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The children of Israel which came into Egypt.
Israel in Egypt
I. A retrospective view.
1. These verses lead us back to the time when Jacob came with his family to Egypt.
. It was a time of great distress from famine in Canaan.
(2) It was a crisis-time in the history of the chosen family (Genesis 45:17-28; Genesis 46:1-4).
(3) It was a time of great encouragement from what had been disclosed in Joseph’s history.
2. These verses summarize the history of the children of Israel from the time of Jacob’s emigration to Egypt till the bondage of the Israelites--about 115 years.
(1) This was a time of great happiness and prosperity for the Israelites.
(a) The entire period, from the call of Abraham to the Exodus, was 430 years.
(b) Up to the descent into Egypt, a period of 215 years, the family had increased to only “seventy souls.”
(c) From the going down to Egypt to the Exodus--215 years--the 70 had multiplied to 600,000 males, giving a population of nearly 2,000,000.
II. The change of administration (Exodus 1:8). Not merely another, but a “new” king, implying a change of dynasty. Now, probably, commenced the rule of the “shepherd kings.”
2. The phrase, “who knew not Joseph,” suggests the prestige of Joseph’s name to the former Pharaohs. A good man’s influence dies not with the death of his body.
III. The change of government policy (Exodus 1:9-14).
1. The nature of this change. From being a fostering government to being cruel and repressive. Unwise policy, because suicidal.
2. The reason for this change (Exodus 1:10).
3. The result of this change (Exodus 1:12).
(1) Such a result is according to God’s law of nations. Working classes always more fruitful than others.
(2) Such a result was according to God’s covenant law.
1. God’s children in Egypt a type of God’s children in the world.
2. The policy of the new king a type of the godlessness, selfishness, and inhumanity of those who work from a worldly standpoint.
3. The frustration of this policy a type of God’s overruling power. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
God’s knowledge of man’s domestic life
I. He knows the children of the family. “Reuben, Simeon,” etc.
1. He knows the character of each.
2. He knows the friendly relations, or otherwise, existing between them, and the intentions of each.
II. He watches the journeying of the family--“which came,” etc. Do not journey into Egypt without an indication of the Divine will. All family changes should be under the instruction of heaven. This insures safety, protection, development--though sometimes discipline.
III. He marks the death of the family (Exodus 1:6). (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Israel in Egypt
With Israel in Egypt begins a new era in the world’s progress. Biography becomes history Instead of individuals or a tribe, God has now a natron with which to work. He has undertaken a vast purpose. This people--united by common parentage, common faith, and common hope--He is to weld still more compactly by fellowship in disaster and deliverance into a nation which shall be the miracle of history, as intensely and persistently individual as its founder. With this nation He enters into covenant and, through its faith and experience, reveals to the world the one holy God, and brings in its Redeemer. Such a mission costs; its apostles must suffer. Yet this relief intervenes: personal blessing is not lost in national pains. The strong word covering this process is discipline: the development of character and efficiency under rigorous conditions. The first element is--
I. Faith: taking as real what cannot be seen, accepting as sure what has not come to pass. Seemingly, this fruit of heaven cannot grow on earthly soil unless it be wet with tears.
II. The second word of blessing is disentanglement. The hope of the ages lay in freeing Israel, not from Egypt, but from what Egypt represents. Heathenism is a bitter and bloody thing. But heathenism filled the world outside the chosen nation. Only stern guidance could lead away from it, for over its deformities were spread distortions of natural needs and blandishments of sanctioned lust. God can accomplish vast things with a soul wholly consecrated to Him; but how rarely He finds such a soul, except as He leads it through affliction to make it loose its hold on all but Him!
III. With this even partially gained, comes that strong word efficiency. The nation which was Jacob the Supplanter passes its Peniel and becomes Israel the Prince of God, having power with God and men. Into its hands are put the direction of earth’s history and the hope of its redemption. The distresses of those early generations are as the straining and rending of the crust or the grinding march of glaciers, unsparing but beneficent, preparing a fertile soil on which at last men shall dwell safely, lifting thankful hands to heaven. (C. M. Southgate.)
Egypt a type of the world
Sodom is associated in our minds with wickedness only, though no doubt it was a great place in its day; but Egypt stands out before us as a fuller and more adequate type of the world, with her glory as well as her shame. And from Israel’s relation to Egypt we may learn two great lessons: one of counsel how to use the world, the other of warning against abusing it. From God’s purpose in regard to Israel let us learn that just as Egypt was necessary as a school for His chosen people, so the world ought to be a school for us. We are not to despise its greatness. No word of contempt for Egypt’s greatness is found in the sacred records. The nation was intended to learn, and did acquire, many useful arts which were of much service to them afterwards in the Land of Promise. Moses, the chosen of God, was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was thereby qualified for the great work for which he was called. In these examples we may see how to use this world, making it a school to prepare us for our inheritance and the work the Lord may have for us there to do. On the other hand, let us beware of so yielding to the seductions of this evil world as to lose our hold of God, and His covenant, and so incur the certainty of forfeiting our eternal birthright and becoming the world’s slaves, helping perhaps to rear its mighty monuments, with the prospect possibly of having our names engraved in stone among the ruins of some buried city, but without the prospect of having them written “among the living in Jerusalem,” the eternal city of God. Earth’s great ones belong to the dead past; but heaven’s great ones have their portion in a glorious future. (J. M. Gibson, D. D.)
We are making history when we least think of it. That which seems a little matter to us may be a link in a chain that binds the ages. What we do to-day or to-morrow is done for all time. It cannot be undone. It and all its countless results must stand entailed to the latest generations; and we are to have honour or shame according as our part is now performed. The poor boy who drives the horse along a canal tow.path may think it makes little difference whether he does that work well or poorly. But forty years after, when he is in nomination for the presidency of a great nation, he will find that men go back to his boyhood story to learn whether he was faithful in that which was least, as proof that he would be faithful also in that which is much. There is no keeping out of history. We have got to be there. The only safe way of standing well in history is by doing well in all things. You are just now going to Boston, or to New York, or to Chicago, or to Savannah, or to London--will the record of your spirit and conduct as you go there read well ten years hence, or a hundred? That depends on what your spirit and conduct are at the present time. And if you stay at home your place in history--in God’s record of history--is just as sure as if you went to Egypt or to the Holy Land. That record is making up to-day: “Now, these are the names of the children of--, which came into--, or, which stayed at--“ If you want a record which shall redound to your honour, and of which your children’s children shall be proud, you have no time to lose in getting things straight for it. (H. C. Trumbull.)
Joseph died, and all his brethren.
The death of a whole family
I. It was a very large family
II. It was a very diversified family.
1. They were diversified in their sympathies.
2. They were diversified in social position.
III. It was a very tried family.
IV. It was a very influential family.
V. It was a very religiously privileged family. Lessons:
1. A rebuke to family pride.
2. A warning against seeking satisfaction in family joys.
3. A lesson as to the right use of family relationships. Live together as those who must die.
4. Some strong reasons for expecting family meetings after death.
(1) Such different characters cannot admit exactly the same fate. Extinction is either too good for the sinner, or else a strange reward for the saint.
(2) Family affection seems too strong to be thus quenched. (U. R. Thomas.)
The universal characteristic
The succession of generations among the children of men has been, from Homer downwards, likened to that of the leaves among the trees of the forest. The foliage of one summer, withering gradually away, and strewing the earth with its wrecks, has its place supplied by the exuberance of the following spring. But there is one point in which the analogy does not hold,--there is one difference between the race of leaves and the race of men: between the leaves of successive summers an interval of desolation intervenes, and “the bare and wintry woods” emphatically mark the passage from one season to another. But there is no such pause in the succession of the generations of men. Insensibly they melt and shade into one another: an old man dies, and a child is born; daily and hourly there is a death and a birth; and imperceptibly, by slow degrees, the actors in life’s busy scene are changed. Hence the full force of this thought--“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh”--is not ordinarily felt. The first view of this verse that occurs to us is its striking significance and force as a commentary on the history of which it so abruptly and emphatically announces the close. The previous narrative presents to us a busy scene--an animated picture; and here, as if by one single stroke, all is reduced to a blank. It is as if having gazed on ocean when it bears on its broad bosom a gallant and well-manned fleet--bending gracefully to its rising winds, and triumphantly stemming its swelling waves--you looked out again, and at the very next glance beheld the wide waste of waters reposing in dark and horrid peace over the deep-buried wrecks of the recent storm. “And all that generation”: How startling a force is there in this awful brevity, this compression and abridgment--the names and histories of millions brought within the compass of so brief a statement of a single fact concerning them--that they all died! Surely it seems as if the Lord intended by this bill of mortality for a whole race, which His own Spirit has framed, to stamp as with a character of utter mockery and insignificance the most momentous distinctions and interests of time; these all being engulfed and swallowed up in the general doom of death, which ushers in the one distinction of eternity.
I. Let us ponder the announcement as it respects the individual--“Joseph died.” His trials, with their many aggravations--his triumphs, with all their glories--were alike brief and evanescent; and his eventful career ended, as the obscurest and most commonplace lifetime must end--for “Joseph died.” Joseph is at home, the idol of a fond parent. Ah I dote not, thou venerable sire, on thy fair and dutiful child. Remember how soon it may be said of him, and how certainly it must be said of him, that “Joseph died.” Joseph is in trouble--betrayed, persecuted, distressed, a prisoner, a slave. But let him not be disquieted above measure. It is but a little while, and it shall be said of him that “Joseph died.” Joseph is exalted--he is high in wealth, in honour, and in power. But why should all his glory and his joy elate him? It will be nothing to him soon--when it comes to be said of him that “Joseph died.” Ah! there is but one of Joseph’s many distinctions, whether of character or of fortune, that does not shrivel beside this stern announcement. The simplicity of his trust in God, the steadfastness of his adherence to truth and holiness, the favour of Heaven, his charity out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned--these will stand the shock of collision with this record of his decease.
II. “And all his brethren.” They too all died, and the vicissitudes of their family history came to an end in the silent tomb. “Joseph died, and all his brethren.” Ah! how intimately should this reflection have knit them together in unity of interest, of affection, and of aim! The tie of a common origin is scarcely stronger or closer than the tie of a common doom. The friend, the beloved brother who has gone, has acquired, by his death, new value in your esteem--a new and sacred claim to your regard. Now for the first time you discover how dear he should have been, how dear he was, to your hearts--dearer far than you had ever thought. How fondly do you dwell on all his attractions and excellencies! Hew frivolous are all former causes of misunderstanding, all excuses for indifference, now seen to be I And whither are they gone? And what are their views now, and what their feelings, on the matters which formed the subject of their familiar inter-course here? Are they united in the region of blessedness above? Or is there a fearful separation, and are there some of their number on the other side of the great gulf?
III. “And all that generation.” The tide of mortality rolls on in a wider stream. It sweeps into the one vast ocean of eternity all the members of a family--all the families of a race. The distinctions alike of individuals and of households are lost. Every landmark is laid low. Some are gone in tender years of childhood, unconscious of life’s sins and sufferings--some in grey-headed age, weighed down by many troubles. Some have perished by the hand of violence--some by natural decay. And another generation now fills the stage--a generation that, in all its vast circle of families, can produce not one individual to link it with the buried race on whose ashes it is treading. On a smaller scale, you have experienced something of what we now describe. In the sad season of bereavement, how have you felt your pain embittered by the contrast between death reigning in your heart and home, and bustling life going on all around! In the prospect, too, of your own departure, does not this thought form an element of the dreariness of death, that when you are gone, and laid in the silent tomb, others will arise that knew not you?--your removal will scarce occasion even a momentary interruption in the onward course and incessant hurry of affairs, and your loss will be but as that of a drop of water from the tide that rolls on in its career as mighty and as majestical as ever. But here, it is a whole generation, with all its families, that is engulfed in one unmeasured tomb! And lo! the earth is still all astir with the same activities, all gay with the same pomps and pageantries, all engrossed with the same vanities and follies, and, alas! the same sins also, that have been beguiling and disappointing the successive races of its inhabitants since the world began! And there is another common lot--another general history--another universal characteristic: “After death, the judgment.” Joseph rises again, “and all his brethren, and all that generation.” And they all stand before the judgment-seat. There is union then. The small and the great are there; the servant and his master--all are brought together. But for what? What a solemn contrast have we here! Death unites after separation: the judgment unites in order to separation. Death, closing the drama of time, lets the ample curtain fall upon its whole scenery and all its actors. The judgment, opening the drama of eternity, discloses scenery and actors once more entire. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
I. Death removes the most useful men--“Joseph.”
1. He had instructed his brethren.
2. He had enriched his father.
3. He had saved his nation.
4. He had taught the world an eternal lesson.
II. Death relieves the largest families--“All his brethren.”
III. Death relieves the proudest nations.
3. Admonitory. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Death’s disciplinary power
God deprives the Church of her comfort and stay--
1. That she may gain the power of self-reliance.
2. That she may show her ability to be independent of all human instrumentalities.
3. That she may move into the exigencies of the future. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Death common to all
In one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s note-books there is a remark as to qualifying men by some common quality or circumstance that should bring together people the most unlike in other respects, and make a brotherhood and sisterhood of them. “First by their sorrows; for instance, whenever there are any, whether in fair mansion or hotel, who are mourning the loss of friends. Secondly, all who have the same maladies, whether they lie under damask canopies, or on straw pallets, or in the-wards of hospitals. Then proceed to generalize and classify all the world together, as none can claim other exemption from either sorrow, sin, or disease; and if they could, yet death, like a great parent, comes and sweeps them all through one darksome portal--all his children.” (H. O. Mackey.)
There is a bird peculiar to Ireland, called the cock of the wood, remarkable for the fine flesh and folly thereof. All the difficulty to kill them, is to find them out, otherwise a mean marksman may easily despatch them. They fly in woods in flocks, and if one of them be shot, the rest remove not but to the next bough, or tree at the farthest, and there stand staring at the shooter, till the whole covey be destroyed; yet as foolish as this bird is, it is wise enough to be the emblem of the wisest man in the point of mortality. Death sweeps away one, and one, and one, here one, and there another, and all the rest remain no whir moved, or minding of it, till at last a whole generation is consumed and brought to nothing. (J. Spencer.)
Death levels the highest mountains with the lowest valleys. He mows down the fairest lilies as well as the foulest thistles. The robes of illustrious princes and the rags of homely peasants are both laid aside in the wardrobe of the grave. (Archbp. Seeker.)
Meditate on death
There was a motto on the walls of the Delphian Temple, ascribed to Chile, one of the seven wise men of Greece--“Consider the end.”
Death levels all distinctions
As trees growing in the wood are known--some by difference of their trunks, and some by the properties of their branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits; but this knowledge is had of them only whilst they stand, grow, and are not consumed; for if they be committed to the fire, and are turned into ashes, they cannot be known. It is impossible that, when the ashes of divers kinds of trees are mingled together, the tall pine should be discerned from the great oak, or the mighty poplar from a low shrub, or any one tree from another; even so men, whilst they live in the wood of this world, are known--some by the stock of their ancestors, some by the flourishing leaves of their words and eloquence, some in the flowers of beauty, and some in the shrub of honesty, many by their savage ignorance, and some by their kindness; but when death doth bring them into dust, and has mixed all together, then their ashes cannot be known--then there is no difference between the mighty princes of the world and the poor souls that are not accounted of. (Cawdray.)
The children of Israel were fruitful
The increase of the Church
Notwithstanding the removal of its chief officer (Exodus 1:6). Joseph dead; his influence gone; his counsel inaccessible. To-day the Church loses her chief officers, but it still grows.
II. Notwithstanding the decade of the generation (Exodus 1:6). So to-day men die, but the Church, by making new converts, multiplies her progeny to an almost incredible extent.
III. Notwithstanding the persecution to which it was subjected (Exodus 1:11). The Church can never be put down by force. The Infinite Power is on her side. This is more than all that can be against her.
IV. Notwithstanding the artifices by which it was sought to re betrayed (Exodus 1:15-22). So the Church has been in danger through the treachery of the outside world, and through the daring cruelty of meddlesome men. Still it grows. May it soon fill the world, as the Israelites did Egypt! All Church increase is from God; not from men, not from means. God has promised to multiply the Church. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Increase by God’s blessing
1. The death of fathers cannot hinder God’s increase of the Church’s children. They decrease and these increase under God.
2. God’s promises for His Church’s increase cannot fall to the ground. He doth fulfil them.
3. Fruitfulness, abundant increase, multiplication excessive, and strength, are the Church’s blessing from God.
4. God works wonderfully to fulfil His promise of increasing His people.
5. The land of enemies is made by God a nursery for the increase of His Church.
6. God’s blessing makes His Israel to fill Egypt, the Church to fill the world. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
A large population, and what it led to
I. A large population is of great advantage to a nation.
1. It gives an impulse to civilization.
2. It augments the force of the national prowess.
3. It invests the nation with importance in the estimation of surrounding kingdoms.
II. A large population sometimes excites the suspicion and envy of neighbouring kings.
1. Pharaoh was jealous of the numerical growth of Israel.
2. He was suspicious of what might befall his country in future exigencies.
III. This suspicion frequently leads kings to practise the most abject slavery.
1. It was cunning.
2. It was unjust.
3. It was painful.
4. It was apparently productive of gain.
But what was gained in public buildings was lost in sensitiveness of conscience, force of manhood, and worth of character. Slavery involves a loss of all that is noble in human nature, and it leads to murder (Exodus 1:22).
IV. Slavery is an incompetent method of conquest.
1. Because it does not gain the sympathy of the people it conquers.
2. Because it arouses the indignation of those who are subject to its cruelties.
3. It does not save a ruler from the calamity he seeks to avert. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
A large population
The larger the population of a nation, the greater are its capabilities of sympathy, mutual dependency, and help, and often-times the greater difficulty in its right government. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Oppression and growth
I. There are three aspects in which the oppression of Israel in Egypt may be viewed. It was the fulfilment of God’s own word; it was education; it was a type.
1. The covenant with Abraham had included the prediction of four hundred years of oppression in a strange land. The fulfilment is reached through the fears and cruel policy of Pharaoh. The Bible decisively upholds the view that not in Israel alone, but everywhere, the movements of nations, as the incidents of individual lives, are directed by God. To it the most important thing about Egypt and the mighty Rameses was that he and it were the instruments for carrying out God’s designs in reference to Israel. Has not history verified the view? Who cares about anything else in that reign in comparison with its relation to the slaves in Goshen?
2. The oppression was, further, education. We can say nothing certainly as to the teaching which Israel received in science, art, letters, or religion. Some debts, no doubt, accrued in all these departments. Probably the alphabet itself was acquired by them, and some tinge of acquaintance was made by a few with other parts of the early blossoming Egyptian civilization. But the oppression taught them better things than these. Pressure consolidates. Common sorrows are wonderful quickeners of national feeling. The heavier the blows, the closer grained the produce of the forge. Not increase of numbers only, but tough knit consciousness of their unity, was needed for their future. They acquired some beginnings of that extraordinary persistency of national life which has characterized them ever since, in these bitter days. Note further, they learned endurance, without which the education of a nation, as of a man, is defective. The knowledge of God’s covenant with Abraham would in some degree be preserved, and it taught them that their affliction was part of the Divine plan for them. So they would learn--at least the best of them would--to look for the better things following which the covenant held forth, and would be able to see some gleam of the dawn even in the thickest darkness. “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” The evil foretold and accomplished is turned into prophecy of the good foretold and yet unseen.
3. The growth of Israel under its oppression. The pressure which was intended to crush only condensed. “The more they afflicted them, the more they . . . grew.” So the foiled oppressors glared at them with a mixture of awe and loathing, for both feelings are implied in the words rendered “were grieved.” It is the history of the nation in a nutshell. The same marvellous tenacity of life, the same power of baffling oppression and thriving under it, have been their dower ever since, and continue so yet. The powers that oppress them fill the world with their noise for awhile, and pass away like a dream; they abide. For every tree felled, a hundred saplings spring up. What does it mean? and how comes it? The only answer is that God preserves them for a better deliverance from a worse bondage, and as His witnesses in their humiliation, as they were His in their prosperity. The fable of the one of their race who bade Christ march on to Calvary is true concerning them. They are doomed to live and to wander till they shall recognize Him for their Messiah. That growth is a truth for God’s Church, too. The world has never crushed by persecuting. There is a wholesome obstinacy and chivalry in human nature which rallies adherents to a persecuted cause. Truth is most powerful when her back is at the wall. Times of oppression are times of growth, as a hundred examples from the apostles’ days down to the story of the gospel in Madagascar prove. The world’s favour does more harm than its enmity. Its kisses are poisonous; its blows do no hurt. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Fruitfulness of Israelites in Egypt
Some commentators resort to natural causes to account for this amazing increase. A modern writer declares that “the females in Egypt, as well among the human race as among animals, surpass all others in fruitfulness.” But we prefer to ascribe the matter to Divine intervention. The blessing of Jehovah was now signally conferred upon the people. God “increased His people greatly, and made them stronger than their enemies” (Psalms 105:24). The word that after a long delay came to Israel, the third patriarch, was now fulfilled (Genesis 35:11). Though the performance of God’s promises is sometimes slow, yet it is always sure. It was when the Israelites lost the benefit of the protection of Joseph that God made their numbers their defence, and they became better able than they had been to shift for themselves. If God continue our friends and relations to us while we most need them, and remove them when they can be better spared, let us own that He is wise, and not complain that He is hard upon us. (A. Nevin, D. D.)
Ancestry numerically regarded
The number of a man’s ancestors doubles in every generation as his descent is traced upward. In the first generation he reckons only two ancestors, his father and mother. In the second generation the two are converted into four, since he had two grandfathers and two grandmothers. But each of these four had two parents, and thus in the third generation there are found to be eight ancestors; that is, eight great-grandparents. In the fourth generation the number of ancestors is sixteen; in the fifth, thirty-two; in the sixth, sixty-four; in the seventh 128. In the tenth it has risen to 1,024; in the twentieth it becomes 1,048,576; in the thirtieth no fewer than 1,073,741,834. To ascend no higher than the twenty-fourth generation we reach the sum of 16,777,216, which is a great deal more than all of the inhabitants of Great Britain when that generation was in existence. For if we reckon a generation at thirty-three years, twenty-four of such will carry us back 792 years, or to a.d. 1098, when William the Conqueror had been sleeping in his grave at Caen only six years, and his son William II., surnamed Rufus, was reigning over the land. At that time the total number of the inhabitants of England could have been little more than two millions, the amount at which it is estimated during the reign of the Conqueror. It was only one-eighth of a nineteenth-century man’s ancestors if the normal ratio of progression, as just shown by a simple process of arithmetic, had received no check, and if it had not been bounded by the limits of the population of the country. Since the result of the law of progression, had there been room for its expansion, would have been eight times the actual population, by so much the more is it certain that the lines of every Englishman’s ancestry run up to every man and every woman in the reign of William I., from the king and queen downward, who left descendants in the island, and whose progeny has not died there. (Popular Science Monthly.)
Englishmen are not the only successful colonists; and the credit, if any, of exterminating aborigines they are entitled to share with insects. Let us take the case of the Australian bee. The Australian bee is about the size of a fly, and without any sting; but the English bee has been so successfully introduced as to be now abundant in a wild state in the bush, spreading all over the Australian continent, and yielding large quantities of honey, which it deposits in the hollows of trees; the immense quantities of honey-yielding flowers afford an abundant supply of material. The foreign bee is fast driving away the aboriginal insect as the European is exterminating the black from the settled districts, so that the Australian bee is now very scarce. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
A new king.
Change of government
1. God’s blessing on His Church is the cause that worldly rulers consult against it.
2. Blessings from God and oppositions from worldly powers usually are connected.
3. Changes of kings and governments may bring changes on the Church’s state.
4. New and strange rulers are set up, when new and strange things are to be in the Church.
5. God suffers such to rise up, and orders them to His praise.
6. All God’s goodness by His instruments to the world are apt to be committed to oblivion and ignorance.
7. Ignorance and oblivion of God’s mercies by His Church causeth wicked rulers to persecute them. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Egypt’s new king
I. He was out of sympathy with the purpose and providence of God.
II. He was out of sympathy with the conduct of his predecessors.
III. He was envious in his disposition. Envious men generally bring on themselves the evils of which they suspect the innocent to be guilty.
IV. He was cunning in his arrangements. Policy a bad basis for a throne. It invites suspicion, alienates respect, leads to ruin.
V. He was cruel in his requirements.
VI. He was thwarted in his project. Mere power cannot always command obedience. It is sometimes defeated by weakness. Heaven is on the side of the oppressed. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The vicissitudes of power
The vicissitudes of power--
1. Are independent of past services.
2. Are independent of moral character.
3. Are frequently dependent upon the arbitrary caprice of a despotic king. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
A bad king will make a wicked people
1. He will influence the weak by his splendour.
2. Terrify the timid by his power.
3. Gain the servile by his flattery.
4. Gain the simple by his cunning.
5. Sometimes gain the good by his deception. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Like ruler, like people
If the mountains overflow with waters, the valleys are the better; and if the head be full of ill-burnouts, the whole body fares the worse. The actions of rulers are most commonly rules for the people’s actions, and their example passeth as current as their coin. The common people are like tempered wax, easily receiving impressions from the seals of great men’s vices; they care not to sin by prescription and damn themselves with authority. And it is the unhappy privilege of greatness to warrant, by example, others’ as well as its own sins, whilst the unadvised take up crimes on trust and perish by credit. (J. Harding.)
The king that knew not Joseph
It is said Joseph was not “known” by this dynasty. This is a strong expression, used to denote the perfect obscurity into which this good and great man had fallen; or rather, the contempt in which this benefactor and true patriot was held by those who were unable to appreciate him. It was not that Joseph’s character had waned in beauty; it was not that his intellect had lost its sagacity; but the new dynasty wished to pursue a course of action and conduct inconsistent with that purity, integrity, and candour which Joseph had counselled; and therefore he was cast off. Less worthy men were taken in his place. But what occurred to Joseph is just what befalls Christians still, in proportion as their Christianity ceases to be latent. We are told by an apostle that the world knoweth us not, because it knew Christ not.
1. The reason why the world does not appreciate the Christian character is that the Christian lives a higher life. He is, in proportion as he is a Christian, influenced by motives and hopes, and guided by laws and a sense of a presence, which an unconverted, worldly man, such as was the new king of Egypt who knew not Joseph, cannot at all understand.
2. Another reason why the world does not appreciate the Christian now is that it judges a Christian by itself, and thinks that he must be at heart, notwithstanding all his pretences, what it is. The world loves sin, delights in it. And when the world meets with a man who professes to have laid his ambition at the foot of the Cross, and whose thirst for power is the noble thirst of doing good, it will say, “This sounds very fine, but we do not believe it. The only difference between you and us is that we do not pretend to these things, and that you do; for behind the curtain you practise what we practise, and are exactly what we are.” Therefore the world hates the Christian, not simply for his Christianity, but because it cannot conceive such a man to be any other than a thorough hypocrite. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
A king’s ignorance
I. Who was this man?
1. Exiled for many years.
2. Belonged to an alien dynasty.
3. May simply mean that he refused to know Joseph.
II. Why did he reign? To carry out the promise of God.
1. God does not always use the same methods. Brought Israel into Egypt by prosperity; took them out by adversity.
2. God had to prepare the way for His work.
III. What has he to do with us?
1. He shows us how human wisdom overreaches itself. His policy only brought about the very object he wished to avoid.
2. He shows us the abuse of privileges. He might have known Joseph. Ignorance is no excuse for those who ought to know. (Homilist.)
Emptiness of fame
The readiness with which the populace forgets its vaunted idols has ever been a favourite topic with third-rate moralists; A surviving friend of William Pitt was convinced of the emptiness of fame by seeing the greatest statesman of the age completely forgotten in ten days. Queen Elizabeth’s passage into oblivion was even more rapid, for, according to an eminent historical authority, she “was as much forgot in four days as if she had never existed.” To be sure in such cases the oblivion has been short-lived. Posterity has amply remedied the brief injustice of contemporary opinion, (Christian Journal.)
Oblivion and neglect
It is a memorable example, amongst many others that we have, of William the Conqueror’s successor, who being unhappily killed, as he was hunting in the New Forest, all his nobles and courtiers forsook him, only some few that remained laid his body in a collier’s cart, which being drawn with one silly lean beast through very foul and filthy way, the cart broke, and there lay the spectacle of worldly glory, both pitifully gored and all bemired. Now, if this were the portion of so mighty a prince, whom immediately before so glorious a troop attended, what then must others of meaner rank expect and look for, but only with death’s closing up of their eyes to have all their friends excluded, and no sooner gone but to be as suddenly forgotten. Hence it is that oblivion and neglect are the two handmaids of death. (J. Spencer.)
Let us deal wisely.--
Kings ought to know better than to convene councils to oppose the intentions of God. Such conduct is--
4. Ineffectual. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The end and design of the council
1. To prevent the numerical increase of Israel.
2. To enfeeble the military power of Israel.
3. To detain the Israelites in permanent bondage. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Persecution of God’s people for hypothetical offences
Hypothetical offences have generally been the ground of the persecution of the people of God. It has rarely been for a crime proved, but generally for a crime possible. And this dynasty, in the exercise of what it thought a very far-reaching diplomacy, but really a very wild and foolish hallucination, determined to persecute, and gradually crush, the children of Israel. The result proved that the wisdom of man is folly with God. Whatever is undertaken that has no sanction from God, never will have any real or permanent success before men. But attempt anything, however wise it looks, or talented it appears, yet if it be not inspired by principle, it is a rope of sand--it must fall to pieces. Let us, therefore, ever feel that we never can do wisely, unless we do well, and that the highest principle is ever the purest and best policy. The dynasty that succeeded the ancient Pharaoh did not know this. They thought they could extirpate God’s people. They might as well have tried to extirpate the sun from the firmament, or the fruits and trees of the earth; for the everlasting arms are around all them that love and fear God; and they are an immortal people who are the sons and daughters of the Most High. The Egyptians found here that the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
A perversion of language
The wisdom here proposed to be employed was the wisdom of the serpent; but with men of reprobate minds, governed solely by the corrupt spirit of this world, whatever measures tend to promote their own interests and circumvent their opponents, is dignified by the epithet wise, though it be found, when judged by a purer standard, to be in reality nothing less than the very policy of hell. (G. Bush.)
Pharaoh’s sceptical reasoning
All Pharaoh’s reasoning was that of a heart that had never learnt to take God into its calculations. He could accurately recount the various contingencies of human affairs, the multiplying of the people, the falling out of war, the joining with the enemy, their escape out of the laud, but it never once occurred to him that God could have anything whatever to do in the matter. Had he only thought of this, it would have upset his entire reasoning. Ever thus is it with the reasonings of man’s sceptical mind. God is shut out, and their truth and consistency depend upon His being kept out. The death-blow to all scepticism and infidelity is the introduction of God into the scene. Till He is seen, they may strut up and down upon the stage with an amazing show of wisdom and plausibility, but the moment the eye catches even the faintest glimpse of that blessed One whose
Doth turn and guide the great machine,”
they are stripped of their cloak, and disclosed in all their nakedness and deformity. (A. Nevin, D. D.)
Jealousy of autocrats
Autocrats, whether elected or usurping, are all more or less jealous. The female autocrat is in some respects worse than the male. Two queen bees will not live together in the same hive. And indeed, as soon as a young queen-bee is about to lay her eggs, she is anxious to destroy all the royal pupae which still exist in the hive. When she has become a mother, she attacks one after the other the cells which still contain females. She may be seen to throw herself with fury upon the first cell she comes to. She tears an opening in it large enough for her to introduce her sting. When she has stung the female which it contains, she withdraws to attack another. Man is not much behind these jealous insects. Among certain tribes of Ethiopians the first care of the newly crowned chief is to put in prison all his brothers, so as to prevent wars by pretenders to the throne. And even among more civilized nations the records are numerous of the mean and petty tricks and cruelties adopted by kings and queens for disposing of any possible rivals. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
The more they multiplied.--
Moral growth proportionate to affliction
1. This is true of individual moral character.
2. This is especially true in the development of the Church. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Why does persecution and trial operate thus
1. To manifest the love of God towards His Church.
2. To manifest the power of God over His enemies.
3. To fulfil the promise of God made to the good.
4. To manifest His providence towards the Church.
5. To strike terror into the hearts of tyrants.
6. To manifest the divinity of truth, and pure moral character. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The Egyptians were grieved
1. Because their plots were a failure.
2. Because their cruelty was unavailing.
3. Because they had exasperated an enemy they could not subdue Half the grief of the world is occasioned by the failure of wicked and cruel purposes. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Persecuting the Church is but like casting manure upon the ground. It for a while covers the plants, and seems to destroy them; but it makes the earth more fertile, and the plants more numerous and vigorous. (J. Orton.)
How diverse were the barbarities and kinds of death inflicted on the Christian confessors! The more they were slain, the more rapidly spread the faith; in place of one sprang up a hundred. When a great multitude had been put to death one at court said to the king, “The number of them increaseth, instead of, as thou thinkest, diminishing.” “How can that be?” exclaimed the king. “But yesterday,” replied the courtier, “thou didst put such-and-such a one to death, and lo! there were converted double that number; and the people say that a man appeared to the confessors from heaven, strengthening them in their last moments.” Whereupon the king himself was converted. (The Apology of Al Kindy, a. d. 830.)
Prosperity under persecutions
Whatever has been done by enemies in rage or in recklessness, God has always met it calmly and quietly. He has shown Himself ready for every emergency. And He has not only baffled and utterly defeated all the inventions of wicked men, but He has turned their strange devices to good account, for the development of His own sovereign purposes.
I. In the case of Israel, it did seem to be a deep-laid plot, very politic and crafty indeed, that as the kings of Egypt, themselves of an alien race, had subdued the Egyptians, they should prevent the other alien race, the Israelites, from conquering them. Instead of murdering them wholesale, it did seem a wise though a cruel thing to make them slaves; to divide them up and down the country; to appoint them to the most menial work in the land, that they might be crushed down and their spirits become so base that they would not dare to rebel. Thus we may suppose it was hoped that their physical strength would be so relaxed, and their circumstances so reduced, that the clan would soon be insignificant if not utterly extinct. But God met and overruled this policy in various ways. “The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied.” The glory of God shines forth conspicuously in the use to which He turned the persecutions they endured. The severe treatment they had to bear from the enemy became to them a salutary discipline. In order to cut loose the bonds that bound them to Egypt, the sharp knife of affliction must be used; and Pharaoh, though he knew it not, was God’s instrument in weaning them from the Egyptian world, and helping them as His Church to take up their separate place in the wilderness, and receive the portion which God had appointed for them. Once more--and here you may see the wisdom of God the very means which Pharaoh devised for the effectual crushing of the people--the destruction of the male children--became the direct, nay, the Divine provision for educating a deliverer for them.
II. Let us now carry the same thought a stage farther, and take a brief survey of the history of the children of God. The like means will appear in manifold operation. Men meditate mischief, but it miserably miscarries. God grants protection to the persecuted, and provides an escape from the most perilous exposure. Full often the darkest conspiracy is brought to the direst confusion. Persecution has evidently aided the increase of the Church by the scattering abroad of earnest teachers. We are very apt to get; hived--too many of us together--and our very love of one another renders it difficult to part us and scatter us about. Persecution therefore is permitted to scatter the hive of the Church into various swarms, and each of these swarms begins to make honey. We are all like the salt if we be true Christians, and the proper place for the salt is not massed in a box, but scattered by handfuls over the flesh which it is to preserve. Moreover, persecution helps to keep up the separation between the Church and the world. When I heard of a young man that, after he joined the Church, these in his workshop met him at once with loud laughter and reproached him with bitter scorn, I was thankful, because now he could not take up the same position with themselves. He was a marked man: they who knew him discovered that there was such a thing as Christianity, and such a one as an earnest defender of it. Again, persecution in the Christian Church acts like a winnowing fan to the heaps gathered on the threshing-floor. Persecution has a further beneficial use in the Church of God, and it is this. It may be that the members of the Church want it. The Roman who professed that he would like to have a window in his bosom, that everybody might see his heart, would have wished, I should think, before long for a shutter to that window; yet it is no slight stimulus to a man’s own circumspection for him to know that he is observed by unfriendly eyes. Our life ought to be such as will bear criticism. And this persecution has a further usefulness. Often does it happen that the enmity of the world drives the Christian nearer to his God.
III. And now I close this address by just very briefly hinting that this great general truth applies to all believers; but I will make a practical use of it. Are you passing through great trials? Very well then, to meet them I pray that God’s grace may give you greater faith; and if your trials increase more and more, so may your strength increase. You will be acting after God’s manner, guided by His wisdom, if you seek to get more faith out of more trial, for that trial does strengthen faith, through Divine grace, experience teaches us, and as we make full proof of the faithfulness of God, our courage, once apt to waver, is confirmed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
How to defeat the devil
Always take revenge on Satan if he defeats you, by trying to do ten times more good than you did before. It is in some such way that a dear brother now preaching the gospel, whom God has blessed with a very considerable measure of success, may trace the opening of his career to a circumstance that occurred to myself. Sitting in my pulpit one evening, in a country village, where I had to preach, my text slipped from my memory, and with the text seemed ¢o go all that I had thought to speak upon it. A rare thing to happen to me; but I sat utterly confounded. I could find nothing to say. With strong crying I lifted up my soul to God to pour out again within my soul of the living water that it might gush forth from me for others; and I accompanied my prayer with a vow that if Satan’s enmity thus had brought me low, I would take so many fresh men whom I might meet with during the week, and train them for the ministry, so that with their hands and tongues I would avenge myself on the Philistines. The brother I have alluded to came to me the next morning. I accepted him at once as one whom God had sent, and I helped him, and others after him, to prepare for the service, and to go forth in the Saviour’s name to preach the gospel of the grace of God. Often when we fear we are defeated, we ought to say, “I will do all the more. Instead of dropping from this work, now will I make a general levy, and a sacred conscription upon all the powers of my soul, and I will gather up all the strength I ever had in reserve, and make from this moment a tremendous life-long effort to overcome the powers of darkness, and win for Christ fresh trophies of victory.” After this fashion you will have an easier time of it, for if you do more good the more you are tempted, Satan will not so often tempt you. When he knows that all the more you are afflicted so much the more you multiply, very likely he will find it wiser to let you alone, or try you in some other method than that of direct and overt opposition. So whenever you have a trial, take it as a favour; whenever God holds in one hand the rod of affliction, He has a favour in the other hand; He never strikes a child of His but He has some tender blessing in store. If He visits you with unwonted affliction, you will have unusual delight; the Lord will open new windows for you, and show His beauty as He shows it not to others. According as your tribulations abound, so also shall your consolations abound in Christ Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Egypt, the house of bondage to God’s people
I. The character of Egypt, and her influence on her children.
1. Egypt was distinguished as the abode of a peculiarly easy and luxurious life. In Egypt, as in the world, there was all that could lay the soul to sleep under its vine and fig-tree, and reduce it to the level of the brutes which the Egyptian worshipped as more wise and wonderful than man. This easiness of the terms of life is fatal to the noblest elements in man. Look at Naples. No heroism can be extracted from the Lazzaroni. Give the fellow a bit of bread, a slice of melon, and a drink of sour wine, and he will lie all day long on the quays, basking in the sun and the glorious air; and what cares he if empires rise or totter to their fall? Egypt was the Naples of the old world; wealth, luxury, elaborate refinement, of a kind not inconsistent with grossness; but no moral earnestness, no manhood, no life. Nature wooed man to her lap in Egypt and won him, bathing him in luxurious pleasures--Egypt was the world.
2. Moreover, Egypt was cut off very much from all the political and intellectual activity in which Babylon was compelled to share. She could “live to herself and die to herself,” as was not possible for Babylon. She could play away her strength and her life in wanton pleasures at her will. Egypt is the image of the wanton world herein. It was full of the wisdom of this world, the wisdom of the understanding, which prostitutes itself easily to the uses of a sensual and earthly life.
II. The experience of God’s children there--its influence on a people conscious that they had a soul to be saved.
1. They went down to Egypt with the fairest prospect--certainty of sustenance, and promise of wealth, honour, and power. They were to settle in Goshen; better, richer land than the bare hills which would be their only home in Canaan, whose rich valleys would be mainly occupied by the native inhabitants--laud in every way suited to yield pasture to their flocks. So the world woos us. We are born in it, God placed us here, God gave us these keen senses, these imperious appetites, and the means of their fullest indulgence; and why should we tighten the rein? See you no new reason why Egypt, when the patriarchs dwelt there, was a fit and full image of “the world”?
2. They had not lived there long, before, rich and fruitful as was the land, they began to find their life a bondage. Egypt was strange to them. They could not amalgamate with the inhabitants. The Egyptians came to feel it; alienation sprang up and bitterness. Egypt laid chains on them to keep them in her service, while they groaned and writhed, and sighed to be gone--to be free. And rich as the world’s pastures may be, propitious as may be its kings, the soul of man grows uneasy in its abodes. There are moments of utter heart-sickness amidst plenty and luxury, such as a sick child of the mountains knows, tossing on a purple bed of state: “Oh, for one breath of the sunny breezes, one glance at the shadows sweeping over the brown moorlands; one breath, one vision, would give me new life.” The very prosperity makes the soul conscious of its fetters.
3. The moment comes, in every experience, when the bondage becomes too grevious to be borne; when the spirit cries out and wrestles for deliverance, and the iron, blood-rusted, enters the very heart. The men became conscious of their higher vocation, and wept and pleaded more earnestly; and their tyrants yoked them more tightly, and loaded them more heavily; till, like Job, they cursed God’s light and hated life, in bitterness of soul. And the soul in its Egypt, the world, drinks deep of this experience. The moment comes when it wakes up and says, “I am a slave”; “I am a beast”; “I will shake off this yoke”; “I will be free.” Then begins a battle-agony; a strife for life and immortality--the end either a final, eternal relapse into captivity, or an exodus into the wilderness and to heaven. Let the soul fight its own battles, and the most heroic struggles shall not save it. Let it follow the Captain of Salvation, and gird on the armour of God, and death and hell shall not spoil it. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
The taskmasters of the world
1. Sin is a taskmaster.
2. The rich are often taskmasters.
3. The ambitious are often taskmasters. These taskmasters are--
(1) Authoritative: “They did set over thee.”
(2) Painful: “To afflict thee.”
(3) Inconsiderate: “Burdens.” (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
That God allowed His people thus to be enslaved and afflicted
1. A mystery.
2. A problem.
3. A punishment.
4. A discipline. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Suffering and strength
One thing experience teaches, that life brings no benediction for those who take it easily. The harvest cannot be reaped until the soil has been deeply ploughed and freely harrowed. “Learn to suffer and be strong,” says the poet; and certain it is that without suffering there can be no strength. Not, indeed, that suffering is or makes strength, but that it evokes the latent power, and rouses into action the energies that would have otherwise lain ingloriously supine. The discipline of life is a necessary prelude to the victory of life; and all that is finest, purest, and noblest in human nature is called forth by the presence of want, disappointment, pain, opposition, and injustice. Difficulties can be conquered only by decision; obstacles can be removed only by arduous effort. These test our manhood, and at the same time confirm our self-control. (W. H. D. Adams.)
Life maintained by struggling
You lament that your life is one constant struggle; that, having obtained what you tried hard to secure, your whole strength is now required in order to retain it; and that your necessities impose on you the further obligation of additional exertions. It is so; but do not repine. As a rule, the maintenance of life is everywhere conditional on struggling. It is not only so with men and animals. It is so even in the vegetable world. You struggle with obstacles; but the very trees have to do the same. Observe them; take heart and grow strong. M. Louis Figuier says that the manner in which roots succeed in overcoming obstacles has always been a subject of surprise to the observer. The roots of trees and shrubs, when cramped or hindered in their progress, have been observed to exhibit considerable mechanical force, throwing down walls or splitting rocks, and in other eases clinging together in bunches or spreading out their fibres over a prodigious space, in order to follow the course of a rivulet with its friendly moisture. Who has not seen with admiration how roots will adapt themselves to the special circumstances of the soil, dividing their filaments in a soil fit for them almost to infinity, elsewhere abandoning a sterile soft to seek one farther off which is favourable to them; and as the ground was wide or less hard, wet or dry, heavy or light, sandy or stony, varying their shapes accordingly? Here are wonderful energy, and illustrations of the way in which existence may be maintained by constant action. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
Use of adversity
The springs at the base of the Alpine Mountains are fullest and freshest when the summer sun has dried and parched the verdure in the valleys below. The heat that has burned the arid plains has melted mountain glacier and snow, and increased the volume of the mountain streams. Thus, when adversity has dried the springs of earthly comfort and hope, God’s great springs of salvation and love flow freshest and fullest to gladden the heart. (Irish Congregational Magazine.)
Moulding influences of life
The steel that has suffered most is the best steel. It has been in the furnace again and again; it has been on the anvil; it has been tight in the jaws of the vice; it has felt the teeth of the rasp; it has been ground by emery; it has been heated and hammered and filed until it does not know itself, and it comes out a splendid knife. And if men only knew it, what are called their “misfortunes” are God’s best blessings, for they are the moulding influences which give them shapeliness and edge, and durability, and power. (H. W. Beecher.)
The advantage of afflictions
Stars shine brightest in the darkest night; torches are better for the beating; grapes come not to the proof till they come to the press; spices smell sweetest when pounded; young trees root the faster for shaking; vines are the better for bleeding; gold looks the brighter for scouring; glow-worms glisten best in the dark; juniper smells sweetest in the fire; pomander becomes most fragrant for chafing; the palm-tree proves the better for pressing; camomile, the more you tread it, the more you spread it. Such is the condition of all God’s children, they are then most triumphant when most tempted; most glorious when most afflicted; most in the favour of God when least in man’s; as their conflicts, so their conquests; as their tribulations, so their triumphs; true salamanders, that live best in the furnace of persecution, so that heavy afflictions are the best benefactors to heavenly affections. (J. Spencer.)
The university of hard knocks
A great deal of useless sympathy is in this day expended upon those who start in life without social or monetary help. Those are most to be congratulated who have at the beginning a rough tussel with circumstances. John Ruskin sets it down as one of his calamities that in early life he “had nothing to endure.” A petted and dandled childhood makes a weak and insipid man. You say that the Ruskin just quoted disproves the theory. No. He is showing in a dejected, splenetic, and irritated old age the need of the early cudgelling of adversity. He seems fretting himself to death. A little experience of the hardship of life would have helped to make him gratefully happy now. No brawn of character without compulsory exertion. The men who sit strong in their social, financial, and political elevations are those who did their own climbing. Misfortune is a rough nurse, but she raises giants. Let our young people, instead of succumbing to the influences that would keep them back and down, take them as the parallel bars, and dumb-bells, and weights of a gymnasium, by which they are to get muscle for the strife. Consent not to beg your way to fortune, but achieve it. God is always on the side of the man who does his best. God helps the man who tries to overcome difficulties. (Dr. Talmage.)
Graces multiply by affliction
Graces multiply by afflictions, as the saints did by persecutions. (T. Adams.)
Beneficial effects of affliction
The walnut tree is most fruitful when most beaten. Fish thrive best in cold and salt waters. The most plentiful summer follows upon the hardest winter. (J. Trapp.)
Though your attempt to destroy a man’s position may fail to accomplish that object, it may be productive of serious injury to him. Yet, fortunately for him, that very injury may afterwards bring forth good results. His friends may rally round him; his resources may be added to through the medium of the sympathetic; or he may be so acted on as to put forth power from within which develops new graces and fresh vigour. You injure a tree, and you will discover reparation is at work even there. The wheel of your cart, for instance, grazes the trunk, or the root of the tree is wounded by your passing ploughshare; the result is an adventitious bud comes. Wherever you see those adventitious buds which come without any order, you may recollect that their formation is frequently thus produced by the irritation caused by injury. You cut down the heads of a group of forest trees; you have not destroyed them. Like the men you have injured, they live to tell the tale. The pollarded dwarf remains to declare what the forest tree would have become but for you. Even the date of your attack can be ascertained; for the stunted group will cover themselves with branches all of the same age and strength, which will exhibit to the sky the evidence of the story: Injured these all are; yes, but not destroyed. (Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
Affliction and growth
Bunyan’s figure of Satan pouring water on the fire to extinguish it, and it all the while waxing brighter and hotter because the unseen Christ was pouring oil upon it, illustrates the prosperity of God’s people in affliction. “The more they afflicted them, the more they grew.” When a fire attains certain heat and volume, to pour water upon it is only to add fuel. The water, suddenly changed to its component gases, feeds, instead of extinguishing, the flame. So God changes the evil inflicted upon His people into an upbuilding and sanctifying power. (H. C. Trumbull.)
They made their lives bitter with hard bondage.--
The bondage of sin
I. The bondage as an illustration of sin. “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.”
1. The unnaturalness of this bondage. Men were fitted to serve God, not Satan. All their powers are perverted, misused, and reversed, when they are in courses of disobedience, and rebellion. “Right” means “straight,” and “wrong” means “wrung.”
2. The severity of this bondage. No taskmaster for men has ever been found more brutal than a brutal man. The devil has no despot out of hell more despotic than sinners to place over sinners. When villains get villains in their power, how they do persist in lashing them into further villainy and vice!
3. The injustice of this bondage. Satan never remembers favours bestowed. One may give himself, body, soul, and spirit to the devil, and no fidelity will win him the least consideration. Injustice is the rule in sin, it never in any case has exceptions. The prince of evil simply uses his devotees all the worse because of their servility and patience.
4. The destructiveness of this bondage of sin. The wanton waste of all that makes life worth a struggle by persistent courses of sin is familiar to every thoughtful observer. Wickedness never builds up; it always pulls down. Once in the heat of a public discussion some infidels challenged an immediate reply to what they called their arguments. A plain woman arose in the audience; she proceeded to relate how her husband had been dissipated and unkind; she had prayed for him, and he had become a praying man and a good father; years of comfort and of peace had they now dwelt together in the love of each other and the fear of God. “So much,” she continued, “has my religion done for me. Will you kindly state now what your religion has done for you in the same time?” Done? unbelief does not do anything, it undoes.
II. And now with so sorrowful a showing as this bondage has to make, it seems surprising to find that the Israelites were counselled to “remember” it. Why should they recall such humiliation?
1. Such reminiscences promote humility. Spiritual pride is as dangerous as a vice. What have we that God’s mercy has not bestowed upon us? Why boast we over each other? Recollect that “the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto Him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.” To Him we owe everything we are.
2. Such a remembrance quickens our considerate charity for others. Our disposition is to condemn and denounce the degeneracies of the times in which we live. Wherein are people worse now than we ourselves were once? How do we know what we might have been if it had not been for the arrest of our rebellion by the power of the Holy Ghost? Once, as a drunken man reeled past his door, John Newton exclaimed: “But for the grace of God, there goes John Newton!” (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Embittering the lives of others
It is no credit to Pharaoh that God overruled his oppression of the Israelites to their advantage. For his course there is nothing but guilt and shame. He who makes another life bitter has got the bitterness of that life to answer for, whatever good may come to his victim through the blessing of God. It is a terrible thing--a shameful thing also--to make another’s life bitter. Yet there are boys and girls who are making their mothers’ lives bitter; and there are husbands who are making the lives of their wives bitter; and there are parents who are making their children’s lives bitter. Is no one’s life made bitter by your course? Is there no danger of bitterness of life to any one through your conduct--or your purposed action? Weigh well these questions; for they involve much to you. Pharaoh is dead; there is no danger of his making our lives bitter with hard bondage. But the devil is not dead; and there is danger of our being in hard bondage to him. Pharaoh’s bondage was overruled for good to those who were under it. The devil’s bondage is harder than Pharaoh’s, and no good ever comes of it to its subjects. It were better for us to have died under the hardest bondage of Pharaoh than to live on under the devil’s easiest bondage. (H. C. Trumbull.)
Pharaoh’s cruel policy
It is worth notice that the king holds council with his people, and evidently carries them with him in his policy. The Egyptians had more than their share of the characteristic ancient hatred and dread of foreigners, and here they are ready to second any harsh treatment of these intruders, whom three hundred years have amalgamated. Observe, too, that the cruel policy of Pharaoh is policy, and that only. No crime is alleged; no passion of hate actuates the cold-blooded proposal. It is simply a piece of state-craft, perfectly cool, and therefore indicating all the more heartlessness. Calculated cruelty is worse than impulsive cruelty. Like some drinks, it is more nauseous cold than hot. No doubt the question what to do with a powerful subject race, on a threatened frontier, who were suspected of kindred and possible alliance with the enemy on the other side of the boundary, was a difficult one. Rameses must have thought of Goshen and the Israelites much as we may fancy Prince Bismarck thinks of Alsace. He was afraid to let them become more powerful, and he was loath to lose them. Whether they stayed or went, they were equally formidable. High policy, therefore, which, in Old Egypt, and in other lands and ages nearer home, has too often meant undisguised selfishness and cynical cruelty, required that the peaceful happiness of a whole nation should be ruthlessly sacrificed; and the calm Pharaoh, whose unimpassioned, callous face we can still see on the monuments, laid his plans as unmoved as if he had been arranging for the diminution of the vermin in the palace wails. What a picture of these God-defying, man-despising, ancient monarchies is here! What would he have thought if any of his counsellors had suggested, “Try kindness”? The idea of attaching subject peoples by common interests, and golden bonds of benefit, had to wait millenniums to be born. It is not too widely spread yet. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The despotism of sin
I. It commences by suggesting a small tribute to the sinner. It wins us by the hope of a good investment whereby we may secure wealth, prosperity, fame. A false hope; a deceptive promise. Sin is cunning; has many counsellors; many agencies. You are no match for it.
II. It succeeds in getting the sinner completely within its power.
1. Sin gets the sinner under its rule.
2. Sin makes the sinner subject to its counsel.
3. Sin makes the sinner responsible to its authority.
III. It ultimately imposes upon the sinner an intolerable servitude.
1. The servitude of a bitter life. Destroys friendly companionships, breaks up family comfort.
2. The servitude of hard work. Unprofitableness and folly of sin.
3. The servitude is degrading. Brings men from respect to derision--from plenty to beggary--from moral rulership to servitude. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The spiritual bondage of men
I. An entire and universal bondage. No merciful limit nor mitigation (see 2 Timothy 2:26; 2 Peter 2:19; John 8:34; Romans 5:18, Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22).
1. It extends to all mankind.
2. The slavery of the individual is as complete and total, as that of the species is universal.
(1) Understanding depraved.
(2) Will perverted.
(3) Affections depraved.
II. A severe and cruel bondage. No mastery can be found more pitiless than that of the unhallowed affections and passions which rule the mind, until the Almighty Redeemer breaks the yoke, and sets the captive free from the law of sin and death.
III. A helpless bondage.
1. The oppressor of the soul abounds too greatly in power and resources to dread any resistance from a victim so helpless. Our strength for combat against such an enemy is perfect weakness.
2. In addition to his own power Satan has established a close alliance with every appetite and affection of our nature. Morally unable to deliver ourselves. Hope in God alone. Seek His aid through prayer. (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
The sufferings of Israel were rendered more intense
1. As a punishment for their idolatry.
2. To inspire within them a deep hatred toward Egypt, so that through their perils in the wilderness they might not wish to return thither.
3. That the prospect of Canaan might animate and refresh their souls.
4. That after such excessive and unpaid labour they might fairly spoil the Egyptians on their departure.
5. That they might be aroused to earnest prayer for deliverance.
6. That the power and mercy of God might be more forcibly displayed in their freedom.
Here is a true picture of tyranny:
1. Its rigour increases with failure.
2. It becomes more impious as it is in evident opposition to the Divine providence.
3. It discards all the claims of humanity.
4. It ends in its own defeat and overthrow. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Situated as they were within the bounds of a foreign kingdom, at first naturally jealous, and then openly hostile towards them, it is not difficult to account for the kind of treatment inflicted on them, viewing the position they occupied merely in its worldly relations and interests. But what account can we give of it in its religious aspect--as an arrangement settled and ordained on the part of God? Why should He have ordered such a state of matters concerning His chosen seed? For the Egyptians “though their hearts thought not so”--were but instruments in His hands, to bring to pass what the Lord had long before announced to Abraham as certainly to take place (Genesis 15:13).
1. Considered in this higher point of view, the first light in which it naturally presents itself is that of a doom or punishment, from which, as interested in the mercy of God, they needed redemption. For the aspect of intense suffering, which is latterly assumed, could only be regarded as an act of retribution for their past unfaithfulness and sins.
(1) It first of all clearly demonstrated, that, apart from the covenant of God, the state and prospects of those heirs of promise were in no respect better than those of other men--in some respects it seemed to be the worse with them. They were equally far off from the inheritance, being in a state of hopeless alienation from it; they had drunk into the foul and abominable pollutions of the land of their present sojourn, which were utterly at variance with an interest in the promised blessing; and they bore upon them the yoke of a galling bondage, at once the consequence and the sign of their spiritual degradation. They differed for the better only in having a part in the covenant of God.
(2) Therefore, secondly, whatever this covenant secured for them of promised good, they must have owed entirely to Divine grace.
(3) Hence, finally, the promise of the inheritance could be made good in their experience only by the special kindness and interposition of God, vindicating the truth of His own faithful word, and in order to this, executing in their behalf a work of redemption. While the inheritance was sure, because the title to it stood in the mercy and faithfulness of God, they had of necessity to be redeemed before they could actually possess it.
2. It formed an essential part of the preparation which they needed for occupying the inheritance.
(1) It was necessary by some means to have a desire awakened in their bosoms towards Canaan, for the pleasantness of their habitation had become a snare to them. The affliction of Israel in Egypt is a testimony to the truth, common to all times, that the kingdom of God must be entered through tribulation. The tribulation may be ever so varied in its character and circumstances; but in some form it must be experienced, in order to prevent the mind from becoming wedded to temporal enjoyments, and to kindle in it a sincere desire for the better part, which is reserved in heaven for the heirs of salvation. Hence it is so peculiarly hard for those who are living in the midst of fulness and prosperity to enter into the kingdom of God. And hence, also, must so many trying dispensations be sent even to those who have entered the kingdom, to wean them from earthly things, and constrain them to seek for their home and portion in heaven.
(2) But if we look once more to the Israelites, we shall see that something besides longing desire for Canaan was needed to prepare them for what was in prospect. For that land, though presented to their hopes as a land flowing with milk and honey, was not to be by any means a region of inactive repose, where everything was to be done for them, and they had only to take their rest, and feast themselves with the abundance of peace. There was much to be done, as well as much to be enjoyed; and they could neither have fulfilled, in regard to other nations, the elevated destiny to which they were appointed, as the lamp and witness of heaven, nor reaped in their own experience the large measure of good which was laid up in store for themselves, unless they had been prepared by a peculiar training of vigorous action, and even compulsive labour, to make the proper use of all their advantages. (P. Fairbairn, D. D.)
The bondage of sin
Throughout the Scriptures the circumstances of Israel in Egypt are referred to as typical of the servitude under which the sinner is held. There is more than guilt in wickedness. It would indeed be bad enough, even if that were all, but there is slavery besides. Our Lord Himself says, “Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin”; and there are no taskmasters so exacting as a man’s own lusts. Look at the drunkard! See how his vile appetite rules him! It makes him barter every comfort he possesses for strong drink. It lays him helpless on the snowy street in the bitter winter’s cold. It sends him headlong down the staircase, to the injury of his body and the danger of his life. If a slaveholder were to abuse a slave as the drunkard maltreats himself, humanity would hiss him from his place, and denounce him as a barbarian. And yet the inebriate does it to himself, and tries to sing the while the refrain of the song which ends, “We never, never shall be slaves.” The same thing is true of sensuality. Go search the hospitals of this city; look at the wretched victims of their own lusts who fill the wards, and then say if man’s inhumanity to himself be not, in some aspects of it, infinitely more terrible than his oppression of his neighbours. Visit our prisons, and see how avarice, fashion, frivolity, and the love of standing well with their companions, have held multitudes in their grip, forcing them--nay, I will not say forcing them, for they sin wilfully--but leading them to dishonesty day by day, until at last the inner servitude gives place to an external imprisonment. The setting of slaves to make bricks without straw is nothing to the drudgery and the danger--as of one standing on the crater’s edge--that dishonesty brings upon a man when once it has him in its power. And it is the same with every kind of sin. But this slavery need not be perpetual, for the Great Emancipator has come. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Egypt opposed to Israel
It is no new thing for Egypt to be unkind and cruel to Israel. Israelites and Egyptians are of contrary dispositions and inclinations; the delight of one is the abomination of the other. Besides, it is the duty of Israel to depart out of Egypt. Israel is in Egypt in respect of abode, not of desire. Egypt is not Israel’s rest. If Egypt were a house of hospitality, it would more dangerously and strongly detain the Israelites, than in being a house of bondage. The thoughts of Canaan would be but slight and seldom if Egypt were pleasant. It is good that Egyptians should hate us, that so they may not hurt us. When the world is most kind, it is most corrupting; and when it smiles most, it seduces most. Were it not for the bondage in Egypt, the food and idols of Egypt would be too much beloved. Blessed be God, who will by the former wean us from the latter; and will not let us have the one without the other: far better that Egypt should oppress us than we oppose God. (W. Jenkyn.)
The bondage of sin
Vice, as it groweth in age, so it improveth in stature and strength; from a puny child it soon waxeth a lusty stripling, then riseth to be a sturdy man, and after a while becomes a massy giant whom we shall scarce dare to encounter, whom we shall be very hardly able to vanquish; especially seeing that, as it groweth taller and stouter, so we shall dwindle and become more impotent, for it feedeth upon our vitals and thriveth by our decay; it waxeth mighty by stripping us of our best forces, by enfeebling our reason, by preventing our will, by corrupting our temper, by debasing our courage, by seducing all our appetites and passions to a treacherous compliance with itself; every day our mind growing more blind, our will more restive, our spirit more faint, our appetites more fierce, our passions more headstrong and untameable. The power and empire of sin do strangely by degrees encroach, and continually get ground upon us till it has quite subdued and enthralled us. First we learn to bear it, then we come to like it; by and by we contract a friendship with it; then we dote on it; at last we become enslaved to it in a bondage which we shall hardly be able or willing to shake off. (Isaac Barrow.)
Darkest before the dawn
“Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation” (Genesis 46:3). Look down, thou sainted patriarch! see what has here become of thy posterity, increased now fourteen thousand fold; nay, see, Thou God of Abraham, what has become of Thine inheritance, how they have watched and prayed in vain! “The Lord hath forsaken, the Lord hath forgotten!” And this continues, not for years, but centuries, each year of which seems in itself a century! “Verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself!” With such a scene of sorrow in his view, the most unfortunate among us well may cease complaint; and he who has to some extent learned to observe God’s dealings in His providence, may have himself already marked how, in the present case, an old-established law in God’s government is set before us in the form of a most touching incident: the Lord ofttimes makes everything as dark as they can possibly become, just that thereafter and thereby the light may shine more brilliantly. Ishmael must faint beneath the shrubs ere Hagar shall be told about the well. Joseph must even be left to sigh, not merely in his slavery, but in imprisonment and deep oblivion, ere he is raised to his high dignity. The host of the Assyrians must stand before Jerusalem’s gates ere they are smitten by the angel of the Lord. The prophet Jeremiah must be let sink down into the miry pit, ere he is placed upon a rock. Did not a violent persecution of the Christians precede the triumph of the gospel? In the night of mediaeval times, must not star after star set ere the Reformation dawn arose? Yes; is not Israel’s history in this respect also the history of God’s own people in succeeding times, even in the present day? They suffer persecution, are oppressed, ill-treated, and opposed through a mistaken policy; all kinds of force are often used for their restraint under the sacred name of liberty; yet still they stand, and take deep root, and grow, expecting better times will come in spite of these fierce hurricanes. Nay, verily, the Lord has not forgotten to be gracious, though He sometimes seems to hide His face; nor does He cease to rule the world, though He delays to interpose. The Father watches and preserves his child amidst the fiercest fires of persecution; and although the furnace of the trial through which he comes be heated seven times more than usual, every degree of heat is counted, measured, regulated by the Lord Himself. Though He permits injustice, and even lets it grow to an extraordinary height, He yet employs it for a purpose that may well command our adoration and regard--the purifying and the perfecting of those who are His own. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)
The bitter lives
I. God’s blessing makes fruitful
1. The promise to Abraham (Genesis 17:2-8).
2. The number of the Israelites in Egypt (verses 9, 10).
II. Note the mistakes committed through prejudice.
1. The Egyptians hated and spurned the Israelites; therefore, ultimately, lost the blessing of their presence.
2. Statesmanship fails in placing policy before principle.
3. Cruelty begot enmity; kindness would have won.
III. Selfishness soon forgets past favours. A new ruler disregarded the claims of Joseph’s seed. This world works for present and prospective favours.
IV. Here is a type of the growth of sin. The Israelites came into the best part of Egypt; first pleasant, then doubtful, then oppressed, then finally enslaved.
1. Sin yields bitter fruit.
2. We have taskmasters in our habit.
3. Life becomes a burden: sorrows of servitude.
V. Note the reason for this affliction.
1. They were becoming idolatrous (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:5-8).
2. Bitterness now would help to prevent return to Egypt.
3. We sometimes find sorrow here that we may look above.
VI. God’s favour here contrasted with man’s opposition. Pharaoh failed; the Israelities multiplied.
VII. Affliction helps us.
1. As afflicted, so they grew.
2. Christ purgeth us for more fruit.
3. Self-denial is the path to power. (Dr. Fowler.)
The mummy of Rameses the Great
After the verification by the Khedive of the outer winding-sheet of the mummy in the sight of the other illustrious personages, the initial wrapping was removed, and there was disclosed a band of stuff or strong cloth rolled all around the body; next to this was a second envelope sewed up and kept in place by narrow bands at some distance each from each; then came two thicknesses of small bandages; and then a new winding-sheet of linen, reaching from the head to the feet. Upon this a figure representing the goddess Nut, more than a yard in length, had been drawn in red and white colour, as prescribed by the ritual for the dead. Beneath this amulet there was found one more bandage; when that was removed, a piece of linen alone remained, and this was spotted with the bituminous matter used by the embalmers; so at last it was evident that Rameses the Great was close by--under his shroud. Think of the historic changes which have passed over the world since that linen cloth was put around the form of the king: Think what civilization stood facing an old era like his. A single clip of the scissors, and the king was fully disclosed. The head is long and small in proportion to the body. The top of the skull is quite bare. On the temple there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about two inches in length. White at the time of death, they have been dyed a light yellow by the spices used in embalmment. The forehead is low and narrow; the brow-ridge prominent; the eyebrows are thick and white; the eyes are small and close together; the nose is long, thin, arched like the noses of the Bourbons; the temples are sunken; the cheek-bones very prominent; the ears round, standing, far out from the head, and pierced, like those of a woman, for the wearing of ear-rings; the jawbone is massive and strong; the chin very prominent; the mouth small but thick-lipped; the teeth worn and very brittle, but white and well preserved. The moustache and beard are thin. They seem to have been kept shaven during life, but were probably allowed to grow during the king’s last illness; or they may have grown after death. The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows, but are harsh and bristly, and a tenth of an inch in length. The skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black. Finally, it may be said the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king. The expression is unintellectual, perhaps slightly animal; bat, even under mummification, there is plainly to be seen an air of sovereign majesty, of resolve, and of pride. The rest of the body is as well preserved as the head; but, in consequence of the reduction of the tissues, its external aspect is less life-like. He was over six feet in height. The chest is broad; the shoulders are square; the arms are crossed upon the breast; the hands are small and dyed with henna. The legs and thighs are fleshless; the feet are long, slender, somewhat flat-soled, and dyed, like the hands, with henna. The corpse is that of an old man, but of a vigorous and robust old man The man was an incarnation of selfishness. To him there was but one being in the universe for whom he needed to care one great; only a single will was to be consulted, only a single man’s comfort was to be sought; he himself was the sole centre of all things. Man’s strength, and woman’s honour, life, wealth, time, and ease of other men, went for his personal glorification. And now the world looks at him, and gives him his due, in the light of the charities and decencies God commands. What do we mean when we speak of “a hard man”? One of the visitors who saw that mummy unrolled, a cool, quiet German, wrote afterwards this clause of description: “The expression of the features is that of a man of decided, almost tyrannical, character.” That ought to be so. This is the despot who ordered that the tally of bricks should remain undiminished, while his slaves should have to forage for their own necessity of straw. He was “a hard man.” Is any one of us hard? Do we need to be kings in order to have that name? Can one be hard upon his clerks, his journeymen, his neighbours, in so far as he has power? So, again, does” a man of decided, almost tyrannical character” fashion and fix his character in the expression of his features? Do you recognize “a hard man” by his looks, when you set eyes upon him in ordinary life? Will one’s disposition grow on him, until it shows itself in his forehead, his lips, his chin, the poise of his proud head? As years pass, are your features growing heavier and colder? Furthermore, is it on the body alone that character makes an impression? Is it possible that, even unconsciously to ourselves, soul as well as body is becoming indurate and chilly? Is money forcing features on our inner life and being? As we rise in life, do we grow interested in others; unselfish, gentle, forbearing in our judgments, or stiff, and rigid, and violent, and impatient of others’ successes? And finally, if character thus perpetuates itself in the soul as well as on the body, is there anything disclosed to us of the world to come which will avail to change the destiny we have fashioned? On the day royal Rameses was buried, they wrapped his aged bald head in cerements, and covered him in the shadows. He comes up now after some awful centuries of silence, and he looks Just as he used to look. It is likely his soul has not grown different either. We know nothing about his future. It is ours that concerns us. What is going to change any lineament of soul in the mysterious Hereafter? (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
If it be a son, then ye shall kill him.--
High social position used for the furtherance of a wicked purpose
I. Sometimes high social position exerts its authority for the accomplishment of a wicked and cruel purpose.
1. The king commands the murder of the male children of the Israelites. Diabolical massacre of innocents. Abuse and degradation of regal power.
2. He seeks to accomplish this by bringing the innocent into a participation of his murderous deed. Tyrants are generally cowards.
II. When high social authority is used to further a wicked design, we are justified in opposing its effort.
1. We are not to do wrong because a king commands it. To oppose murder, when advocated by a king, and when it could be accomplished unknown--or, if known, gain applause of nations--is--
(3) divinely rewardable;
(4) duty of all who fear God.
2. Such opposition must embody the true principle of piety. The midwives feared God more than they feared the king.
3. Such opposition will secure for us the Divine protection.
III. For such opposition we shall be divinely rewarded (verses 20, 21). (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Why were the males to be put to death?-
1. Because they were the most capable of insurrection and war.
2. Because the Israelitish women were fairer than the Egyptian, and so might be kept for the purposes of lust.
3. Because the Israelitish women were industrious in spinning and needlework, and so were kept for service. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Pharaoh’s murderous intentions
His plan was a quiet one. I dread the quietness of murderers. When murderers lay their heads together, and fall into soft whispers, their whispers are more awful than the roar of cannon or the crash of thunder. The king’s plan was to murder the male child the instant it was born. The thing could easily be done. A thumb pressed on the throat would do it. A hand covering the external organs of respiration for a few moments would be sufficient. This was his simple plan of beating back the manhood of the dreaded nation. He was going to do it very simply. Oh, the simplicity of murderers is more intricate than any elaboration of complexity on the part of innocent men! There was to be no external demonstration of violence--no unsheathing of swords--no clash of arms on the field of battle; the nation was to be sapped very quietly. Sirs! Murder is murder, whether it is done quietly or with tumult and thunder. Beware of silent manslaughter! Beware of quiet murder! Nothing sublimer than butchery struck the mind of this idiot king. Thoughts of culture and kindness never flashed into the dungeon of his soul. He had no idea of the omnipotence of love. He knew not of the power of that government which is founded on the intelligence and affection of the common people. Annihilation was his fierce remedy There is a profound lesson here. If a king fears children, there must be great power in children; if the tyrant begins with the children, the good man should begin with them too. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The midwives feared God.--
Pharaoh’s evil intention frustrated by God
1. Tyrants’ commands are sometimes crossed by God’s good hand.
2. The true fear of God, from faith in Him, will make weakest creatures abstain from sin.
3. The name of the only God is powerful to support against the word of mightiest kings.
4. God’s fear will make men disobey kings, that they may obey God.
5. The fear of God will make souls do good, though commanded by men to do evil.
6. Life preservers discover regard to God, and not bloody injurious life destroyers.
7. God makes them save life whom men appoint to destroy it.
8. The good hand of God doth keep the males or best helps of the Church’s peace, whom persecutors would kill (verse 17). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Beneficent influence of the fear of God
They who fear God are superior to all other fear. When our notion of authority terminates upon the visible and temporary, we become the victims of fickle circumstances; when that notion rises to the unseen and eternal, we enjoy rest amid the tumult of all that is merely outward and therefore perishing. Take history through and through, and it will be found that the men and women who have most devoutly and honestly feared God have done most to defend and save the countries in which they lived. They have made little noise; they have got up no open-air demonstrations; they have done little or nothing in the way of banners and trumpets, and have had no skill in getting up torchlight meetings; but their influence has silently penetrated the national life, and secured for the land the loving and mighty care of God. Where the spiritual life is profound and real, the social and political influence is correspondingly vital and beneficent. All the great workers in society are not at the front. A hidden work is continually going on; the people in the shade are strengthening the social foundation. There is another history beside that which is written in the columns of the daily newspaper. Every country has heroes and heroines uncanonised. (J. Parker, D. D.)
A definition of the fear of God
Fear of God is that holy disposition or gracious habit formed in the soul by the Holy Spirit, whereby we are inclined to obey all God’s commands; and evidences itself by--
1. A dread of His displeasure.
2. Desire of His favour.
3. Regard for His excellences.
4. Submission to His will.
5. Gratitude for His benefits.
6. Conscientious obedience to His commands. (C. Buck.)
Civilizing influence of the fear of God
A weary day had been passed in visiting a wretched neighbourhood. Its scenes were sad, sickening, repulsive. Famine, fever, want, squalid nakedness, moral and physical impurities, drunkenness, death, and the devil were all reigning there. Those only who have known the sinking of heart which the miseries of such scenes produce, especially when aggravated by a close and tainted atmosphere, can imagine the grateful surprise with which, on opening a door, we stepped into a comfortable apartment. Its whitewashed walls were hung around with prints, the household furniture shone like a looking-glass, and a bright fire was dancing merrily over a clean hearth-stone. It was an oasis in the desert. And we well remember, ere question was asked or answered, of saying to ourselves, “Surely the fear of God is in this place; this must be the house of a church-going family.” It proved to be so. Yet it was a home where abject poverty might have been expected and excused. A blind man dwelt there. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The fear of God
Learn a life-lesson from the monument to Lord Lawrence in Westminster Abbey. Of all the memorials there, you will not find one that gives a nobler thought. Simply his name, and the date of his death, and these words; “He feared man so little, because he feared God so much.” Here is one great secret of victory. Walk ever in the fear of God. Set God ever before you. Let your prayer be that of the Rugby boy, John Laing Bickersteth, found locked up in his desk after his death: “O God, give me courage that I may fear none but Thee.” (Great Thoughts.)
Obedience to conscience
Lord Erskine, when at the bar, was remarkable for the fearlessness with which he contended against the Bench. In a contest he had with Lord Kenyon he explained the rule and conduct at the bar in the following terms:--“It was,” said he, “the first command and counsel of my youth always to do what my conscience told me to be my duty, and leave the consequences to God. I have hitherto followed it, and have no reason to complain that any obedience to it has been even a temporal sacrifice; I have found it, on the contrary, the road to prosperity and wealth, and I shall point it out as such to my children.” (W. Baxendale.)
Excellency of the fear of God
It hath been an usual observation, that when the king’s porter stood at the gate and suffered none to come in without examination what he would have, that then the king was within; but when the porter was absent, and the gates open to receive all that came, then it was an argument of the king’s absence. So in a Christian, such is the excellency of the fear of God, that when it is present, as a porter shutting the doors of the senses, that they see not, hear not what they list, it is an argument the lord of that house, even God Himself, is within; and when this fear is away, a free entrance is given to all the most dissolute desires, so that it is an infallible demonstration of God’s removal from such a soul. (J. Spencer.)
Fear of God a safeguard
If we fear God, we need know no other fear. That Divine fear, like the space which the American settler burns around him as a defence against the prairie fire, clears a circle, within which we are absolutely safe. The old necromancists believed that if a man was master of himself he enjoyed complete immunity from all danger; if his will was firmly set, the powers of evil could not harm him; he could defy a host of devils raging around. Against the malice of human and infernal power, the citadel of a man’s heart that is set upon God is impregnable. (Dr. Hugh Macmillan.)
The best service
He who serves God, serves a good master. He who truly serves God is courageous and heroic. Here are two humble women who despise the patronage of a crown, and set a king’s edict at defiance. There is no bravery equal to the bravery that is moral. It makes the weakest a conqueror, and lifts up the lowest to pluck the palm of victory. A short-sighted policy would have said, “Please Pharaoh”; a true heart said, “Please God.” Pharaoh had much to give. He held honours in his hand. He could deal out gold and silver. He could give a name among the Egyptians. What of it I God could turn his honours into shame, and send the canker on his gold. Serve God! Well tended is that fold which God watches. Pharaoh may frown, but his frowns will be unseen and unregarded amid the light of an approving heaven! (J. Parker, D. D.)
Cast into the river.--
The last edict of a tyrant king
I. It was public in its proclamation. How men advance from one degree of sin to another.
II. It was cruel in its requirements. Why should a tyrant king fear the infant sons of Israel? He knew they would be his enemies in the future if spared. Young life is the hope of the Church and the terror of despots. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Progress in sin
There is a woful gradation in sin. As mariners, setting sail, lose sight of the shore, then of the houses, then of the steeples, and then of the mountains and land; and as those who are waylaid by a consumption first lose vigour, then appetite, and then colour; thus it is that sin hath its woful gradations. None decline to the worst at first, but go from one degree of turpitude to another, until the very climax is reached.
The climax of cruelty
If we glance once more at the different means which Pharaoh devised for the oppression and diminution of the Hebrews, we find that they imply the following climax of severity and cruelty: he first endeavoured to break their energy by labour and hardship (verses 11-14), then to effect their diminution by killing the newborn male children through the midwives (verses 15, 16); and when neither of these plans had the desired result--the former in consequence of the unusual robustness of the Hebrew women, the latter owing to the piety and compassion of the midwives--he tried to execute his design by drowning the young children (verse 22); which last device was in two respects more audacious and impious than the second: first, because he now, laying aside all shame, showed publicly his despotism against a harmless foreign tribe, which relied on the hospitality solemnly promised to them; and, secondly, because now the whole people were let loose against the Hebrews; spying and informing was made an act of loyalty, and compassion stamped as high-treason. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Increasing power of sin
When once a man has done a wrong thing it has an awful power of attracting him and making him hunger to do it again. Every evil that I do may, indeed, for a moment create in me a revulsion of conscience, but stronger than that revulsion of conscience it exercises a fascination over me which it is hard to resist. It is a great deal easier to find a man who has never done a wrong thing than to find a man who has only done it once. If the wall of the dyke is sound it will keep the water out, but if there is the tiniest hole in it, it will all come in. So the evil that you do asserts its power over you; it has a fierce, longing desire after you, and it gets you into its clutches. Beware of the first evils, for, as sure as you are living, the first step will make the second seem to become necessary. The first drop will be followed by a bigger second, and the second, at a shorter interval, by a more copious third, until the drops become a shower, and the shower becomes a deluge. The course of evil is ever wider and deeper, and more tumultuous. The little sins get in at the window and open the front door for the big housebreakers. One smooths the path for the other. All sin has an awful power of perpetuating and increasing itself. As the prophet says in his awful vision of the doleful creatures that make their sport in the desolate city, “None of them shall want her mate. The wild beasts of the desert shall meet with the wild beasts of the islands.” Every sin tells upon character, and makes the repetition of itself more and more easy. “None is barren among them.” And all sin is linked together in a slimy tangle, like a field of seaweed, so that the man once caught in its oozy fingers is almost sure to drown. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20