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THE DESPONDENCY OF ISRAEL
Exodus 6:9. And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
“AS face answers to face in a glass, so does the heart of man to man.” We are apt, indeed, to imagine that the Jews were a people of more than ordinary depravity: but it is found that mankind almost universally act precisely as they did, under similar circumstances. We have here a remarkable instance of despondency. The Hebrews had been long groaning under a most cruel oppression: and God had sent his servant, Moses, to deliver them from it. But the effect of his interposition hitherto had been only to augment their troubles. Of this they had bitterly complained, as indeed had Moses himself also: and now, for their comfort, God sent them by Moses a most consolatory message, assuring them, that, however gloomy their prospects might appear to be, a most perfect deliverance was at hand. But they, we are told, “hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.”
Let us consider,
Their conduct on this occasion—
The testimony of Moses was in every respect worthy of credit—
[He had wrought before the people the miracles which God had commissioned him to work, in confirmation of his divine mission [Note: Exodus 4:30.]: and hitherto, if he had not yet succeeded in his embassy, he had executed his office with fidelity and courage. It might be supposed, indeed, that if Moses himself had fainted under the discouragement which they had experienced, much more might they. But, on the other hand, if God had renewed his commission to Moses, and expressly authorized him to assure them of a speedy and certain deliverance, so that his mind was left without any doubt of ultimate success, they might well receive his testimony, and rest upon it with composure.]
Nor could any thing be conceived more suited to their necessities—
[They were under the most “cruel bondage.” But Moses declared, that God had entered into covenant with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to deliver them: that he had confirmed this covenant with an oath: that, from compassion to them, he was about to fulfil the engagements he had entered into: that he not only would deliver them from their sore bondage, but would, by the judgments which he would inflict on Pharaoh, make him more anxious to rid himself of them than ever he had been to detain them; and would constrain him, in fact, to “drive them out from his land.” He further declared, that God would bring them safely into Canaan, wherein their forefathers had sojourned as pilgrims and strangers, and give it them for their inheritance; and would “take them to him as his peculiar people, and be unto them a God,” yea, and “their God.”
In reporting to them these “great and precious promises,” he was careful particularly to make known to them the grounds on which they might be received with the most implicit affiance; for that God had repeatedly pledged his power and veracity for the performance of them. Thrice had God renewed that solemn declaration, “I am Jehovah,” the eternal, self-existent, and immutable Jehovah: and, times almost without number, he had undertaken to execute, with his own irresistible arm, the whole that he had promised: “I will bring you out; I will rid you I will redeem you; I will bring you into the land; I will give it you; I will take you to me for a people, and I will be your God [Note: –8.].”]
Yet would not the people receive, or even “hearken to,” his words—
[Their minds were so wholly occupied with their present troubles, that they could think of nothing else: they were altogether overwhelmed with “anguish of spirit:” and so utterly did they despair of relief, that they desired to be left to live and die under their present servitude, rather than run the risk of augmenting their afflictions by any further application to Pharaoh in their behalf [Note: Genesis 14:11-1.14.12.].]
Without dwelling any longer on their conduct, I beg leave to call your attention to,
The instruction to be derived from it—
We may notice from hence,
The weakness of the human mind—
[It has been justly said, that “oppression will make a wise man mad [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:7.]:” and the common experience of all is, that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick [Note: Proverbs 13:12.].” In my text, we see both the one and the other strongly exemplified. And, in truth, where afflictions are great and of long continuance, the mind of every man is apt to faint: nor can any thing but divine grace adequately sustain it. Even David, when hunted by Saul as a partridge upon the mountains, forgat for a season the power and fidelity of his Protector, and in a fit of despondency exclaimed, “I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul.” So, under various circumstances, the Church of old complained, “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God:” yea, “the Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.” Sometimes her despair has been so entire, that she has even made the justice of it a ground of appeal both to God and man: “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?” But this experience, in whomsoever it be found, is decidedly contrary to the mind and will of God. We are never to limit the power of God, or to doubt his veracity. We are not to suppose, that, because we see not how deliverance can come, God is at any loss for means whereby to effect it. It is well to “have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we may not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead,” and has promised to “judge his people and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and that there is none shut up or left [Note: Deuteronomy 32:36.].”]
The proper office of faith—
[Faith is to look, above all created things, to God; and to realize, under every dispensation, the presence of him that is invisible. It is to lay hold on God’s word, and to rest upon it, and to expect its accomplishment, in defiance of men or devils. It is to hope, even “against hope.” Its legitimate exercise may be seen in Abraham, when he was commanded to offer up his son: “I have no fear but that God will fulfil his promise in Isaac: even though I should reduce him to ashes upon an altar, God can raise him up again, yea, and will raise him up again, rather than suffer one jot or tittle of his word to fail.” “Being strong in faith, and giving glory to God,” he both formed, and acted upon, this assured expectation: and in proportion to the strength of our faith will be our confidence in God, even under the most discouraging circumstances. We shall say, “Though the fig-tree should not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation [Note: Habakkuk 3:17-35.3.18.].”
Had Israel on this occasion been able to confide in God, how sweetly composed had their minds been in the midst of all their troubles! Let us learn to exercise this grace of faith, and under the darkest dispensations to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”]
The excellency of the Gospel dispensation—
[What Moses said to Israel, we are authorized and commissioned to declare to you. You are under a bondage far more cruel than that which Israel experienced: but in the name of Almighty God we come to you, and proclaim, that he has entered into covenant with his Son for your redemption; that he has confirmed that covenant with an oath; that he will bring you out from the power of sin and Satan, and conduct you in safely to the heavenly Canaan. For the fulfilment of all this he pledges to you his word, saying, in relation to every part of the work, ‘I, the immutable Jehovah, will do it for you: I will work; and who shall hinder?’ Only believe in him: believe that “what he has promised he is able also to perform.” You have seen what he did for Israel, notwithstanding their unbelief: what then shall he not do for you, if you will truly believe in Christ as your appointed Saviour? He will not only bring you forth out of the land of your captivity, but will preserve you throughout the whole of this dreary wilderness, and introduce you finally to the full possession of your glorious inheritance. Yes, Brethren, these things we declare unto you in the name of Almighty God: and if, with Caleb and Joshua, you will “follow the Lord fully,” like them you shall have your portion assuredly in the realms of bliss.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 6". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany