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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ exodus-4.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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But, behold, they will not believe me.
Moses’ temptation to shrink from, the contest
Our duty to our Lord in this world requires that we should do somewhat more than live a life of obedience to Him. Our obedience must be acknowledged obedience. We must never be loth to say, “Whose we are, and Whom we serve.” We may read this lesson writ large in the history of God’s sending Moses to deliver His people. Moses went through a trial on Mount Horeb, the exact opposite of the trial of Christ.
I. Moses was tempted to decline the contest with the world altogether, to shrink from action and from prominence, when God called him. Christ was tempted to take the world by storm, to overwhelm it with conviction.
II. Moses was full of sympathy for the poor, full of a desire to see God’s ancient promises realized; but when the time came, and God said, “Now go,” then, for the first time, it flashed upon Moses that he was unfit to carry out what he had so aspired to be trusted with. His eighty years of life had been given him that in its vast experience he might learn that God was all, man was nothing. He had very nearly learned it in truth; the crust or chrysalis of self was very nearly ready to drop off; it needed just this interview with God to rid him of it entirely. He had seen the miraculous powers with which he had been endowed, but he had not fully understood them, and therefore his will was pausing still.
III. The voice of God within him and without him waxed more imperious. God sternly pointed out that such eloquence as he longed for was but a secondary qualification. “Thy brother, I know that he can speak well”; the legislator need not be the orator. There is not one of us who ever complained to God of insufficient strength without finding his complaint answered either by ministration of grace or disappearance of difficulties.
IV. What interests trembled in the balance while Moses was debating! It is not for ourselves only that we shall be responsible if we debate till the time is gone, (Archbishop Benson.)
God’s call and man’s duty
I. God proposes great things to men. In proportion as any call in life is great, let the heart pause and consider whether its very greatness is not a proof of its divinity.
II. We are not to look at what we are, but at what God is. When He calls, He qualifies for the work
III. What is right in itself may be perverted and abused. Timidity is right in itself; but when pushed into cowardice, it is wrong. Self-distrust is right in itself; but if it degenerates into atheism, then it is the plague and destruction of the soul.
IV. God’s call to faith is the greatest call to his universe. Our duty is to go forward to the unknown and the invisible, and live by faith. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The mission of Moses
I. The nature of the mission.
1. Its difficulty and danger.
2. It was divinely appointed.
II. Moses was trained specially for it.
1. The school of providence.
2. Our need of discipline.
III. Moses was sufficiently equipped. The rod.
1. The use of little things.
2. The use of present means. Use “what is in thy hand.”
IV. Moses shrank from his mission. Modesty and self-distrust generally go with true greatness and exalted virtue. (P. S. Henson, D. D.)
The lament of the pulpit
I. The preacher has frequently to lament the scepticism of his congregation. Practical unbelief.
II. The preacher has frequently to lament the inattention of his congregation. Nothing worse than disobedience to the messages of God.
III. the preacher has frequently to lament the querulous spirit of his congregation. They question inspiration, preparation, qualification of teacher. And often in unkind, factious spirit. Should rather welcome him as from God, sent to achieve their moral freedom.
IV. That this conduct on the part of congregations has a most depressing influence on the minds of ministers. He needs the attention, sympathy, prayers, help of those whom he seeks to free from the tyranny of sin. He has enough to contend with external hindrances, with the opposition of Pharaoh, without having added to it that of the slave whose fetter he seeks to break. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Why did Moses imagine that the Israelites would not believe him
1. Because he knew that they were a stiff-necked people.
2. Because he considered himself of insufficient authority to command their respect.
3. Because the power and tyranny of Pharaoh would deter them from believing him.
4. Because they would think it unlikely that God, who had never been seen by man, should appear to him. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Human distrust is a difficulty which every preacher, teacher, and holy labourer has to encounter. All great movements are carried by consent of parties. God Himself cannot re-establish moral order without the concurrence of the powers that have rebelled against His rule. After all, the spiritual labourer has less to do with the unbelief of his hearers than with the instruction and authority of God. We have to ascertain what God the Lord would have us to say, and then to speak it simply and lovingly, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. The preacher must prepare himself for having doubts thrown upon his authority; and he must take care that his answer to such doubts be as complete as the authority itself. God alone can give the true answer to human doubt. We are not to encounter scepticism with merely ingenious replies and clever arguments, but in the power and grace of the living God. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Ministerial duty in spite of discouragement
Dr. Stevens narrates how an eminent minister was very much depressed by the unbelief of his congregation, and how his spirit of depression was shaken off. He dreamed that he was working with a pick-axe on the top of a basaltic rock, which remained non-riven in spite of repeated strokes of his arm of muscle. When about to give up in despair, a stranger of solemn and dignified demeanour appeared on the scene, who reminded him that as a servant he was bound to go on whether the rock yielded or not. “Work is your duty; leave the results to God,” were the last words of his strange visitor. The result was that the discouraged pastor resumed his work, and was abundantly rewarded by “the shattering of the rock of unbelief and indifference” among his flock.
Frailty invested with divinity
If we pause for a moment and consider the almost insurmountable difficulties which stood in the way of Israel’s redemption from Egypt, we can readily appreciate the hesitation on the part of Moses before undertaking this herculean task. Egypt at that time was one of the most powerful of nations. It was not that Egypt desired simply to hold Israel in subjection, that such a strict and powerful sovereignty was exercised; hut the Israelites had become the servants, the slaves of the Egyptians, and as such were almost necessary to the vigour of the nation. Besides, four centuries of oppression had left their deep and degrading mark upon the children of Israel. They had become in a measure satisfied with their condition. Hope had taken to itself wings. Ambition had died within them. There native fire and energy had wasted away. To redeem a people who do not care to be redeemed, to set free a nation which is content with captivity, is a work well-nigh impossible. And then, to add to the difficulty of the case, supposing even that they were free, where will they go? Their own land, the land promised to their father Abraham, is already occupied. Warlike tribes have come down from the north and strongly entrenched themselves within its borders. “Who and what am I,” said Moses, “that I should go upon this great mission? What proofs can I bring to assure the people that I am come from God? They will not believe my word, and they will ask, Where is the God of our fathers and what is His name? What sign have I to convince them? What power have I to display”? At length God answers, What is that in thy hand? And he said a rod. He was told to cast it upon the ground, when all at once it became a writhing serpent. You will notice all through the Scriptures in the dealings of God with His people, that in almost every instance He proceeds upon the principle contained in our text. When any great work is to be done, when any special mission is to be undertaken, God does not bring down to the accomplishment of His purpose strange or wonderful agencies, but He rather takes the simple things that lie about common life, and makes them achieve the Divine will. God seems to take the most exquisite pleasure in clothing human frailty with Divine strength and beauty, and imparting to the most ordinary and trivial things, heavenly meaning and significance. Indeed, God’s constant purpose seems to have been to unite this world with another one, to blend this life with a life infinitely higher and grander. Life is robbed of all its harmony, all its grace, all its impressiveness if we ever allow it to become separated from the Divine and the eternal, and the little boat which is unswung from the davits and carried off by a huge billow from its place on the ocean steamer, is no more helpless as it rolls in the trough of the sea, and is no more pitiable in its desolation, than the life which is adrift from God out upon the great waters of human experience and distress. To many life is a weary drudgery all the way from the cradle to the grave. It is nothing but work and eat and sleep. Once in a great while there is a little change, but not often. The great bulk of life is a sad monotony, and millions look forward to the quiet and rest of the grave. And why are these people in this dismal plight? Simply because their life is not connected with the Divine life, because this world is not made a part of the heavenly world, and like a car which has become detached from the swift express and flung out upon a siding, it stands helpless and forsaken in the dark and dismal night. Suppose that here are three plates of common glass a foot square, an eighth or a quarter of an inch in thickness, and suppose that they are given to three men to dispose of them as they please. One takes his and he covers it with black enamel, and on the ebonized surface he paints a human face, or some lovely flowers. Another takes his and he spreads upon it a solution of quicksilver and it becomes a mirror throwing back to the beholder his own face and expression. But the third takes his to the best room in his house, he inserts it in the window which has the most commanding view, and then carefully removing all the dust and finger-marks, he looks through its open substance and sees the skies in their morning beauty, the fields in living green or glistening white, and thus brings heaven and earth within the circle of that room. Now these are the ways in which most of us live. We take our life and we enamel or ebonize it. We make it opaque. We cannot see through it to anything that lies beyond; and though we paint it, and try to adorn it, yet we in no wise remove the mystery; the darkness in the sad background which even the flowers will not hide away. Some use the coating of mercury, and make their life nothing but a mirror which reflects themselves. Self is the image ever rising before their eyes. But the wise man makes this life simply a transparency through which he can see the life of God. There are three forms of power by which the machinery of clocks is kept in motion. The first and the one of the oldest date is that of the weight suspended upon a chain or rope. The bulk and heaviness of the weight was always in proportion to the size of the clock, and the wheels were literally driven by the sheer force of the big weights as they slowly descended. The second is that of the spring, the band of steel coiled within its cylinder spending its strength in expansion, and forcing the wheels to revolve in its great desire to get free. The third is that of electricity, where the current is carried along the wire from the central battery. Silently, but almost irresistibly, the mysterious force operates upon the machinery, ensuring an accuracy and faithfulness which can be gained in no other way. And in these we have illustrations of how human life is carried on. Many of us go by weight. We are dragged down by heaviness and toil, and compelled by the demands of circumstances to go our weary round. Others go through by the sheer force of their own energy. They have power and strength in themselves to propel them around the dial-plate of common existence, and in this way they fulfil the measure of their days. But some have an electric current. The wires of their thought are in connection with the great battery of God. Life to them is not a mere drag. Life to them is not merely an expenditure of vital force. Life to them means heavenly communion, Divine fellowship, holy enjoyment, and the days of their pilgrimage are accomplished in simple dependence upon the Almighty will. Now, what seems to be the very plain, the very obvious meaning of this rod? Is it not this: that the most common things within our possession, and under our control, can be so wrought upon by Divine influence, and so charged with Divine power, as to accomplish the most strange and glorious results? St. Paul tells us in the Epistle to the Corinthians that God has a strange choice in the selection of His instrumentalities: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” And if you will go down the lines of history you will see that God has carried out this principle in its integrity. And this ought not to strike us as either strange or remarkable, because we do just the same ourselves. We take the most common things that we can find, and we unite them with other things until we finally develop the most potential forces of our time. A few gallons of water, a few pieces of coal are enough to send the mad steam hissing through the pipes, eager to turn yon giant engine, or send the train of cars thundering along the line. A few drops of vitriol, a few pieces of prepared zinc, a single thread of wire, and lo, the electric force flashes as light around our world. A few grains of charcoal and sulphur mixed with nitre are sufficient to give us the dreadful gunpowder which sends iron giants swinging in the air that beat into ruin walls and parapets of stone. We take the most common rods that Nature has in her hand, and we breathe upon them, and they become instinct with life; we give them of our genius and our strength; we lift them up out of their low estate. We take the iron and the coal from the mines, we dig out the metals that are in the hills, we dignify them and ennoble them until at length they become our most valued agents and servants. But we must always remember that the rod of itself will be valueless unless it have with it the presence and favour of God. Of what worth was the mere rod which Moses held in his hand that day as he stood before the burning bush? In all probability it was only the shepherd’s crook which he used while attending the flocks of Jethro. The rod itself was almost of no value whatever. And so exactly with our life. Before we can be really useful, before we can accomplish any great work, before we can live up to the measure of our power, we must first of all meet with God. We must stand before the burning bush; we must listen to the Divine voice; we must receive the heavenly commission; we must accept the Divine command. Until this is done our life is nothing but a rod--a rod without any special use or intrinsic value, and which will one day break in our hands, and be cast into the fire and be destroyed. Look how this is illustrated: What is that in thy hand? “A sling,” said David. “It is enough; go up against the giant”; and the great Goliath fell before the shepherd-boy. What is that in thy hand? “A sword,” answered Jonathan. “It is enough,” and the brave youth, followed by his armour-bearer, goes up against an army, and the Philistines are defeated by these twain. What is that in thy hand? “A piece of parchment,” answered Luther. It is enough, and he proceeds to nail his famous protest upon the doors of the Roman Church and the era of the Reformation broke upon darkened Europe. What is that in thy hand? “A pen,” said Bunyan, as he spoke from under the arches of Bedford jail. It is enough, and he wrote the story of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which will live while the world endures. Men and women, with common, simple things about them, have heard the voice of God, and doing just what their hand found to do, they made their life memorable in the history of the Church and accomplished the Divine will. What is that in your hand? “Only a rod,” answers the mother from beside the cradle, the workman standing at the bench, the clerk behind the counter, the man of business at his desk. Only a rod, and is that all? Oh, there is something of far greater value than you now suppose. Ask that honest farmer in a few weeks from now standing in the open furrows, what is that in his hand, and he will answer, only a few grains of seed. But is that all? Far from it. Those grains of seed contain the germs of the great harvest which will fill our lands with plenty, and crowd the threshing-floors with abundance. Then say not “Only a rod.” There is no such word as “only” about human life. Every part of it is invested with mysterious grandeur and possibility. We cannot tell how far the most simple thing will reach. A word dropped from our lips, a hand clasped within ours, something apparently trifling done and then forgotten, will go on long after we have passed away, and a life which throws its shadows all down eternity cannot have anything but which is of value. (J. W. Johnston.)
What is that in thine hand?
A trivial possession
I. God frequently makes inquiry about the most trivial possessions of men.
1. Have they been honourably gained?
2. Are they being put to their proper use?
3. Are they in a line with Divine power?
II. God frequently makes the most trivial possessions of men teach great truths.
1. This shows the Divine adaptability to the circumstances of men.
2. This shows the Divine wisdom in making insignificant things teach Divine truth.
3. This shows the Divine simplicity of the plans and purposes of Heaven.
III. That the most trivial possessions are useful to others as well as those to whom they belong.
IV. That the most trivial possessions of men prove, after all, the most useful, and ought therefore to awaken human gratitude. (J. W. Johnston.)
1. The subject of Divine inquiry.
2. The token of a shepherd’s office.
3. The symbol of a leader’s power.
4. The prophecy of a nation’s freedom. (J. W. Johnston.)
When God installed Moses into his great trust, He gave him a wand or staff of office as its badge. But it was not the baton of a general nor the sceptre of a king. It was only the shepherd’s rod. In Moses’ hand it became what no jewelled crosier ever has been or will be. This stick was to be not only the ensign of his power, but its instrument. And in this simplicity, indeed, lay its special fitness for its office; because all men who looked upon it could see that its power was not in itself, not inherent; not in the rod, but effectual only by a self-imposed law of God’s action, and conditioned in its success upon His fidelity to His own rule. In this, as afterwards of the yet humbler symbol of the cross,--in this, the symbol of his simplicity, of his exile, of his lowliness, the world was to be conquered.
1. I remark in regard to this rod, that it had no natural aptitude for its work. There was nothing in its natural qualities to distinguish it from any other rod, and its appointment to be Moses’ staff of office and instrument of miracle wrought in it no physical change whatever. It was still mere wood. Sufficient force would break it. A sharp tool would cut it. And it was according to the analogy of His ways: and so St. Paul broadly states it. “Base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” It is God’s way to do great things by weak means. That is the Divine philosophy of action, the opposite of man’s.
2. Notice, again, that God in doing His great works does not need any instruments, but uses them simply of His own sovereign will; and this appears in their obvious inadequacy in themselves to the results which they, nevertheless, produce. Moses was not indispensable to God, nor his rod to Moses, but by God’s determination. If we look at our Lord’s miracles when He was upon earth, we shall see this truth strikingly illustrated. In the variety of their methods they are so exhibited as at once to show His independence of all means, and His sovereign power in appointing and employing them. So this wonder-working rod of Moses answered simply the purpose of forming a visible link between the Divine will and the effect that was produced. The rod did not do the miracle, but a Power that worked by it; and that showed itself able to dispense with it by employing in its work an instrument so manifestly incapable of contributing anything to the proposed result. A word brings Lazarus from the grave; a touch of the bier awakens the widow’s son. And thus we come to the philosophy of means in the system of grace. They are visible signs of God’s working, such signs as cannot work except as God works in them; and to us they are tests of obedience and trials of faith. There is nothing quite so irrational as rationalism. To obey God is the most rational of things. And to stand arguing and questioning about a thing, debating its propriety and efficacy when God has told us to do it, is eminently irrational. Moses might have stood and said, This wooden stick cannot divide the waters, or turn the dust to flies, or make the heavens dark, or draw water out of a rock; and he would have said nothing but the truth. And yet, if Moses had thrown away his rod, he could never have invented anything else that would have done these things, and the things would have remained undone. There is a supernatural working in the world that the world does not take knowledge of. And it works by a class of instrument talities that the world regards as childish and impotent. The reliance some people place upon them it counts superstition, and derides as futile and delusive. To expect any benefit from them they consider irrational. The measure of their belief is their reason. So they eliminate all miracle from the Scriptures, and all that is supernatural from the Church of God; and out of the poor residue they construct what they call rational Christianity, and a very mean Christianity it is. And so they illustrate very well the apostle’s saying, “Professing themselves wise, they became fools.” And there are too many Christians who, without going such lengths, are quite too ready to criticise God’s appointments, and either hold them of light obligation, or greatly underrate their value and efficacy. But there is a supernatural element in the Church of Christ, and God in it works invisibly by means. “Water,” say they, “cannot cleanse the soul, nor bread and wine nourish it. The touch of a prelate can have no power to convey the influences of the Spirit to ministers in Ordination, or to lay people in Confirmation.” Men may see that the ten commandments are right and salutary, and may observe them on that account. Their reason pronounces them proper, and therefore they regard them. They would regard them if they had found them in the Koran, or the Books of Confucius. There is much of this sort of virtue, and it is respectable and useful to its possessor and to society. But it is not obedience, it is not religion. Faith does not underlie it. The love of God is not its life. Moses took his rod in his hand and with it he did wonders. He believed in it, because he believed in God, and in God’s assignment of it to him as an instrument of power. And then it was an instrument of power, a wonder staff, before which impediments vanished and foes fled away. (R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
A talk with children-“What is that in thine hand?”
This was a question which astonished Moses. It was a surprising thing to him that God should think anything of a shepherd’s crook. It would not have astonished him to hear God speak about sceptres, but that He should call special attention to an old rod that he had carried as a shepherd a thousand times was more than he could have ever expected. But God now began to show Moses that he could turn that rod to higher use than he had ever done hitherto. There are many things put into the hands of little children the full use of which they do not yet know.
1. For instance, when at first you are taught to write a pen is placed in your hand. What an amount of trouble you have before you learn even how to hold that pen! For a long time you do not exactly know how to hold the gift that is given you; and for a still longer time you little know what use you may yet make of it. When the apostle Paul was a boy in school, and had to learn how to use the stylus, or pen, he little knew what use he would be able to make of his pen in writing his Epistles. So with regard to the apostle John. So also with reference to John Bunyan. When he was at school, a poor boy, he was not taught much, since he was only to be a tinker. But a pen was put into his hand, and it is wonderful what use he made of it in later years in writing the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Who knows? perhaps there is a child here to-day who has only just learnt how to use the pen, and yet thousands may yet thank God for what he will write.
2. Again, some of you have recently been on a journey by train. Had you looked at the engine before you started you might have seen a man laying hold of a handle, or lever. You might well have asked him, “What is that in thine hand?” Had you done so, he would have replied, “This is the lever by which I have power over the engine and make it to go fast or slow, or by which I stop it.” Thus, by holding just that little piece of iron, the engine-driver is perfect master of theft huge and powerful engine.
3. Again, you go with your father to a telegraph office. He wants to send a message to America. The clerk looks at the message and lays hold of a small handle by which he sends those words along the cable through the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and they are read in a few seconds in New York.
4. Again, in times of war, when ships draw near a port, you may find a man in a small room, or shed, who watches until a ship comes to a certain point. He then touches a little button and the ship is blown up in an instant. There is a connection between that little button and a mine of explosives which is hidden in the water beneath the ship; and although that mine may be many miles away from that little telegraph office, a touch of the button by a man’s hand at once explodes the mine and works terrible destruction. When an Arab baby-boy is born, his parents put a little ant into his right hand, and closing the hand upon it say, “May the child be as busy and clever as the little ant.” That is the best wish they can utter for their children. But we would put something better than an ant in your little hands. We would have you hold firmly the Bible, and remember all that it tells you of the Saviour’s love. We would have you study prayerfully that Book, and live according to its teaching. (D. Davies.)
Work for all
The subject that I desire to bring before your attention is that of appointed instrumentality. God accomplishes the purposes of His grace by instrumentality. Blessed are they who are enabled to give themselves up with all that they have and all that they are to be employed in the Lord’s service. We are not employed to be writers of God’s revealed will, nor to be leaders of God’s people, nor to be in other respects what Moses was. But he was a pattern to believers in Christ, as far as instrumentality went, in the work to which he was called.
I. Now consider preparation for usefulness. In the case of Moses we see very remarkably a course of preparation going forward for many years, both as respects the dealing of God’s providence with him, and also as respects the blessing of God’s grace bestowed upon him.
II. But this brings me now to the second particular, namely, encouragement in God’s service as his instruments, You will observe our text brings Moses before us, after all this lengthened preparation and when God was calling him to begin his work, as one who was making excuses and objections. As if he had said, ‘“Well, but what good can I do? There is no use in my going on this errand; I am not fit for it.” If you read the remaining part of this chapter, you will see that this conviction of his mind was expressed again and again. And here we may observe, by the way, that there is such a thing as false humility. Humility, when it is genuine, the work of God’s Spirit, cannot be overprized. But there may be what looks like humility, that is not the fruit of God’s Spirit. If God calls me or you to any particular service, and we think that we are very humble and say, “No, I cannot attempt that service, I am not fit for it,” this is false humility, because God never gives work without giving strength and wisdom to do it. God never brings a trial upon us without providing grace to enable us to bear the trial; so that believers in Christ may say, under all circumstances, “All is well.” But without dwelling further upon this, the point I wish to notice is, how God removed Moses’ objection. “The Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And the Lord said, Cast it on the ground.” He did so, and then the circumstances occurred which you will read in the following verses. Observe, Moses had but a simple rod in his hand when he came to that point in his history on which the Lord was telling him to enter upon the special work for which he had been prepared. And yet if Moses’ heart were right with God, he had that in his hand which might be useful in God’s service, though it was only a rod. Man’s wisdom is here utterly at fault. If man had been asked, “Now, what means should be used in order to deliver out of the iron bondage of a powerful monarch a nation such as Israel?” man would have formed some plan by which an army might be raised, and furnished with suitable weapons of war, and a suitable opportunity taken in order to throw off the yoke of Pharaoh’s government and rule. But here was Moses, God’s instrument, and he had neither sword, nor spear, nor army; he had a simple rod, a shepherd’s rod in his hand. Observe, God does not require of Moses, when He tells him to go to His work, that which Moses has not. He does not require of Moses sword, and spear, and shield, and armies, in order to go forth to be a deliverer of Israel. The question is not to him, “What canst thou do? Canst thou Obtain those who will go forth under thy command to fight a battle of loyalty and for liberty? Canst thou get together, ammunition and other things which they will need for their warfare. Moses might have then said with truth he could not engage in the work. But all that God said to him was, “Moses, what is that in thine hand?”--not, “What canst thou get?” but, “What hast thou got?” Now, we learn from this, that God can use any instrument which He pleases for His work, and that those are altogether wrong who suppose that they are not called upon to do anything in the service of God because, perhaps, they are not distinguished as others of their fellow-creatures--have not so much money, not so much influence, not so great learning, not so much time on their hands, and so on. It is not to be looked at in this way, as if God demanded of us that which we have not, but simply that He requires of us that which we have. Observe, next, the Lord said unto Moses, “Cast it on the ground”; and upon its being cast on the ground, the rod, we are told, “became a serpent.” Afterwards he was told to put forth his hand, and “it became a rod in his hand.” God, by this double miracle, laid hold of that rod of Moses as His rod; it was no longer the rod of Moses only; it was the rod of God. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
What is that in thine hand
I. A question for moses. Well--what had he? A rod. That is, as I suppose, a shepherd’s crook: a stout sapling, curved at one end, to help him in caring for his flock. But how could this help him in caring for Israel? Who can turn it into a talisman to draw their hearts to him? It is enough to tell of the Being and the power and the skill of the Creator; but not enough to prove a Divine commission. There was need of some further revelation--and this further revelation was not withheld. What was Moses told to do with the rod? “Cast it on the ground”; as though God had said, “You can do nothing with it, see what I can do.” “And it became a serpent.” Now here we are confronted with the supernatural, the miraculous; for there is no natural evolution of vegetable out of animal, or animal out of vegetable. God can do it--and do it quite as easily as He can bring the sturdy staff out of the feeble bud; but it is not in His ordinary course of action. He will only resort to it when some extraordinary end is in view. But was there not a lesson in this miracle? Was it not a symbol of the great things God was about to do?
II. A question for Christians.
1. Is there not work for every one of us?--and work not unlike that to which Moses was called. The state of the world at large is described in this volume under many figures, very sad and very affecting; and one of the saddest and most affecting is that of slavery. Slaves of appetite--slaves of covetousness--slaves of fashion: we hear their sighs--their groans, sometimes. For the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are hard taskmasters; they will give their bondsmen no rest or peace: there is no slavery like that of sin! And therefore the cry of the gospel is--“Emancipation!” “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
2. But what good can we hope to do? There are as many difficulties in our way as in the way of Moses. Our fellow-men are so accustomed to slavery that they won’t believe in freedom. Ay--and they are so accustomed to all kinds of folly and imposture that they won’t believe that our message comes from God. How then can we succeed? Now comes the question of the text, “What is that in thine hand”? What power of influence has God given you? Now see whether that power may not be used for Him. “Oh, but,” you say, “my influence is a very insignificant thing”! And so is a shepherd’s crook. But see what a shepherd’s crook became in the hand of Moses; and remember that God may “choose weak things to confound the mighty, and foolish things to confound the wise.”
3. And so the question comes to us--“What is that in thine hand?” Not--what would you like to have there, or hope to have there? but--what have you? Be it the three hundred pence, or be it the two mites--use it for God, and see what God will make of it! Certainly nothing will recommend the gospel to those around us like the personal exertion of those who advocate it. (F. Tucker, B. A.)
Great things from small
God often does His greatest works by the humblest means. The great forces of nature are not the earthquake which tumbles cities into ruins. This power passes in a moment; the soft silent light, the warm summer rain, the stars whose voice is not heard--these are the majestic mighty forces which fill the earth with riches, and control the worlds which constitute the wide universe of God. So in Providence. Not the great Church organization, excellent and proper as it is. Martin Luther, a poor monk who had difficulty in getting bread to eat, shook the world; Linnaeus, with eight shillings in his pocket, began to study botany; Columbus had no grand steamer to carry him across the wide Atlantic. He wearied his life, and at last got from the rulers of his time a reluctant permission to embark with a hundred and fifty men only, and in three small ships. The founders of the United States of America were humble pious men. The Pilgrim Fathers sought only a place to rest the soles of their feet where they could worship God in peace. The founders of Christianity were fishermen. Christ Himself the Carpenter, the Nazarene, despised and crucified, was the wisdom and the power of God. For, did He not say--“I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me”? So in the text--“What is that in thine hand? A rod”--the emblem, the tool of his daily work. With this Moses was to do mighty deeds, Rabbinical tradition has it that Moses was an excellent shepherd. He followed a lamb across the wilderness, plucked it with his rod from a precipice amid the rocks, and carried it in his bosom; whereupon God said--“Let us make this Moses the shepherd of Israel.” He, a stranger, a fugitive, a humble shepherd, becomes the lawgiver, the leader, the deliverer of his people. The lesson of the text is plain. God still meets every man, and asks the old question--“What is that in thine hand?” Is it the tool of an ordinary trade?--with that God will be served. The artisan where he is, in his humble workshop, by using the rod which is in his hand, the merchant in his business, are in the place where they are now; all are called upon to do service. Few have rank, or wealth, or power, or eloquence. Let those illustrious few use their ten talents; but let us, the obscure millions, use the simple duties of life--the rod that is in our hand. A smile, like a little rushlight, may cheer a sick man tossing on his bed. Happiness-givers are the true representatives of Christ; to shed abroad in home and social circles the joy and the charity of Christ is the true work of Christ’s followers; and in this blessed happiness-giving all, exalted and lowly, may alike engage. (J. Cameron Lees, D. D.)
Splendid instruments not necessary
A rod: probably the shepherd’s crook, the symbol of his present condition. Among the Arabs a long staff with a curved head, varying from three to six feet in length, is used for this purpose. This rod was made the subject of a double miracle. From the story of Moses’ rod the poets invented fables of the thyrsus of Bacchus and the caducaeus of Mercury. Homer represents Mercury as taking his rod to work miracles, precisely in the same way as God commanded Moses to take his. God takes the weakest instruments to accomplish His mightiest ends. “A rod,” “a ram’s horn,” “a cake of barley meal,” “an earthen pitcher,” “a shepherd’s sling,” anything, in short, when used of God, will do His appointed work. Men imagine that splendid ends can only be reached by splendid means, but such is not God’s way. He can use a crawling worm as well as a scorching sun, a gourd as well as a vehement east wind. (A. Nevin, D. D.)
The rod as a symbol
The staff was the shepherd’s crook, with which he had hitherto conducted the flock of Jethro. Hence it represented his vocation as a shepherd. This he was to throw away, i.e., he was to give up his calling and follow a new one. But the staff which he had thrown away became a serpent, and Moses fled before it. His vocation hitherto had been a poor and despised one; but it was also quiet, peaceful, and free from danger. When this was given up, he was to be exposed to dangers of such magnitude, that even his life would be threatened. Moses could foresee all this, and hence the obstinacy with which he refused to enter upon his new vocation. But at the word of God he laid hold of the snake, and it became a staff in his hand once more. This showed that, by the power of God, he would be able to overcome the dangers that would surround him, when he relinquished his present calling. By overpowering the snake he recovered his staff, but it was no longer his staff; it was the rod of God (verse 20), and with the staff thus altered he was to perform the work entrusted to him (verse 17). It was still a shepherd’s staff, and his new vocation was a shepherd’s calling. From being a shepherd of Jethro’s sheep he was to become the shepherd of God’s sheep, the leader and lawgiver of the people of God. And he became so, by overcoming the dangers which intervened between these two different employments. We must also observe, that this was the rod with which he was to bring the plagues upon Egypt; and therefore it was the retributory counterpart to the rod with which the Egyptian taskmasters had beaten the Israelites (verse 14). As soon, then, as Moses appeared before the people and performed this sign, it showed them, first, that the dangers to which the mission of Moses would expose them--dangers which they soon experienced (chap. 5.)--would be overcome; and secondly, that the staff of shepherd and ruler, with which Moses was to lead and govern them, was not assumed without authority, but given to him by God, and therefore the question could not be asked, as it was before, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14). He afterwards performed the same miracle in the presence of Pharaoh (Exodus 7:10, etc.). (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)
The symbol of a consecrated life
I believe the rod cast down, and taken up again, typifies the entire consecration of the Christian’s life to God. The rod was the ordinary sign and instrument of Moses’ daily occupation. That cast down, and taken up, became filled with power; and by it he proved to Israel and to Pharaoh that he had seen Jehovah. We are commanded in 1 Corinthians 7:24 to abide in the calling “wherein we are called.” I suppose we may understand from this that we do not need to change our station and calling (supposing it to be an honest one) in order to serve God. Are we shepherds, carpenters, merchants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, servants, or what not, we may serve God in that calling quite as efficiently as in any other. So He can, and will, make you mighty in the use of your calling, be it what it may, high or low, learned or mechanical, the calling of a master or a servant, a mistress or a maid. Only cast it down at the feet of Jesus, in humble and holy consecration; and then take it up again to use it and pursue it for Him. What God needs to-day in this world is a host of men and women, in every walk of life, who are living for God, and serving Him in their calling, using it as a means of illustrating God’s righteousness. He wants some merchants to do business for Him, that the world may know what God’s thought of righteousness in trade is. The banker may serve God in the same way. The medical man has a calling in which he may leave the testimony of God’s tenderness in the sick room; and by his ministry of healing exercised on the body he has an opportunity, such as is afforded to no other man in the world, to point his patients to the great Physician and Healer of souls. As it is, alas that so many Christian physicians fail to cast down their rods at the feet of Christ! The lawyer at the bar, and the judge on the bench, may be God’s witnesses in their profession. The teacher with the children (a most difficult position) may also cast his or her rod down. The governess, the nurse, and the mother may be consecrated to God for those to whom God has sent them, or whom He has given them. The servant in the house--both the maid-servant and the man-servant--every one, in his or her place, may throw down the rod of their calling at the feet of Jesus, and take it up again in power. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Leprous as snow.
Leprosy as emblematical of doubt
I. That as leprosy was the worst disease that could have been permitted to the hand of Moses, so doubt of the divine word is the most hurtful that can overtake the human mind.
1. Both are small in their commencements.
2. Both are progressive in their developments.
3. Both are gloomy in their forebodings.
4. Both are isolating in their tendency.
5. Both are paralysing in their influence.
6. Both are deadly in their result.
II. That as leprosy comes upon men unexpectedly, so does doubt upon the human mind. The germ of scepticism often remains long concealed in the human mind; its workings are subtle, and we know not what will be the extent of its future harvest.
III. That as leprosy could only be removed. By the Divine touch, so human doubt can only be removed by communion with God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Various suppositions as to the meaning of this miracle
1. Some give it a moral signification--as that the leprous hand of Moses showeth the works of the law that justifieth not.
2. Some give it a mystical signification--that the leprous hand of the synagogue of the Jews was cast off as the leprous person out of the house, and the hand restored betokeneth the Gentile Church adopted instead of the Jewish.
3. Some refer it to Christ, that He being the Hand, that is, the power of His Father, by taking our nature upon Him, became as it were leprous, that is, deformed, by His sufferings and passion, but by His resurrection and ascension His glory appeareth.
4. Some give it an historical signification--by the leprous hand they understand the miserable state of the Hebrews in the time of their cruel servitude, who in their deliverance received their former liberty.
5. Some think that the leprous hand signifieth the pollutions of Egypt, wherewith Israel was defiled, who being delivered were restored to the true worship of God.
6. That the first sending of Moses to the Israelites brought upon them more cruel treatment, but his after ministry brought them joy and deliverance.
7. That the hand being the instrument of working, betokeneth the ministry and authority of Moses, and that God would use a weak instrument to effect His will, Moses having lived a long time in banishment seemed a thing leprous and vile, yet God should in this His service make him a glorious vessel and instrument.
8. That as the leprosy is only cured by God, so their deliverance was only God’s work, and to humble Moses by the remembrance of his own infirmity.
9. As far as the intrinsic significancy of the sign is concerned, it was evidently calculated to teach that whatever is new, vigorous, vital, and flourishing, may at once be withered at the word of Omnipotence; and again with equal facility restored to its pristine condition. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Ability for God’s service
1. Human hands weak and unfit for service.
2. Sanctified power is only attained from God.
3. Hence the worker must be humble, but not impotent or paralytic in hand. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I. As undertaken by a Divine teacher. There are lessons for every man to learn, which heaven only can teach.
II. As employing the most impressive symbolism. The Divine teaching is always suggestive, never exhaustive.
III. As occupying but a short space of time. An eternal lesson may be learnt in a moment.
IV. As preparing for important duty. Divine instruction is never aimless. Designed not merely to make men clever, but to give them the power of moral emancipation. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The leprous hand restored
That which happened to the hand of Moses was a picture of what had happened, and was still to happen, to the people of Israel. By going down to Egypt, the Israelites had been preserved from the injurious influence of Canaanitish customs. Through the favour of the first Pharaohs, Egypt was undoubtedly a hiding-place, in which the family of Jacob had been cherished and preserved, when it was distressed both in body and mind. But there had been a change in both the men and the times, and Israel was enslaved, despised, and held in abomination in the land of Egypt. When Israel departed from Egypt, he was like a homeless leper. But Jehovah led him once more to a hiding-place, where he was cleansed from the leprosy which he had brought with him from Egypt, and where he was set apart as a holy people and a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6). It is very easy to explain why this sign was not exhibited before Pharaoh as well as the others (chap. 7.). The thing signified was of too internal and spiritual a nature, it was too closely connected with the counsel of God concerning His people to be appropriately displayed to Pharaoh. (J. H. Kurtz, D. D.)
They will believe the voice of the latter sign.
The paralysis of doubt
A man needs not to be a thorough unbeliever, overtly renouncing all allegiance to revealed truth, in order to become useless in the pulpit and religiously powerless in society. He needs only to put a note of interrogation after some of the articles of his creed. That is enough, without absolutely erasing them. The hesitant is as impotent for spiritual good as the heretic. The man who is shooting for the Queen’s cup may as well attempt to hold his rifle with a paralysed arm as take aim with a trembling hand. That tremor will be fatal to success in hitting the mark. Truth uttered questioningly and apologetically will prove an arrow of conviction to no man’s soul. This, it seems to me, rather than absolute and pronounced infidelity, is the bane and weakness of the age. It pervades the pulpit and the pew. From the former, doctrines may be still propounded with logical accuracy, with great precision of definition, with much beauty and felicity of illustration, but with not enough of conviction to drive them forcibly home. The rifle is a beautiful piece of mechanism, but there is something amiss with the powder. (J. Halsey.)
The Divine treatment of human doubt
I. The Divine being recognizes the probability that men will not welcome the truth upon its first presentation to them. Yet the message proclaimed by Moses was--
1. Adapted to their condition Announcing freedom. The tendency of all unbelief is to intensify slavery of moral nature.
2. Wonderfully simple.
3. Divinely authenticated. Miracles will not convince a sceptic.
II. The Divine being mercifully makes provision for the conviction and persuasion of men in reference to the reality of the truth proclaimed, notwithstanding their confirmed unbelief. This method of treatment is--
1. Considerate. Every facility given for complete investigation.
2. Merciful. Sign after sign.
III. The persistent unbelief of men is likely to awaken evidences of truth indicative of the divine displeasure (Exodus 4:9).
1. Evidences that recall past sorrows. Reminding of murder of children in river.
2. Evidences prophetic of future woe. Indicating a strange and unhappy change in their condition, if they embraced not the message of Moses. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The voice of the first sign
1. It speaks of the thraldom of man.
2. It speaks of the inability of man to liberate himself therefrom.
3. It speaks of the agency that God has provided for the freedom of man.
4. It speaks of the strange unwillingness of man to credit the tidings of freedom. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. Miracles at first may miss their end, and not persuade men to faith.
2. Second miracles may do that which the first failed to effect.
3. God’s word and promise alone can make miracles themselves effectual means of faith.
4. Miracles have voices which should command faith and obedience. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Ministers exposed to unbelief
That a true minister, notwithstanding--
1. His call.
2. His spiritual preparation.
3. His knowledge of the Divine name.
4. His supreme moral power, and--
5. Intimate communion with God--is exposed to the unbelief of those whom he seeks to benefit. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The obstinacy of unbelief
It will reject the truth.
1. In opposition to the word of him by whom it is brought.
2. In opposition to the Divine power by which it is accompanied.
3. In opposition to the benevolent design it contemplates.
4. In opposition to accumulative demonstration. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The folly of rejecting the gospel of emancipation
One can hardly conceive a poor wayworn wretch, as he lies on the arid waste, punting with blackened lips and swollen tongue, striking the kind traveller’s flask from his hand, and spilling the precious water among the blistering sands. The slave boy--now an African bishop--exulted gleefully when a British cruiser snapped the fetters from his youthful limbs and bore him to free Liberia. Can folly surpass that insensate madness which makes the sinner spurn the clear, cool, crystal drops of life, and perversely traverse the wilds of sin? Can madness outrival that supreme folly which leads the hapless bondsman of sin to hug the chains of condemnation, and obstinately kiss the fetters of wrath?
O my Lord, I am not eloquent.
The objections made to religious service
I. These objections were made after God had given him a full insight into the nature of the service required.
1. The insight given into the nature of this service was infallible.
2. It was forceful.
3. It was sympathetic.
II. These objections frequently arise from an undue consciousness of self.
1. From a consciousness of natural infirmity. This ought to inspire within them a more thorough determination to seek Divine help. Silence is often more eloquent and valuable than speech.
2. From a supposition of moral incapacity. The call of God is calculated to educate all the sublime tendencies of the soul, and renders men fit for the toil allotted to them.
3. That, rather than self, God must be the supreme idea of the soul when about to enter upon religious service. Our hearts should be a temple in which every act of service should be rendered to the infinite.
III. These objections do not sufficiently regard the efficacy of the Divine help that is promised in the service. “Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.”
1. The Divine help is adapted to our natural infirmity. It is far better to have God joined to our infirmity, than to have the eloquent tongue without Him. Thus there are times when an infirmity may be an inestimable advantage to a Christian worker.
2. The Divine help is adapted to our full requirement. God did not merely promise to aid the speech of Moses, but also to teach him what he should say. So in the Christian service of to-day, good men are not merely aided in the line of their natural infirmity, but also along the entire line of their requirement.
IV. These objections are a reflection on the propriety of the Divine selection for the service. “And the Lord said unto him, who hath made man’s mouth,” etc.
1. This method of conduct is ungrateful.
V. These objections do not sufficiently recognize the dignity and honour the service will command.
1. There was the honour of achieving the freedom of a vast nation.
2. There was the honour of conquering a tyrant king.
3. There was the honour of becoming the lawgiver of the world.
VI. These objections are liable to awaken the divine displeasure. “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.”
1. This anger may be manifested in our removal from the service.
2. This anger may be manifested by the positive infliction of penalty.
3. This anger may occasion our eternal moral ruin.
1. Good men ought to know better than to object to the service of God.
2. That in the service of God men find the highest reward.
3. That in the service of God men attain the truest immortality. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Uselessness of mere words
I am tormented with the desire of writing better than I can. I am tormented, say I, with the desire of preaching better than I can. But I have no wish to make fine, pretty sermons. Prettiness is well enough when prettiness is in place. I like to see a pretty child, a pretty flower; but in sermons, prettiness is out of place. To my ear, it would be anything but commendation, should it be said to me, “You have given us a pretty sermon.” If I were put upon trial for my life, and my advocate should amuse the jury with tropes and figures, or bury his arguments beneath a profusion of flowers of his rhetoric, I would say to him, “Tut, man, you care more for your vanity, than for my hanging. Put yourself in my place--speak in view of the gallows--and you will tell your story plainly and earnestly.” I have no objections to a lady winding a sword with ribbons, and studding it with roses as she presents it to her hero-lover; but in the hour of battle he will tear away the ornaments, and use the naked edge on the enemy. (Robert Hall.)
The art of the orator undesirable in a preacher
Hipponicus, intending to dedicate a costly statue, was advised by a friend to employ Policletus, a famous workman, in the making of it; but he, being anxious that his great expense should be the admiration of all men, said that “he would not make use of a workman whose art would be more regarded than his own cost.” When in preaching the great truths of gospel salvation the enticing words which man’s wisdom teacheth are so much sought out that the art of the orator is more regarded by the hearers than the value of the truth spoken, it is no wonder that the Lord refuses to grant His blessing. He will have it seen that the excellency of the power lies not in our speech, but in His gospel. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
“I am not eloquent.”
I. Then true eloquence may have its use.
1. To explain Divine truth.
2. To inspire men with the thought of freedom.
3. To manifest the perfection of the gift of speech.
II. Then do not condemn men who are.
III. Then do not envy those who are acknowledgod to be so. If we have not eloquence, we have some other equally valuable talent in its place.
IV. Then the Lord can use a feeble instrumentality. This will enhance the Divine glory.
V. Then words are not the chief conditions of service. Ideas, thoughts, emotions, and spiritual influences, occupy a more prominent place.
VI. Then do not grumble, but seek the Divine aid in your infirmity. He will help and bless work done for Him. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Slowness of speech
I. An infirmity.
II. A discretion.
III. A discipline. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Why was Moses not gifted with eloquence?
It might certainly be asked with propriety, why Moses, who was singled out by Providence as the great medium for bringing the wisdom of heaven down to the earth, for ever substituting Divine truth instead of human error, and who was gifted with such uncommon perfection of the mind and intellect, was denied the power of eloquence, apparently so indispensable for his extraordinary vocation. But it was an act of the sublime wisdom of the Almighty to withhold from Moses just the gift of persuasion, lest it should appear that he owed the triumph over the obstinacy of Pharaoh and the disbelief of the Israelites, not to the miracles of God and the intrinsic worth of the Law, but to the artifices and subtleties of oratory, which too often procure, even to fallacies and sophisms, an ephemeral victory. It was wisely designed that the power of God should the more gloriously shine through a humble and imperfect instrument. This is a remarkable and deeply interesting difference between the legislator of Israel and the founders of almost all other religions, to whom, uniformly, no quality is ascribed in a higher degree than the gift of eloquence. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Moses has now descended from the high level of the argument, and narrowed the case into one of mere human personality. He has forgotten the promise, “Certainly I will be with thee.” The moment we get away from Divine promise and forget great principles, we narrow all controversy and degrade all service. Self-consciousness is the ruin of all vocations. Let a man look into himself, and measure his work by himself, and the movement of his life will be downward and exhaustive. Let him look away from himself to the Inspirer of his life, and the Divine reward of his labours, and he will not so much as see the difficulties which may stand ever so thickly in his way. Think of Moses turning his great mission into a question which involved his own eloquence! All such reasoning admits of being turned round upon the speaker as a charge of foolish, if not of profane, vanity. See how the argument stands: “I am not eloquent, and therefore the mission cannot succeed in my hands,” is equivalent to saying, “I am an eloquent man, and therefore, this undertaking must be crowned with signal success.” The work had nothing whatever to do with the eloquence or ineloquence of Moses. It was not to be measured or determined by his personal gifts: the moment, therefore, that he turned to his individual talents, he lost sight of the great end which he was called instrumentally to accomplish. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Fluency in speech
Moses was a thinker rather than a speaker. Fluency was not his forte. He saw too much in a moment to be able to give utterance to it all at once; and so his lack of readiness in the use of language was the result of the richness of his thought, rather than of its poverty. When the bottle is full, its contents flow out less freely by far than when it is two parts empty. So, very often, the fluency of one speaker is due to the fact that he sees only one side of a subject; while the hesitancy of another is the consequence of his taking in at a glance all the bearings of his theme, and of his desire to say nothing on it that will imperil other great principles with which it is really, but not to all minds visibly, connected. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I will be with thy mouth.
Natural infirmities in relation to moral service
I. That God does not always see fit to remove natural infirmities from those who are commissioned to important service.
1. They keep us humble.
2. They remind us of God.
3. They prompt us to prayer.
II. That God renders natural impediments effective to the clear manifestation of His power and glory.
1. Should win our submission.
2. Should gain our confidence.
3. Should inspire our praise.
III. That God so far compassionates our natural infirmities as to relieve them by congenial and efficient help.
2. Adapted to need.
3. Constant. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The Divine Creatorship
I. Should silence the voice of complaint under natural infirmities.
II. Should become an argument for the ready performance of any mission on which we may be divinely sent.
III. Should lean us reverently to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in the varied allotments of life. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. The Divine commission.
II. The Divine companionship.
III. The Divine instruction. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Speech, or dumbness, from God
I. Language is of Divine original. You may have been accustomed to consider it just as natural to man to speak as to walk; but this is a mistake. A child left to itself may learn to walk, but a child left to itself would never learn to speak; it would utter sounds, but it would never connect sounds with thoughts--it would never, that is, learn to express certain thoughts by certain sounds. It might invent some jargon of its own, but as to anything which should at all resemble even the elements of a language, and a system of sounds by which everything around us should be classified and defined, you will never think that this could be found in the accidental babblings of infancy; and however you may seek to account upon natural principles for the origin of language, we still venture to say, that unless you receive the Mosaic account of the Creation, there is no phenomenon so hopelessly inexplicable as language. Unless it be supposed that God formed man at first, and gave him the organs of speech, ay, and then taught him their use, and furnished him with words by which ideas should be expressed, language is the most unintelligible of prodigies; and you may search the universe and find nothing which you may not account for without God, if you can shut out His agency from the introduction of speech. And there is scriptural evidence of the fact, that God taught man language, or that the language first spoken was Divine in its origin. You will observe, that so soon as man was created God spake unto him; and thus the first use of words was to communicate the thoughts of God. But the thoughts of God must have been communicated in the words of God, and man could not have understood God’s words, unless he had been first taught them of God; so that when on the very outset of human existence you find conversation held between man and his Maker, you are forced to conclude, that since on no supposition could man in such a brief space have invented a language, the employed language must have been Divine, and Adam must have received from God the earliest intimations of speech.
II. Every case of inability to speak is of Divine appointment. God has meted out to us our every endowment, whether of body or of mind; we are indebted for nothing to chance, for everything to Providence; and though it were beside our purpose to inquire into the reasons which may induce God to deny to one man the sense of sight, and to another the sense of hearing, we are as much bound to recognise His appointment in these bodily defects as in the splendid gifts of a capacious memory, a rich imagination and a sound judgment, which procure for their possessor admiration and influence. And when there shall come the grand clearing up of the mysteries and discrepancies of the present dispensation, we nothing doubt that the Almighty will show that there was a design to be answered by every deformed limb, and every sightless eyeball, and every speechless tongue, and that in regard both to the individual himself and to numbers with whom he stood associated, there has been a distinct reference to the noblest and most glorious of ends, in the closing up of the inlets of the senses, or in the yielding the members to disease or contraction. The deaf and dumb child shall be proved to have acted a part in the furtherance of the purposes of God, which it could never have performed, had it delighted its parents by hearkening to their counsels and pouring forth the music of its speech; the blind man and the cripple shall be shown to have been so placed in their pilgrimage through life, that they should have been decidedly disadvantaged, the one by sight, the other by strength. “Who maketh,” then, “the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing or the blind? have not I the Lord?” Thine, O God, is the allowing upon earth the melancholy assemblage of those who seem but fractions of men; but wise and good, though unsearchable and past finding out, are all Thy ways and all Thy permissions.
III. And there are two inferences which you should draw from the facts thus established, and which we would press with all earnestness on your attention.
1. You discern, first of all, the extreme sinfulness of looking slightingly or with contempt on those who are afflicted with any bodily defect or deformity. Ridicule in such case, however disguised and softened down, is ridicule of an appointment of God; and to despise in the least degree a man because he possesses not the full measure of senses and powers, is to revile the Creator, who alone ordered the abstraction.
2. If we are indebted to God for every sense and every faculty, are we not laid under a mighty obligation to present our bodies a living sacrifice to our Maker? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Gifts other than eloquence an element in leadership
Probably Moses stammered, as he said he was slow of speech; and was not fluent in speaking, notwithstanding all his learning. A man may be a philosopher, a statesman, may have a clear head and a strong will, a solid judgment and a great mind, and yet be destitute of any talent for speaking. It was the same with St. Paul (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-4; 2 Corinthians 10:10), who was so full of wisdom and” zeal and love, but had no eloquence. (Prof. Gaussen.)
Inspiration better than education
Speaking of art-training, Mr. Ruskin says: “Until a man has passed through a course of academy studentship, and can draw in an improved manner with French chalk, and knows foreshortening, and perspective, and something of anatomy, we do not think he can possibly be an artist. What is worse, we are very apt to think that we can make him an artist by teaching him anatomy, and how to draw with French chalk: whereas the real gift in him is utterly independent of all such accomplishments.” So the highest powers of the teacher or preacher, the power of interpreting the Scriptures with spiritual insight, of moving the hearers to earnest worship and decision, may exist with or without the culture of the schools. Learned Pharisees are impotent failures compared with a rough fisherman Peter anointed with the Holy Ghost. Inspiration is more than education. (H. O. Mackey.)
Strength not always appropriate
Professor Tyndall states as a most remarkable fact, that the waves which have up to this time been most effectual in shaking asunder the atoms of compound molecules are those of least mechanical power. “Billows,” he instructively adds, “are incompetent to produce effects which are easily produced by ripples.” It is so with us. Often the greatest of us cannot do things that the smallest and weakest can. God sends power from on high to them, and it should be our prayer that God will endue us with power from on high that we may do His work, even though we be the weakest and humblest of His servants.
God can make use of poor material
The meek Moses lost sight of the fact that God does not of necessity require good material. The paper manufacturer is not nice in the choice of his materials. He does not, writes Arnot, reject a torn or filthy piece as unfit for his purpose. All come alike to him; for he knows what he can make of them. The filthy rags can be made serviceable. So God needed not a man highly endowed with mental gifts and intellectual energies, with commanding presence and persuasive eloquence. His providence and grace could prepare Moses for his mission.
God’s biddings are enablings
The missionary John Williams once said that there were two little words which were able to make the most lofty mountains melt: “Try” and “Trust.” Moses had yet to learn the use of these words. God taught him. The sailor has to be taught that he must not look on the dark and troubled waters, but at the clear blue heavens where shines the pole-star. Moses was gazing at the surging sea of Egyptian wrath, and God taught him to direct his gaze heavenward; then to try and trust, for greater is He that is with you than all that be against you. As an early Christian writer enjoins, let us not forget--as Moses did at first--that all God’s biddings are enablings, and that it is for us not to ask the reason but to obey.
Send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send.
An evasion of spiritual work
I. Moses recognized the necessity that the work should be accomplished.
II. He manifested a disposition to shrink from achieving the work himself.
III. He expressed a desire that some other person should be called to, and entrusted with, the work.
IV. He was in danger of losing the honour of the work to which he was called. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The joy of being used by God
I have a letter from a dear Christian lady in this city who refused to speak to an inquirer when I asked her to, on the ground that she could not talk to an inquirer. The next day she was deeply humiliated to think that she had refused to speak to an anxious soul; and the question even of her own acceptance with God came up for discussion in her own mind. “Can I be a child of God, if I am not willing to speak to an anxious soul about Jesus?” She was led by this to cast herself down in consecration to God to be used of Him in any way, and especially in speaking to the anxious. Here is an extract from a letter just received. “I am constrained to tell you that He allowed me on Sunday Night, for the first time, the intense joy of helping to lead a dear soul to Himself. Oh, the rest, and joy, and peace to my own heart, is more than tongue can tell! To think that after being His child for seventeen years, and being cold and useless all that wasted time, He should then be so loving and gracious as to use me, such a worthless cumberer. Oh, it is wonderful! Praise His dear name.” Dear friend, would you not like to have a similar experience? (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
The inventiveness of reluctance
Man excusing himself from duty is a familiar picture. It is not a picture indeed; it is a personal experience. How inventive we are in finding excuses for not doing the will of God! How falsely modest we can become! depreciating ourselves, and putting ourselves before God in a light in which we could never consent to be put before society by the criticism of others. Is not this a revelation of the human heart to itself? We only want to walk in paths that are made beautiful with flowers, and to wander by streams that lull us by their own tranquillity. Nerve, and pluck, and force we seem to have lost. In place of the inventiveness of love we have the inventiveness of reluctance or distaste. It should be our supreme delight to find reasons for co-operating with God, and to fortify ourselves by such interpretations of circumstances as will plainly show us that we are in the right battle, fighting on the right side, and wielding the right weapon. The possibility of self-deception is one of the most solemn of all subjects. I cannot question the sincerity of Moses in enumerating and massing all the difficulties of his side of the case. He meant every word that he said. It is not enough to be sincere; we must have intelligence and conscience enlightened and enlarged. Mistakes are made about this matter of sincerity; the thing forgotten being that sincerity is nothing in itself, everything depending upon the motive by which it is actuated and the object towards which it is directed. The Church is to-day afflicted with the spirit of self-excusing:--it cannot give, because of the depression of the times; it cannot go upon its mighty errands, because of its dainty delicateness; it cannot engage in active beneficence, because its charity should begin at home; it cannot enter into ardent controversy, because it prefers the comfort of inaction. Churches should not tell lies to themselves. The first great thing to be done is for a man to be faithful to his own heart, to look himself boldly in the face, and speak the clear truth emphatically to his own consciousness. (J. Parker, D. D.)
He shall be thy spokesman.
Mutual aid in religious work
I. That sometimes great men are called to undertake a work against the performance of which they imagine themselves to have a natural impediment.
1. Men should be certain that their so-called impediment will be a real hindrance in the service to which they are sent. In these days, when people are called to work, they at once refer to their infirmity and unfitness for it; but their real infirmity is not so much their slowness of speech, as their unbelief, and unwillingness to follow the Divine command. They have not the rectal courage to encounter difficulty.
2. But we admit that sometimes men are called to religious work, against the performance of which they have a true natural impediment. And why this apparent anomaly?
(1) It is because with the command He gives the moral energy necessary for its execution. He gives the timid man the stimulus of the vision. He gives him the inspiration of a miracle.
(2) Its design is to educate man on the side of his weakness.
(3) It is to render the mission all the more triumphant when accomplished. It is the distinguishing glory of Christianity that it makes provision for the victory of the weak, who have within their souls the grace of God.
II. That at such times good men require the aid of others whose talents compensate for their infirmities.
1. This help was adapted to the infirmity of Moses. “Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well.” So there are a variety of gifts and talents in the Church. The one is the complement of the other.
2. This help was arranged by the Providence of God. “And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee.”
(1) As to the time of meeting.
(2) As to the place of meeting.
(3) As to the purpose of meeting.
3. This help was founded upon, and rendered welcome by, family relationship. “Thy brother.”
III. That such co-operation renders religious work much more jubilant and successful.
1. It is happy. It is adapted to our weak condition of faith.
2. It is sympathetic.
3. It is hopeful. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Moses and Aaron
I. The certificated ambassador. Moses.
1. His hesitation. Caused by
(1) His own meekness. Had not a high opinion of himself.
(2) His knowledge of the people he was sent to deliver, and also of the oppressor. He had not forgotten their rejection of him.
2. His certificate. Power to work sundry miracles is given.
3. His unbelief. Moses seems, at this time, to rely too much on human qualities. His lack of eloquence, he thinks, will be great hindrance.
II. The gracious compensation. Moses and Aaron the complement of each other. The man of words and the man of action. Human qualities are mercifully distributed. No one man perfect. Each needs the help and talents of others. Providence designs that men should not be independent of one another. “Two heads better than one.” Opposites often found in one family. Moses and Aaron--brothers. Different qualities and talents in a household to be used, and combined, for the service of God. Let none envy the gifts of others, but cultivate his own.
III. The brothers’ meeting.
1. In the wilderness. Place of brotherly meeting a garden in the desert of life. How great the joy of meeting each other where all around is paradise, and no separation or toll in prospect.
2. Marked by affection. They “kissed” each other. Mutual respect and love.
3. Their intercourse. Chief matter in hand was Moses’s commission. Aaron, the elder, Cheerfully takes the second place. Is indebted for even that to the humility of Moses. They journey on together, and at once address themselves to their work.
1. God’s witnesses are witnessed to. Seals to their ministry.
2. Humbly to regard ourselves, but do any work to which Providence calls us.
3. Rejoice in others’ powers, and cheerfully unite for common ends.
4. Thank God for our meeting on earth, and prepare for the better one.
5. Christ, our elder Brother, meets us in the wilderness, salutes us with the kiss of love, and goes with us to all our holy labours. (J. C. Gray.)
In the valley of Chamounix there stands a very interesting monument; it presents two figures--Saussure, the great scientist, and Balmat, the guide, who was the very first to stand on the summit of Mont Blanc. Saussure on the summit of the mighty mountain could do what the poor guide could not do, he could observe the structure of the rocks, take observations of barometrical variations, note the intensity of the solar rays, the mode of formation of clouds, and he could describe the superb scenery unfolded to his view with the feeling of an artist and the pen of a poet. Balmat could do nothing of all this but had it not been for his skill and daring, Saussure had never scaled the glorious height. So on the monument both are immortalized, the lowly guide, the famous philosopher, for by their mutuality they triumphed and gave mankind a new world of science and poetry. So it ever is in the Church. In Christian fellowship all souls serve one another. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Life and service interdependent
In the great honey industries of South California the bees play a most important and valuable part. But they cannot pierce the skins of the apricots until the lady-bug has made a hole for them. It must have been an accidental thing at the outset, the first bee joining a lady-bug at her feast of apricot, but they have now become necessary to the honey-crop of the district. All life and service is interdependent--Timothy is necessary to Paul; the least essential to the great. (H. O. Mackey.)
The Divine anger
1. Often righteously provoked.
2. Often gentle in its reproof.
3. Truly benevolent in its disposition. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
I know that he can speak well
I. Then God takes knowledge of the varied talents of men.
II. Then God will hold men responsible for their talents.
III. Then the talents of men cannot be better employed than in the service of the Church. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Christian workers more ready to rely on man than on God
We have noted the timidity and hesitation of Moses, notwithstanding the varied promises and assurances with which Divine grace had furnished him. And now, although there was nothing gained in the way of real power, although there was no more virtue or efficacy in one mouth than in another, although it was Moses, after all, who was to speak unto Aaron, yet Moses was quite ready to go when assured of the presence and co-operation of a poor feeble mortal like himself, whereas he could not go when assured again and again that Jehovah would be with him. How his case, like a mirror, reflects our own hearts! We are more ready to trust anything than the living God. How deeply should it humble us before the Lord that, though we move along with bold decision when we possess the countenance and support of a poor frail mortal like ourselves, yet we falter, hesitate, and demur when we have the light of the Master’s countenance and the strength of His omnipotent arm to support us. (A. Nevin, D. D.)
Let me go, I pray thee.
A true recognition of filial duty
I. It consists in a true recognition of parental authority.
1. Moses was animated by honesty.
2. Moses was related by marriage.
3. Moses was obliged by kindness.
II. It is compatible with silence in reference to the inner experiences of our spiritual life and work. Moses only asked the consent of his father-in-law to visit his brethren in Egypt; he did not name the primary object of his journey. This was quite consistent, under the circumstances, with a true recognition of filial duty.
1. Silence is not necessarily cunning.
2. Silence may be discreet.
3. Silence may be self-protective.
Many toils of Christian workers have been brought to nought by the lack of precautionary measures on the part of those who have been entrusted with them.
III. It should awaken kindly and judicious parental consideration and response. “And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.”
1. Sometimes the request should be granted.
2. Always goodwill should be expressed. “Go in peace.”
3. Supremely should self be forgotten. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The compulsion of service
This case of Moses reminds us that our best lifework is that on which we enter under a feeling that it is absolutely essential that we should do it. Moses tried in every way to put away from him the office to which God called him. But still it came back upon him. He felt that he must go; and when that irrepressible must shaped itself in his soul, he went, and carried all before him. It is the irrepressible in a man that makes him great. So long as the work he undertakes is performed because he must do something, there is nothing remarkable either about him or about it; but when he enters upon it because it is something that he must do, then prepare yourself for something noble. Is it not just in this that the quality which we call genius peculiarly resides? If a man thinks that he would like to write in verse, or to paint something, or to make a speech, or what not, his work will never be heard of. But if there is in him a song which insists on singing itself out, or a painting which will not let him rest until he has put it on the canvas, or a truth, the utterance of which he cannot hold back, then he is sure to be at length a poet, an artist, or an orator. That was a wise old minister who, on being consulted by a youth who desired to become a preacher of the gospel, said to him, “Young man, don’t become a minister if you can help it.” It is the man who cannot help being a preacher who will be most effective always in the pulpit. The work which we can help doing is not for us. If Moses could have successfully excused himself, he would have been no fit man for the great crusade on which he entered. But it was because, in spite of all his reluctance, there was within him the overmastering sense that God had called him to be Israel’s deliverer that he was at length so successful. Ah! have we not here the cause of so many failures in moral and religious enterprises? The men who have inaugurated them have done so for personal eclat or pecuniary profit, and not because of this inner compulsion. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Domestic sympathy in duty
Moses tells Jethro of his commission from Jehovah, and asks permission to carry out the Lord’s will. This request is at once granted. It is most encouraging to be thus cordially seconded by those of our own house in our purpose to serve the Lord, whether in public or private ministry. We also, whether we are called into the public or private service of God, ought to communicate with those of our own household. My advice is always to a young convert, to go at once to those at home, to whom they naturally owe confidence, and tell them what the Lord has done for them, and that He has called them to service. If it is son or daughter, go to mother or father; if it is wife or husband, then to husband or wife. Seek not to keep your conversion, or your consecration to God, a secret from those of your own household. It sometimes happens that one must stand alone in one’s house. This is often very hard to do. Once Paul was compelled to stand alone. “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me:. . . notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” This we can always count on; and no one is alone with whom the Lord stands. I once knew a husband and wife, each of whom, afraid of the other, had sought the Lord in one of our meetings, apart from the other, each being afraid that the other would ridicule. They had both of them been open and scoffing unbelievers. Now both had found the Lord; but each was afraid to confess it to the other, and yet each of them noticed a change in the other. At last the wife summoned courage to tell her husband that she had been so burdened with a sense of her sin, that, having no rest, she had sought the Lord and found Him. To her unspeakable joy the husband caught her in his arms, and confessed the same for himself to her. Let us always first go home and tell our friends how great things the Lord hath done for us, and saved our souls; and then shall we have a free course to serve the Lord. Otherwise our hands will be tied; and we shall be hindered in every way from faithful service. I think there will always be some one at home who will be glad that we have met with the Lord; either for the first time, or in a way that means an entire consecration to Him and His service. And as Jethro said to Moses, so will they say to us: “Go in peace.” (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
All the men are dead which sought thy life.
The death of enemies
1. In a world like this, the greater the man the more enemies he will have.
2. Death in this world is constantly sweeping away our enemies as well as friends.
I. The death of our enemies should restrain resentment. Were it not wrong to return evil for evil, to revile those who revile us, it would scarcely be wise. While we are preparing our retaliating machinery, death is doing his work with them. Our blows will scarcely reach them before they fall, and then, when they are gone, they can do us no harm. But if we have retaliated, the memory of the retaliation will give us pain.
II. The death of our enemies should stimulate us to overcome evil by good. The sublimest conquest is not that which will crush the body or wound the feelings, but that which will subdue the enmity and win the hostile soul to friendship and love. (Homilist.)
The Divine precaution for the safety of Christian workers
I. It is sometimes manifested by removing good men and great workers from dangerous associations.
1. Christian workers are sometimes removed from the pride of high society.
2. Christian workers are sometimes removed from the contamination of great sin.
3. Christian workers are sometimes removed from the pedantry of great learning.
4. Christian workers are sometimes removed from physical evil.
II. It is sometimes manifested by informing good men and great workers of the removal of danger. Time aids the enterprises of heaven. Death subdues the hatred and passion of men.
III. The divine precaution does not allow an abandonment of the work committed to the good. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Death of enemies
Hearing a whole choir of birds chirping merrily together, my curiosity was excited to inquire into the occasion of their convocation and merriment, when I quickly perceived a dead hawk in the bush, about which they made such a noise, seeming to triumph at the death of an enemy. I could not blame them for singing the knell of one who, like a cannibal, was wont to feed upon their living bodies, tearing them limb from limb, and scaring them with his frightful appearance. Over this bird, which was so formidable when alive, the most timid wren or titmouse did not now fear to chirp and hop. This occurrence brought to my mind the case of tyrants and oppressors. When living, they are the terror of mankind; but when dead, they are the objects of general contempt and scorn. “When the wicked perish, there is shouting” (Proverbs 11:10).
Returned to the land of Egypt.
The journey to Egypt
I. That a good man journeying on the service of God should take his family with him. Never go on any good errand without your family; teach the youthful feet to walk in obedience to God.
II. That a good man journeying on the service of God should take his rod with him. Never go on a journey of moral service without God. Especially if you are a minister of the gospel, take the rod on your journey to Egypt.
1. It will keep you humble. It will remind you of your humble occupation in the desert, when you are tempted to pride, in the great service to which God has called you. Every Christian worker needs to have something within his soul to inspire humility.
2. It will make you happy. When you are desponding and sad, when the work does not open up to your effort as you would wish, the rod will remind you of the vision at the bush, and of the miracles wrought at the commencement of the mission. The reason why there are so many unhappy workers in the Church, is because they have left the rod at home.
3. It will make you powerful. With this rod Moses was to work miracles. So if Christian workers had the rod of God in their hand, they would be able to show to the world much more effectively than they do, the holy tokens of their mission. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
See that thou do all these wonders before Pharaoh.
Moses before Pharaoh
Israel was under the sovereign control of the King of Egypt. He had property in them. Moses in the name of the Lord suddenly asked Pharaoh to give Israel their freedom. He was startled. He did not acknowledge the Lord. A political petition was presented to him, and he dealt with it on political grounds. It was not a spiritual question which was proposed to Pharaoh. It was exclusively a political question. It was therefore within this sphere that the Divine action was taken, and that action is fitly described in the text as a hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. The question will then arise, what the meaning of that hardening was, and what useful results accrued from a process which appears to us to be so mysterious. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, as involving the development of a merely political scheme, may amount in effect to no more than this, “I will delay the process, this request shall not be granted at once; and I will prolong the process in order that I may bring out lessons for Pharaoh himself, for the children of Israel, and for mankind at large; were Pharaoh to let the children of Israel escape from him at once, the result would be mischievous to themselves; therefore in mercy, not in anger, I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” So far, the question is not a moral one, except in the degree in which all questions have more or less of a moral bearing. It has been supposed by some that in the case of this exercise of Divine sovereignty, the sum total of Pharaoh’s wickedness was increased. Not so. There is the greatest difference between wickedness being localized and wickedness being increased. As the history proceeds, we see that the political situation enlarges itself into a spiritual problem. Pharaoh made a promise to Moses, which he did not keep. Thus he hardened his own heart. Applying these lessons to ourselves as sinners, I have now to teach that Jesus Christ tasted death for every man, and that whosoever will may avail himself of the blessings secured by the mediation of the Saviour. If any man excuses himself on the ground that God has hardened his heart, that man is trusting to an excuse in the most solemn affairs of his being which he would not for a moment tolerate in the region of his family life or commercial relations. We must not be sensible in ordinary affairs and insane in higher concerns. Were a servant to tell her mistress that she is fated to be unclean in her habits, that mistress would instantly and justly treat her with angry contempt. Were a clerk to tell a banker that he was fated to come late every morning, and go away early every afternoon, the statement would be received as a proof of selfishness or insanity. Were a travelling companion to tell you to make no attempt to be in time for the steamboat or train, because if you were fated to catch it there would be no fear of your losing it, you would treat his suggestion as it deserved to be treated. Yet men who can act in a common-sense manner in all such little affairs, sometimes profess that they will not make any attempt in a religious direction, because they believe in the doctrine of predestination or fatalism. Wicked and slothful servants, they shall be condemned out of their own mouth! “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Whosoever will, let him come.” “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.” “How often would I have gathered you, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” In presence of such statements as these, it must be the very consummation of blasphemy to turn round upon God and say, “I wanted to be saved, but Thou didst harden my heart and condemn me to hell.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
Israel is My son, even My firstborn.
The primogeniture of the good
I. That the good have a Divine father.
1. He is merciful to the children.
2. He vindicates the children from their foes.
II. That the good have heavenly privileges. AS the sons of God.
1. They have the privilege of high birth. Only they who are the subjects of this new birth know the privileges it confers upon them. Nor can the meanest ancestry of earth be excluded therefrom.
2. They have the privilege of good moral culture. In God’s family all the children are well disciplined. This culture of our moral nature is designed to fit us more thoroughly for the high relationship into which we arc called, that we may be responsive to all its duties, and in harmony with its sacred destinies.
III. That the good have inspiring hopes.
1. The hope of a happy death.
2. The hope of a vast inheritance.
3. The hope of a sublime future.
Christians are the sons of God. Lessons:
1. Live worthy of your great Parent.
2. Act worthy of your noble ancestry.
3. Embrace your glorious privileges.
4. Let nothing dim your bright hopes. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Let My son go, that he may serve Me.
The Divine intention in the moral freedom of man
I. That God has a definite purpose in the moral freedom of men. His great aim is to bring men from the tyranny of passion, pride, covetousness and self, into the freedom of a tranquil, humble, and self-denying service. Hence the Divine preparation that is given to the varied agencies that are to achieve this freedom.
II. That the purpose of God in the moral freedom of men is that they should serve him.
1. That we should serve Him in our business.
2. That we should serve Him in our social life.
3. That we should serve Him with all our energies.
Why should we serve Him?
(1) Because we are His sons.
(2) Because of the freedom He has wrought for us. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The great Emancipator
I. Let us endeavour to fix our thoughts upon the voice of God, which was a real power to bring up His people out of Egypt. That voice was threefold; asserting His proprietorship in them, demanding their freedom, and ordaining their destiny.
II. Now here was the voice of man. What a come-down it seems to be. “Thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Let My son go.” Why did not the Lord say it Himself? Why did He need to pick up a Moses and send him to say it? Well, had the Lord said it Himself to Pharaoh, it would have been very startling, and Pharaoh must have yielded ultimately to the Divine fiat: but do you not see the deeper marvel in the milder proceeding, when Jehovah, as it were, hides His power and cloaks it in weakness? Instead of appealing to Pharaoh with that voice which breaks the cedars of Lebanon, and makes the hinds to calve, He speaks to him by one who was slow of speech and of a stammering tongue. Now, if God’s voice can vanquish Pharaoh when it masks itself behind the feebleness of a stammering Moses, it will be more glorious than it would have been if it had used no instrumentality whatever. Go on with steady perseverance. Be ye sure of this, ye shall not labour in vain or spend your strength for naught. Are you still slow of speech? Nevertheless, go on. Have you been rebuked and rebuffed? Have you had little else than defeat? This is the way to success. You shall macadamize the road with the rough flints of your failure. Toil on and believe on. Be steadfast in your confidence, for with a high hand and an outstretched arm the Lord will fetch out His own elect, and He will fetch some of them out by you.
III. Our last word is upon the power of God. Without the power of God the voice of man would have been an utter failure. What effect was produced by the voice of Moses? Went there not forth with it a power which plagued Pharaoh? It filled the sinful land of Egypt with plagues. So men that preach God’s gospel with God’s power fill the world with plagues. What will occur by and by? Why, the oppressor will be glad to part with his bondsmen. It sometimes happens that the ungodly become themselves very glad to get rid of God’s chosen people, whom they are prone to persecute. “Their melancholy ill comports with our liveliness,” so they say. A lady who joined this Church some years ago, moving in the higher circles of society, said to me, “I was quite willing to continue my acquaintance with my friends, but I found they gave me the cold shoulder, and did not want me.” Just so. It is a great mercy when the Egyptians say, “Get ye gone,” and when they are ready to give you jewels of silver and jewels of gold to get rid of you. The Lord wants His people to come right out and to be separate; He knows how by the simple utterance of the gospel to put such a division between His people and those who are not His people, that even the ungodly shall begin to say, “Get you gone; we want to have nothing further to do with you.” Glory be to God when such a thing as that happens. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A Divine threat
1. Claims attention.
2. Certain of execution.
3. Stern in requirement. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Zipporah took a sharp stone.
Neglected duty a hindrance to the performance of religious work
I. Moses had neglected the duty of circumcising his son.
II. That this neglect of duty introduced an experience of pain into his life.
III. That this neglect of duty endangered the performance of his religious work. Many a Christian worker is rendered feeble to-day by the sin of his past life. Let us beware how we imperil the freedom of men, and the work of God, by our own neglect. Freedom from sin is the great essential to the success of Christian work.
IV. That the neglect of this duty was most foolish, as it had after all to be performed. Men will have to face their neglected duties again, if not for performance in this world, yet for judgment in the next. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The Divine purpose of a strange event
I. Take the fact just as stated (Exodus 4:24).
1. The very terms are confessedly startling. The Lord seeking and trying to kill! But His fatherly heart withheld His arm.
2. The character of the sufferer makes it still more remarkable. To cut short such a life as that of Moses--how strange!
3. Considerations of time and circumstances only deepen the wonder. God had just spoken to Moses as a friend, and expressly engaged him for an exceptionally important work.
4. The prominence and emphasis given to the record complicates the mystery. It is God speaking to all generations on things belonging to their peace.
II. Cause and purpose of so strange a dispensation.
1. Moses’ compliance with Egyptian custom of circumcising only adults.
2. So long as he discarded the national seal or sign of the covenant made with Abraham, he was essentially unfit to take the place of recognized champion and deliverer of God’s people.
3. His position was that of a rebel, determined not to submit to an ordinance acknowledged to be Divine. God would sooner “kill’” Moses than allow him to enter on a work in a state of hardened impenitence.
III. Immediate results. Moses yielded, and God “let him go.”
1. Though up to that moment there seemed no hope of escape, the instant there was confession on one side, there came forgiveness on the other.
2. Henceforth there is not simply a change, but a marked improvement in his entire spirit and character.
IV. Consequent blessings and blessedness.
1. The disease was instantly arrested.
2. Thereon followed another token for good, to cheer and to strengthen his heart (Exodus 4:27-29).
3. In further evidence of complete reconciliation, think of the wonderful and unparalleled success with which the mission was crowned.
1. To such as are in vigorous health, the moral is--boast not thyself of to-morrow.
2. To such as may recently have passed through heavy affliction, it suggests the wisdom of much earnest self-scrutiny.
3. Of the large class of almost Christians, “not far from the kingdom of God,” it asks with special solemnity “Why halt ye between two opinions?”
4. To those of us who call ourselves Christians, and profess to be aiming at public usefulness, its unmistakable voice is--“They should be clean that bear the vessels of the sanctuary.” Sins unforsaken, however secret, or however deplored, are sins unforgiven. (H. Griffith.)
1. After greatest encouragements may bitter discoveries be made from God to His servants.
2. In the way of obedience, God’s servants may meet with the sharpest temptations.
3. The place intended for rest by us may be turned into a place of trouble by God. The inn.
4. Jehovah Himself may meet His dearest servants as an adversary.
5. God may seek to kill, when He purposeth not to kill His servants.
6. It is some sad defects in God’s servants that put Him upon such attempts (Exodus 4:24). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
The circumcision at the inn
1. That a law, the fitness and utility of which we cannot discover by our natural reason, is more a test of the spirit of obedience than a moral requirement that commends itself to our judgment as good and proper; because our compliance with the latter may be but a compliment to our own intelligence, and not at all an act of deference to the Divine authority. Of what use is circumcision to the child? Or what good can it do to apply a little water to a child’s face? Surely, the guilt of neglecting such rites as these, if there be any, must be very small. It is not of small account that ourselves and our children should be in the Church of God, and have, by covenant with God, a part in its rich privileges and blessings. And God can surely appoint His own form of entrance into it, and His own mark of membership in it. To neglect these rites is trampling on God’s love, and spurning His favours; and though He may not now, as in old time, visit our offence with physical disease or other visible inflictions, He will surely not hold us guiltless.
2. Sickness, or danger of death in some form, is here sent as a reminder of a past neglect of duty. Is not this often its office?
3. But it is far better, surely, to forestall such medicinal sufferings by a voluntary revision of our lives, and a voluntary supplying of those things that are wanting, by a remedying of neglects as far as it can be done, a supplying of deficiencies as far as opportunity is given us. (B. A. Hallam, D. D.)
Another meeting with the Lord
I. If we give ourselves to the Lord in consegration, we may be sure that before we get fairly to our work we must repair any of the waste places in our lives that are apparent. And if we have overlooked any, we may expect that the Lord will meet us with a drawn sword, and hold us prisoners to Himself, until we make the crooked thing straight. Every person who has sought to walk in the consecrated way has found out the truth that “judgment must begin at the house of God.” In other words, if we are to bring other people out of Egyptian bondage, we must show in ourselves that we ourselves are delivered. How can a man bring another up out of the bondage of strong drink, if he is indulging in that drink himself? How can a man or woman lead another out of the Egyptian world of pleasure and self-indulgence, if they are living in pleasure themselves? One has said, “If you want to lift a soul out of the pit you must first get a good solid footing out of the pit yourself.”
II. There is a still deeper meaning in this transaction. So soon as the rite of circumcision was complied with, in the person of the son of Moses (who, I must think, stands for himself in this case, because it was a denial of the truth on his part to have allowed the rite to lapse in that son, as much so as to have neglected it in his own body), “the Lord let him go.” “So, the Lord let him go,” is significant. We are made free, in meeting the Lord and fulfilling His will. It will be seen that the drawn sword was, after all, the sword of life. For in fighting against our uncircumcised flesh the Lord is fighting against the death that is in us. He never slays, but to make alive. And if we accept His judgment against ourselves and die to the flesh, by being crucified with Christ, behold, we live! (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Lessons from the incident at the inn
1. That God takes notice of and is much displeased with the sins of His own people, and that the putting away of their sins is indispensably necessary to the removal of the Divine judgments.
2. That no circumstances of prudence or convenience can ever with propriety be urged as an excuse for neglecting a clearly commanded duty, especially the observance of sacramental ordinances.
3. That he who is to be the interpreter of the law to others ought in all points to be blameless, and in all things conformed to the law himself.
4. That when God has procured the proper respect to His revealed will, the controversy between Him and the offender is at an end; the object of His government being not so much to avenge Himself as to amend the criminal. (G. Bush.)
Results of neglect
There is no need that the man in a skiff amid Niagara’s rapids should row toward the cataract; resting on his oars is quite enough to send him over the awful verge. It is the neglected wheel that capsizes the vehicle, and maims for life the passengers. It is the neglected leak that sinks the ship. It is the neglected field that yields briers instead of bread. It is the neglected spark near the magazine whose tremendous explosion sends its hundreds of mangled wretches into eternity. The neglect of an officer to throw up a rocket on a certain night caused the fall of Antwerp, and postponed the deliverance of Holland for twenty or more years. The neglect of a sentinel to give an alarm hindered the fall of Sebastopol, and resulted in the loss of many thousand lives.
He who would lead others into obedience must himself be exemplary
Moses had, perhaps, yielded to the importunities of his Midianitish wife in this matter; she may have been tempted to think that it was a very slight thing after all. But he must learn to know no one but God, when duty is in the ease; and in the very outset of his ministry, he must have it impressed upon his heart that nothing is little which God has thought it important enough to command. There is a temptation to be encountered at the beginning of every enterprise; and according as we meet that, we demonstrate our fitness or unfitness for entering upon the undertaking. When you are starting out on some new and noble work, with aspirations kindled at some flaming bush of Divine revelation to your soul, “be not high-minded, but fear.” Look for some test to be administered to you just then, and look for it in no great affair, but rather in some such common thing as the getting of your daily bread, or in some such domestic matter as the government of your children; for by these God may be determining your fitness for the work you covet; and if you fail in the trial, there will come no second probation. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Circumcision among the Egyptians
The Egyptians, according to Herodotus, Strabo, and other writers, practised circumcision. “This custom,” says the former, “can be traced both in Egypt and Ethiopia to the remotest antiquity” (1. ii. c. 104). At what age it was performed by the Egyptians is uncertain; but it is worthy of remark that the Arabians circumcised their children when they were thirteen years old, because the founder of their nation, Ishmael, was circumcised at that age (Genesis 17:23). The Midianites, though descended also from Abraham by Keturah, omitted it, and this explains the reluctance of Zipporah to perform the rite upon her son. To save her husband’s life, however, she consented to it, and herself performed the operation, using for the purpose a sharp stone, or knife of flint, which, as Herodotus tells us, was preferred to steel for purposes connected with religion, and especially for making cuttings or incisions in the human person (Herod. 2:86). Specimens of these knives, both broad and narrow, have been found in the tombs at Thebes, where they were used in the preparation and embalming of mummies, and may be seen in collections of Egyptian antiquities. (T. S. Millington.)
Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.
I. The brotherhood and affection subsisting between the different members of God’s family. This is twofold. God’s people stand in a twofold relation to one another, as--
(1) natural and--
(2) spiritual men.
II. Notice the breaches of intercourse brought about in this world between those members of God’s family who have seen and known one another in the flesh.
1. Many interruptions of intercourse are brought about by providential arrangements.
2. All direct communication between brethren in the Lord is cut off by death.
III. Consider the need of and consequent yearning after each other’s society and assistance which, while parted, the members of God’s family experience. The need is based upon, and flows from, their spiritual constitution in one body. We are, in the design of God, constituent parts of a whole, and we are continually evincing our consciousness of this truth.
IV. Consider the blissful reunion of the sundered members of God’s family in the realms of glory. There shall be a day when all the yearnings of the Christian’s heart after the society of his brethren shall be satisfied to the full, when his joy shall receive its entire complement in his recognition of and intercommunication with those whom he has known and loved in the Lord. (Dean Goulburn.)
Moses and Aaron
I. God brought the leaders together. A strange place for their meeting, and a strange scene.
II. God brought his leaders to his people. God may be obliged to prepare His leaders as well as His people. Moses was not ready for his work until he was eighty years old. How much of God’s work may be waiting for His leaders! Pray for leaders set apart in the Mount of God; but pray, too, for elders to gather about them. And pray again for a people ready to be led. Everything must stay until so much is attained,--a consecrated ministry, a consecrated eldership, a consecrated church.
III. God brought his leaders before pharaoh. God’s enemies must be subdued if they reject the Divine message. But first He will thoroughly apply gentle methods. (G. R. Leavitt.)
Moses and Aaron
I. Aaron’s commission.
1. Its reason suggestive to the reluctant servant (Exodus 4:1-14).
2. The fact suggestive of the Divine condescension and forbearance.
II. Aaron’s obedience.
III. Moses and Aaron carrying out the Divine command.
1. They observed their respective places.
2. Their reception by the people (Exodus 4:31).
IV. The interview between Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh.
1. The reasonableness of the request.
2. The unreasonableness and haughtiness of the reply.
1. To analyze the Divine motive, in the use of all these human instrumentalities, is fraught with most helpful and instructive suggestions.
2. The unwisdom of hesitancy, in accepting a clearly-indicated call of God, is here seen.
3. The modesty and judiciousness with which the request of Moses and Aaron was couched, suggest the carefulness which soul-winners should exercise.
4. In the haughtiness of Pharaoh we discover the preliminary step to his fall. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
1. God joineth His seconds to His firsts, as He seeth need for redemption of His Church.
2. The same Jehovah only fits and calls His first and second instruments for His works. All from God.
3. God may call the elder after the younger brother, and subject him.
4. God can bring brethren together which were as lost one to another.
5. Motion and place and work, God points out to His instruments of salvation.
6. God makes the deserts places for deliverers to meet in for His Church’s good.
7. God’s call to meeting of instruments is to teach them their respective work.
8. Hearts which God toucheth are ready for obedience to God’s call.
9. The mount of God, and God in the mount, is best for His servants to meet about His work.
10. Nature and grace teach men to give signs of love and loyalty to God’s substitutes below (Exodus 4:27).
11. It is just for supreme powers to open their commissions from God to inferiors.
12. God’s words alone are to be declared, which He speaks to His servants, and are to be spoken by them.
13. Mission and commission of God’s ministers must appear both from God.
14. God’s wonderful works as well as gracious works must be showed at His command.
15. Joint ambassadors of the Church’s deliverance need to know God’s words and works (Exodus 4:28). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
The two brothers
I. As educated by different methods.
II. As meeting after a long separation.
1. The meeting was providential.
2. The meeting had a moral and national significance.
3. The meeting was welcome to the brothers.
III. As uniting in a grand enterprise. Brothers should unitedly place themselves in a line with the providence of God.
IV. As entering upon an important future. All the casual meetings of life are important in their bearing upon present work and future destiny.
V. As reflecting commendation upon their family. Sons honour their parents when they undertake an enterprise for the good of men. Brothers cannot be better united than in the cause of God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
The meeting of two brothers
I. It was in a strange place. Some men are only brotherly before the crowd, in privacy or solitude they are social despots. The wilderness will test our affection.
II. It was characterized by warmth of affection. They kissed each other. Brothers do not often act thus in these days. They think it unmanly to do so. The age is cold at heart. It is a token of courage as well as love that a brother will thus greet his brother. But let the kiss be accompanied by kindly attentions, otherwise it is a mockery.
III. It was the occasion for religious talk and consultation. No better topic than this. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. Called by God to work.
2. Joined by God in work.
3. Conversing together about work.
4. Learning their respective work. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
But admire the manner in which God governs the things of this world and of His Church. When it pleases Him to save a soul, or call a servant, He causes all persons and all events to work together for this end, and in a way already determined. As a skilful general sends each division of his army, without the knowledge of the others, to assemble on the same field of battle, so the Lord sends His servants who are fighting the good fight, to the place and at the time where they ought to meet. It was thus that He sent Peter to Cornelius, Ananias to Paul, Philip to the eunuch. It is thus that in our time He sends missionaries to heathen lands. It was thus that He caused Farel and Calvin to meet at Geneva, that they might help each other, and form a friendship that lasted during their lives, and greatly contributed to the success of their work. How this thought enlightens, strengthens, comforts, and rejoices those who are engaged serving God. (Prof. Gaussen.)
The two brothers
The history of Moses and Aaron appearing together at the court of Pharaoh, the one working miracles and the other as his spokesman, may have given rise to the traditions of the Greeks and Romans, in which Jupiter and Mercury, both of them Egyptian deities worshipped at Hammon and Thoth, are described visiting the earth in a similar relationship. The latter was represented with the caduceus, a rod twisted about with serpents, and was the god of speech or eloquence. To such traditions the saying of the people of Lystra may be referred, when Paul had healed the cripple (Acts 14:11). (T. S. Millington.)
Moses and Aaron; or, the use of association
True greatness is modest. It is a false greatness that magnifies its own powers, and disparages the strength of opposing forces. One of the penalties of greatness is isolation. It removes the man from common aids and sympathies, and sets him by himself. Greatness is lonely. This isolation Moses was beginning to feel, while the task before him grew awful, and swelled into a frightful magnitude. Solitude, and that isolation which is worse than solitude--separation from the insight and sympathy of men around us--is weakening. Moses grew weak and drew back. Thinkers are not always speakers, nor speakers thinkers. Nay, thought in its very striving after accuracy and exactness, is apt to be a hindrance of fluency. Moses could think and act, but he could not speak. He was a greater man than his brother, but his brother was a better speaker. He could excogitate the ideas, and his brother could put them into words for him. God is economical in His bestowments, and seldom heaps His manifold favours on one man. Cromwell, whether a good or a bad man, was certainly a great man; yet out of his tangled utterances it was hard to come at his meaning. Here, then, the want was supplied, and with it, as appears in the subsequent history, a much broader surface of want besides; for God is, “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” and is “wont to give more than either we desire or deserve.” The abundance of His mercy will not be kept within the narrow bounds our mean conceptions set to it. Moses, in the guise of an Egyptian, and as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, had learned to recognize and love his brother Aaron under Amram’s roof; they had been nurtured for uses of which neither of them dreamed. How much of this provision for a secret future is there in the lives of men. What important effects to the end of life may flow from the seemingly casual associations and intimacies of childhood I This companionship at once delivered Moses from his solitude, the isolation of peculiarity, by raising up for him a co-worker, to stand with him on the same elevated plane above the mass of the people, and aid him in bearing cares on which none but one so commissioned might presume to intrude. Here, then, was unity with subordination, and harmony with distribution and diversity; and thus the apparatus of action for the great enterprise was complete. See here the good of association. See how it raised Moses out of the ague of despondency that overtook him when the object of his long desire had at last come within his grasp; how it warmed his powers into resolute endeavour, and shed a benign influence upon his subsequent labours and sufferings. So “Jonathan, Saul’s son arose, and went to David in the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” So, too, our blessed Lord thought of this principle and acted upon it, and stamped it with the seal of His infallible wisdom, when He sent out His disciples two by two, making but six missions, where an earthly wisdom would have thought it better economy to make twelve. And the great St. Paul had always with him Barnabas, or Mark, or Luke, or Gaius, or Epaphroditus in his missionary travels and labours. Let us remember that in the Divine household we are knit together into one fellowship, and are to learn to be mutually considerate and helpful, and “bear each other’s burdens,” as “every one members one of another.” God’s work, our work, will be done more easily, pleasantly, effectually. See here, too, the good of subordination. Aaron was always with Moses, his shadow or second self; but Moses always was head. If both had been heads the machinery would not have worked so kindly, smoothly, and comfortably. Nothing does well with two heads. (R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
Gathered together all the elders.
The first interview of Moses and Aaron with the elders of Israel, and the welcome they received
I. They acted upon the Divine suggestion. All Christian work should be undertaken according to the Divine suggestion, and in harmony with the Divine will. God generally tells men how to work as well as what to do. If we were left to mark out our own methods of toil, we should often involve both ourselves and the enterprise entrusted to us in great danger.
II. They spake according to the Divine dictation. Great workers require to be taught by God. In this consists their safety and success. A man who speaks to the world the messages of God will always be listened to.
III. They succeeded according to Divine intimation. Thus Moses and Aaron awakened--
3. Devotion--of Israel.
Moses had previously said that Israel would not believe him. We mistake our missions. We cannot form an estimate of success. If we act and speak according to the instruction of God we must succeed. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
1. Declaring of God’s will is suitably united to the assembling of His people.
2. God’s spokesmen made by Him are fittest to declare his mind to His people.
3. The words of Jehovah only, which He hath spoken to His servants, must be given to His assembly.
4. God may give His mind more immediately to one servant than to another (to Moses).
5. God’s stupendous works must be done, as well as His words spoken, to His people.
6. God’s congregation are the first subject to whom His words and works are sent. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
The gathering of the elders
The gathering of the “elders” of the children of Israel may point to no more than a family and tribal organization which was not known or used by the Egyptians for the purposes of government, but only used among the Israelites themselves for their religious and ritual teaching. But it would be contrary to most oriental experience to suppose so. It has been the custom of most eastern rulers, as of the Turks to-day, to recognize all proper governmental organizations among a subject people. It was even a large part of the wisdom of the politic Romans. The general government, indeed, extends its power to the individual, and is not slow to do so. But it is both convenient to have an opportunity for the “respondent superior” principle in law to work, and politic to have thus a hold upon the more generous feelings of the subject classes. The heads of the subject, tribe, or people are made responsible for, collection (or at least the payment) of tribute, and for the preservation of a certain law and order, and are the ready subjects of extortion on very slight pretences. On the other hand, their brethren of inferior order take pride in them, and serve them, and through them the general government, with much less driving. A pretty fair example of this in modern times can be seen in the Turkish recognition of the various religious bodies within its domains. Perhaps it is the best of modern illustrations. (Prof. Isaac H. Hall.)
The people believed.
1. The people’s faith should closely follow upon God’s word ministered, and by His works confirmed. A good connection.
2. Where God promiseth success to His ministers in the faith of others, there they shall believe (Exodus 3:18).
3. All professed believers, receive not God’s word with the same faith.
4. Hearing is the usual sense of bringing in faith and the fruits of it.
5. God’s gracious visitation of His Church, and providential sight of its afflictions, is very good to be heard by them.
6. Such hearing of God’s visiting love and redeeming providence must affect God’s Israel.
7. Faith working by this sense stirs up souls to suitable returns unto God.
8. The humblest and sincerest worship in body and spirit is the most suitable return to God for His redemption. (G. Hughes, B. D.)
Human and Divine attitudes
I. The attitudes predicated of the people.
1. Their belief.
2. Their reverence.
3. Their devotion.
II. The attitudes predicated of God.
1. He saw the affliction of Israel.
2. Visited Israel. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Faith easy when in the line of desire
People are a great deal more apt to receive a message as from God when it is in the line of their own longings. The Israelites were quick to receive from God a promise of relief from Egyptian brick-making, readier to worship than when they wanted water or meat on the desert and failed to find it ready at hand for them. And they were very much like the rest of us in all this. How we should bow our heads and worship if the one inner longing of our hearts at this moment were granted to us, or even promised of God, all of a sudden! But how is it while God keeps back from us that which we long for, and we know that He is prompted to His course by both wisdom and love? Do we bow our heads and worship, all the same? Well, we bow our heads; but not always to worship. (H. C. Trumbull.)
Confidence in God
The Roman noblemen could give no greater proof of their confidence in their city and army, than when they bought the land on which their Carthaginian enemies were encamped around the city. And we can give no greater proof of our confidence in God, than by trusting Him in the land which our enemies, darkness and sickness and trouble, seem to possess, and acting as if He were their master, and mightier than they all. (W. Baxendale.)
The believing people
I. God always furnishes sufficient evidence to justify belief. Moses was a stranger to the people; Aaron doubtless well known. He had a welcome message--deliverance. Miracles in outward form: miracles typical in character: rod changed to a serpent and back, Moses changed from a shepherd to a ruler; cleansing of leprosy, the purifying of the human for Divine use.
II. Hearing precedes believing. God sent Aaron to speak. Ministers sent to preach.
III. The Israelites manifest their faith publicly. We must confess Christ in token of faith.
IV. God prepares the way for the reception of His truth. Aaron called to meet Moses. God’s Spirit precedes and accompanies the truth we utter.
V. Faith secures deliverance. By it the Israelites secured theirs. So must we by ours. It is unto us according to our faith. (Dr. Fowler.)
1. Some heads are bowed with business cares. During the last four years many homes have been broken, and others sadly reduced, not so much through men’s own folly, as from the long and serious depression in trade.
2. Some heads are bowed with sorrow over sinful children. That never-fading picture of the Prodigal Son, painted by a master hand, is often too truly representative of our own families. Young men, think of all the pain and anguish you cause for those dear parents by your lives of sin.
3. Some heads are bowed with bereavement. To many of us there have come dark days of sorrow and pain. Roses have withered in our domestic gardens; buds have been nipped before they had time to bloom; lights we loved have gone out. (Charles Leach.)