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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Exodus 3

Verses 1-6



I. That sometimes men meet with mystery in the pursuit of their daily calling. “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro.” Very often, in the pursuit of daily work are good and heroic men—who are in the path of Providence—called upon to witness great sights, such as are not permitted to weak, restless, and unthinking souls. The daily avocation of a good man may lead into mystery—or break into heavenly vision at any point—which shall conduct him into a higher sphere of toil. The calling may be humble, it may not be that of preacher—student—philanthropist, but simply that of shepherd; yet, if prosecuted in quietude—in prayerful spirit—with an outlook toward God—it is not far from the mystery of the burning bush. God always rewards diligent and faithful men—gives them great sights—of truth—of hope—calls them to a higher service—renders them conscious of a Divine companionship—holds converse with them.

1. This vision was unexpected. There was nothing to indicate its advent—the desert was silent—unbroken by the sound of heavenly messenger—the bush casually attracted the attention of Moses. As a rule, the Divine Being does not warn men of vision and mystery—else they would make unusual preparation to welcome it. The design of mystery is to test—appeal—to the normal condition of our manhood, hence the need of always having our moral nature in the calm, quiet exercise of its power, ever ready for communion with the spirit-world.

2. This vision was educational. It taught Moses the solemnity of life—the crisis of his nation’s suffering—the solution of his own past history—the destiny of his prior training—in the palace and in the desert—it gave him a glimpze into his great future—it showed him that his life was deeply allied to that of his brethren—to the divine administration of Heaven. The symbolism of the vision was most impressive—it would awe his soul—he was in personal contact with God which is always educational to man. He is made conscious of a Divine commission to his future work—this a source of strength—comfort—inspiration to him. This communion with the mystery of the burning bush was most important—gave a new impetus to his being—awakened new thoughts—emotions—prayers—which never died away from the great temple of his soul. The vision was educational to him in the very truest sense of the word.

II. That sometimes mystery is associated with things of a very ordinary character. “Out of the midst of a bush.” Here it is associated with a bush of the desert. The flame did not descend and rush along the great mountains, near the lonely shepherd, lighting up the desert with a grandeur altogether magnificent: this might have been more tragic—more wild—imposing—but it would not have been so divinely educational as this unconsumed bush—Moses would have been startled—would have fled—the turbulent energies of his soul would have been awakened. Whereas this vision was calm—it made him peaceful—it was full of the heavenly—it elevated his spirit to sublimity—it was progressive—the bush burning—then the voice directing him how to approach—and lastly the revelation of its indwelling Divinity. Thus, the instruction in this case would be more gradual—effective. God knows the best methods of communication with human souls. And so it is now. The smallest—the most trivial—the apparently-unmeaning—things—events of life—are full of mystery—contain a heavenly presence—a divine voice—will teach a reflective spirit—will become an impulse to a higher life—avocation. The bushes of life are full of mystery. The world is a great secret—is vocal with messages of freedom to listening souls.

III. That mystery should be investigated with the utmost devotion of soul. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet.”

1. There must be devotion in opposition to levity.

2. There must be devotion in opposition to curiosity. Why this devotion:—

(1) Because mystery is holy. It is holy ground—the Divine indwelling in the bush consecrates it—it leads to moral elevation—must therefore command reverence.

(2.) Because mystery is authoritative. It commands us to take off our shoes. Its authority is Divine—will be recognised by true manhood.

IV. That sometimes good men are favoured with a grand unfolding of mystery. “I am the God.” &c.

1. God observes the conduct of men in relation to mystery. “And the Lord saw that he turned aside to see.” What a subduing—inspiring thought—that God knows all the efforts of our souls in their investigation of mystery.

2. God speaks to men who are anxious to investigate mystery. “God called to him out of the midst of the bush.” God speaks—allows us to investigate. It would have been a poor modesty on the part of Moses had he not tried to understand the meaning of the sight before him—so we may look into mystery—and the longer we gaze—the more we shall see and hear of it—Heaven will direct our thinkings and inquiries. Mystery has a definite bearing upon individual life. “Moses.”

3. God reveals Himself as the great solution of all mystery. “I am the God of thy fathers.” God is the explanation of all mystery. He teaches listening—humble—devout souls the secrets of life’s burning bushes.


I. Make some remarks on the Burning Bush, by way of Illustration. A Shepherd’s life friendly to contemplation. Why this appearance?—To give Moses the most sublime conception of the glory and majesty of the Supreme Being, and to fit him for his future mission. Nothing could be more conducive to this, than the fire in the bush. Among the Hebrews, and ancient nations, fire was considered a very significant emblem of Deity—in this instance it would represent the majesty—purity—power of God—it would show that He was going to bring terror—destruction upon His enemies, and light—comfort—salvation to His people. The burning bush an emblem:—

1. Of the state of the Israelites in their distress. Consider their trials—persecutions—severe—likely to consume them—yet Israel was not diminished—the burning bush a fit emblem of them.

2. Of the state of the Church in the wilderness of the world—by the Church we mean all true Christians, independent of sect This world a wilderness—nothing in it to suit the taste of a spiritual mind—the Church must pass through the wilderness to reach Canaan—has many enemies. It has passed through the fires of persecution—has never been consumed in numbers—or piety.

3. Of the state of every true Christian. What is true of the Church is true of the individual—trials not so general—tempted by the powers of darkness—fire of affliction—yet is unconsumed.

II. Consider why the bush was not consumed! The reason obvious Jehovah was in the midst of it. This true in the emblematical signification of the bush:—

1. Jehovah was present with Israel.

2. With the Church in all ages.

3. With Christian life in all its grief. Learn:—

1. Religion does not exempt from suffering.
2. The certainty of Divine protection in trial [Lay Preacher].


The circumstances connected with this incident suggest four general facts.

1. That God’s purposes are punctual in their accomplishment. God declared to Abraham that his seed should go into a strange land—that they should be slaves there—and come out with great substance. The clock of time had now struck the 400 years, and God began to redeem His pledge.

2. That God’s purposes, in relation to our world, are generally accomplished by the agency of man. The Almighty could have emancipated the Jews by His own immediate volition, or he might have selected other instrumentality than human; but He elected man for the work. This is God’s plan of raising humanity—wise—loving.

3. That the men whom God employs for the carrying out of His purposes, He qualifies by a special revelation. The work to which Moses was now called required dauntless heroism—self-sacrifice—power—he was to confront Egypt’s proud king. Whence was he to derive the power? This power of the human mind depends upon the thoughts and ideas it receives from the Divine, as the vitality and power of the branch depends upon its connection with the root: all moral mind is powerless without ideas from God. Hence this special Revelation

4. That this special revelation, which he vouchsafes, is frequently symbolical in its character. Frequently made thus to the Jews. All nature is a symbol. Truth in symbol is palpable—attractive—impressive. It symbolised God’s presence. Observe the Student:—

I. Directing His earnest attention to the Divine Revelation. “And Moses said I will turn aside,” &c.,

1. Moses directs his attention to it, under an impression of its greatness. A marvellous object—a bush burning, away from the habitation of men—bursting into flame at once—ignited by no visible hand—unconsumed. This is but a faint shadow of the marvellousness of the Bible—the fact of its existence—its contents.

2. Moses directs his attention to it in order to ascertain its import. “Why the bush is not burnt.” So the student of the Bible must not be satisfied with a mere acquaintance with the forms and circumstances of the Bible, he will enquire into their import.

II. Holding intercourse with God through the Divine Revelation. “God called to him.” &c.

1. God’s communications depended upon his attention. The Bible is the great organ of Divine intercourse; but it is the devout student only who looks and inquires—that hears in it the voice of God. God’s communications were consciously personal to him. “Moses.” There are few in these days who hear the voice of God to them in the Bible,

3. God’s communications were directive and elevating. “Draw not high.”

III. Realising the profoundest impressions through the Divine Revelation. “And Moses hid his face.”

1. These impressions are peculiarly becoming in sinful intelligencies.

2. These impressions are necessary to qualify men for God’s work.

3. These impressions are consonant with the highest dignity and enjoyment [Homilist].


Here we see:—

I. An old man called to go out on the great errand of his life. The education of Moses lasted 80 years. Egypt—Midian. When the brightness of his life was gone, and the hopes of his youth were dead; when his fiery spirit was tamed into patience, and his turbulent passion stilled into repose, at last he came out of school. Man in haste—God never; the former looks to results—the latter to preparations.

II. The Burning Bush from which that call was sounded.

1. It was a sign to indicate the peculiar presence of God.

2. God’s people.

III. The angel who uttered this call.
IV. The covenant under which the angel gave him his commission.
V. The angel’s name.
“I am that I am.” He asserts His seal existence—His underived existence—His independent existence—His eternity—unchangeableness—ineffability.

VI. The effect to be wrought by the remembrance of His name.

1. Profoundest reverence.

2. It reveals the infinite sufficiency of a Christian’s portion.

3. It gives encouragement to evangelical enterprise [Symbols of Christ].

I. The employment in which Moses was engaged. “Kept the flock.”

II. The sight which he witnessed. “And the Angel of the Lord.”

III. The resolution he made. “I will now turn aside.”

IV. The prohibition he received. “Draw not nigh,” &c.

V. The announcement he heard. “I am the God of thy father” [Expository Outlines].

I. The Learned Shepherd.

1. Humility.
2. Patience.
3. Fidelity.

II. The Great Sight.

1. Where.
2. When.
3. Wherefore it appeared.

III. The Present God:

1. With them is trouble.

2. Sustains them is trouble.

3. A source of Instruction [Class and the Desk].


Exodus 3:1. Moses:—A faithful Song of Solomon

2. A diligent worker.
3. A true worshipper.


1. Needful for toil.
2. Useful for moral preparation.
3. Favourable for heavenly visions.

The desert:—

1. The sheepfold of a Priest.
2. The School of Providence.
3. The Temple of the Eternal.

It is not a subsidence into commonplace that we find in this verse; it is going into the severest and most useful of schools—the school of lowliness, meditation, self-measurement, and fellowship with God. Fiery natures must be attempered by exile and desertion.… We must exchange rough and romantic chivalry for the deep, calm, vital revelation which emancipates and purges the spiritual nature of mankind [City Temple].

God’s determination to deliver His Church and people is soon followed by the execution thereof.
God’s instruments of deliverance are not altogether laid aside, although they are long in preparation.
It is God’s use to take shepherds of flocks to make them shepherds of men.
God’s great instruments may be servant-shepherds, not masters of their own flock.
Church deliverers, God orders to be nurtured, sometimes under priests, amongst strangers.
The Divine Being leads good men to places the most favourable to heavenly visions.
Shepherds seeking pasture for their flock, may find better for themselves.
Places are rightly called by God’s name, wheresoever He appears.
Deserts are sometimes ordered for saints to meet God in.
Those who descend from riches to poverty, from the palace to the desert, should be patient in their temper and toil.
Came to the mountain of God.” It was here:—

1. That God appeared to Moses in the bush.
2. That He manifested His glory at the delivery of the Law.

That Moses brought water out of the rock.

4. That, by lifting up his hands, he made Joshua to prevail against Amelek.
5. That he fasted twice forty days and forty nights.
6. That from thence he brought the tables of the Law.
7. That Elijah was vouchsafed a glorious vision.

Even to Horeb.” We know not the precise place. Tradition, reaching back to the sixth century of the Christian era, fixes it in the same deep seclusion as that to which, in all probability, he (Moses) afterwards led the Israelites. The convent of Justinian is built over what was supposed to be the exact spot where the shepherd was bid to draw his sandals from off his feet. The valley in which the convent stands is called by the Arabian name of Jethro. But, whether this or the other great centre of the peninsula, Mount Serbal, be regarded as the scene of the event, the appropriateness would be almost equal. Each has at different times been regarded as the sanctuary of the desert. Each presents that singular majesty which, as Joseph us tells us, and as the sacred narrative implies, had already invested “the Mountain of God” with an awful reverence in the eyes of the Arabian tribes, as though a Divine Presence rested on its solemn heights. Around each, on the rocky ledges of the hill-side, or in the retired basins, withdrawn within the deep recesses of the adjoining mountains, or beside the springs which water the adjacent valleys, would be found pasture or herbage, or of aromatic shrubs for the flocks of Jethro. On each, in that early age, though now found only on Mount Serbal, must have grown the wild acacia, the shaggy thornbush of the Seneh, the most characteristic tree of the whole range. So natural, so thoroughly in accordance with the scene, were the signs in which the call of Moses made itself heard and seen; not in any outward form, human or celestial, such as the priests of Heliopolis were wont to figure to themselves as the representatives of Deity; but out of the midst of the spreading thorn, the outgrowth of the desert wastes, did “the Lord appear unto Moses” [The Jewish Church, by Dean Stanley].

Exodus 3:2. The burning bush:—

1. As an emblem it instructs.
2. As a miracle it astonishes.
3. As a magnet it attracts.
4. As a monitor it warns. When a workman is busily engaged in his work, we say he is in the midst of it. For the same reasons, God, whose workmanship the Church is, is said to be in the midst of the Church.

A beautiful conjunction of the natural and the supernatural. A bush turned into a sanctuary. Though the heavens cannot contain the Great One, yet he hides Himself under every flower, and makes the broken heart of man his chosen dwelling-place. Wherever we are, there are gates through nature into the divine. Every bush will teach the reverent student something of God. The lilies are teachers, so are the stars, so are all things great and little in this wondrous museum, the universe [City Temple].

The burning bush gave light in the wilderness, and so ought the Church to do in the world.
This “Angel of the Lord” is afterwards called Jehovah and God (ch. Exodus 4:6). The shekinah, or luminous glory, was not only Jehovah Himself, but was the Angel-Jehovah. The very word “Angel,” signifies messenger, or one sent; and though it generally designates a personal being, yet as a term of office it may be applied to any medium by which God makes communications to man. This Angel was—

1. Eternal.
2. Omnipotent.
3. Self-existent.
4. Commanded the moral activities of men.

This Angel in the bush a prophecy of the Saviour’s incarnation.
After long-expected deliverances, God appears at length to help.
God sometimes mercifully appears to men, and comes to their deliverance, as in a flame of fire.
God’s sweet appearances are usually in desert conditions.… God’s visions of old have had real demonstrations by eye-witnesses.
God’s bush habitation is in order to show good will unto His Church.

God can interdict the power of fire to consume (Daniel 3:0.)

God works miracles upon lower creatures, in order to show the Church His power.
The preserving and sustaining influence of true religion.

Exodus 3:3. Many a man has been led through the pale of curiosity into the sanctuary of reverence. Moses purposed but to see a wonderful sight in nature, little dreaming that he was standing, as it were, face to face with God. Blessed are they who have an eye for the startling, the sublime, and the beautiful in nature, for they shall see many sights which shall fill them with glad amazement. Every sight of God is a “great sight;” the sights become little to us because we view them without feeling, or holy expectation [City Temple].

St. Austin, who came to Ambrose to have his ears tickled, had his heart touched. It is good to hear, howsoever. Come, said Latimer, to the public meeting, though thou comest to sleep; it may be, God will take thee napping. Absence is without hope. What a deal lost Thomas by being but once absent [Trapp].

A great sight:—

1. Occasioned by a Divine agency.
2. Illumined by a Divine Presence.
3. Given for a Divine purpose.

Great sights:—

1. Desired by the world.
2. Sought by the pleasure-seeker.
3. Found only by the Christian.
4. The inspiration of a good life.

The moral preparation, and condition necessary for the beholding of heavenly visions—

1. We must turn aside from the gaiety of the world.
2. From the futility of merely human reasonings.
3. From the commission of moral evil in daily life.
4. From following the instruction of incompetent teachers.
5. They are largely dependent upon our personal willingness of soul.… God speaks to all man who reverently turn aside to hear Him.

Unusual apparitions of God may well put the best men upon self-reasoning.
Observing hearts are inclined more to turn into the inquiry of God’s discoveries than from them.
All revelations from God should be carefully looked into.

Exodus 3:4. God sees our first desire to investigate the truth, and our earliest effort towards a religious life.

God calls truth-seekers by name—“Moses,”—Nathaniel.

1. To indicate His delight in them.
2. His favour toward them.
3. His hope of them.
4. To prepare them for further revelations.

The name of a good man vocal on the lips of God—

1. An honour.
2. A destiny.
3. A prophecy.
4. A vocation.

The truth-seeker’s response:—

1. His personality.
2. His place.
3. His willingness. We should always respond to the calls of heaven.

The soul’s turning aside to see often leads to visions of God.

1. In His Book.
2. In His works.
3. In His Providences.
4. In His Church and sanctuary.

Such visions:—

1. Obtained by prayer.
2. Refreshing to the soul.
3. Strengthening to manhood.
4. Related to human suffering.

God looks to them who turn into His discoveries, with a purpose to show them more.
God gives to His servants not only a vision, but a voice for them to know His mind.
God doubly calleth where he doubly loveth, and stirreth into double duty.
Those who are truly called by God, ought to be willing to offer themselves either to do, or suffer His pleasure.

Exodus 3:5. All places are holy, but some are especially so:—

1. Because they are hallowed by the supreme residence of God.
2. By happy memories.
3. By holy friendships.
4. By moral conquest.

There must be an occasional pause in the investigation of truth, and in the devotion of our religious life.
Curiosity must not merge into familiarity.
Put off thy shoes of sensuality, and other sins. Affections are the feet of the soul; keep them unclogged [Trapp].

The putting off the sandals is a very ancient practice in worship; Pythagoras enjoins it. The rabbis say that the priests perform their service with bare feet, in token of purity and reverence. Among the Greeks, no person was admitted to the Temple of Diana, in Crete, with shoes on. All Mohammedans, Brahmins, and Parsees worship barefooted to the present day [Dr. Nevin].

May we all learn to tread Jehovah’s court with unshod feet.
We must come to God; we must not come too near Him. When we meditate on the great mysteries of His word, we come to Him; we come too near Him when we search into His counsels. The sun and the fire say of themselves, “Come not too near;” how much more the light which none can attain to. We have all our limits set us. The Gentiles might come into some outer courts, not into the innermost; the Jews might come into the inner court, not into the temple; the priests and Levites into the temple, not into the holy of holies; Moses to the hill, not to the bush. The waves of the sea had not more need of bounds than man’s presumption. Moses must not come close to the bush at all; and where he may stand, he may not stand with his shoes on [Bishop Hall].

The access of honest hearts to the place of God’s appearance may be rash.
Such hasty and unadvised access God forbids unto His servants.
Due preparation must be made by those who wish access to God.

Exodus 3:6. The Divine Being here reveals Himself as:—

1. The God of individual men.
2. The God of Families.
3. The God of the immortal good.

There is something inexpressibly beautiful in the idea that God is the God of the father, and of the son, and of all their descendants; thus the one God makes humanity into one family [City Temple].

God does not say, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but “I am.” The Patriarchs still live so many years after their dissolution. No length of time can separate the souls of the just from their Maker [Henry and Scott].

Let a man but see God, and his plumes will soon fall [Trapp].

God’s gracious discoveries may prove terrible to those who are not acquainted with them.

Consciousness of self-guilt is enough to make creatures hide from God. Like instances:—1 Kings 19:13, Isaiah 6:2.

Men fear to look upon God:—

1. Because of the greatness of His Majesty.
2. Because of the awfulness of His revelations.
3. Because He is the Arbiter of their destinies.


Exodus 3:1. No vessels that God delights so much to fill as broken vessels, contrite spirits. “He resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” James 4:6. The silver dews flow down from the mountains to the lowest valleys. A humble soul that lies low, oh, what sights of God has he! what glories does he behold, when the proud soul sees nothing. He that is in the low pits and caves of the earth sees the stars of the firmament, when they who are upon the tops of the mountains discern them not [T. Brooks].

Exodus 3:2. The Church has been subject to much persecution. The first was under the Emperor Nero, thirty-one years after our Lord’s ascension. Multitudes were apprehended; they were covered by the skins of wild beasts, torn to pieces by devouring dogs; fastened to crosses, wrapt up in combustible garments, that, when the daylight failed, they might, like torches, serve to dispel the gloom of night. For this tragical scene Nero lent his own gardens; and thus the shrieks of women burning to ashes supplied music and diversion for their circus. The second was under Domitian, in the year 95, and forty thousand are supposed to have perished. The third began in the third year of Trajan in the year 100. The fourth under Antonius. The fifth began in the year 127, under Severus, when great cruelties were committed. The sixth began in the reign of Maximus, in 235–7. The seventh, which was the most dreadful ever known, began in 250, under the Emperor Decius. The eighth began in 257, under Valerian. The ninth was under Aurelian in 274. The tenth began in the nineteenth year of Diocletian, in 303. In this dreadful persecution, which lasted ten years, houses filled with Christians were set on fire, and whole droves were twisted together with ropes and cast into the sea. It is related that seventeen thousand were slain in one month, In this fiery persecution it is believed that not fewer than one hundred and forty-four thousand Christians died by violence, besides seven hundred thousand that died through the banishments, or the public works to which they were condemned [Beaumont].

Persecutions are beneficial to the righteous. They are a hail of precious stones, which, it is true rob the vine of her leaves, but give her possessor a more precious treasure instead [Aron].

The Church has sometimes been brought to so low and obscure a point that, if you will follow her in history, it is by the track of her blood; and, if you would see her, it is by the light of those fires in which her martyrs have been burnt. Yet hath she still come through, and survived all that wrath, and still shall till she be made perfectly triumphant [Leighton].

A Roman Catholic king, who was bitter in his opposition to the Protestant cause, had been speaking of its downfall, and how it would be brought about A celebrated Protestant replied, “Sire, it assuredly behoves the Church of God, in whose name I speak, to endure blows and not to strike them; but may it please you also to remember that it is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.”
As the flowers of water betony, with the leaves and sprigs, though they die often, and yearly; yet the root is aye-lasting from which they come and to which they belong: so though discipline and the outward beauty of the Church change and often die, yet the Church is aye-lasting and of all continuance.
Like as when trees are hewn down, much more imps (offshoots) do spring up than the boughs wore that were cut off; so now, after the slaughter of many godly men, more did run into the Gospel, and that day by day, than ever did; yea, and the blood of the slain bodies was a certain watering of the now plants springing up in the Church; so that a martyr in suffering doth not suffer for himself alone, but also for every man. For himself, he suffereth to be crowned; for all men he suffereth, to give them an example; for himself to his rest; for every man to his welfare.
As the fiery bush that Moses saw in the Mount Horeb, which bush, for all that it was on a flaming fire, yet did it not consume; or as the shining worm, that being cast into the fire, doth not perish nor consume, but contrariwise, is thereby purged of filth and more beautiful than if it were washed with all the waters of the world; even so such Christians as are cast into the fire of affliction are not consumed, but purged, tried, and purified.

“Far seen across the sandy wild,
Where, like a solitary child,
He thoughtless roam’d and free,
One towering thorn was wrapt in flame—
Bright without blaze it went and came,
Who would not turn and see?” [Keble].

Exodus 3:3-5. It is recorded of one Sir William Champney, in the reign of King Henry III., that, living in Tower-street, London, he was the first man that ever builded a turret on the top of his house, that he might the better overlook all his neighbours: but it so happened that not long after, he was struck blind, so that he who would see more than others, saw just nothing at all. A sad judgment! And thus it is just with God, when men of towering, high thoughts must needs be prying into those arcana Dei (the hidden secrets of God), that they should be struck blind on the place, and come tumbling down in the midst of their so serious inquiry. At the ascension of Christ, it is said that he was taken up in a cloud; being entered into His presence chamber, a curtain, as it were, was drawn to hinder His disciples gazing and our further peeping; yet, for all that, a man may be pius pulsator, though not temerarius scrutator—he may modestly knock at the door of God’s secrets, but, if he enter further, he may assure himself to be more bold than welcome.

Verses 7-10



I. His call was rendered necessary by intense national suffering. (Exodus 3:7).

1. The sufferings to which the Israelites were exposed. “I have seen the affliction of my people.” They were afflicted by a tyrant king—a hostile nation—oppressive taskmasters—unremunerative work. Surrounded as we are by all the advantages of freedom, and Christian influence, it is almost impossible for us to realize their sorrow. Oppression occasions the worst—most degrading—most painful suffering to men. These ancient people had happy memories still lingering in their minds—memories of a godly ancestry,—which would intensify the grief and degradation of their present condition. (i.) Politically they were prisoners. (ii.) Socially they were bondmen. (iii.) Commercially they were ruined. (iv.) Religiously they were degenerate—hence their suffering. The grief of legal slavery is now almost banished from the world.

2. The Divine attention to the sufferings of the Israelites. God has deep sympathy with the sorrowful. (i.) God sees the pain of the oppressed. “I have surely seen the affliction of my people.” He knows the occasion of it—the men who augment it. He is cognisant not only of the secondary agencies of grief, but also of the primary—not only the cruel taskmasters—but also of the tyrant king who has commissioned them. (ii.) God hears the cry of the oppressed. “And have heard their cry.” The Divine Being is not deaf to the voice of human sorrow, especially when it comes from a penitent heart. This is testified by the moral experiences of the universe. The cries and prayers of the suffering not merely gain help—relief—but also expose those by whom they are occasioned to the Divine displeasure. God saw the oppression of the Egyptians, and we cannot but connect this with their final overthrow in the Red Sea. We cannot occasion sorrow to others, without rendering ourselves liable to severe retribution—especially if we afflict the people of God. (iii.) God relieves the pain of the oppressed. He does not merely look in pity—hear with compassion—speak in accents of tenderness—but He devises means for the destruction of the oppressor—for the freedom of the slave. He raises up a deliverer, whose life and heroism He joins to the sorrow-stricken people for the removal of their woe.

II. He was called to his mission by the immediate agency of God. (Exodus 3:10.)

1. His free agency was consulted. God does not force men into Christian service—into heroic and philanthropic effort. He does not employ unwilling agents. He merely calls—sometimes by loud voices—by the urgency of the case—by a providential opening. Man has the ability to object—refuse. Thus the Divine Being comes into intimate contact with the lives of destined deliverers—to refine their sympathies—awaken their enthusiasm—to urge them to their great avocation. Such a call is honourable; it links men to the mercy and power of God—it is responsible—it links men to the sufferings of humanity. By willingly—cheerfully responding to it we become, in a very high sense, co-workers with God, for the truest benefit of the race. Such calls to pious souls are varied and numerous—may they always find us obedient thereto.

2. His adaptability was considered. The divine calls to service are dependent upon moral character—intellectual power. God does not call wicked men to achieve the freedom of the suffering. He would not give them the vision—nor would they have the faith to believe it—necessary to awaken them to the conviction of such great service. God does not call weak-minded men to this work of liberation—but those well learned in the literature—science—history of their country—whose moral nature has been well disciplined by solitude—through long years—and who have been previously lifted up to the elevation of the call He gives, and the service He requires. There was not another man in the whole nation more thoroughly qualified for this work than Moses. All his life had been one constant preparation, and an unconscious waiting for this hour. So that when the call of God sounded in his soul, all the discipline of his life became intelligible to him. And so, to-day, in calling men to the varied offices of Christian service, the Divine Being strictly contemplates their moral and intellectual qualifications Social considerations are subordinated. A shepherd may be called to accomplish the freedom of Israel. Hence the Divine call to human souls is—

(1) Emphatic.

(2) Judicious.

(3) Hopeful.

III. He was definitely made acquainted with the mission he had to undertake. (Exodus 3:10.)

1. He was to pay a visit to royalty. He was commanded to go unto Pharaoh. There seems an apparent incongruity for a shepherd of the desert to demand an interview with the monarch of Egypt—there was a great disparity in their social position. But what Moses lacked in the social accidents of life, he more than made up in the moral. God had given him a vision—had held audience with him. Hence he was well qualified to meet Pharaoh. Any man who holds intimate communion with God, is fit companionship for the grandest king of the universe. The vision of the bush would awaken Moses to a strong sense of his manhood—to a consciousness of Divine aid—hence he will go bravely to Pharaoh with the requirement of freedom. The visit was not to be one of mere courtesy—but to demand the citizen rights of an enslaved nation. Christian men, in these days, are reluctant to visit kings on the errands of God—they are timorous—they have not vision enough to inspire them with fortitude—at such times they should gather strength from their Divine communion and commission.

2. He was to achieve the freedom of Israel. “That thou mayest bring forth my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” What a commission for one man to fulfil—with no armies but the unseen legions of heaven. Apparently unaided, be goes to the task. God sometimes calls men to arduous duties—in which there appears but little likelihood of success. He clearly defines the duty of Christian service. He forewarns of its difficulties—that they may not surprise or overwhelm. This arrangement is—

(1) Merciful.

(2) Considerate.

(3) Accommodated to our weakness.

IV. In the performance of his mission he was animated by the highest hopes. (Exodus 3:8.)

1. He anticipated the freedom of Israel.

2. He anticipated conquest in the event of war

3. He anticipated residence in a land of beauty and fertility. God always animates those engaged in great service by great hopes. Lessons.—

1. That God knows how to prepare men to become the deliverers of the good

2. That a divine call is requisite for the mission of life.

3. That human sorrow is pathetic and powerful in its appeal to God.


I. That God knows the sorrows to which His people are exposed. (Exodus 3:7.)

1. Because of the relationship He sustains to them. “My people.” Ancient Israel was a Divinely chosen nation—peculiarly favoured by heaven. This is but a faint type of the Divine regard for all devout souls. “My people:”—

(1.) It indicates ownership.

(2.) It indicates endearment.

(3.) It indicates astonishment. We should imagine as the people of God, so truly loved, that Israel would have been shielded from sorrow altogether. We should have thought that their lives would have been pre-eminently jubilant. Are we not frequently surprised to find the choicest of God’s saints in circumstances of great trial? This is a problem the next world will better solve.

2. Because His omniscient eye is upon them. He sees their trials.

3. Because they are in the habit of making known their sorrows to Him by prayer.

II. That at the proper time God will deliver His people from sorrow. (Exodus 3:8).

1. Sometimes after it has been long continued.

2. Sometimes when least expected.

3. Sometimes by agencies once despised. Moses had previously tried to awaken within the Israelites feelings of brotherhood—but he had been repulsed—his authority had been denied—yet this is the man Divinely sent to achieve the freedom of the nation. So, instrumentalities that have been rejected by us may one day be instrumental for our good. Let us despise no effort for our welfare, we may have to meet it again in the future.

III. That God uses human instrumentalities in the deliverance of His people from sorrow. God sends man to comfort his fellow-man.

1. Prepared by life’s discipline. It requires great preparation to fit man for the work of sympathy.

2. Encouraged by Heaven’s vision. Any man who is destined to aid, or mitigate the suffering of his fellows must have visions of the other world—of the painless life—of God—to prepare his soul for contact with woe, that he may not be depressed thereby. Heaven only can teach a human soul how to console troubled hearts.

3. Called by God’s voice. God knows where to find men who are the most fitted to undertake errands of mercy and consolation—appeals to their sympathies—at the same time authoritatively commissions them to the work.


It will be our aim, in the present discourse, to exhibit Moses as the representative of our gracious Lord; and to shew, in a connected view, that the benefits conferred by the one upon Israel, are emblems and shadows of these spiritual mercies, which the other was manifested to bestow upon mankind.

I. Moses claims our first regard as a Deliverer. While Israel was groaning in Egypt, God was preparing the means of their deliverance. When we were dead in sin His compassion provided for our redemption. When the Israelites were arrayed to leave their captivity they numbered 600,000 on foot, besides women and children. Yet, in this vast multitude there was no deliverer, Moses only excepted. Nor could one be found, to redeem the world, from amongst its numbers. Moses was a man like unto his brethren, experienced the wants, and sympathized with the sorrows of Israel. He was well learned in the wisdom of Egypt. The rod of the Lord was put into his hand. Christ partook of our nature—possessed unsearchable wisdom—wrought miracles. Moses made sacrifice to fulfil the duty with which God had charged him. Having “respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Christ made “himself of no reputation,” &c.

II. He is a type of Christ when we regard him as the appointed mediator between God and Israel. So overpowering in greatness did the Most High appear upon Mount Sinai, that the people placed Moses between themselves and the majesty of Heaven. Moses was qualified for this office—by cordial love—meekness—long suffering—disinterestedness—ever watchful seal; so God could have no interest with men except through Christ, who is far more qualified for the office of mediator than Moses.

III. When we regard him in his office of Lawgiver to Israel. Israel had forgotten the sanctions and demands of the Divine covenant with Abraham amidst the rigours of their servitude. During the first part of their wilderness journey they were rather a band of fugitives, without order and regulations, than a people restrained by the influence of judicious legislation. It was necessary that some mode of government should be given to them. This was given by the Most High—through Moses. So, in the mournful captivity of the soul, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, oppose the will of God; and the fallen creature becomes a fatal law unto himself. Even when the condemnation of impiety is removed, and the fetters with which it bound all the passions, and faculties, and principles of the mind are broken, the liberated bond-servant needs a revelation of the Word of God, by which his conduct may be governed. Christ a law-giver—assisted at the formation of the law—can best explain it—best enforce it. The temporal deliverer could only give the law; he could not infuse a principle of holy obedience into its injunctions. He could not subdue the enmity of carnal affections. The Son of God alone can form us, by His grace, to the holiness of his own demand.

IV. When we regard him as the Leader and Guide of Israel. Israel did not at once reach the promised land—toilsomo journey. Moses was their guide. So, the Christian, who is journeying from the house of moral bondage toward heaven, has Jesus for his guide [Buddicom’s Christian Exodus].


Exodus 3:7. “My people.”

1. Therefore we must love Him.
2. Therefore we must serve Him.
3. Therefore we must aid His Church.

I know their sorrows.”

I. The Person.

1. He can help. This is demonstrated by all history—experience—from the greatness of his power—the fulness of His resources—from the sympathetic ministries He has at command.

2. He will help—Hagar—David—Peter—prove this. He has promised to succour the tired—has told men to cast their heart-burdens on Himself. The whole scheme of salvation is based on this fact. His arm brought salvation. He will therefore freely give us all things. What a mercy that troubled souls are not left to follow blind impulse—reason—we have a Divine Helper

3. He delights to help. Sympathy is the natural—happy out-come of the heart of God. He heals the withered flower by the new life of spring tide. He heals troubled souls by imparting new spiritual energy. It is His joy to do so.

II. The knowledge.

1. It is certain. God knows the trials of humanity—from whatever cause they may arise—unerringly. He cannot be deceived, or mistaken. What a consolation for the afflicted.

2. It is unlimited. God knows all the sorrows of the heart—those unwhispered to our nearest friend—no matter to what sphere of life they relate—no matter how trivial or how great.

3. It is compassionate. He does not investigate our sorrow—to satisfy curiosity—to become officiously acquainted with our circumstances—but to soothe—to relieve. Religion does not present to the troubled soul a stoical—merely philosophical deity—but One who is touched with the feeling of our infirmity.

III. The Sorrow.

1. It may be long continued. Israel had been in bondage four hundred years. Our trials may be continuous—like a long winter night—like a long polar winter—without a ray of sunlight—but God has not forgotten to be gracious. His delay is part of the discipline—the dawn of morning will come.

2. It may be deeply oppressive. As the poorest are not below God’s cognizance. neither are the greatest beyond His check.

3. It may be widely experienced. “I know their sorrows

1. Therefore do not complain.
2. Therefore wait His time for deliverance.
3. Therefore seek His grace.

Israel’s bondage and freedom, a type of the world’s sorrow and Christ’s redemption:

1. Because Christ came down from heaven. 2 Christ came at the call of the world’s sorrow.
3. Christ came to achieve the world’s moral freedom.
4. Christ came to destroy the kingship of sin.
5. Christ came to lead men into happiness.
6. Christ came to awaken holy agencies for the spiritual welfare of the race.… God usually speaks kindly to his servants to remove their fear at His appearing.

Jehovah resents the oppression of the Church.

1. Surely.
2. Speedily.
3. Continually.
4. Retributively.

Egypt is seen by God in all its oppression of His people.
Cruel exactors make God’s people cry aloud to Him in complaint and prayer.

Exodus 3:8. “And I am come down to deliver them,” God is said to descend—

1. In accommodation to a human form of speech.

2. To show judgments on the wicked (Genesis 18:0.)

3. Perhaps to indicate the situation of Egypt, which was a low country.
4. To indicate some notable event about to follow. Babel.

To bring them up out of that land.”

1. Of bad rulership.
2. Of wicked companionships.
3. Of hostile religious influences.
4. Of servile bondage.
5. There are many countries in the world where it is dangerous for God’s people to reside.

Unto a good land, and a large.”

1. Canaan was large compared with Goshen.
2. God exchanges the situations of His people for their good.
3. God does not intend His people to remain long the slaves of any earthly power.
4. The spiritual Israel will in eternity enter into the fulness of these words.

Unto the place of the Canaanites.” The Canaanites were the same whom the Grecians called Phœnicians.

1. The Septuagint in the fifth of Joshua, for Canaanites reads Phœnicians.
2. The woman whom our Saviour dispossessed of a devil, by Matthew is called Canaanitish, by Mark a Syro-Phœnician.

3. These Canaanites are said to dwell near the sea (Numbers 13:30), as did the Phœnicians.

4. The Phœnicians were noted for their deceit in buying; so the Canaanites are noted in scripture for their craft (Hosea 12:7).

The Canaanites and the Hittites,” &c. A disinherited people:—

1. Disinherited by God, as the Supreme Disposer of all territory.
2. As under a special curse.
3. As guilty of unrepented sin.
4. A warning for nations to-day.

Flowings of milk and honey are in the inheritance of the Church.
The place of wicked nations God can make the inheritance of His people.
God will make good his promise to the uttermost to give the Church its inheritance.

Exodus 3:9. God demonstrates that He hears the cry, and sees the oppression of His people and Church.

In times of hearing the cry of His Church, God watches the conduct of enemies toward it.

Exodus 3:10. “Come now therefore.” The Divine call to service:—

1. It is persuasive, “come.”
2. It is immediate, “now.”
3. It is logical, “therefore.”

I will send thee unto Pharaoh:”—I. A vocation.

2. A preparation.
3. A commission.

That thou mayest bring forth My people.” &c. A God-given task:—

1. Arduous in its requirement.
2. Responsible in its exercise.
3. Glorious in its issue.
4. Unique in its character.

In the eighth verse God says, “I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians;” and in the tenth verse He says, “I will send thee unto Pharaoh.” Is there not a discrepancy here? If God Himself came down to do a work, why did He not go and do it personally? One word from Himself would surely have done more for the cause which He had espoused than all the words which the most gifted of His creatures could have used. Looking at this incident as standing alone, it does undoubtedly appear most remarkable that God did not personally execute what He had personally conceived. The thinking was His, so was the love; all the spiritual side of the case belonged exclusively to God; yet He calls a shepherd, a lonely and unfriended man, to work out—with painful elaboration, and through a long series of bewildering disappointments—the purpose which it seems He Himself might have accomplished with a word. We find, however, that the instance is by no means an isolated one. Throughout the whole scheme of the Divine government of the human family, we find the principle of mediation. God speaks to man through man. Undoubtedly, this is mysterious. To our imperfect understanding, it would seem that the direct personal revelation of His presence and glory would instantly secure the results which are so desirable, and yet so doubtful. It is here that Faith must lead us. Moreover, this principle of individual selection in the matter of all great ministries, is in keeping with the principle which embodies in a single germ the greatest forests. It is enough that God gives the one acorn, man must plant it and develope its productiveness. God works from the one to the many [City Temple].

God’s call—is instant, and suffers no delay.
Though God needs no man, He calls some for the help of His people.
Such as God calls, He sends to bring about deliverance.
The mission of God may be of the poorest man to the greatest potentate.
God’s command is enough to empower the weakest man for the strongest work.


Exodus 3:7-8. As the bees, although they sometimes sting the hands and face of the owner and master of them, yet they be profitable in providing for him the sweet honey and wax: even so an enemy, although he persecute, injure, and wrong a good Christian, yet is he very profitable unto him, in furthering him to heavenward, if so be that by patience he possess his soul, and do pray for him, as our Saviour Christ and Stephen did.

The fish distressed, slides into the water, and is relieved; the bird flies to the dam, and is shrouded under her wings; the child runs to its parents; strike the dog, and he runs to his master; wound the soldier and he flies to the army; and by way of antiperistasis (the opposition of a contrary quality, by which the quality opposed acquires strength), cold makes the heat retire into the fire, and the force thereof is greater. Thus, if mere natural causes, whose goodness is finite, do cherish their effects, how much more shall God, whose goodness is infinite! It is He, and He only, that is the object of His people’s trust in the midst of their distress,—He is the first cause of all things, and all things have recourse unto Him.

Exodus 3:9. Like as a father, having a young infant sick of some sore disease, though the child can speak never a word, is ready to help it; and if it can speak, yet, being full of pain, cannot call for things as it ought, yet, if the mother can by any signs guess at the meaning of it, she will accept as much of it as if it had spoken very plentifully—yea, though it should say one thing and mean another, she would give it according to the meaning of it: even so the Lord, who is filled with the bowels of compassion towards us in Christ, far above any father or mother, though he delighteth to hear us pray unto Him, yet, when, as by the extremity of our miseries, we are oppressed or distracted, so that we cannot in any orderly manner-pray unto him as we ought, he alloweth of the sighs and sobs that we offer up unto Him, and granteth not so much our words (which are none or few) as the meaning of His Spirit, which is plentiful in us [Cawdray].

Exodus 3:10. As Samson, though he had strength given him that he was able to have defended the Israelites, and revenged them of their enemies, yet he could not take upon him the government of the people until such time that the Lord had called him unto it: so, likewise the ministers of the Word, albeit they have never so notable gifts of knowledge, utterance, etc., yet they are not in any case to intrude themselves into the ministry, unless they have a particular calling from the Lord [Cawdray].

Verses 11-12



I. It is sometimes occasioned by undue and depreciating thoughts of self. (Exodus 3:11.) By undue thought of our social position. “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” Moses might imagine the need of social position, in order to obtain an interview with the King. Some of the best ministers of the gospel have come from the most humble scenes of social life. There are times in ministerial labour when good social position may aid the mission of truth and freedom—but it is not an absolute necessity. Men from the lower ranks of humanity may do as much to subdue the tyranny of a king, as the most refined aristocrat of the realm. A man of great soul, independent of social standing, may successfully accomplish a campaign against moral evil.

2. By undue thought of our intellectual weakness. “Who am I?” True, Moses was well educated—still his mental discipline would hardly appear to him as equal to the present crisis and undertaking. He would have to fall back upon his knowledge of the Egyptian court, and upon other matters, of important bearing on his mission. So, may ministers of to-day feel their inability to combat the error—scepticism—and refined sin of the age—through their lack of brain power. They have not had the advantages in their early days that even Moses had. Of what little information they possess, they make the best possible use. It requires a well disciplined mind to go to the Pharaohs of the world, and to demand efficiently the moral freedom of their slaves.

3. By undue thought of our moral inability. A man requires not only a strong mind—but much more, a strong soul—of devout impulse—large sympathy—and strong determination, to perform such a commission as that now given to Moses. Equally so, with the minister of Christ. And, when the true preacher looks into his heart in moments of depression, he feels his lack of great moral qualities—and cries, “Who am I,” &c.

II. That it is sometimes occasioned by an undue estimation of the difficulties of the work.

1. This may arise from the depressing experiences of youth. When young—living in the palaces of Pharaoh—Moses had striven to interrupt a quarrel between two Hebrews by referring them to the fact of their common brotherhood and suffering—he had been repulsed. No doubt a remembrance of this fact now lingered within his mind—as there are certain experiences that never leave us—they become the constant, and great educational influences of our souls. This reminiscence would give Moses to feel the difficulty of the task now imposed upon him. So, with ministers of the Gospel—it may be that the experiences of boyhood and younger manhood, have introduced an element of difficulty, perplexity, into their toil, that they almost shrink from the call.

2. This may arise from the removal of friendly aids. Moses once had friends in the court of Pharaoh—he was the adopted son of the King’s daughter—had he retained her friendship—it might have been of use to him now; but he had lost it by flight. So, it sometimes happens that ministers often lose earthly, accidental friendships, aids to the achievement of their mission, and hence their timidity as to its issue.

III. That it is sometimes occasioned by our not appreciating, as we ought, the Divine Presence and help.

1. The Divine Presence is our Guide. God would teach—guide Moses as to the best methods of approach to Pharaoh. So, the same Jehovah will equally guide all true ministers who are seeking the moral freedom of men. This guidance makes up for any scholastic deficiency—is our truest help.

2. The Divine Presence is our sustaining influence. It would sustain Moses under his memory of youthful failure to subdue the quarrel of the two Israelites. It would sustain him in the performance of all arduous toils—in the event of suffering—rebuff, either from Pharaoh—his courtiers—or his bondmen. So, the Divine Presence sustains the minister of Christ—under the bitter memories of past failure—misdirected effort—wanderings—loneliness—and opposition, from whatever source. But for this he would be unequal to the task for an hour.

3. The Divine Presence is our victory. It gave Moses an insight into the future history of Pharaoh—it enabled him to work miracles—it empowered his moral nature—rendered it superior to the conflict. So, with the minister of truth—though he cannot work miracles—the Divine Presence is the pledge of moral conviction in the minds of others—and of final victory.

IV. It should be removed by the hopes with which it is animated.

1. By the hope of achieving the freedom of a vast nation. Moses was to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. So, it is the hope of the gospel ministry to bring the universe from under the reign of sin—to freedom—happiness—hope—what a sublime anticipation!

2. By the hope of leading a vast nation into the land of promise. Moses was to lead the Israelites into Canaan: (i.) Fertile. (ii.) Abundance. (iii.) Beauty. So, the minister of Christ has to lead men to heaven—this is the hope by which he is animated—and ought to subdue all timidity—and inspire him with holy joy.


Exodus 3:11. The man who in youth slew the Egyptian, and was willing to undertake the emancipation of his nation, now modestly shrinks from the task.

The power of increasing age—

1. To change the views.
2. To calm the temper.
3. To humble the soul.

No wonder that he so inquired. The message seemed to be much greater than the messenger. He works best who magnifies his office. Preachers, and all ministers of good, should see their work to be greater than themselves if they would work at the highest point of energy. Let a man suppose his work to be easy, to be unworthy of his talents, and he will not achieve much success [City Temple].

It is far better to partake of the spirit of Moses as manifested in this verse, than to too rashly seek the dignity and position of ministerial work.
Worth is modest: the proud man asketh, who am I not? [Trapp].

God may sometimes be denied by the best of men in their infirmity.
The best souls are apt to have the lowest thoughts of themselves for God’s work.
Visible difficulties in the Church may dishearten men to work.
The power of Egyptian oppressors may startle weak instruments of deliverance.
The redemption of men from the house of bondage is a startling fact.

Exodus 3:12. “Certainly I will be with thee.” The Divine companionship realised by the good in the service of the Christian life:

I. It was considerate. Never did Moses more need the Divine companionship than in this exigency of toil. The work is great—he feels his inability for it—it is at the time of his weakness that the Divine companionship is promised. This promise will stand true for Christian workers during all time.

II. It was emphatic. “Certainly.” The promise—in tone—manner—could leave no doubt on the mind of Moses as to the likelihood of its fulfilment. Its emphasis satisfied his utmost requirement—left no room for doubt. So, now the promise of the Divine companionship is emphatic—becoming even more so by the accumulating experiences of the good.

III. It was sympathetic. “With thee.” Not I will follow thee—not I will go before thee—not I will be near thee—but with thee—as a companion to cheer thy soul; as a friend—to give thee counsel; as a God—to make thee victorious. How can a mission fail when God is with the worker. How refreshing to a timid soul is the sympathy of Heaven. Our sufficiency is of God.


I. “Certainly I will be with thee.” Then man is servant, not master. He should know his place, or he can never keep it. As servant—

1. He should consult his master.

2. Speak in the name of his master.

3. Be jealous of the honour of his master.

II. “Certainly I will be with thee.” Then the work must succeed. The guarantee of success:—

1. Not human cleverness.

2. Not skilful organisation.

3. But the word of the Lord. “My word shall not return unto Me void.”

III. Certainly I will be with thee. Then the servant is to be received for the master’s sake. “He that receiveth you, receiveth me.” The Romans were to receive Phebe in the Lord.

IV. “Certainly I will be with thee.” Then there need be no lack of grace or power. “I any man lack wisdom,” &c. “Lo, I am with you alway.” God is with His servants for,

1. Their comfort.

2. Justice.

3. Safety [City Temple].

This shall be a token unto thee that I have sent thee.” Tokens that a minister is Divinely commissioned:—

1. That he reflects the light of heavenly vision.
2. That he is conscious, and his life gives evidence, of Divine companionship.
3. That he seeks to proclaim the name of God, as connected with the moral freedom of men.
4. That some amount of spiritual success attends his labours.
5. Sometimes special evidences of favour given in answer to prayer.

We render the highest honour to God when, relying on His proffered aid, we seek no ground of confidence out of Himself, when in the deep sense of our own impotence we count it enough that He is with us and for us [Bush].

God is not moved from His purpose by the objections of men.
To all human appearance Moses is to undertake the responsibility of this mission, whereas he is only a secondary agent. God is invisible.… God’s goodness satisfieth the plea of His unwilling instruments for His work.
God’s presence is always with those who are engaged in His redemptive work.
God will answer the objection, and solve the difficulties of His workers.
Redemption promised by God will surely be performed.
The worship and service of God is the great end of His people’s freedom.
The true worship of God in the place appointed by Him is the best return for deliverance.


Exodus 3:12. There is an excellent story of a young man that was at sea in a mighty, raging tempest, and when all the passengers were at their wits’ end for fear, he only was merry; and when he was asked the reason of his mirth, he answered that the pilot of the ship was his father, and he knew that his father would have a care of him. The great and wise God, who is our Father, hath from all eternity decreed what shall be the issues of all wars, what the event of all troubles. He is our pilot, He sits at the stern; and though the ship of the Church or State be in a sinking condition, yet be of good comfort, our pilot will have a care of us. There is nothing done in the lower House of Parliament on earth but what is first decreed in the higher house in heaven. All the lesser wheels are ordered and overruled by the upper. “Are not five sparrows,” saith Christ “sold for a farthing?” One sparrow is not worth half a farthing, and there is no man shall have half a farthing’s worth of harm more than God hath decreed from all eternity [Calamy’s Sermon].

Verses 13-18


Exodus 3:14. Tully relateth how Simonides, being asked by Hiero, the king of Sicily, what God was, desired one day to consider of it; and after one day being past, having not yet found it out, desired two days more to consider of it; and, after two days, he desired three; and to conclude, he had at length no other answer to return unto the king but this that the more he thought upon it, the more he might; for the further he waded in the search thereof, the further he was from the finding of it. And thus Plato: “What God is,” saith he, “that I know not; what He is not, that I know.” Most certain it is that God only, in regard of Himself, knows Himself as dwelling in the light inaccessible, whom never man saw neither can see. Here, now, the well is not only deep, but we want a bucket to draw withal. God is infinite and never to be comprehended essentially. Oh, then, that we could so much the more long to enjoy Him, by how much less we are able to apprehend Him [Spencer].

Though the sun is the source and fountain of light, there is little good in gazing at the sun, except to get blinded. No one over saw the better for looking the sun directly in the face. It is a child’s trick, grown up people know better. We use the light which the sun gives, to see by, and to search into all things—the sun excepted. Him we cannot explore, beyond what he reveals of himself in the light and heat which he sheds upon us, and in the colours by which he is reflected from the earth. There is no searching of the sun, our eyes are too weak. How much less can we search the sun’s Creator, before whom the myriads of suns are but as so many cloud bodies! His revelation of Himself in His works and in His word, in His Son and in our souls, is more than enough for us. Persons who dare to go as they say in a directer way to Himself, are like children looking at the sun, who, instead of getting more light and better eyes, get less light and an infatuated eye [J. Pulsford].

Hilary, an ancient Christian writer, says these words charmed him, and gave him a high opinion of Moses, before he became a Christian, there being nothing so proper to describe God by as this name [Orton].

Many heathens, copying from this expression, have inscribed it, or something like it, on their temples. On the Delphic temple was inscribed, according to Plutarch, the Greek word El, which signifies “Thou dost exist.” [Howe].

Who ever conceived a more beautiful illustration of this sublime text than the following by Bishop Beveridge,—“ ‘I am.’ He doth not say, I am their light, their guide, their strength, or tower, but only ‘I am.’ He sets His hand, as it were to a blank, that His people may write under it what they please that is good for them. As if He should say, ‘Are they weak? I am strength. Are they poor? I am all riches. Are they in trouble? I am comfort. Are they sick? I am health. Are they dying? I am life. Have they nothing? I am all things. I am wisdom and power. I am justice and mercy. I am grace and goodness. I am glory, beauty, holiness, eminency, supremacy, perfection, all sufficiency, eternity! Jehovah, I am! Whatever is amiable in itself, or desirable unto them, that I am. Whatever is pure and holy, whatsoever is great and pleasant, whatsoever is good or needful to make men happy,—that I am.’

“When God would teach mankind His name,
He calls Himself the great, ‘I am,’
And leaves a blank; believers may

Supply those things for which they pray.”

Exodus 3:17. Like as, if a man were assured there were made for him a great purchase in Spain or Turkey, so, as if he would but come thither, he might enjoy it, he would not forbear to adventure the dangers of the sea, and of his enemies also, if need were, that so he might come to his own; even so, seeing that Christ Jesus hath made a purchase for us in heaven and there is nothing required of us, but that we will come and enjoy it, we ought to refuse no pains or fear in the way, but carefully strive to get in [Cawdray].


Exodus 3:14. I am] That this Divine declaration is an exposition of the meaning of the great and gracious name, JEHOVAH, must be obvious at a glance over the context. From this follows the need of all possible care to understand the exposition itself as it falls from the mouth of God, and is here recorded for our instruction. Let us briefly state the essential points—with all reverence, while yet, as far as possible, with due freedom from the yoke of timid tradition.

(1.) What is the radical meaning of the root ha-yah—the great verb of the sentence? Usage decides that, in the language of Dr. J. W. Donaldson (Heb. Gram. p. 59), ha-yah is essentially a “verb of becoming:” not merely of coming into being, but coming into relationship, i.e. becoming this or that to some one. We may say, in brief, that it primarily means (a) of persons—TO BECOME; (b) of events—TO COME TO PASS; the concordance will prove this. Then

(2.) What is the force of the tense in wh. ha-yah here twice appears? Eh-yeh is the “imperfect” tense of ha-yah; i.e., as that tense is understood by the best Heb. scholars (Ewald. Roediger, Driver, Prof. A. B. Davidson), “imperfect” in the broad sense of the incomplete, the incoming tense—the “incipient” (Murphy) Applied to the verb under consideration, this tense yields the following rendering: “I am becoming,” or, “I will become.” As our future suits well here, let us say, simply, “I will become.” Then the declaration will run: “I will become what I will become.”

(3.) Nothing, surely, cd. exceed the sweetness, the fitness, and the simple grandeur of the clause when thus rendered. (a) It is full of promise: “I will become”—to Israel, disheartened, timid—“what I will become”—all that it is in my heart to become to them, all that they need. Their redemption is in me; and, therefore, out of the fulness of my nature, shall it be unfolded act by act, step by step, stage by stage. Not apart from me can they enjoy it. I must work it out for them—in them—through them: drawing them ever nearer to myself coming ever nearer to them—becoming more and more to them. The promise is unlimited. And, further, though we can scarcely realise its richness without some attempt at paraphrase, yet (b) it is very general, to the verge of vagueness—a vagueness, however, adapted to elicit faith. It seems to say: Trust me; leave the future in my hands: I will become to you more than you can yet know: “I will become what I will become.”

(4.) How does this exposition of the Name prepare us for the Name itself? For we assume the now generally admitted derivation of JEHOVAH (more exactly, YAHWEH) as the third person singular imperfect of ha-wah, an old form = to hah-yah; and thus conclude that the Name literally gathers into itself the force of the previous Divine announcement. In other words, we take YAHWEH to mean: “He who is becoming—purposes to become—will become” = “The Becoming One.” In this way we have first the verb repeated in a clause; then the verb once by itself; lastly the noun, cognate with the verb: “God said unto Moses, Ehyeh asher ehyeh, ‘I will become what I will become.’ ” “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Ehyeh, ‘I will become,’ hath sent me unto you.” “And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yakweh, The Becoming One, God of your fathers, &c., hath sent me unto you.” Well might the gracious Promiser add: “This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Must not that Name relate to us through which God will be remembered by us?

Possibly the evangelical German expositors have not expressed themselves in precisely the above manner in their exegesis of this great matter; but how fully they have led the way to our main conclusions may be seen in the following extracts from Kurtz: “Jehovah is the God of development, who Himself enters into the development, condescends into it, embodies Himself and co-operates in it, in order to conduct it safely to its destined goal.” “Ha-yah is equivalent to φῦναι, γενέσθαι, εἶναι; it indicates concrete, not abstract being—such being as makes its appearance, manifests itself in history, and, so to speak, becomes historical. This meaning comes out more fully and prominently in the imperfect form of the name derived from it. Hence יהוה is God outwardly manifesting Himself, revealing Himself, living, working, and reigning in history, ever unfolding there, more and more, His character and being.” (Hist. O. Cov. I. i. sec. 13.)

It remains only to say that even if Yah-weh be considered as formed in the conjugation Hiphil (as, with this pronunciation. Dr. B. Davies seems to think it must) the substance of the above account will remain untouched. The fullest possible justice would be done to that causative conjugation by rendering the name, “He who brings to pass” = “The Fulfiller.” In point of fact, He BRINGS TO PASS His purposes by Himself BECOMING all that He designs to BECOME. However, Dr. Kalisch considers the name, pronounced YAH-WEH, as formed in Kal; thus, in this matter, fully sustaining our primary explanation.



I. That ministers must anticipate difficulties in the performance of their life mission. (Exodus 3:13.)

1. Arising from prejudice in reference to the man. Moses felt that he would be liable to the prejudice of Israel—through his residence in the palace of Pharaoh, and his supposed connection with a despotic government. He had not shared their bondage—they would prefer one as the leader of their destinies, who had been more thoroughly identified with their condition of woe. Moses anticipates these difficulties, and asks the Lord how he should reply to them. So ministers of the gospel have to combat innumerable prejudices—of truth—education—capricious—weak—hence the difficulty of their work. They must be divinely commissioned to overcome them.

2. Arising from scepticism in reference to the truth. Moses feared that the Israelites would not credit the doctrine of freedom he had to proclaim to them. They would rather remind him of Pharaoh’s army, and the impossibility of their escape. Moses would find great difficulty in getting them to believe in the promise and power of God. So, ministers to-day have a large amount of scepticism to overcome, in relation to the apparent difficulties of the truth they preach. They must exhibit their Divine credentials.

3. Arising from lethargy in reference to the mission. Moses found the Israelites in a state of utter destitution—morally weak—incapable of great effort—almost willing to die, rather than live. He would have great difficulty in awakening them to action, equal to the requirements of the case—and to secure their co-operation. So, it is with ministers of the gospel. They come—preach to men, who are inervated by sin—to arouse them to a sense of their manhood—to seek their co-operation in the mission of freedom they announce. The moral weakness—indolence of men is the greatest difficulty the true minister has to contend with.

II. That to overcome these difficulties, ministers must seek direction from God (Exodus 3:13). That God will give this direction is seen from:—

1. The Divine recognition of ministerial difficulty. The Divine Being admitted all that Moses had said about the difficulty of his mission to Israel. No word of reproach was uttered—no rebuke expressed—but directions were given in response thereto. Equally does God recognize the perplexity a, ministerial life—hence He will not reject any who seek His aid.

2. The Devine Sympathy with ministerial difficulty. (i.) Manifested by the gift of heavenly vision (Exodus 3:2.) (ii). Manifested by the gift of needful instruction (Exodus 3:15-17). (iii). Manifested by the gift of holy companionships (Exodus 3:12). Such a manifestation of divine sympathy ought to inspire every minister with spirit and fortitude for his work. They that are for him, are more than all that can be against him.


Exodus 3:13. But Moses puts another question; for the human heart is full of questions [C.H.M.]

It is clear that Moses anticipated the greatest difficulties from the degenerate condition of his countrymen.
Why did Moses ask the name of God?—

1. Not to instruct his ignorance. He had not forgotten God in Egypt.
2. Not to gratify his curiosity.
3. But to satisfy Israel. Error has many Gods, he therefore wanted to know how he might prove to the enslaved nation that he came in the name of the true One.

It is good for a minister to know on whose business he is going.
God’s answer to one objection oftentimes begets another in His servants.
Dissatisfaction of men about God’s instruments is very probable.
God’s servants very reasonably expect that He will clear up all doubt as to His name, and their duty.


I. “What shall I say unto them?” Shall I say unto them truths that are in harmony with their depraved condition? Moses might have told the Israelites to remain peaceful in their bondage—to make the best of their circumstances—that they were not responsible for their situation—it being the fault of their ancestors for coming to Egypt. He might have told them not to trouble about any effort for freedom—as it would require time—means—armies—beyond their command. And perhaps many of the Israelites—although they would feel the sorrow of of bondage—might think his advice wise. But no; he went to them with the tidings of freedom. The pulpit may take a pattern here, not to preach doctrines in harmony with the depraved tastes of men—but to awaken them from their sin, by the proclamation of the Divine Name and freedom.

II. “What shall I say unto them?” Shall I give them an argumentative discourse? It would be necessary for Moses to convince the Israelites that he was divinely commissioned—and the chief use that a minister can make of logic, is to prove the divinity of his call to the ministry. This once proved to Israel—they will be ready to follow him. So, congregations will hold but little argument with a man whom they feel to be called to free them from the power of sin—they will follow him. His heart speaks to them.

III. “What shall I say unto them?” Shall I give them a sensational discourse? Had Moses gone to the Israelites in this way, I would not have given much for his real success. He might have “got his name up.” He would have attracted a few wearied slaves to himself. He might have aroused a wave of feeling, but it would soon have subsided into calm. The freedom of the nation would not have been achieved in this way. The sensational preachers of the world, are not doing the most towards the moral freedom of the race.

IV. “What shall I say unto them?” Shall I say unto them how clever I am? Moses might have told the Israelites that he had spent so many years in the Egyptian colleges—that he had been brought up in a palace. But he did not. He would never have achieved the freedom of Israel if he had adopted this course. He had humbled himself before God. And men humble before God, are generally so before their fellows. Ministers should not make a display of their learning—such conduct will never accomplish the freedom of souls.

V. “What shall I say unto them?” Shall I tell them about the Cross of Jesus? “Yes;” replies the penitent sinner “that is what I want” “Yes,” replies the-aged believer, “that is the charm of my Soul.” Let ministers preach the Cross as the emancipation of the world. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, the Lord.


Exodus 3:14.

I. As only revealed by the Divine Being Himself. Only God can give a revelation of His name—character—attributes—will. Human reason cannot, by searching, find out God. The human heart may search for God—but unaided, will never find Him. He that dwelleth in the bush—that calleth His servant to arduous toil—must speak—must make himself known—or the world will be eternally ignorant of His name.

II. As only partially understood by the grandest intelleces. Although we have such an abundant revelation of the name of God—how little of it is comprehended by man. It appears to us as the faint glimmering of a light placed in the cottage window on a dark night. God is mystery. Man’s intellect can read the histories of the stars, can trace the wonders of the globe—but, at the threshold of Heaven’s temple, it must bow in reverent acknowledgment of its inability to understand the things presented to its vision.

III. As sufficiently comprehended for the practical service of the Christian life. Moses did not fully understand the meaning of the revelation given to him of God—yet he recognised sufficient for his mission to Israel. He could speak the name of God—and that name, vocal on a human lip, has a power to inspire and free the slave. All ministerial power lay in the utterance and hope of the Divine Name: it touches human hearts—awakens solemn thoughts—and makes men think of destinies. We know enough of God to give strength—responsibility—hope—to our Christian work and life.

God announces Himself:—

1. As personal.
2. As independent.
3. As self-existent.
4. Immutable.
5. What an element of sublimity this imparts to the mission of Christian service.
6. What an inspiration it furnishes for the toils of life.
7. How superior to any gods of the Egyptians.

The true knowledge Of God is the power of deliverance to the enslaved. The revelation that a greater than Pharaoh cared for them was to be the stimulus to snap their fetters and be free. Nothing but a true knowledge of God will ever move men to fight against corrupt principles, vicious practices, evil habits. We are creatures of love and faith, and need something to move our faith into vigorous exercise; we need an unchanging object worthy of our love. “This is life eternal, to know Thee—the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” [Homilist].

God’s reply is at hand to show His name unto those that seek to know it.
Perfect Being—the cause of all other being—is the name of God.
God’s Being, well-known and considered, is enough to answer all objections.
It is good for God’s servants to go out to duty under the protection of His name.

Exodus 3:15. God’s will is that He makes revelation to His instruments that they may make them known to the Church.

The first general cognizance of covenant relation to a Church was to the Fathers of Israel.
The relation of God to Fathers is declared for the comfort of children.
That we are commissioned by God is enough for men to know about our mission.

I. An eternal name.

II. An eternal memorial.

Exodus 3:16. The wisdom of gathering the few; or the considerateness of the Divine Being in reference to the mission of His servants:

I. This would be the most effective method of enlightening the mind of the nation in reference to the Divine intention. Moses was to gather the elders of Israel together—not the elders as regards age—but the officers and influential men. The nation was not without these while in Egypt, as would appear from (Exodus 5:14.)

1. This afforded Moses a good opportunity for personal explanations. Moses would have greater influence with these few elders than with the nation at large. The respect he had paid in thus calling them to be the first recipients of his message—their intuitive feeling that what he said was true—their superior intelligence—candour—attention—would give him a splendid opportunity for impressing them with the need—reality—success of his mission. Thus a gathering of this kind would admit of explanations so helpful at the commencement of all great enterprises, to remove suspicion and avert peril.

2. It was a good precaution against the ignorance and fanaticism of the common people. The elders would be amongst the most judicious men of the nation—would therefore not only be able to enter into the important matter requiring their attention, but would have influence with their comrades; and hence, if they accepted the proposal of Moses, the nation at large would be more likely to do so. Had he carried the Divine message immediately to the enslaved people—apparently alone—without army—without sceptre—it would have aroused their indignation, their rejection; they would have derided his pretensions—his dream of freedom; they would have regarded him as a fanatic—an impostor. But all this opposition was averted by calling the elders—and making them the medium of appeal to the nation—and his companions in the effort of liberation. The more agencies a man can bring into his life work the better.

II. It would be the most effective method of gaining the sympathy of the nation. Moses was a comparative stranger to the Israelites. The elders were well known to them—were associated with the traditions of their religious life—had shared their persecution—were one with them in all the phases of life. They would, therefore, be far more likely to win the sympathy and help of the Israelites than Moses. He would have to influence them from without, they from within. They can previously educate their thought to the idea of freedom, then the nation will be ready to welcome any Moses who will work it out into history. All great workers should be judicious in their movement.

III. It would thus be the most effective method of working out the Divine project in reference to the nation.

1. How considerate of the Divine Being to give Moses this idea of working. Moses would have spent hours in devising the best method of approaching the Israelites—and after all might have been most injudicious in his arrangements. But there are times when God tells a good man how to do his work—compassionate—helpful—the secret of success. Many men will not listen to the Divine instructions. This is the occasion of the great failure of so much religious energy.

2. How numerous are the agencies put in motion for the performance of Divine projects. God is the source of all commissions for the moral good of man. He calls Moses—tells Moses to call the elders. God empowers His ministers to awaken new instrumentalities for the good of the enslaved world.

3. All great workers may find a pattern here. Not to trust their new and divine enterprises to the tide of popular opinion—storms may gather—may be wrecked. Launch them first on the more tranquil waters of the few—afterwards they will be more likely to weather the national gale. Let men in authority, knowing the influence they possess, take care to welcome all men of heavenly commission, and themselves to set a good example to the public.

This was a greater honour done to the Patriarchs than if God had written their names in the visible heavens, to be lead of all men [Trapp].

The Divine commands require the obedience of all who know the Divine name.
The Divine errands require despatch.
God’s will is that all His servants Should declare His name as their Divine warrant.
Jehovah, the God of Abraham alone can warrant good men in their work.
When God appears it is generally to make known some deliverance for His people. Divine visitations:—

1. Penal.
2. Judicial.
3. Merciful.

An inferior motive for a Religious Life.

Exodus 3:17.

I. Some people are religious because they hope thereby to be saved from affliction. “I will bring you out of the affliction of Egypt.”

1. They hope to escape the affliction of a bad name.

2. They hope to escape the affliction of a retributive providence.

3. They hope to escape the affliction of moral banishment from God.

II. Other people are religious because they hope thereby to better their condition, and gain greater enjoyment. “Unto a land flowing with milk and honey:”—

1. Because they imagine religion will free them from slavery.

2. Because they imagine religion will give them an advantage over their enemies.

3. Because they imagine religion will give them rich possession.

III. That while the land flowing with milk and honey may be one motive for a religious life, the superior is love to God and moral freedom.

At God’s own will, He changeth His church from bondage and misery to enlargement and plenty. The resolution of Divine mercy:—

1. Awakens instruments to convey its message.
2. Prepares Churches to welcome its tidings.
3. The giving of a new impulse to history.

The encouragement God gives to Christian workers:—

1. Divine aid in the work,
2. Bright hope in their future.
3. Glad success in their toil.

A happy residence:—

1. A land of plenty.
2. A land of beauty.
3. A land of promise.
4. A land of freedom.
5. A land of rest.
6. A land typical of heaven.

Exodus 3:18. “Now let us go, we beseech thee.” We see here the opportunity God gives men to be virtuous. Pharaoh was asked to let Israel go:—

1. That he might have the credit of a good action.
2. That he might take the responsibility of a bad action.
3. That he might render just any calamity that came upon him.
4. That he might shew the real nature of his character.
5. The Divine Being could have wrought the freedom of Israel without the consent of Pharaoh, but He did not, for the foregoing reasons.

The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us.” The Divine wish was the only reason assigned to Pharaoh for the outgoing of Israel.

1. Not the wish of the enslaved nation.
2. Not that his predecessors had murdered their children.
3. Not that he had no right to detain them.
4. The Divine claim must take precedence of any human. “And now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness.” Why are only three days named?—

1. That, if they went further Pharaoh had no right to complain, they not being his subjects.
2. This was all that God revealed unto Pharaoh, reserving His good pleasure till afterwards.
3. That in refusing so small a request, his obstinacy might appear the greater, especially after the service Israel had rendered him.


I. It would have shewn the willingness of a freed man to worship God anywhere.

In the wilderness—with poor supply of animals for sacrificial purposes. After tired by a three days’ journey, just out from bondage—yet they were to worship God. Cannot we sacrifice to God in the varied scenes of life after the hard toils of the day, especially after freedom from sin?

II. It would have shewn the need of rendering gratitude to God for what would have been a merciful interposition. They would have been away from Pharaoh—slavery behind them; they would have been free—greeted by the joyful appearances of nature. To sacrifice would have been their duty; it is ours.

III. It would have evinced the return of a better manhood. No longer idolaters—they would have sacrificed to the true God. It is God’s work to make men hear and obey the message of salvation He sends to them.

Upon God’s encouragement the instruments and subjects of redemption must move thereunto.
Hearts wrought upon by God not merely hearken, but use means for deliverance.
Under God’s commission His oppressed ones shall face their oppressor.
God’s message must never be withheld from oppressors.
The Lord owns His people under their most despised name, “Hebrews.”
God will have His people use humble address, even to their persecutors.
Liberty is to be sought by the good—

1. It is commanded by God.
2. He raiseth instruments for its accomplishment.
3. No man has a right to enslave them.
4. It is necessary to the duties of our religious life.

God, who can command all from tyrants, is pleased to order His people to beg small things.
Wilderness service is desired by God rather than mixtures with Egypt.
The end of all deliverance to the Church is God’s worship.
Man can largely hinder his neighbour from a convenient worship of God.

Verses 19-22



I. That God is thoroughly acquainted with the moral obstinacy of men. “And I am sure that the King of Egypt will not let you go.”

1. There are many people who act like Pharaoh in relation to the commands of God. As Pharaoh treated Moses and the Israelites with contempt—manifesting pride—obstinacy—so there are men and women to-day as proud and obstinate in reference to the requirements of Christ and His Gospel; ministers address Divine messages to them—urge the Divine claims—all in vain. God knows such people. Their names are vocal on His lips. He tells His servants about them. He indicates judgments in reference to them. Such people are almost beyond the reach of ministerial influence. The minister is not altogether responsible for the success of his mission. He cannot force men to be good.

2. In all the commissions of human life God recognises the free agency of the wicked. God could with ease have set the Israelites at liberty, as He did Paul and Silas. Such was not the Divine will. He desired to use moral instrumentalities, in harmony with the volition of man. Is it not a mystery that man has the ability to oppose the will of God?

3. We may inquire into the utility of employing Christian agency where the result will be ineffectual. What utility could there be in the mission of Moses to Pharaoh, when God knew right well that it would be unavailing, and informed Moses of the fact? Why, then, was Moses sent; and would not this knowledge discourage and introduce an element of weakness into his effort? He went at the sovereign command of God to teach Pharaoh the Divine will, that he might be without excuse, that he might be acquainted with the designed freedom of Israel—for the sending of Moses had reference to Israel as well as to the king. It also commenced a series of events that ultimately issued in the overthrow of Pharaoh, and the victory of the Supreme Being on behalf of His people. So ministers are sent to nations—people—to-day who will remain finally impenitent. Such is the method of the Divine arrangement—such the attention of Divine mercy to the worst of characters—such the power of right that it will conquer, if in judgment.

II. That God is thoroughly acquainted with the method He will pursue in reference to the morally obstinate.

1. God deals with the morally obstinate after the method of a consecutive plan. First, He prepares the messenger to visit and teach them; then gives him the message; then tells him how to make it known; then smites in judgments, successive, severs. Thus God does not deal with the morally obstinate according to the impulse of the moment—fitfully, incidentally, but according to a harmonious, merciful, self-consistent plan—a plan that will admit of the repentance and faith of the sinner.

2. God sometimes meets the morally obstinate with demonstrations of His power. “I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders,” etc. Here, then, we have human power in conflict with the Divine—the King of Egypt against the King of Heaven. Which will conquer? The sequel. So sometimes God meets the obstinate sinner with tokens of power,

(1) afflictive,

(2) convincing,

(3) subduing.

III. That God can thwart the intention of the morally obstinate by their own wickedness, and by the conduct of their comrades. (Exodus 3:22.)

1. Pharaoh’s obstinacy was thwarted by his own wickedness. The Egyptians aided the escape of Israel—gave them articles to facilitate their journey. So the purposes of obstinate men are often thwarted by those who share their sin and determination. The work of defeating and subduing obstinate sin is not left wholly to ministers. Often the Egyptians help them.

3. How thoroughly all agencies are at the disposal of God. His ministers are not the only instrumentalities at his call. All events, all persons cluster round them as a centre, and, under Divine direction, accomplish the moral freedom of the good.


Exodus 3:19. God declares the worst as well as the best that meet His servants in the way of salvation.

God knows what the powers of the world will do against the Church, and yet He tries them.
It is incident to worldly powers to deny the humblest request from God.
God in His wisdom suffers worldly powers to wrestle with His mighty hand.
Their sin is aggravated who ever contend with the mighty hand of God.
The madness of sinners is so great, that they will put God’s power to the test.

Exodus 3:20. God is at hand to deal with them that contend with His power.

God’s hand put forth will startle the arm of flesh.
Upon God’s putting forth His hand to vengeance, great smitings are on His enemies.
Wonderful vengeance God’s hand giveth forth sometimes to quell the resistance of adversaries.
God will certainly work wonderful plagues where He threatens them.
The very midst of God’s enemies shall have experience of His wonderful plagues.
Where grace will not prevail with wicked men, force shall.
Sin endures its plagues to no purpose, as it is obliged to yield.

Exodus 3:21-22. There is a grace of favour which the world may show unto God’s Church.

It is God’s only work to incline the hearts of enemies to favour His people.
Fulness, as well as freedom, yield to God’s people at His Word.
God’s Church is neighbour with a wicked world till His time. Even the world has some valuable things that it can give to the Church.
Sometimes God makes the sons and daughters of the Church carry away the treasures of enemies.
At God’s command, the Church shall spoil the enemies that spoiled her.
A great part of the gold and silver now obtained was afterward used in building and furnishing the tabernacle.
The relation of God:—

1. To human outgoings.
2. To human hearts.
3. to human treasures.

God is the proper owner of all treasures, and can dispose of them as He will.
The word rendered “borrow” means simply to ask (Psalms , 2-8, ask), and should be so translated. Israel had, after their toil for the Egyptians, & right to ask their help on their departure.

That “spoiled” does not imply robbery or injustice is evident from its use by Laban’s daughters (Genesis 31:16).

The Egyptians would be so overcome by abject distress as to be ready to part with a considerable portion of their wealth, in order to get rid of a people whose presence menaced them with utter extermination.
God has many ways of balancing accounts between the injured and the injurious—of righting the oppressed, and compelling those that have done wrong, to make restitution; for he sits upon the throne, judging right [Matthew Henry].


Exodus 3:19-20. Like as, if a man’s foot, leg, or arm be broken, with how great pain the same is restored to its former estate all men know; but if any member of our body should be broken twice or thrice, or more often, in one and the self-same place, every man can then judge how hard a thing it were for that part to recover its perfect strength and health again: even so fareth it in the ruptures and wounds of our soul. If a man do commit sin once or twice, and do unfeignedly, without dissimulation, make his refuge to the medicine of repentance, he doth out of hand obtain health again, and that sometimes without any scar or blemish of the disease past; but if he begin to add sins upon sins in such sort that the wounds of the soul do rather putrefy within him, by covering and defending them, than heal, by repentance and confession, it is to be feared such a one shall not find repentance at commandment when he wisheth for it [Cawdray].

Exodus 3:20. As the course of a stream, being stopped, it gathereth a great dam, and being let suddenly go, it overfloweth all in its way; even so God’s anger, being stayed a time, the windows of heaven being opened, it will (shortly, it is to be feared) pour down on our heads plentifully for the manifold sins that reign in every estate throughout the whole land.

As wet wood, although it be long burning, yet will burn faster at last; so the anger of God, although it be long coming, yet it will come the fiercer at the last.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.