hebrew people were not acquainted with the divine name Jehovah. It would seem from the sacred text itself that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not only knew this name, but were familiar with it, and even made special use of it on some occasions. For proofs of their acquaintance with it, see Genesis 12:8; Genesis 14:22; Genesis 15:8 (Lord God = Adonai Jehovah); Genesis 21:33; Genesis 24:3; Genesis 26:22; Genesis 27:27; Genesis 28:16;Genesis 29:18, etc. As an example of special use of it, “Jehovah jireh” (Genesis 22:14) at once comes to mind. Here is the difficulty. Where is the solution? Happily, it is near at hand. It may be found by simply giving to the statement before us its full value.
(1) The word “name” should be taken in full biblical significance, as denoting what is revealed by the name—the attributes of Him to when the name belongs in so far as those attributes are symbolised by the name; in fact ‘the internal essence, as far as it is outwardly revealed and known as operative” (Fürst, under shêm). In other words, we must pass from the sign to the thing signified (cf. Psalms 5:11; Proverbs 18:10; with Psalms 48:10.) Apply this to the matter in hand, and we at once catch the idea that the meaning must be, not that the elder patriarchs did not know of such a name as Jehovah, but that God had not revealed himself to them in any considerable degree according to the import of that name. Now this naturally leads us to anticipate for the name “Jehovah” a very distinctive meaning; moreover, a meaning less fully verified to God’s people at one time than another. Let this be well observed.
(2) For the import of the name “Jehovah” we must refer to the “Critical Notes” on Exodus 3:14. To bring from that place to this the crowning idea of “Fulfiller,” let us ask whether this, after what has been said above, does not fully meet the present difficulty. Is it not most obviously true to say that, broadly speaking, God made himself known to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rather as PROMISER than as FULFILLER. We say “rather,” purposely qualifying our language for a reason to be stated presently. [Under “
(3)”] Certainly, one of the most marked features of the Divine dealings with Israel’s progenitors is the lavish abundance and astounding magnitude of the premises made to them,—made, but, for the time, most of them left UNFULFILLED. The land was promised (Exodus 13:14-2.13.15; Exodus 15:18-2.15.21) but the promise was not fulfilled; an innumerable seed was promised (Exodus 12:2; Exodus 13:16; Exodus 17:6), but this promise was unfulfilled, and for a time the first steps towards its realisation were tardy; and the blessing of all the families of the earth in the seed of those wanderers was promised (Exodus 12:3; Exodus 22:18), and this again we need not say had not even now been accomplished. Most true, therefore, it is, that God had not made himself known, as characteristically “the Fulfiller,” to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: a truth now intimated with admirable fitness, when the land is just about to be given, and the seed has already swarmed from a family into a nation, and the bonds of that holy covenant are shortly to be entered into, by virtue of which the nations of the earth should at last be savingly blessed.
(3) We have only to add that the context here altogether confirms this solution of the difficulty. If we mistake not, it does so in a manner not a little remarkable. All must perceive how forcibly the main fact—that the God of Abraham was now about to FULFIL as he had never done before—tells in favour of this exposition. We now advance to an argument in its support drawn from the syntax of the entire passage, which has, we presume to think, been most strangely neglected. In other words, the fitting in of the difficult statement to its contexts has received almost no attention whatever. And yet how strongly it calls for notice. (a) Note the foregoing words. “I am Jehovah: AND I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob as God Almighty, but,” etc. “AND I appeared”: what means this “and”? The Hebrew punctists have not hesitated to throw all their weight on the conjunction, having marked it as the strong waw consecutive wâ-êrâ) and thus given us the hint to make the most of it, which, on the admitted principles of Hebrew Grammar, we are entitled to do. Availing ourselves of this hint, we may render thus: “I am Jehovah: AND indeed, I used to appear (imperfect, incoming tense, here probably reiterative [cf. Driver § 26]) unto Abraham, etc., as El shaddai, although, by my name (or, to the extent of my name) Jehovah, I did not make myself known to them.” In point of fact the “strong” conjunction (it is either “strong” or superfluous!) has the effect that, so far from setting the names EL SHADDAI and JEHOVAH in opposition to each other, it actually makes the former a stepping-stone to the latter,—makes the verification of that an anticipation of this. We may paraphrase the connection between them, something in this way: “I am Jehovah, ‘The Fulfiller;’ and, indeed, I did in a measure, make this manifest to your fathers, by again and again giving them proof of my power and of my goodness, thus fully bringing out and making good that other name of mine, El Shaddai, ‘God Almighty,’ (or, as some [Girdlestone: O. T. Syn.] render) ‘God All-Bountiful’: although as Jehovah, ‘The Fulfiller of my promises, I did not so familiarise them with my character, in that I suffered them to fall asleep with my great promises yet unfulfilled,” (b) Now observe the words that follow. “Moreover also (we gham, I set up my covenant with them,” etc.,—as if resuming the record of Jehovah anticipations,—as if still keeping an eye to fulfilment. So, Exodus 6:4 :—“Moreover also I myself)—true to the memory of my covenant, and resolved to fulfil it—heard,” etc. “Wherefore say … I am Jehovah (the Fulfiller) … AND THEREFORE will have brought you (waw consecution again, though now, most fittingly, with the perfect [the complete] tense, in which promises and prophecies delight). And thus both preceding and succeeding context fully confirm the main statements of our solution; and, for our own part, we honestly think that not a shred of the original difficulty is left. “Name is to be taken as signifying revealed character. The name “Jehovah” is to be regarded as emphasised: it had not at all adequately been verified, so far. Yet, as All-mighty and All-bountiful, God has given many tokens that He would ultimately shine forth as Jehovah (Yahweh) “He will bring to pass,” “He will become all He has said.” That purpose, He now renounces. “I am Jehovah: the which ye shall know as your fathers never did.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 6:1-2.6.8
GOD’S REPLY TO THE PRAYER OF A DISAPPOINTED WORKER
It is evident that the first few verses of this chapter belong to the last chapter, being the response to the prayer, which Moses had uttered in reference to the augmented burdens of Israel. Moses had said, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.” Then came the Divine reply. “You are mistaken, Moses. The failure of a first attempt—if failure you choose to call it—is no proof that a second experiment will not succeed. At all events, it is your duty to follow out what your God says: It is My glory to see that what I have promised and predicted will come to pass.” We are apt in all things to intrude on God’s province, thus losing force, instead of concentrating all our disposable energy within the province that God has assigned us. It is not ours to question for a moment that God will fulfil His promises; it is ours always and every where to fulfil the obligations that He has laid upon us. God says, that so far from Pharaoh succeeding, he will be glad to let these poor brickmakers and slaves go forth from his land. This was a most encouraging statement to Moses, and was given in sympathetic spirit.
I. This reply to the prayer of Moses intimated that God would bring the true result of his mission more thoroughly within the cognizance of his senses, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh.”
1. The mission had hitherto been a great tax upon the faith of Moses. True, he had beheld the vision of the burning bush, but he had been unable to interpret its meaning. He had held communion with God, but no man hath seen God at any time. His was eminently a mission of faith. Reason would never have led him to it. Sense was utterly opposed to it. He had in youth seen the hosts of Pharaoh, he remembered their prowess, and would feel that it would be the extreme of folly to place himself in antagonism thereto, in so mad an enterprise. But God told him to go. Faith in God sustained him. Hence the mission commenced at its highest point, and was being prosecuted in truest motive. But the weak soul of man cannot work long in this high realm of service without tremor and wavering; he is liable to wander into the realm of sense. Such was the case with Moses. The first repulse made him cry out for the visible and the tangible. Hence the sphere of service was lowered. God does frequently adapt the work to the varying capacity of the workman. He sympathises with our weakness. He promises to let us see His dealings in reference to our mission. It is far better for man to work in the higher realm of service. The vision of faith is more ennobling. It is more refreshing. It gives a stronger power of endurance. It is better to trust the promise of God than to see prematurely God’s dealings with Pharaoh. The moral labour that taxes faith is beneficial to man eternally.
2. Now the mission is lowered to the sensuous vision of Moses. He was to see what God would do unto Pharaoh. Some men can work well in the region of the seen, but are impotent at moral service in the unseen realm. They ascend only to the mountain peaks of earth whither they can climb, they do not rise on the pinions of faith into the great world beyond, where the service is the most sublime. But sometimes the best of men lower their energies into the sphere of the sensuous, either through the imperfection of their energies, either in despair, or for rest from the constant tension of faith. God bears with their weakness. Let them return as soon as possible to the higher level of service.
II. This reply to the prayer of Moses vindicated his conduct against the recent insinuations and reproach of the Israelites. “For with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.” Pharaoh had said that the design of Moses and Aaron in making their demand of freedom was to encourage the Israelites in idleness The Israelites said that Moses and Aaron had deluded them, and had been the means of their augmented burdens. God now tells Moses that he had done his duty, and that its ultimate issue would be the liberty desired. Men often take a wrong view of our conduct. God always takes the right view. He is infallible. He knows when His servants are doing what He tells them. He sends them messages of approval for so doing. This vindication:
(1.) It would reassure Moses in his work. His prayer indicates that his soul was growing weary in the work of Israel’s freedom. He was yielding to the sad influence of doubt and uncertainty as to the issue of things. The outworking of his past effort was discouraging to him. Hence this reply to his prayer would reassure him in his work God generally sends such answers to our prayer as shall strengthen us for His service. In the attitude of devotion we always get visions of future toils.
(2.) It would clear his conscience from all condemnation. This reply to his prayer would give him to see that he had done the Israelites no wrong, and that their reproaches were ungrateful. This conviction would chase away his sorrow. It would a source of strength to him in his labour. A peaceful conscience is the truest joy of a Christian worker.
(3.) It would enable him to interpret his apparent failure. Moses, hearing of the burdens of Israel subsequent to his appeal to Pharaoh, regarded his work as a failure. He would now view it under a new light, under a brightening aspect. God only can give to men the true interpretation of their service, and this He does in answer to their prayers.
III. This reply to the prayer of Moses indicated how thoroughly the work announced by God should be accomplished. “For with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.”
1. This shows how wicked men are, under the providence of God, brought to do that which they had once resolutely refused. Pharaoh had told Moses and Aaron that he ignored their God, and that he would not give the Israelites their freedom. Yet the time will come when he will drive them forth into liberty. The sinner knoweth not the future, or he would act with greater wisdom in the present.
2. God makes these revelations in response to prayer that He may reanimate the dispirited worker. What a reviving effect this communication would have upon the soul of Moses; he would be immediately ready for new conflict with Pharaoh.
IV. In reply to the prayer of Moses, God vouchsafes a new and sublime revelation of His character. “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by the name of Jehovah was I not known to them,” &c.
1. There was a sublime revelation of His name. Here the question occurs, was not this name known to Moses. There are two classes of commentators on this very text. Some say that the name of Jehovah was not known prior to the appearance of God in the burning bush. You answer that statement by referring to the vision that Abraham saw—the ram caught in the thicket—when he called the place Jehovah-jireh, “The Lord will provide.” Well, then, if Abraham used the very name Jehovah, and if the word Jehovah occurs several times besides in the course of the previous chapters, how can it be said that this name was not known to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob? Those who hold the opinion that it was not literally known to them, say that, as Moses did not write Genesis till some 2000 years after the facts recorded in it, he used the name Jehovah because it was known to the Jews at the time he wrote, though it was not known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the years in which they lived. But this would seem to be irreconcileable with some passages where the name Jehovah must have been used, because it was given with reference to special circumstances to which the other names of God would not seem to be applicable. And besides, it would seem on this supposition that Moses did not write strictly and literally what was true, but wrote the past with a borrowed light from the present, which would not be the duty of a faithful historian. The other opinion—and I think it is the just and only interpretation—is, that the name Jehovah was known to Abraham; but that its pregnant meaning, preciousness in its application, and comfort, was SO little known, that, in comparison, it was not known at all; that is, God had not manifested all His glory as Jehovah to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as he would do to Moses, and to the children of Israel in after generations. Pharaoh had made a new and more terrible revelation of himself to Moses and to the Israelites, and therefore the Divine Being opened up to them in comfort the inner glories of His Name. God’s name is more potent than all the hosts of Pharaoh. That name is revealed to human souls, the most beautifully, in prayer.
2. There was also a comforting reference to His covenant. “I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.” God thus reminds Moses of His covenant, which should prevent all fear on his part as to the ultimate success of his work.
3. There was also a pathetic reference to the sorrow of Israel. “And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage.” LESSONS:—
1. That God speaks to disappointed souls in prayer.
2. That the Divine communings with a disappointed soul have an uplifting tendency.
3. That God deals compassionately with the weakness of Christian workers.
A TRUE PATTERN OF GOSPEL REDEMPTION. Exodus 6:4-2.6.8
I. That Gospel Redemption comes to the soul after a period of moral bondage and distress.
1. It finds the soul in a condition of moral bondage. “Whom the Egyptians keep in bondage.” The bondage is most severe. It is the bondage of sin. It has been long continued, through many years of our lives. It has been degrading. It has been fruitless to ourselves. We have all the time been working for another master, from whom we have received no good reward. The bondage seems almost hopeless to us. We have no token of moral liberty. Our thoughts, emotions, and energies are all in the slavery of sin. In this condition the Gospel of Christ finds the soul.
2. It finds the soul in a condition of anxious grief. “And I have also heard the groanings of the children of Israel.” The soul is awakened to a sense of the bondage and consequent degradation; and eagerly awaits the freedom of the Gospel. Its tears are those of repentance. Its cries are those for pardon. Its looks are toward the cross. In this condition the Gospel of redemption comes in all its mercy to the believing soul.
3. It is generally preceded by some Christian agency. Moses had been to the Israelites in their bondage, and had instrumentally awakened their desire for freedom. So the souls of men are often influenced by Christian agencies prior to their cry for the redemption of the cross. It is the aim of the Christian ministry to awaken within men the desire for moral freedom.
II. That Gospel Redemption comes to the soul by virtue of a Divine covenant and promise. “And I have remembered my promise,” Exodus 6:5.
1. God through Christ has made a covenant of salvation with all who trust in the atonement. There has been the covenant of works. That is no longer possible to man. By the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified. We are under the covenant of grace. By grace are ye saved through faith in Christ Jesus. By virtue of this covenant all contrite and believing souls may find rest in, and pardon from, God. There is no other covenant that can confer these blessings.
(1) This covenant is unique.
(2) This covenant is merciful.
(3) This covenant is of long standing. There is none other like it. It is the hope of man. It was made with the oldest saints, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
III. That Gospel Redemption brings the soul into holy and responsible relationship to God. “And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God,” Exodus 6:7.
1. It constitutes the soul a Divine possession. It then belongs to God, its rightful owner. All its thoughts and affections are to be His. Thus the redemption of the Gospel brings back our moral manhood to God, brings us into sympathy with all that is divine and heavenly. It places the soul under the peculiar guardianship of the Infinite. God will then guard the soul. Aid it in its struggles. Open up its future. He will be its sun and shield. Oh! blessed redemption.
IV. That Gospel Redemption leads the faithful unto the inheritance of Canaan. “To give them the land of Canaan.” Thus what a change this redemption works, from slaves to freemen, from servitude to an inheritance. The redeemed are the inheritors of the universe. All things are yours.
REASONS FOR HUMAN REDEMPTION
I. The Burden of Man is a reason for human Redemption. “The burdens of the Egyptians,” Exodus 6:6. Sin is a burden. It presses heavily on man. No human hand can remove it. Only Christ can. He says, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” His burden is light. The pain occasioned by man’s burden of sin is a reason for its removal by Christ.
II. The Lordship of Christ is a reason for human Redemption. “I am the Lord.” Only the Supreme Ruler of the universe could achieve the redemption of man. He only could fulfil the violated law. He only could forgive the past neglect of it. He only could enable us to keep it in the future. Only the God of the soul can redeem it.
III. The Covenant of God is a reason for human Redemption. “I have remembered my covenant.” God desires the salvation of men. Promise—Type—Symbol. On Calvary the covenant was fully and eternally signed. The world was redeemed by price, only they are redeemed by power who believe in Christ.
DISCOURAGEMENT IN RELIGION PRODUCTIVE OF UNBELIEF IN THE PROMISES OF GOD
The school of experience is the only state of moral discipline in which a Christian can learn the nature of his warfare with the powers of darkness. When first convinced of spiritual captivity, he rises up to escape from it with an alacrity derived from much ignorance of the difficulties that await him in the road to heaven; not less than from a sense of peril by which he is surrounded. Engrossed by one idea, he overlooks the trials of his approaching conflict. The Israelites were anxious for deliverance. They were defenceless. It would be difficult to escape. The loss which God permitted threw them into despondency. There came an increase of burdens. They taunt Moses. He prays to God. A pattern of the Christian life.
I. The promise made by God to His afflicted children
1. He again declared His purpose of redeeming them from their captivity. Pharaoh upon his throne was mighty. Israel was feeble. God had pledged Himself for their deliverance. The ransom He was about to effect was to be attended with a manifestation of Almighty power the most unquestionable. They were not to go forth as fugitives, but as conquerors. Such an engagement has God, in spontaneous mercy, made with you. Are you seeking deliverance. It is promised.
2. The Most High declared that Israel should be adopted as His peculiar inheritance. Separated by customs, institutions, by temporal privileges, and spiritual distinctions, they were to become the family of Jehovah, and not to be reckoned amongst nations estranged from Him. A like declaration is made to all who wish to quit the state in which they are enslaved. “Ye are a chosen generation,” &c.
3. God also condescended to reiterate His promise of giving the possession of Canaan to Israel. Little would it have availed that the Israelites were to be redeemed from bondage, if the help had ended there. We should be ineffectually called from the death of sin, unless we are led on to eternal rest.
II. The unworthy manner in which these promises were received. It is comparatively easy to repose in God in the sunshine of peace. But when He comes in sorrow we cry out for fear. We refuse to walk any longer by faith. The word has declared, “That the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion.” Yet how often has God to remonstrate with us when He sees us sinking into doubt. Events appear to frustrate the promise. The burdens are increased. Satan taken advantage of this severe discipline. He endeavours to make us repine. If you would resist, rest not till ye have obtained practical acquaintance with God your Saviour, under the titles by which He revealed Himself to His ancient people.
(1) Knew him as El Shaddai, all sufficient to bless and save you with a present and everlasting salvation.
(2.) Knar Him at Jehovah, the glorious name by which He was revealed to Israel. He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.—(Buddicom’s Christian Exodus).
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
THE JUDGMENTS OF GOD UPON WICKED MEN
I. That God sends severe judgments on men who reject His Commands. “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh”:—
1. Notwithstanding his kingship. The judgments of God are not averted by the exalted social position or great power of kings. The proud monarch of Egypt cannot exempt himself from the retributions of heaven. There are none to deliver him
2. Notwithstanding his obstinacy. Moral obstinacy cannot shield men from the judgments of God. He can subdue the man of iron will. Suffering has a great effect upon obstinate souls.
3. Notwithstanding his despotism. The despot must yield to the sceptre of God. He may defy the vast nation Israel, but now he is in conflict with One who will defeat his armies.
II. That these judgments are often witnessed by Christian people. “Now shalt thou see.”
1. They are seen clearly. These judgments are seen in all their terrible force. In all their meaning. The dead king and his drowned army are washed upon the banks of the great waters. Retribution is clearly visible in their ruin.
2. They are seen retributively. The overthrow of Pharaoh and his host was no more accident. It was not the outcome of Divine caprice. It was not designed merely to vindicate the prophecy of Moses. It was punitive.
3. They are seen solemnly. These judgments are sad. They awaken thought and moral reflection. We dare not smile at the overthrow of the tyrant. His destiny makes us weep.
The good Lord sometimes promiseth sight of His great works, when His servants scarce believe Him.
In granting them sight God reproves the unbelief of His servants.
God’s strong hand is doubly engaged to work deliverance for His Church.
God chooseth to force deliverance from tyrants, to make His work conspicuous.
There is a great difference between looking at things from a distance, and seeing them drawing close upon us, or actually beginning.
1. God speaking to man.
2. God speaking to man a condescension.
3. God speaking to man a judgment.
4. God speaking to man an instruction.
God usually joineth the promise of grace unto His people with that of force upon His enemies.
God’s promise of grace is plainly declared and revealed to His servants.
God useth to convey these promises of grace by a mediator to His people.
The highest promise of grace is that God will be Jehovah to His people.
Where God is Jehovah, all His promises are put into effect.
Exodus 6:3. It is not merely in the actings of God that He would cause the heart to find rest, but in Himself—in His name and character.
God joins one encouragement to another to help the weak in faith.
God’s appearances are designed to work faith in creatures.
God’s appearances have been gradual in manner and measure till now.
Fullest discoveries of God require the greatest faith, and aggravate the sin of unbelief.
Knowledge of God’s name is needful to make souls trust it.
1. Not a mere word.
2. Not an abstraction.
3. But a power.
4. A tower of strength.
5. A shield of protection.
6. The hope of the soul.
Exodus 6:4. God’s covenant to His people:—
How much the Lord says of His covenant and His oath; and if you consider, there was something in this more suited to encourage hope and trust, than in any other ground for it He could have mentioned. When you are in distress, if you are told of a man who is kind and liberal, it gives you hope of relief. If you hear, moreover, that he has assisted many poor afflicted creatures exactly in your situation, your hopes are raised still more; and if, besides, you know he has promised help to all the needy who apply to him, that is better still; yet even that would not give you so much confidence as if you had it under his hand that he would help you, and you knew he had taken a solemn oath that he would give you all you stand in need of. He would then have bound himself, and his honour would be so engaged that he could not draw back. Now this is exactly what God had done to Israel; and by reminding Moses of it, He showed He did not mean one jot or tittle should pass from His covenant till all was fulfilled. And believers have the same security now. In His new covenant He has pledged Himself to those who have the faith of Abraham. In this covenant He has assured His people of pardon. (Anon.)
Exodus 6:5. God hears the groans of His people.
God remembers the cruelty of the oppressor.
God remembers the covenant of His grace.
Exodus 6:6. God’s appearance to His
Ministers is in order that He may make himself known to the Church.
Ministers must speak to the Church all that God reveals to them.
The main matter that must be re-revealed to the Church is that God is Jehovah.
God’s being Jehovah sets His Israel free from all Egyptian burdens.
The meaning of Jehovah is to rid the Church from bondage, temporal and eternal.
The redemption of Israel is Jehovah’s work.
Exodus 6:7-2.6.8. Adoption of Israel to Himself is Jehovah’s work next to redemption.
Souls are adopted when they are God’s, and God is theirs. Jehovah does all this that Israel may acknowledge his saving power.
1. Taken by God.
2. Knowing God.
3. Serving God.
4. Redeemed by God.
5. Happy in God.
6. Will live with God.
God’s oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is in order to successive generations.
Introduction into such signal privileges is a good step to the full blessing.
Jehovah’s donation of the inheritance promised surely followeth this introduction.
“I will take you to Me for a people, and I will be to you a God.” What follows is only one advantage among many, flowing from that blessed relation. The yoke of the oppressor shall be broken off your necks, for My people must not serve another master; freedom, protection, guidance, victory, wise laws, liberty to make known your requests to Me at all times, are among the many blessings of the people whom I take for My peculiar heritage; and then, “I will be to you a God.” This is better still; for in these words God gives Himself to them. His favours are precious, His gifts are valuable. He excels them all. Power, wisdom, patience, faithfulness, love infinite and everlasting, are all in Him; and those who have Him for their God, have all these for their portion. Well might David say, “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.”
“I will be to you a God.”
1. Then my life should be devout.
2. Then my heart should be grateful.
3. Then my tongue shall be tuneful.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Divine Dependence! Exodus 6:1. Moses and Aaron had made an alliance with God; what, then, had they to fear? If God be for us, who can be against us? If the Lord had not been on their side. He was on their side. He had entered into covenant with them. Three hundred years ago, says history, about a million of people in Holland were fighting for freedom from the tyranny of Rome. William, the Prince of Orange, a man who feared God, was the champion of the righteous cause. In the heat of the struggle, one of his generals sent an urgent despatch to know if he had succeeded in forming an alliance with any foreign power such as France or England. The brave deliverer’s reply thrilled the heart of the general as he read it: You ask me whether I have made a treaty with any great foreign power. I have. When I undertook to achieve the freedom of the oppressed Christians in these provinces, I made a close alliance with the King of Kings, and I doubt not that He will give us the victory.
“For who that leans on His right arm
Was ever yet forsaken?
What righteous cause can suffer harm
If He its part has taken.”
Appointed Work! Exodus 6:2. Moses would not have disliked the reaping, but to plough. Ploughing is hard work, and, to our notions, soiling work; and so we will not plough for Christ. It is hard work, says Power, to lift one foot in the heavy clay—to set it down often only to lift it up with greater difficulty still. Even that would perhaps not have deterred Moses; but the delay was trying. If we had a speedy return for our toil, perhaps we might undertake labours for Jehovah. If in the fields around us, as we turned up the furrow, we were sure of finding treasure—of the reaper overtaking the sower; if, as we sweated and toiled in ploughing, the sprouts became headed with grain, and our fevered brows were cooled with the breezes which undulated the waving corn, perhaps we would be ready to plough in hope. But such is not earthly ploughing, and such is not that of heaven. Moses had to plough and plough; and we have to labour and labour in hope, for
“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.”
Divine Decision! Exodus 6:2. Moses forgot that the triumph of the wicked is always short—that the restrained flood is sure to pour forth with force proportionate to the length and strength of its restraint—and that time and tide are nowhere before the word of God. God had said. Each hindrance, therefore, on the part of Pharaoh—each refusal on his part to let Israel go—each oppression formed to intensify their bondage, and certify their serfdom to himself would only be treasuring up wrath. The waters were continually rising; and, just as with the great Canadian rivers, the more buttressess men expose to stem its current and icefloes, the more certainly are they bringing ruin upon their bridges and banks; so the hindrances of this despot were only culminating towards destruction. There fore
“Let not guilt presumptuous rear her crest,
Nor virtue droop despondent; soon these clouds
Scorning eclipse will brighten into day,
And in majestic splendour He will rise,
With healing and with terror on His wings.”
Groanings! Exodus 6:4. How bitter are the tears of penitence! How agonising are the cries for pardon! It is with conscience then as if a messenger from God, as Dr. Todd represents, were to take us by the hand, and lead us up the steps of a great building, and, as we entered the porch, it should begin to grow dark. Suppose he should then open a door into a very large hall, which he called a “picture gallery.” As we enter, we find it dark as night; but as the angel touches a spring, light flashes in and fills the room. We now see that the walls are hung with pictures—so many and so large that they cover the walls. On these are painted all the sins that we have ever committed. What pictures of sins—open sins—secret sins—heart sins—lifelong sins! We cannot bear to look at them; they fill us with horror and anguish. That picture gallery becomes a judgment hall. Conviction of sin is there—contrition follows. And from contrition must spring confession and concision; for if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
“All powerful is the penitential sigh
Of true contrition; like the placid wreaths
Of incense, wafted from the righteous shrine
Where Abel ministered, to the blest seat
Of mercy, an accepted sacrifice.”
Anxiety! Exodus 6:5. A certain man, who had been listening to an awaking preacher during a season of revival, was heard to say with emphasis that he did not like the preachers of the present day, because “they make one feel so bad.” A representative of many sleeping in the chains of moral bondage, that human slave did not like to be reminded of his condition. Whilst the preacher dealt in beautiful things—dwelt upon the beauties of Nature and the bounties of Providence, all went well; but so soon as spiritual servitude was brought on the arena, the listener was made uneasy. Conscience, that witness in the soul which never dies, did its terrible duty—and the bondsman began to feel that he was verily guilty concerning his own fetters. He began to see that he was not the “freedman” which he had imagined himself in the spirit of self-delusion to be. That is the first dawn of conviction; but it is not full conviction. It may be stifled; and no groanings—no anxiety of soul—follow upon this first sensation. That emotion may be as the early dew—as the foam upon a billow—as the swift glance of a meteor—as the snow-flake on a river. It is the aim of the Christian ministry, says Exell, to awaken within men the desire for moral freedom, and that desire is the deepening of conviction—which anxiety ends in conversion, when a man enjoys the liberty of Christ. Therefore, the ambassador for Christ desires to “make men feel so bad”—to arouse them to the consciousness of their pitiable condition as bond-serfs of sin, in the hope of persuading them to embrace the Divine overtures of liberation from Satanic thraldom, and of leading them out of the Egyptian bondage into the Land of Freedom—the Gospel of free grace.
“The listening throng there feel its blessed effect,
And deep conviction glows in every breast.”
Covenant of Grace! Exodus 6:5. It is of long-standing—going back not merely to David, or Moses, or Abraham—but to Adam. And thus the New Covenant is a development of the Old. The seed of Adam in Genesis became the giant Tree of Life in Revelation—while the bud of Sinai appears in the full-blown flower of Sion. In the Law, this covenant of grace is buried as the coal deposit which miners only reach by piercing the various intervening strata—or as the pearls of great price which divers only secure by plunging through fathoms of water. In the Gospel, this covenant of grace lies open—as a casket of gems whose lustre dazzles the natural mind—or as a parterre of flowers whose fragrance charms the sense. The covenant of the Old Dispensation is as real—because it is the same—as that of the New Dispensation; only it was pavilioned round with clouds—wrapped in many a folded leaf. In the Law of the patriarchs, priests and prophets, this unique, merciful, and ancient covenant of grace was like the secret writing of which Stainforth speaks, and which is invisible to the reader till held before the flame, when it gives forth the precious truth for which the soul was longing. The Divine fire brings out the conditions of the covenant of grace as penned by God in invisible but indelible and imperishable ink upon the pages of the moral and spiritual history of Adam, Enoch, Noah, and others.
“Across the ages they
Have reached us from afar,
Than the bright gold more golden they,
Purer than the purest star.”
Heirs! Exodus 6:6. A pious man was one day walking to the sanctuary with a New Testament in his hand, when a friend who met him said Good morning, and enquired what he was reading so earnestly. “I am reading my Father’s Will,” was the prompt response; “and I find that He has bequeathed me an hundredfold in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.” The redeemed are the inheritors of the universe, 1 Corinthians 3:12 :—
“Rise, my soul! and stretch thy wings,
Thy better portion trace;
Rise from transitory things
Towards heaven thy native place.”
Experience! Exodus 6:6. The old saw declares that it teaches wisdom; while the French have a proverb that the ass does not stumble twice over the same stone. Sydney asserts that all is but lip-wisdom which wants experience. Caussin expresses himself that a hundred thousand tongues may discourse to a man about the sweetness of honey, but he never can have such knowledge of it as by taste. In spiritual things, experience is that sense of taste. Carlyle likens experience to a schoolmaster—an excellent schoolmaster, who charges dreadful wages. But suppose it is a costly education, only think of the future benefits. Solomon went through a peculiar experience of his own—an experience which many of us shudder at—a school in which we are reluctant to be trained: and this is the very man whom God chose as the schoolmaster to teach us the vanity of the world when it is made the portion of a soul. A smooth sea, so runs our English proverb, never made a skilful mariner. The young Christian sets sail under fair balmy breeze and clear sunny skies; but soon the clouds gather—the waves foam—the darkness deepens.
“And these vicissitudes tell best in youth;
For when they happen at a riper age,
People are apt to blame the fates forsooth,
And wonder Providence is not more sage.”
Why? Because one dram of experience is worth a whole hogshead of “dreams that wave before the half-shut eye”—for, as Dr. South says, practical sciences are not to be learned but in the way of action. It is experience that must give knowledge in the Christian profession as well as in all others. Alas! to most of us experience is like the stern-lights of a vessel which illumine only the track it has passed. God would have them to be the bow-lights—for adversity is the first path to truth.
Righteous Retribution! Exodus 6:7. God’s mills grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. And judgment comes at last, for forbearance has an end. Then these judgments often assume the form of retribution. It is recorded in ancient oriental history that an oppressor introduced a company of elephants into his army, whose appearance and power were expected to win the day. But the huge animals took fright when the opposing forces approached each other, turned tail, and, plunging amid their own ranks of infantry, spread dismay and defeat everywhere. Very similarly we are told that the old war chariots, whose wheels were armed with steel scythes to mow down the ranks of the enemy, instead of bringing destruction upon the opposite host, were not unfrequently dragged by the fiery, furious, frightened steeds into the lines of their friends, leaving a line of death behind them. Pharaoh’s oppressions are to recoil upon himself.
“In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice.”
Not so with God. His sun of justice may withdraw its beams from earthly notice for awhile; it may, as it were, sit concealed in a dark recess, pavilioned round with clouds. But it is coming. Dr. Thomas says that society is like the echoing hills—giving back to the speaker his words, groan for groan, song for song. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. God’s forbearance, says Brooks, is no quittance. He hath leaden heels but iron hands; and the further He stretches His bow, or draws His arrow, the deeper will He wound. Even Anne of Austria, the Queen of France, could express as much to her implacable enemy, Cardinal Richelieu, when she exclaimed: My Lord Cardinal, God is a sure paymaster; He may not pay at the end of every week, month or year, but remember that He does pay in the end. In all time,
“All circumstances, all state, in every clime,
He holds aloft the same avenging sword;
And sitting on His boundless throne sublime,
The vials of His wrath, with justice stored,
Shall in His own good hour on all that’s ill be poured.”
God’s Name! Exodus 6:3. Swinnock has it that travellers who are at the top of the Alps can see great showers of rain fall under them, but not one drop of it falls on them. They who trust in the name of Jehovah are in a high tower, and thereby safe from all troubles and showers. With such confidence in Him, their spiritual life is like the deep calm which prevails beneath, while above the waters are lashed into a foaming, boiling caldron. They which trust in the Lord shall be like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but which standeth fast for ever. A legend says that a rich and powerful king, troubled in heart in spite of all his possessions, went to a holy dervise and asked him for the secret of happiness. The dervise led him forth in front of a high rock, on the top of which an eagle had built her nest. Pointing to the lofty home of the king of birds, the aged recluse directed the monarch to imitate its wisdom by building on the rock of heavenly truth. And surely if a heathen could assure the terrified bird which flew from the hawk into his bosom for shelter that he would neither kill nor betray it, much less will God either slay or give up the soul that takes sanctuary in His name. The righteous runneth into this strong tower, and is safe.
“I all on earth forsake,
Its wisdom, fame, and power,
And Him my only portion make,
My shield and tower.”
Ministers! Exodus 6:6. Ministers must speak to the Church all that God reveals to them. When they feel it their duty faithfully to speak pointedly to sinners, and to expose the hypocrisy of professors, let them not be condemned, even though their words condemn you. The pastor is God’s Moses to you, and it is at the peril of his soul that he must preach what his Master bids him. Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel—i.e., the good news of pardon and salvation. But the bad news of guilt and damnation precede—indeed are wrapped up in—this proclamation of glad tidings of great joy. Moses must arouse Israel to sense of their bondage, before the clarion of jubilee could ring its silver tones full and clear. A minister, Dr. Boyd says, was once asked not to preach so hard; for if he did, certain persons would leave the church. “Is not the preaching true?” responded the man of God. “It is.” “And does not God bless it?” “He does.” “Well, then, the devil has sent you to me, to get me to let down the tone of my preaching, so as to ease the minds of the ungodly.” We must speak all that God reveals to us. As there were bells as well as pomegranates on Aaron’s robes, so must the ambassador not only speak words of peace, but sound the bell of alarm. There is a proverb which says that more flies are caught with sugar than vinegar; but it belongs to the proverbial philosophy of the three authors—the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. As God gives, so must His servants—the vinegar of the law first, and then the sweetness of the gospel. The Almighty thus
“Makes known His sacred will, and shows His power;
By Him inspired, they speak with urgent tongue
Authoritative, whilst the illumined breast Heaves with unwonted strength.”
Tuneful Tongues! Exodus 6:7. Philip Henry says that thanksgiving is the rent which the saints owe to God. And if Christ dwell in our hearts—dwell, we say, not sojourn—we shall always be glad to pay that rent. Our praises will go up, writes Guthrie, as the incense continually. It was the law of some of the old monasteries to carry out this idea of “incense continually floating upwards to heaven,” by having constant change of choir. The chanting of praise was thus never interrupted; for as soon as one set of monks had done their service others supplied their place, so that, as Pilkington expresses it, both by day and night an endless hallelujah went up to God. It is a tradition of St. Francis that on one occasion he felt himself so penetrated with joy and consolation by the song of a nightingale that he began to sing, whereupon the bird of music stopped its strains. When the monk ceased, Philomela renewed her joyous chant: and thus they sang alternately until St. Francis was exhausted. So ought the saints to rejoice with them that do rejoice, when they themselves have apparently no cause to rejoice in themselves. Time may stop—the world may stay—the universe may cease its cycles; but Christians ought not to stop their songs—never! never!
“He that to praise and laud Thee doth refrain,
Doth not refrain unto himself alone,
But robs a thousand who would praise Thee fain,
And doth commit a world of sin in one.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 6:9
PHYSICAL DESTITUTION STIFLING SPIRITUAL LIFE
This fact has long since passed away; but its lesson remains ever new. Its body is dead, and has returned to the dust; but its spirit survives immortal. God gave it a body in the actual history of the Hebrews that its meaning might become articulate to human ears. A permanent principle of our nature, and a distinctive feature of the Divine government are here embodied in an example.
I. The Fact which embodies the Principle.
1. The message addressed to Israel. “Moses so spake unto the Children of Israel” (Exodus 6:1-2.6.8). This message, in its substance and in its circumstances, was fitted to arrest the people’s attention and win their love. In that message, whether you regard its author, its bearer, or its nature, everything tended to entice; nothing to repel them. The time was also fitting, when their burdens were unbearable. Before the slave a pospect of liberty is opened; before the weary a prospect of rest. Will the drooping spirits of the multitude revive at this intelligence?
2. The neglect of the message. No; the promise, although it was rich and precious, stirred not the sluggish mass. It was a spark of fire that fell, but it fell on wetted wood, and kindled therefore no flame. “They hearkened not unto Moses.” Why? No people could be in deeper affliction, no kind message could be better authenticated. They neither denied the truth of the message, nor injured the person who bore it. When God’s great salvation was provided, the people neglected it. This the head and front of their offending. They said nothing against it, but they let it alone.
3. Examine the specific reason of their apathy. The cause of their indifference to liberty was the extreme severity of their bondage. They hearkened not “for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage.” Here is a paradox: the slavery excessively severe, and therefore the slave does not care for freedom. One would say, the force of the reason goes all the other way. We would rather expect that in proportion to the cruelty of the yoke would be the alacrity of the captives in rising at the Redeemer’s call. Had Pharaoh lavished kindness and luxury upon Joseph’s kindred, this might have been a reason why they treated with indifference the proffered method of escape. But because prosperity makes people callous to the voice of freedom, it does not follow that the extreme of adversity will put courage into their hearts. Extremes meet. Both great prosperity and great distress often crush every aspiration of freedom. Plenty extinguished the desire, and oppression the hope of freedom. Afterwards the same Hebrews shook off the iron yoke that had lain so long upon their bodies, and sunk so deeply into their souls. A door of hope was opened to them.
II. The principle embodied in the fact. The story of this ancient incident may seem to have no more affinity with modern character than the mummies which travellers dig from the tombs in Egypt have with the living men of to-day. Speaks to all.
1. The message. To us, as to them, it is a message of mercy. Specifically, it proclaims deliverance to the captive. God recognises all men as slaves, and sends an offer for freedom. Christ is the messenger of the covenant. A greater than Moses is here, publishing a greater salvation. We are redeemed from one master to serve another. “Let my people go that they may serve me.” He allures them into the wilderness, and abides with them there. The glory of the Lord goes before them during the journey, and settles on the mercy seat when they reach the promised land.
2. Such is the proposal, but it is not heeded. But few disbelieve or revile the messenger. They neglect him.
3. The reason of this neglect. Anguish and cruel bondage. Let us beware of mistake here. Both with them and us the true cause of the listlessness is the carnal mind. The evil is in the heart, but outward things become the occasions of specific disloyalties. Learn:—
(1.) The duty of Christ’s disciples to a careless neighbourhood. Abject poverty in these favoured exacts a heavy task from many. Bad dwellings. Hunger. Oppression. Their souls are soured to the bottom, and they care neither for God nor man. They are reckless. They are destitute of fear and of hope. They care not for the future. I am not palliating sin. A fact. What shall be done? Disciples of Christ should not give less attention to spiritual teaching, but more to the material well-being of fallen brothers.
(2.) The second lesson applies more directly to ourselves. Anguish of spirit, whether it comes from God’s hand in the form of personal affliction, or from man’s hand in the form of unjust oppression, may become the occasion of neglecting the salvation of Christ. We regard sorrow as a time of spiritual revival. Thanks to God, it often is. But the day of anguish is not the sinner’s best day for seeking the Saviour. Sorrow is not seed; it may conspire with other means to make the seed grow. Beware of neglecting your spiritual state while you are well. (Rev. W. Arnot.)
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 6:9. God’s faithful messengers do speak His will speedily and fully to whom God sends it.
Former discouragements from men must not hinder God’s ministers further to declare His will.
After all God’s promises and commands perverse spirits may refuse to hear or believe.
God’s message to people in such straits is to ease their pain and enlarge their spirits.
Sense of pain makes some souls unreasonable, even to reject their mercies.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Bondage Effects! Exodus 6:9. Every man has a right to freedom. Of all earth’s hapless ones we pity him the most who languishes is hopeless bondage until he has lost all note of time, and looks through the rayless eyes of idiocy upon any change that gleams through the despairs of his dungeon. Very near to this had Israel sunk. They had a right to be free, but long oppression had sunk them into hugging the chains that fettered them. They were slow to seize the offered boon of freedom—so slow that Pharaoh was emboldened to resist the demand of Moses and Aaron to give liberty to the slaves.
“Yet while he deems thee bound,
The links are shivered, and the prison walls
Vitality! Exodus 6:9. The sunbeam shines upon the entombed seed, and lo! a flower all beautiful with rainbow brightness—all fragrant with spicy perfumes rises from the grave. The same light will shine upon a rock, and leave it still a rock after a thousand years. Why? There was no life. The Spirit of God plants the germ of life in the softened soul, and the sunlight of the Saviour’s beaming countenance energizes. The rock remains unaffected by all the radiance of the Gospel until affliction pulverizes its hardness, and the Spirit implants the germ of life.
“We welcome clouds that bring the former rain,
Though they the present prospect blacken round,
And shade the beauties of the opening year,
That, by their stores enriched, the earth may yield,
A faithful summer and a plenteous crop.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 6:10-2.6.13
THE SUCCESSIVE SERVICES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
I. That the successive services of the Christian life are required notwithstanding the apparent failure of past efforts. (Exodus 6:10-2.6.11.) Moses and Aaron had so far failed to induce Pharaoh to release Israel. But the service did not terminate here. The commission of Moses is again renewed. Failure never does remove men from the obligation of a divinely-imposed task, but must only be regarded as an incentive to new courage and effort. If Christian service were to yield to transient failure, there would be little of it remaining in the world to-day. There is not a church but has, one time or other, been defeated in Christian enterprise. There is not an individual but has experienced the disappointment and grief of failure. It is the dark heritage of man in this life. How many nights have Christian workers spent in their boats, upon the waters, with outspread nets, and have caught nothing! Christ only can relieve our moral service from such disappointment. He alone can fill our empty nets.
1. This service must be continued by Moses and Aaron because the command of God has not yet been executed. Men can never leave moral service until the command of God has been completely fulfilled. His entire will must be accomplished. God has issued many commands in reference to those in the slavery of sin. Christian workers cannot regard their toil as ended till they are all fulfilled.
2. This service must be continued by Moses and Aaron because their duty has not been accomplished. Christian service is not merely a command, it is likewise a holy duty. It is an unchanging and imperative duty, and therefore admits of no cessation until it is entirely achieved. A sense of duty should be the great impulse of Christian work. It is your duty to seek the liberty of the slave.
3. This service must be continued by Moses and Aaron because the slaves must be freed. The Israelites must be liberated from the bondage of Pharaoh. God could achieve it by one blast of death which should send the tyrant and his hosts into the grave. This is not His method of working. He employs human instrumentality. That instrumentality must not stay its effort while the fetters of one slave are left unbroken. The Christian worker may not cease his toil while one sinner remains in the bondage of Satan. The entire freedom of humanity is the destiny of Christian effort. We find that Moses and Aaron were sent on exactly the same work as before. It is not the Divine plan to greatly vary the Christian service of men. When God calls a man to a particular work. He generally expects him to spend his life in its execution. Each man has his own sphere of labour, and it is best for him to remain in it. There is much waste of effort in the Church, because men are so restless and changeful in their toils. We need determination, concentration, and patience in our effort to free the slave. A nobler sphere for the energy of man cannot be found. Failure is no excuse for fickleness in Christian service.
II. That the successive services of the Christian life are more difficult in their requirements. The first injunction given to Moses was to call the elders of Israel together that he might communicate to them the Divine will in reference to their nation. Now he is told to go direct to Pharaoh. The language of the 12th verse shows that Moses regarded the service as increased in rigour.
1. This increased rigour of service is surprising. Moses had failed in the lower and easier realm of service. He had exhibited despairing temper. Israel had reproached him. He had reproached God. If, then, he was unequal to the smaller service, is it not surprising that he should be called to the greater? Must the scholar who has failed in the alphabet be put to the declensions of service.
2. This increased rigour of service is disheartening. It was to Moses. He knew the difficulties he had to encounter in reference to Israel. But he felt that greater would meet him now that he must go direct to Pharaoh. If men would regard things in a right light the greater service is in reality the easier. It gives a greater inspiration. It excites brighter hope. It brings diviner help. Failure ought not to occasion retrogression in Christian service, but advancement. Christian service is a progress even to the weak.
3. This increased rigour of service is a discipline. It would show Moses that he still retained the call and confidence of God. It had not been forfeited by his failure. It would test his moral energy for the work to which he was sent. It would be a prophecy of future hardship. The successive services of the Christian life are a heavenly discipline to our souls. Increased work has often made a bad workman into a good one. It has increased his responsibility. It has awakened him to reflection.
III. That the successive services of the Christian life sometimes awaken the expostulations of men. (Exodus 6:12.)
1. These expostulations make mention of natural infirmities. “Who am of uncircumcised lips.” Moses again pleads his unfitness for the task assigned to him. He has narrowed the mission down to his own ability for it. It is unnecessary that men should inform God of their natural impediments to religious service. He knows them. He is acquainted with those whom He sends on His errands, with their weakness and strength. If He calls, it is yours to obey.
2. These expostulations make mention of past difficulties and failure. “Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me.” When men do not want to undertake the service of God they will keep up arguments to excuse themselves. If one will not answer, they are soon ready with another. In this attempt the logical faculty of man exhibits wonderful acuteness and development. Man is a good logician in this court.
3. These expostulations are presumptuous. “And Moses spake before the Lord saying.” These expostulations were made to the Lord! Men, and especially Christian workers, ought to welcome the commands of God without question. He is all-powerful. He is all-wise. Before Him we ought to stand in awe and sin not. LESSONS:—
1. Not to shrink from the successive services of the Christian life.
2. To leave all the moral work of our life to the choice of God.
3. Not to imperil our welfare by expostulation with the providence of heaven.
4. To concentrate our energies patiently on one Christian enterprise.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 6:10-2.6.11. God sometimes joineth harder work to the discouragement which his ministers have from men.
When Israel heareth not, God will have his ambassadors go unto Pharaoh, from friends to enemies.
God will have his messages delivered to the proudest kings that dare oppose Him.
Though powers oppress God’s Church, He makes them know that they will have to give it freedom.
Exodus 6:12. Infirmity of faith may cause God’s best servants to plead excuse from hard work.
The refusal of the Church to hear and believe God’s message is a remarkable evil.
Israel’s unbelief may make God’s ministers fear that strangers will much more refuse His will.
Powers and wickedness together make the greater obstruction against hearing God’s word.
Weakness in ministers for speaking, may discourage them from speaking to powers beneath.
Good men are apt to forget that God circumciseth lips, and gives a tongue, to do his message.
Exodus 6:13. Excuses will not serve God’s instruments, for God will have His work done.
God joins instruments under His charge to encourage unto His commands.
Redemption of God’s Church from bondage is the end of all his revealed will.
The recapitulation of moral service:
1. To those called to work.
2. With clearness.
3. With authority.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Working for God! Exodus 6:10. Moses had looked upon the work as hard, but when his eyes were opened to perceive what a privilege it was as work for God, then he not only went to it with resolute mind, but with a merry heart. Christian service is hard for flesh and blood, but as work for God it becomes light. There is the story of a witty American who, after his men had been working all day building a house, asked them, when they were extremely exhausted with their labour, to come and play a game of digging the cellar. Readily they went; but if they had looked at it as hard work they would very likely have directed their steps homeward. So with labour for Jesus. Look not at it in the light of hard work, but look at it as a delightful thing—as a privilege to be allowed to do it. The work will be diminished of its toil.
“And Truth and Love, with their beauty and might,
Shall banish the sombre-hued shadows of night.”
God’s Ways! Exodus 6:11. Though all the ways of God are ways of light, yet many of them, says Caryl, are in the dark to man. Oh! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.
“Reason’s brightest spark,
Though kindled by His light, in vain would try
To trace His counsels infinite and dark.”
But faith understands that they are counsels of love—ways of wisdom. As Dr. Krummacher has expressed himself, God’s dealings with His people are easily discernible with the eye of faith. He often lets His people reach the shore as on the planks of a shipwrecked vessel. He deprives us of the cisterns, in order to make us drink of the fountains of waters. He frequently takes away our supports, not that we may fall to the ground, but that He may Himself become our staff and rod. The embarrassments of His people are only the festive scaffoldings on which His might, faithfulness, and mercy celebrate their triumphs. To this God was bringing Moses and Israel. Moses was hoping partly in the enthusiasm of Israel—in the awakening of their feelings of patriotism and natural love of liberty. He is soon undeceived: soon taught to repose wholly in God. And yet the way of teaching was contrary to all human ideas, and appears wrong; just as when we put a straight stick into the water, it appears crooked. Why? Because man looks at God’s ways through two media—flesh and spirit.
Church’s Redemption! Exodus 6:11. On this principle, says Wylie, we firmly look for the Providence of God culminating in a grand and universal deliverance of the Church. Like some mighty Alp—some monarch of mountains—which keeps in the traveller’s eye after every surrounding hill has sunk beneath the horizon, this deliverance will be seen above the Church’s horizon through all coming time. Every one of her former deliverances from Pharaoh downwards was a step towards this final deliverance. The Truth will continue in her from age to age; and as the night cannot return while the light of the sun continues, so the darkness of slavery and error cannot be felt while Truth, like a never-setting sun, shines within her and around her. This will be the great Exodus of the Church. And when on this day she ransoms her marshalled host, and begins her mighty song, she will find that her members are escaped serfs from every land on earth, and that her triumphal hymn is pealed forth by every tongue and kindred.
“Hallelujah! like the voice
Of the mighty thunder-roar;
Hallelujah! for the Lord
Reigneth now from shore to shore.”
Exodus 6:14. The heads of their fathers’ houses] It is obvious that Exodus 6:13-2.6.30 form a distinct section: indeed Exodus 6:30 resumes the very words of Exodus 6:13. The interjected portion might seem to interrupt the flow of the narrative; but on closer examination the conclusion that it could ill be spared is easily arrived at, since the genealogy given relates directly to the leading actors who are coming on the scene. The houses of Reuben and Simeon are given for the sake of introducing Levi; and Levi and his house are brought forward mainly for sake of exhibiting the tribal and family connections of Moses and Aaron. Note, accordingly, the climax attained in Exodus 6:26-2.6.27; and the return, then, to the point departed from at Exodus 6:13.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 6:14-2.6.30
THE GENEALOGY OF THE CHURCH
I. That it was, humanly speaking, of very unpretentious origin. The human origin of the Church was very humble. It was not born of kings. It was not the conquest of a renowned warrior. It was not the discovery of a bold adventurer. Its primitive social position was poor. Its numbers were few. Its ancestors were men of moral greatness. They were eminent for faith. Instance Abraham. These men are now the rulers of the world The few in the days of the old patriarch have multiplied as the stars of heaven.
II. That it was, morally speaking, of a very miscellaneous character. We have names in this list of very varied moral worth. Some noted for their piety, others remarkable for their profanity. At this time the Church was almost co-extensive with the Jewish nation. Nominally there was no line of separation. The religion was one of ceremony, and in this all the people could join. There were a few great and good souls who obtained a deeper insight into moral truth, and whose lives were rendered beautiful and powerful by an anticipation of some all-sufficient sacrifice in the future ages. But these were the exception. The spirit of the common multitude was confined within the conventional system of their grand worship. The Church has now a mixed genealogy. All down through the ages the tares and wheat have been growing together, and they will do so until the harvest, which is the end of the world. The miscellaneous character of the Church is accounted for:—
1. By the diversified temperaments of men.
2. By the diversified thinkings of men.
3. By the diversified character of men.
4. By the diversified alliances of men.
III. That it was, socially speaking, of very great influence.
1. It had a great political influence. The Jewish nation was for a long time a theocracy. God was its king. Heaven was its parliament. The priests were of supreme influence in the nation. The community was eminently religious in idea and sentiment. Hence from the names here recorded there comes out a great stream of social, moral, and political influence upon humanity to-day.
A PANORAMIC GLANCE AT HISTORY
I. We see the mass of lives that are crowded into a brief era. We have here a great mass of names, each representing a distinct life of peculiar type and condition; they are all heaped together in ten or fifteen verses. They all lived within a comparatively brief period. The world is crowded with life. The ages are crowded with men. They soon empty their contents into eternity.
II. We see how the minute details of individual life are lost in the aggregate of history. There is very little recorded of the many lives that are here mentioned. In a few ages after death, the lives of men diminish into a mere name. The heroes’ battles are forgotten. The remembrance of our great calamities is no more. The life of the greatest King is summed up into a sentence on the page of the world’s history.
III. We see the great effort of life to culminate in, and give prominence to, the birth of its heroes and emancipators. The whole of these lives were preparatory to the lives of Moses and Aaron. All before them were introductory. There is a gradual process in life. Life is ever trying to find emphatic expression in the conduct of the good. History makes this apparent.
IV. We see here that individual lives derive their greatness from the call of God to service, rather than from social considerations.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 6:14. Sacred genealogy is made by God’s spirit to make clear the line of His Church.
Natural primogeniture may be allowed to such to whom the spiritual may be denied.
The multitude of the churches seed did arise from small beginnings.
Exodus 6:15. Order in genealogy is useful to give right understanding of the line of the Church.
Heads of families in the Church have been too prone to mingle themselves in strange marriages.
Exodus 6:16. The line of Levi is remarkable by God’s spirit. A poor stock may yield noble instruments for the salvation of the Church.
The fathers who lived long saw not all the promises fulfilled.
Exodus 6:17-2.6.19. Gradually God increaseth His Church. Third generations under God may add much more seed unto His Church.
Exodus 6:20. Incestuous marriages are not good, though by God sometimes passed over.
God can bring out His instruments and work from the sins of men.
Exodus 6:20-2.6.25. From generation to generation God continueth the succession of His Church.
God hath various ends in recording the good and bad in the genealogy of His Church.
Exodus 6:26-2.6.27. God would have His Church know the instruments, whom He calleth, though of low descent.
God’s commission maketh poorest instruments eminent for greatest deliverance of His people.
It is God’s work to make shepherds lead armies.
God entitles His poorest instruments to honour, even to face kings at His pleasure.
God honours His weak instruments to deliver His Church out of the hands of kings.
In God’s record, and at His pleasure, the poorest names are made eminent.
Exodus 6:28-2.6.30. In the day of instruments drawing back, God repeats His charge to quicken them.
Place as well as time for duty God orders in His charge.
The name of Jehovah carrieth enough in it to support His ministers.
Weakness of faith puts God’s servants sometimes upon their shifts to brave His work.
Bodily infirmities may discourage the minds of God’s servants from their work.
It is weakness to urge infirmities against God’s charge, who can heal them.
THE MINISTER TO DECLARE THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD
“Speak thou unto Pharaoh, king of Egypt, all that I say unto thee.” Ministers must declare the whole counsel of God:—
I. Notwithstanding the unwillingness of the people to hear it. Pharaoh would be displeased with the message that Moses delivered. It would excite his royal anger. Yet it must not be withheld. Prudence must be respected. Courage must be sought.
II. Notwithstanding the social position of those who hear it. Moses was to deliver his message to the king of Egypt. Wealth, fear of man, wish for fame, must not deter us from proclaiming the entire counsel of God.
1. I am slow of tongue.
2. I am low in purse.
3. I am feeble in energy.
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Growth! Exodus 6:14. Earth and sea and sky furnish illustrations of the growth of Christianity.
1. Earth! Go forth by day, and count if you can the blades of grass on the Surface of the field, their bristling spears flashing back the gleam of heaven’s sunshine like swords of steel; converts to God are green in the city as grass upon the earth.
2. Sea! How do the waters cover the sea? Do they not flow into its most profound caverns and secret recesses? And so the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
3. Sky! Go forth by night, and gaze upon the jewelled heavens, whose diamond pointless are thickly set on the purple-hued ring that wreathes Jehovah’s finger! Attempt to enumerate those constellations rising tier above tier—vast beyond the utmost stretch of imagination! Even these are made witnesses to us of the growth and numbers of the Church of Christ, who are to become as innumerable and glorious as the stars in the everlasting firmament.
“Yes! countless as the stars of heaven,
Or as the early dew,
And entering the eternal halls,
In robes of victory,
That mighty multitude shall keep,
The joyous Jubilee.
Church! Exodus 6:14. Very humble was the origin of the Church, whether we look at “the father of the faithful”—or at the “founder of the faith.” Abraham was a cipher till God put the figure one before him: Jesus was the child of a village maiden, till the Spirit of the Lord anointed Him; while the fishermen of Galilee were ignorant and unlettered. But how great has been the influence of the Church, which humanly speaking was of very unpretentious origin! Humble as is the sand-reed which grows on the sandy shores of Europe, how great is its influence! Its roots penetrate to a considerable depth, and spread in all directions, writes Hartwig, forming a network which binds together the loosest sands; while its strong, tall leaves protect the surface from draught, and afford shelter to small plants, which soon grow between the reeds, and gradually form a new green surface on the bed of sand. But for this sand-reed, the sea wind would long since have wafted the drift far into the interior of the country—converting many a fruitful acre of England and France into a waste. Lowly as is the origin of the Christian Church, vast have been its influences in preserving society, humanity, and morals from desert draught and wilderness waste. Its roots have penetrated deep, and spread far and wide into the civilization of every country; and in the great blast of Satanic wind which soon will endeavour to engulf the human race beneath the drift-sand of infidelity and godlessness, the Church will evidence how wondrously extensive her influence is.
“Nations shall seek her pillar’d shade,
Her leaves shall for their healing be;
The circling flood that feeds her life,
The blood that crimson’d Calvary.”
Genealogies! Exodus 6:14. Dr. Hamilton likens these to rugged cliffs, which claim more than a sterile grandeur. Bleak and barren though they seem, there is a well-spring at their foot. It is from these dreary crags that the fountain of Christ’s manhood takes its rise. And as you follow the stream from Ur of the Chaldees to the manger of Bethlehem, you find how faithful the promises—and how watchful the Providence which through all the eventful centuries kept afloat and guided on the ark of the advent.
“For that wondrous Ark
Lived in the safeguard of Jehovah’s eye;
His power secured it, and his wisdom guides.”
Generations! Exodus 6:20. This successive flow and swell of the Church in her generations has been likened by Miss Cobbe to the Nile. Doubtless if we could stand—as so many brave hearts have striven to do—beside the fountain of the Nile, it would be hard to think that little trickling stream was actually the same as the great river of Egypt; and that it should grow and swell deeper and stronger, receiving the floods of heaven and the tributes of earth, till at last it rolls in resistless seas of water, bearing fertility and blessing over the land. Were a being from some far stellar world—unfamiliar with Nature’s growth—to find his way to earth, how hard would it be for that visitant to realise that from the acorn which you held in your hand there had sprung that giant oak with its gnarled trunk of a thousand circles, ten thousand boughs and million-tongued leaves, amid which the birds carolled their notes, and beneath whose extensive shade man and beast found shelter and repose. So with the Church. But before ONE EYE, both river, tree, and church were self-evident Jehovah sees them all mapped out from their source and entrance in weakness to their summit and end in power. The successive generations of the Church are all part of one mighty plan, which has its climax of loftiness and acme of perfection in that majestic benediction rising on the bosom of the universe of eternity, and reflecting on its ever-swelling surface the infinite glory of Jehovah, who says, I am the LORD.
“Let us then rejoice and sing;
’Tis the marriage of the Lamb;
And the Bride is ready; raise—
Raise the everlasting Psalm.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent