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PHARAOH’S ELEVATION TO THE THRONE OF EGYPT
Exodus 9:16. In very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
IT is justly said, in reference to evidence, that it is strong in proportion as it arises out of incidental points, which had no necessary connexion with the fact to be established. The same I may say in relation to the doctrines of our holy religion, especially those doctrines which are most controverted, and most stand in need of evidence for their support. Of this kind is the doctrine of election; which, being extremely opposed to the pride of human nature, meets with strong opposition from the carnal mind. I am far from saying that that doctrine is not extremely objectionable, if viewed as its adversaries, and not a few of its advocates also, are wont to state it; but, if viewed in its true light, and as the Scriptures themselves state it, I conceive that it cannot reasonably be doubted.
In the passage before us, there was no particular intention to establish that doctrine. Moses had laboured in vain to induce Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go to worship Jehovah in the wilderness. He had, as God’s appointed instrument, inflicted many plagues on the land of Egypt, and removed them again by his intercessions; and yet neither by the judgments nor the mercies had he prevailed on Pharaoh, who still continued to harden his heart against God. He now assumed a bolder tone; and declared, that not only should the Egyptians be smitten with pestilence, but that Pharaoh himself also “should be cut off from the earth,” for his obstinate resistance to God’s express commands. And then he delivers to him, from God himself, this awful declaration: “In very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”
This declaration it is my intention, in the present discourse,
God here asserts, that he had raised up Pharaoh for a special purpose, with which his own glory was intimately connected. He had determined to bring forth his people from Egypt, in such a way as should display most remarkably his own power, and should bring glory to his name throughout all the earth. Some, by the expression “raised up,” understand restoring him to health from the disorder inflicted on him in common with his people and the magicians. But it does not appear that Pharaoh had been visited with that disorder: and the threatening in the verse before our text, “I will smite thee,” rather seems to shew, that he had not yet been smitten in his own person: but, whether we understand the words as relating to his elevation to the throne, or to a restoration to health, the main object of the declaration will be the same; namely, that God, knowing what would assuredly be the result of a further trial of his obedience, had determined so to try him, in order that by the issue of the contest God’s glory might be displayed throughout all the earth.
The substance of the declaration, then, may be considered as expressing the following truths—
That God allots to every man his station in life—
[Nothing can be more clear, than that the time and place of every man’s entrance into life is fixed by God. That we are born in this age and country has in no respect depended on ourselves: we might as well, if God had so ordained, been born of Heathen or Mahometan parents, or never have been permitted to see the light, and perished in our mother’s womb. We might have been brought into the world from parents either of the highest or lowest rank, and been doomed to occupy a place in society widely different from that which we at present fill. All this was true of Pharaoh, and it is equally true of every child of man. “Our times are in God’s hands [Note: Psalms 31:15.],” and “he determines the bounds of our habitation [Note: Acts 17:26.].”]
That he foreknows how every man will act in the situation to which he is called—
[He foresaw infallibly how Pharaoh would act in resisting all the means that should be used to bring him to a compliance with the divine command. Nor is there any thing hid from his all-seeing eye: if there were, it would be impossible for him to foretell, as he has done by his Prophets, the minutest circumstances that could occur, and at the distance of many hundred years. The prophecies relating to the death of our blessed Lord specify what should be said, as well as done, by persons who were least of all aware that they were fulfilling any prediction, and who would rather, if it had been possible, have prevented its accomplishment. We may be sure, therefore, that that testimony respecting him is true, “Known unto him are all things, from the beginning of the world [Note: Acts 15:18.].”]
That, whilst he leaves to every man the free exercise of his will, he overrules the actions of all for the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes—
[God, as we have observed, had decreed to magnify himself in his mode of bringing forth his people from Egypt. But, in order to this, it was necessary that his will should be opposed, and that occasion should be given for the executing of his judgments upon the oppressors of his people. He knew what Pharaoh would do under such circumstances: and he both preserved him in life, and elevated him to the throne, that he might have an opportunity of manifesting what was in his heart, and be able to carry into effect the dictates of his own depravity. In all that he did, he was perfectly a free agent: for though it is said, that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” he did so, not by infusing any evil principle into him, but by giving him up to the impulse of his own inveterate corruptions. God foresaw how those corruptions would operate, and that they would lead to the accomplishment of his own eternal purpose: and he needed only to leave Pharaoh to the dictates of his own mind, to secure the final execution of all that he himself had ordained. God had determined every thing respecting the crucifixion of our blessed Lord: but he needed not to inspire the Jewish rulers with envy, or the Roman governor with timidity, or Judas with covetousness, or the populace with cruelty: it was sufficient to give them up respectively to the dominion of their own lusts; and they all infallibly concurred to “do what his hand and his counsel had determined before to be done [Note: Acts 4:28.].” It is precisely in the same way that we are to account for all that is done, whether it be good or evil; except that, in the effecting of what is good, he puts the desire to effect it into the heart of the agent, whilst in the perpetration of evil he merely gives up the person to the influence of his own lusts. In either case, the agent is perfectly free, and follows what is the bent of his own heart: only, in the one case, the heart is renewed, and in the other it is left under the power of its own depravity. Josiah and Cyrus both fulfilled the counsels of Heaven; the one by burning men’s bones on the altar which Jeroboam had raised, and the other by liberating the Jews from Babylon. Both these events were foretold hundreds of years before they came to pass; and the very names of the agents were declared hundreds of years before any persons of their name were known in the world. Sennacherib also fulfilled the will of Heaven, in punishing God’s offending people: “Howbeit he meant not so, neither did his heart think so; it was in his heart only to aggrandize himself at the expense of other nations [Note: Isaiah 10:7.].” But God, by all, accomplished “the counsel of his own will [Note: Eph 1:11]:” and in all things “shall his counsel stand, and he will do all his will [Note: Isaiah 46:10.].”]
That by all, whatever their conduct be, he will eventually be glorified—
[That God will be glorified in the obedience of the righteous, is a truth which needs not to be confirmed: whatever they do, it is “to the praise of the glory of his grace:” and at the last day the Lord Jesus will come “to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.” But will he be glorified in the ungodly also? Yes. He declared that he would “get himself honour upon Pharaoh and all his hosts [Note: Exodus 14:17.]:” and this he did by overwhelming them in the sea: and so he will do, also, in the destruction of the wicked, at the last day: he will then make known the inflexibility of his justice, and “the power of his wrath:” and the whole universe shall be constrained to say, “Even so. Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments [Note: Revelation 16:6-66.16.7; Revelation 19:2.].”]
Having thus explained the declaration in my text, I proceed,
To improve it—
All Scripture is said to be “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,” or, in other words, for the establishment of sound doctrine, and for the enforcing of a holy practice. For these two ends I will endeavour to improve the subject before us. And,
For the establishment of sound doctrine—
[The doctrine which I hinted at, in the commencement of this discourse, is strongly insisted on by the Apostle Paul; and the words of my text are adduced by him in confirmation of his statement. He is shewing that God, in the exercise of his mercy to the Jewish nation, had acted altogether in a way of grace, according to his own sovereign will and pleasure: that he had entailed his blessings on Isaac and his seed, instead of imparting them to Ishmael and his posterity; and, in like manner, had again limited them to Jacob, the younger son of Isaac, and withheld them from Esau, the elder son. This had God done “in order that his purpose according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that called.” Then, knowing that the proud heart of man would rise against this doctrine, and accuse it as “imputing unrighteousness to God,” he further confirms his statement by express declarations of God to Moses: “He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion:” and from thence he draws this conclusion; “So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” To this declaration he adds another of a similar tendency, addressed to Pharaoh, even the very words of my text: “For this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth:” from which words he draws again this remarkable conclusion; “Therefore hath God mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will, he hardeneth [Note: Romans 9:7-45.9.18.].”
Now here the doctrine of election is stated in the strongest and most unequivocal terms. But let not any one imagine that the doctrine of reprobation is therefore true. God has not said in my text, “I have brought thee into the world on purpose to damn thee, and to get glory to myself in thine everlasting destruction:” no, there is no such assertion as that in all the Holy Scriptures. There is, in the Epistle of St. Peter, an expression which in sound has that aspect; but, when properly explained, it has no such meaning. It is said by him, “These stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed [Note: 1 Peter 2:8.].” But to what were they appointed?—to disobedience? No: but to make that word, which they would not obey, an occasion of falling. God has ordained, that “they who will do his will, shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God [Note: John 7:17.]:” but that those who will not do his will, shall stumble at his word, and find the Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed in it, “a rock of offence, yea, a gin also and a snare [Note: Isaiah 8:14-23.8.15, compared with the fore-cited passage from St. Peter.].” This will throw the true light upon our text: God did not bring Pharaoh into the world on purpose to destroy him: but, foreseeing the inveterate pride and obstinacy of his heart, he raised him to the throne, where he would hare an opportunity of displaying with effect those malignant dispositions, and would thereby give occasion for God to glorify himself, in an extraordinary display of his justice and his power, in the punishment of sin.
Here, then, we see the electing grace of God. God chose Moses, who had been in rank and authority the second person in the kingdom of Egypt, to be the deliverer of his people. Moses, when called to the work, declined it again and again; and might well have been left to reap the bitter fruit of his folly. But God, by his Spirit, overcame his reluctance, and upheld him in the performance of his duty. To Pharaoh he gave not this grace; but left him to the power of his own lusts. In making this distinction, God did no injury to Pharaoh. Neither Pharaoh nor Moses had any claim upon God. If, when Moses declined the honour which was offered him, God had transferred that honour to Pharaoh, and given up Moses to the evil of his own heart, he would have done no injury to Moses: Moses would have brought the punishment upon himself, by his own wickedness: and God had a right to bestow his grace on whomsoever he pleased: and consequently, in leaving Pharaoh to harden his own heart and to perish m his sins, whilst he shewed mercy to Moses, and made him an honoured instrument of good to the Jewish nation, God did no injury to Pharaoh or to any one else: in the exercise of mercy, he acted as an Almighty Sovereign; and in the exercise of judgment, he acted as a righteous Judge, in perfect consistency with justice and with equity. We see at all events the fact, that “God did, after much long-suffering, make known on one his wrath, as on a vessel of wrath that had fitted itself for destruction;” and that toward another “he made known the riches of his glory, as on a vessel of mercy which he himself had prepared unto glory [Note: Romans 9:22-45.9.23. See the Greek.].” The exercise of his mercy was gratuitous and without desert; but the exercise of his displeasure was merited and judicial.
Now what is there here to be offended with? The fact is undeniable: and, if God was at liberty to exercise his sovereignty in such a way then, he is at liberty to do it still: and if he may justly do it in any case, as that of Ishmael and Isaac, or of Esau and Jacob, or of Pharaoh and Moses, he may with equal justice do it in every case. Let us, then, not ignorantly and proudly deny to him a right, which all of us claim for ourselves—even that of dispensing our favours to whom we will. If no one has a claim on him, no one has a right to complain if a favour which he despises is withheld from him: on the other hand, the person on whom that special favour is conferred, must to all eternity adore the sovereign grace that has dispensed it to him.]
For the enforcement of a holy practice—
[All of us, whether high or low, rich or poor, are in the station, which God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, has allotted to us. The rich therefore have no reason to boast; nor have the poor any reason to repine. The different members of our own body have not all the same office: but God has “placed each member in the body, as it has pleased him;” and for purposes which each is destined to accomplish. One great duty is common to us all; namely, that of discharging to the utmost of our power our respective offices, and of bringing to God that measure of glory of which he has made us capable. God is, in reality, as much glorified in the submission of the poor, as in the activity of the rich. The eye, and the foot, equally subserve the interests of the body, whilst discharging their respective functions; and equally display the goodness of our Creator, in so administering to our wants. Let us then simply inquire, what that service is which we are most fitted by capacity and situation to perform; and let us address ourselves to it with all diligence. If placed, like Pharaoh, in a post of great dignity and power, let us improve our influence for God, and account it our honour and happiness to advance his glory. If called, like Moses, to labour for the deliverance of God’s people from their spiritual bondage, let us execute our office with fidelity, and never rest till we have “finished the work which God has given us to do [Note: If there were occasion to speak more fully to Ministers, here the subject might be amplified to advantage.].” Thus shall we acceptably fulfil the ends of our creation; and God will be glorified in us, both in time and in eternity.]
THE DANGER OF DISREGARDING THE WORD OF GOD
Exodus 9:20-2.9.21. He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh, made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: and he that regarded not the word of the Lord, left his servants and his cattle in the field.
THE word of God in every age has met with a very different reception from different people: from the antediluvian scoffers to the present moment, the generality have deemed it unworthy of their attention, while a few have regarded it with reverence and godly fear. Never had any declaration a better title to belief than that to which the text alludes: Moses had already, in the space of a few days, foretold many judgments, which were instantly inflicted or removed according to his predictions; and since they had not been effectual to subdue the stubborn heart of Pharaoh, he announced the determination of God to send another judgment on the land of Egypt, even a storm of hail and lightning, which should destroy every man and beast that should be exposed to its fury. There were many however who despised the threatening, and disdained to send their servants and cattle to a place of shelter: but others, who had profited by past experience, used with eagerness the precaution suggested to them—
From this circumstance we are led to shew,
How a regard for God’s word will influence men here—
In all temporal concerns men are affected by any report in proportion to its credibility and importance—
[If they hear of any great good that is placed within their reach, they feel a desire after it springing up in their minds: if there be some considerable probability of their attaining it, their hopes are excited, and their endeavours multiplied in order to secure it. If the possession of it appear near and certain, they already congratulate themselves on the expected acquisition, though not without a mixture of anxious suspense. On the other hand, do they hear of any great evil that may come upon them? they begin to be disquieted: does it approach nearer and nearer? they think how they may avoid it, and use every precaution that prudence can suggest: does it appear imminent and almost unavoidable? their fears and anxieties are proportionably increased. Nor are these effects peculiar to any times, places, or persons: they will be found on examination to be invariable and universal.]
Thus it must also of necessity be with respect to men’s spiritual concerns, in proportion as what God has spoken concerning them is believed and felt—
[Suppose a person to be thoroughly persuaded that, “except he recent he must eternally perish;” that, “except he be born again of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven;” and that, “he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life;” what effect must such momentous truths produce upon his mind? Must he not of necessity begin to inquire into the meaning of these expressions, and feel a solicitude to have these questions satisfactorily determined: ‘Am I a real penitent? Am I born again? Have I the Son of God?’ If he doubt the truth of these things, and think they may be taken in a lower sense, he will of course be less concerned to attain the experience of them; or, if other things appear to him of superior importance, he will attend to those things in preference. But let him have that faith which gives a present subsistence to things future, and a demonstrable reality to things invisible [Note: Heb 11:1 in the Greek.], and it will be impossible for him to trifle with such solemn declarations. It is true, he may sin against the convictions of conscience; but if he continue so to do, it is evident that his convictions are not proportioned in any degree to the importance of eternal things, and that he cherishes a secret hope of escaping by some means or other the judgments denounced against him. Let him but feel the worth of his soul in a degree proportioned to its value; let him estimate that as men estimate the worth of their natural life, and he could no more resist habitually the convictions of his mind, than he could sit composed, while his house and family were ready to be destroyed by fire: he would surely resemble those Egyptians who sought shelter for their servants and cattle; he would “flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.”]
Such a practical attention will be given to the word of God by all who truly believe it, because they know,
How it will affect their state hereafter—
The distinction put between the believing and unbelieving Egyptians related merely to this present life: but the Scriptures authorize us to declare that a similar distinction will be made between believers and unbelievers in the day of judgment. Yes assuredly,
They who have sought the appointed refuge shall be saved—
[Christ is that hiding-place to which all are enjoined to flee: every other covert will be found “a refuge of lies, which the hail shall sweep away [Note: Isaiah 28:17.]:” but Christ is a sure refuge, “to which whosoever runneth shall be safe.” Whatever we may have been, and whatever we may have done in past times, we have nothing to apprehend from the wrath of God, provided we be found in Christ.” “Believing in him, we are justified from all things,” and shall unite for ever with the murderous Manasseh, the adulterous David, the filthy Magdalen, and the persecuting Saul, in singing “Salvation to God and the Lamb!” We must not however be understood to say, that an attention to the faith of the Gospel will save us, while we neglect its practical injunctions: far from it: but this we do say, that the vilest of sinners may find “acceptance in the Beloved;” and that “all who put their trust in him may be quiet from the fear of evil.” The declaration of God himself is, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”]
They, on the contrary, who have despised the offers of mercy, shall perish—
[“Whatsoever men sow, that shall they also reap:” and though God’s vengeance may be long delayed, it shall surely come at last. What if we see no symptoms of it now? There was no appearance of a deluge when Noah warned the old world; nor were the fire and brimstone visible, when Lot entreated his sons-in-law to escape with him from Sodom; yet were the predictions relative to these events exactly fulfilled: he who built the ark, and he who fled from the devoted city, were preserved; while they who took not warning, were destroyed. So also shall it be in the last day: “the unbelief of men shall not make the faith of God of none effect.” “Their covenant with death shall be disannulled, and their agreement with hell made void: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, they shall be beaten down by it [Note: Isaiah 28:18.].” Nor shall the excuses, which they now urge with so much confidence, avail them. It is probable that many of the Egyptians might expose themselves to danger in consequence of urgent business, or from what they judged a necessary obedience to the commands of their masters; but they perished notwithstanding. So shall that word be verified in spite of all excuses, “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed; but he that feareth the commandment, shall be rewarded [Note: Proverbs 13:13.].”]
Those that disregard the word of the Lord—
[There are, alas! too many who “stumble at the word, being disobedient:” their language is, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee [Note: Jeremiah 44:16.].” If they do not avowedly reject the word, they shew by their conduct, that they consider its doctrines as fanatical, its precepts as harsh, its promises as illusory, and its threatenings as vain. But, while “they thus practically reject the word of the Lord, what wisdom is in them [Note: Jeremiah 8:9.] ?” Doubtless if they who were in the midst of the storm saw any of their neighbours housed, they would cast a wishful look at them: and will not their lot be envied in the last day, who shall have taken refuge in Christ, and found protection from the wrath of God? Let then the remembrance of what took place in Egypt operate powerfully on our hearts. Let us “search the Scriptures, and make them our meditation day and night.” Let us take them “as a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths.” Let us “treasure them up in our hearts,” and labour to follow the directions they give us. Let us “receive the word with meekness,” “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” Let us beg of God that it may be “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to our inmost souls, and discovering to us the very thoughts and intents of our hearts.” Let God’s blessed word regulate our hearts and lives: then will God look upon us with favourable acceptance [Note: Isaiah 65:2.], and acknowledge us as “his in the day that he shall make up his jewels [Note: Malachi 3:17.].”]
Those who fear the word of the Lord—
[Some there are amongst us, we trust, who having once, like good Josiah, wept on account of the denunciations of God’s wrath, now, like holy Job, “esteem God’s word more than their necessary food.” There is not a threatening in it which they dare to despise, or a promise which they do not desire to enjoy, or a precept which they do not labour to obey. They desire nothing so much as to be “cast into the mould of the Gospel,” and to be “sanctified by means of it in body, soul, and spirit.” To all of this character I say, Happy are ye; for if “ye tremble at the word” of God, ye have no reason to tremble at any thing else. Ye may look at death with complacency, and at hell itself without terror, since ye are screened under the shadow of your Redeemer’s wings. Envy not then the liberty, and the thoughtlessness of sinners; neither let their revilings deter you from your purpose. The time is quickly coming when your God will appear to their shame and to your joy [Note: Isaiah 65:5.]. Then the wisdom of your conduct will be seen in its true colours: and you shall understand the full import of that question, “Doth not my word do good to him that walketh uprightly [Note: Micah 2:7.] ?”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 9". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany