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The frogs came up.
The procession of frogs
I. The creatures that were to come. The frogs of Egypt distinguished for five things. Their ash colour dotted with green spots; changed their colour when alarmed; small; crawled like toads; made a singular, some say an “abominable” noise, both under the water and on the land.
II. The places to which the creatures did come.
III. The power which caused the creatures to come. As the changing of the Nile showed that all the elements of nature were under the control of God, so the coming of the frogs to the land of Egypt proved that the animal parts of creation were under His control.
IV. The purposes for which the creatures came.
1. On account of pride (Exodus 8:2). God still abhors pride, and ever will. Can chastise the proud in a similar way. Can send disease to the pretty face; take away the idols, money, dress, friends; weakness to either body or mind; death to the unbroken circle. “Walk humbly with thy God.”
2. On account of superstition. Because the rising of the sun made wild beasts retire, the Egyptians looked on them as emblems of the sun’s power. Because the croaking of frogs helped travellers in a desert to discover waters, the Egyptians held them in some reverence. Regarded the frog also as sacred to the Nymphs and Muses. Called attendants upon the deities of streams and fountains. To correct this wrong and extravagant notion about frogs, the Lord sent them over all the land. We should be careful about the objects we love and hate, esteem and disesteem, revere and abhor.
V. The king’s request to have the creatures removed granted. (A. McAuslane, D. D.)
1. Where the first judgment moveth not, the second may make sinners yield.
2. Vengeance makes wicked men call for God’s messengers who have despised them.
3. God’s judgments may work scornful oppressors to intreat the despised ministers of God.
4. Jehovah’s judgments may and will make proudest potentates to acknowledge Him.
5. In the confession of the wicked God only can take away their judgments.
6. Wicked oppressors themselves do acknowledge that mercy from Jehovah cometh by the prayer of His.
7. Under sense of judgment persecutors may promise liberty of persons and consciences to the Church.
8. Such forced promises are seldom made good by such oppressors (Exodus 8:8). (G. Hughes, B. D.)
The plague of frogs; or, the socially great smitten with the supremely contemptible
I. That the socially great sometimes provoke the judgments of God.
1. That the socially great provoke the judgments of God by rejecting His claims.
2. By slighting His servants.
3. By rejecting His credentials of truth and duty.
II. That the socially great have no means whereby to resist the judgments of God.
1. This judgment was afflictive, loathsome, extensive, irresistible.
2. This judgment yields not to social position, wealth, authority, force.
III. That the socially great often involve others less guilty in the retribution they invite.
IV. That the socially great are always surrounded by those who are willing to strengthen them in opposition to the Divine claims. Lessons:
1. That the socially great ought to be in sympathy with the requirements of God.
2. That the socially great ought to know better than provoke the wrath of the Great King.
3. That social position will not avert the retributions of God. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Superstitions respecting frogs
There is no doubt that frogs were in Egypt the objects of some kind of superstitious regard. It is difficult to say whether they were most reverenced or feared, but, either as good agents or evil, they were numbered among the sacred animals of the Egyptians. The magicians used them in their divinations, and pretended to foretell future events by the changes and swellings which these creatures undergo. Frogs were supposed to be generated from the mud of the river. A frog sitting upon the sacred lotus was symbolical of the return of the Nile to its bed after the inundations. The name Chrur, which seems to have been derived from the sound of its croaking, was also used, with only a slight variation, Hhrur, to denote the Nile descending. Seated upon a date-stone, with a young palm-leaf rising from its back, it was a type of man in embryo. The importance attached to the frog in some parts of Egypt is further apparent from its having been embalmed and honoured with burial in the tombs of Thebes; and from its frequent appearance upon the monuments and inscriptions. Among the former is the god Pthah, having the head of a frog, and representing the creative power of the deity; there is also a frog headed goddess named Heka, who was worshipped in the district of Sah, as the wife of Chnum, the god of the cataracts, and to whose favour the annual overflow of the Nile, with all the benefits which followed, was ascribed. Plutarch says the frog was an emblem of the sun, and that the brazen palm tree at Delphi, sacred to Apollo or Osiris, had a great number of frogs engraved upon its base. In hieroglyphics the frog is an emblem of fecundity, an idea which arose naturally from its connection with the river. As the wealth and prosperity of Egypt depended upon the annual overflowing of the Nile, it is not surprising that the people of that land, who seem in every possible instance to have worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, should have ascribed peculiar honour to the frogs, which abounded most in the time of the inundations; they may have regarded them as in some sense the authors of their benefits, or rather as beneficent agents sent forth by their sacred river to assist and direct its fertilizing process. But it is probable that the sacred character of these animals was attributable, in some parts of Egypt at least, to the fears entertained for them by the Egyptians, as spirits of evil. There are even now in Africa tribes of ignorant heathen, worshippers of devils, who bow down before the most hideous images they can invent or fashion, and call upon them with abject supplications, in order to propitiate their fetish, and to turn aside the evils he might bring upon them. St. John, in the book of Revelation, represents the frog as an evil spirit; and his emblems were generally derived from symbolical ideas which prevailed of old (Revelation 16:13). Such probably were the frogs which the magicians of Egypt brought forth in opposition to Moses, spirits of devils. Satan, who had greater license and a wider range in those dark times and places than he has now, sent out his demons in this form, at the call of his false prophets, to confirm the Egyptians in their rebellion against God; and “the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:7). Whether the Egyptians looked upon these reptiles as benefactors, or dreaded them as ministers of evil, the wonderful plague with which they were now afflicted was a judgment against them for their miserable superstition, and a sign which they could scarcely fail to understand. Fond as they were of a multitude of deities, here were more than they could wish for or endure. David says: “He sent frogs among them, which destroyed them” (Psalms 78:45): it was not a mere inconvenience, therefore, but a real punishment; yet we may suppose the Egyptians would not venture to kill or even to resist their sacred tormentors. So terrible and wide-spread was the evil, that we find traces of it in the oldest historians, whose accounts, being derived only from tradition, are inaccurate as to place and people, but founded, we may suppose, upon the realities which are here recorded. Diodorus tells us of “a people called Autariats, who were forced by frogs bred in the clouds, which poured down upon them instead of rain, to forsake their country” (1. iii. c. 30); Pliny tells a similar story of the inhabitants of a district in Gaul. The fact that the frogs of Egypt were sent upon the people by God’s command would naturally lead to the idea of their descent from the clouds; while the exodus, both of Israelites and Egyptians, which followed soon afterwards, might give occasion to the story that the people were driven out of their country by the plague. (T. S. Millington.)
To-morrow (for close of year)
We have arrived at another milestone on the journey of life. How many more we have to pass before we reach our journey’s end we cannot say; for, unlike the milestones by the roadside, which not only tell the traveller how far he has travelled but how much farther off his destination is; our passing years are milestones which only point backwards. In the face of this terrible uncertainty, then, how foolish it is to echo the word of Pharaoh and say, “To-morrow.”
1. In postponing the day of salvation, we are postponing our own happiness. Think of the madness of Pharaoh, enduring another night of the frogs when he could obtain instant release from them. And yet he was no more mad than the sinner is who postpones his salvation from day to day. His sins are more numerous and nauseous than the frogs of Egypt. They swarm everywhere; they leave their slime upon everything; they spawn in the dark corners of his heart; he is plagued with them, and can get no peace.
2. In this procrastination we are flying in the face of God’s clearest warnings. Ten times over God’s warnings were repeated to Pharaoh before the final destruction came; but even this is not the limit of His longsuffering to usward. His warnings are often uttered a hundred times over to us before the final crash. Yet many pay no heed to them. They are startled for a while, and give a passing thought to their souls, only to sweep away such thoughts in worldliness again, and cry “To-morrow! I will think of this to-morrow.” A traveller from India thus relates some of the experiences of his voyage:--“Flocks of greedy albatrosses and cape-pigeons crowded around the ship’s stern. A hook was baited with fat, and upwards of a dozen albatrosses rushed at it instantly; and as one after another was being hauled on deck, the remainder, regardless alike of the struggles of the captured anti the vociferations of the crew, kept swimming about the stern. Not even the birds which were indifferently hooked, and made their escape, desisted from seizing the bait a second time.” Poor, foolish birds, to disregard the death-struggles of so many of their companions and their own experience of the sharpness of the hook! Poor, foolish men, to disregard more terrible warnings still, to procrastinate in spite of the sudden destruction of so many of their companions in the ways of sin and the sharp trials that God has sent to urge them to escape the like destruction:
3. In putting off the great question of salvation till to-morrow, we forget that tomorrow will in all probability see us harder-hearted than to-day. Pharaoh was softened while he was plague-stricken. He seemed even near becoming a worshipper of the true God, for he said to Moses, “Intreat the Lord for me.” But when the warning was past, and the morrow came, he relapsed into his old hardhearted enmity towards God; all the harder for his temporary softening. Transient impressions are terribly dangerous. If you take the red-hot metal and plunge it into cold water, you make it harder than it was before. So it was with the heart of Pharaoh; so it is with our hearts too. (G. A. Sowter, M. A.)
The folly of delaying till tomorrow
“To-morrow!” has been the cry for years. Serious intentions enough have been formed; but serious intentions, formed only to be forgotten, are but paving a religious way to hell. A sea captain tells how he fell in with the Central America on the very evening when she went down. He relates how that, having hailed her, Captain Hernden replied, “I am sinking!” “Had you not better send your passengers on board of us?” said the captain. “Will you stand by me till morning?” was Captain Hernden’s reply. “I’ll try,” said the captain; “but had you not better send your passengers on board at once?” “Stand by me till morning!” was the only answer. The captain did his utmost to stand by the ill-fated ship, but ‘mid the darkness of the night and the force of the tempest he saw the Central America no more, and subsequently received information apprised him that within an hour of that time she went down in the wild Atlantic. What a pity that poor Captain Hernden would put off till the next day that which might have been done that night. But though he doubtless had, to him, some sufficient reason for the course he pursued, that cannot be said of those who neglect the great salvation.
When Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart.
The hardening nature and awful consequences of sin
I. I observe, that when God issues out His terrible threatenings against sinners, He is wont to suspend or stay the full execution of His sentence, and give them many an interval for repentance. A criminal shut up in the condemned cell, is said to be respited when, by a royal grant, his punishment is put off from the day appointed. This practice in the administration of human laws, may serve the purpose of illustrating the dispensations of Providence, or the dealings of God with men. The stubborn rebel is often admonished ere he meets the stern arrest of justice; and the guilty soul is often respited before the sentence is carried into execution. It seems to me, that this procedure of the great Judge in the mysterious ways of Providence is a bright display of mercy, blended even with the tokens of His displeasure. Each interval between successive warnings and judgments is a space given for repentance. But the final term of forbearance is not far distant; and with some of you it may be now the very last reprieve.
II. I observe, that it proves a state of most dreadful depravity, when men take occasion, from the very compassions and mercies of god, to harden themselves in sin. The goodness of God is designed to lead you to repentance; but if you either do not know, or will not consider this, then the most lovely and attractive of all the Divine perfections is shamefully abused and contemned by you. But can you hope to escape? Is it possible to evade the eye of Omniscience, or resist the hand of Omnipotence? Where can you find an asylum for your souls, when the only Refuge which God has prepared, is scorned and set at nought?
III. I observe, that God perfectly knows all the deeds of wicked men before they are done, and all their designs before they are conceived.
IV. Do you now ask, what are the signs by which it may be known, that any man is given up to hardness of heart?
1. It is a dark sign that the heart is desperately hardened, when men sin on knowingly and deliberately. A crime is deeply aggravated, which is committed with the full consent of the will, in defiance of the clearest dictates of the understanding and the conscience.
2. It is a dark sign that the heart is desperately hardened, when men hate and shun those who faithfully warn and reprove them, and affectionately labour to reclaim them.
3. It is a dark sign that the heart is desperately hardened, when the very intervals and opportunities which mercy gives for repentance, are perverted to the purpose of adding sin to sin. Are there not some of you, who have been brought under the scourge of God’s afflicting hand? Remember, it is written, “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy.” (John Thornton.)
The constrained and pretended penitence of Pharaoh, with the compassion and prayer of Moses, teach us valuable lessons. The penitence of Pharaoh shows us that we ought not to put off our repentance until the hour of sickness, trial, and death; for the seeming conversions which take place at such times may be hypocritical and short-lived, like that of Pharaoh. Is this sincere? The sick man thinks that it is; but if he recover will he not be the same as before? Will he not forget, as Pharaoh did, his promises, humiliation, confessions of sin, and seeming conversion? From the example of Moses we may also obtain important instruction. He had, truly, very many reasons for not putting much faith in the word of the king. Pharaoh had already shown much pride, obstinacy, and deceit; nevertheless, Moses did not repulse him; he knew that God can convert a soul even at the last hour. Pharaoh made promises, and “charity hopeth all things.” It is God alone who can judge the heart. We ought, therefore, always to be ready to console, and help with our prayers, even persons who have been most hostile, opposed, and contemptuous to us. There was a worthy pastor of the Canton de Vaud in Switzerland, who, during a time of persecution, had to suffer much because he preached the gospel faithfully. He was even obliged to leave his parish, and to go and settle in another. Some time afterwards, one of the men who had behaved most wickedly to him was converted to the Lord. He immediately determined to go to his former pastor to tell him this good news. “How surprised he will be,” thought he as he walked along. He arrived at the village; he rung the bell at the minister’s house; the pastor himself opened the door. “I am come to tell you that I am converted; I, who have done you so much harm.” “I am not astonished at it,” answered the pastor, “for I have prayed for you all these seven years.” (Prof. Gaussen.)
Sin interrupted, not forsaken
Though the course of sin may be repelled for a season by the dispensation of the law, yet the spring and fountain of it is not dried up thereby. Though it withdraws and hides itself for season, it is but to shift out of a storm, and then to return again. As a traveller in his way meeting with a violent storm of thunder and rain, immediately turns out of his way to some house or tree for his shelter, but yet this causes him not to give over his journey, as soon as the storm is over he returns to his way and progress again; so it is with men in bondage unto sin. They are in a course of pursuing their lusts; the law meets with them in a storm of thunder and lightning from heaven, terrifies and hinders them in their way. This turns them for a season out of their course; they will run to prayer or amendment of life, for some shelter from the storm of wrath which is feared coming upon their consciences. But is their course stopped? are their principles altered? Not at all; so soon as the storm is over, so that they begin to wear out that sense and the terror that was upon them, they return to their former course in the service of sin again. This was the state with Pharaoh once and again. In such seasons sin is not conquered, but diverted. When it seems to fall under the power of the law, indeed it is only turned into new channel; it is not dried up. If you go and set a dam against the streams of a river, so that you suffer no water to pass in the old course and channel, but it breaks out another way, and turns all its streams in a new course, you will not say you have dried up that river, though some that come and look into the old channel may think, perhaps, that the waters are utterly gone. So is it in this case. The streams of sin, it may be, run in open sensuality and profaneness, in drunkenness and viciousness; the preaching of the law sets a dam against these causes; conscience is terrified, and the man dares not walk in the ways wherein he has been formerly engaged. His companions in sin, not finding him in his old ways, begin to laugh at him, as one that is converted and growing precise; professors themselves begin to be persuaded that the work of God is upon his heart, because they see his old streams dried up; but if there has been only a work of the law upon him, there in a dam put to his course, but the spring of sin is not dried up, only the streams of it are turned another way. It may be the man is fallen upon other more secret or more spiritual sins; or if he be beat from them also, the whole strength of lust and sin will take up its residence in self-righteousness, and pour out thereby as filthy streams as in any other way whatever. So that, notwithstanding the whole work of the law upon the souls of men, indwelling sin will keep alive in them still. (J. Owen, D. D.)
As a horse that is good at hand, but nought at length, so is the hypocrite; free and fiery for a spurt, but he jades and tires in a journey. The faith, repentance, reformation, obedience, joy, sorrow, zeal, and other graces and affections of hypocrites, have their first motion and issue from false and erroneous grounds, as shame, fear, hope, and such respects. And it thence comes to pass that, where these respects cease to give them motion, the graces themselves can no more stand than a house can stand when the foundation is taken from under it. The boy that goes to his book no longer than the master holds the rod over him; the master’s back once turned, away goes the book, and he to play: so is it with the hypocrite. Take away the rod from Pharaoh; and he will be old Pharaoh still. Now, then, here is a wide difference between the hypocrite and the godly man: the one does all by fits and starts, by sudden motions and flashes; whereas the other goes on fairly and soberly in a settled, constant, regular course of humiliation and obedience. (Bp. Sanderson.)
Many persons who appear to repent, are like sailors who throw their goods overboard in a storm, and wish for them again as soon as it becomes calm.
Mercy mistaken for weakness
How easy it is to mistake mercy for weakness! This was Pharaoh’s mistake. The moment the Lord lifted His heavy hand from the Egyptian king, Pharaoh began to forget his oath, and vow, and promise, and to harden his heart,--saying, in effect, “He can do no more; the God of the Israelites has exhausted Himself; now that He has removed His hand He has confessed His weakness rather than demonstrated His pity.” We are committing the same mistake every day: whilst the plague is in the house we are ready to do anything to get rid of it! we will say prayers morning, noon and night, and send for the holy man who has been anointed as God’s minister, and will read nothing but solid and most impressive books, listen to no frivolous conversation, and touch nothing that could dissipate or enfeeble the mind. How long will the plague be removed before the elasticity will return to the man and the old self reassert its sovereignty? Not a day need pass. We begin to feel that the worst is past: we say it is darkest before it is dawn, “hope springs eternal in the human breast”; and so easily do we fall back into the old swing between self-indulgence and nominal homage to God. We think we have felt all the Lord can do, and we say, “His sword is no longer; it cannot reach us now that we have removed away this little distance from its range; now and here we may do what we please, and judgment cannot fall upon us.” Thus we play old Pharaoh’s part day by day. He is a mirror in which we may see ourselves. There is nothing mysterious in this part of the solemn reading. However we may endeavour to escape from the line when it becomes supernatural or romantic, we are brought swiftly and surely back to it when we see these repetitions of obduracy and these renewed challenges of Divine anger and judgment. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Manton says, “Many a time a brabble falleth out between a man and his lusts; but he delayeth, and all cometh to nothing. In a heat we bid a naughty servant begone; but he lingereth and before the next morning all is cool and quiet, and he is again in favour.” Ungodly men have their quarrels with their favourite sins on various accounts, but these are like children’s pets with one another, soon over because they come of passion, and not from principle. An unholy person will fall out with sin because it has injured his health or his credit, or has brought him into difficulty with his neighbours; but when these temporary results are ended he falls in love again with the same iniquity. Thus we have seen the drunkard loathing his cups when his eyes were red and his head was aching; but ere the sun went down the quarrel was ended, and he and Bacchus were rolling in the gutter together. (“Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden.”)
Pharaoh’s professions of repentance and promises of amendment were like those of the child under the rod of chastisement, they were designed to mitigate the infliction, and when the punishment was over they went for nothing. Now, this is always the case when fear alone predominates over the soul. Ah! how much of our penitence is like this of Pharaoh; how many are saints on a sick-bed, but as wicked as ever when they recover! During an epidemic of cholera in the village where I first laboured as a minister, the churches were filled to overflowing by suppliants who had never before entered them; but when it had passed, they relapsed into worse carelessness than ever: and there may be some here to-night who, when they were dangerously ill, or when they were laying a dear little one’s body in the grave, vowed to God that they would yield themselves to Him; while now they are as far from His service as ever. Let me beseech such hardened ones to beware. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Tests of sincerity in repentance
Lorenzo de Medici lies dying in the city of Florence: in the terrors of death he has sent for the one man who never had yielded to his threats or caresses--the brave Savonarola. Lorenzo confesses that he has heavy on his soul three crimes: the cruel sack of Volterra, the theft of the public dower of young girls, by which many were driven to a wicked life, and the blood shed after the conspiracy of Pazzi. He is greatly agitated, and Savon-arola, to keep him quiet, keeps repeating, “God is merciful,” “God is good.” “But,” he added, “there is need of three things.” “And what are they, father?” “First, you must have a great and living faith in the mercy of God.” “This I have--the greatest.” “Second, you must restore that which you have wrongfully taken, or require your children to restore it for you.” Lorenzo looked surprised and troubled; but he forces himself to compliance, and nods his head in sign of assent. Then Savonarola rises to his feet, and stands over the dying prince. “Last, you must give back their liberties to the people of Florence.” Lorenzo, summoning up all his remaining strength, disdainfully turns his back, and, without uttering another word, Savonarola departs without giving him absolution.
That it may become lice.
The plague of lice
I. The plague itself.
1. This punishment was sent without any previous warning.
2. This plague was inflicted by a very small insect.
3. This plague could not be imitated by the magicians. This rendered Pharaoh’s refusal to humble himself all the more unpardonable.
II. Its teaching.
1. Its infliction produced no real good. How soon the human mind becomes accustomed to novelties, even of the most extraordinary character. So the fallen soul becomes naturalized to the paths of sin and the lessons of God’s judgment.
2. Observe the resources of God. The least thing in His hand can become an instrument of torment.
3. How foolish, then, and how mad, to resist the will of this Divine Being! (Homilist.)
1. The devil will try his utmost to counterwork God.
2. The devil is impotent upon the least check from God.
3. God’s power sets on His judgments when the power of Satan fails (Exodus 8:18).
4. The devil’s instruments are forced at last to say they are against God, and He against them.
5. God’s finger or the least of His power makes the devil and his instruments fail.
6. Innate unbelief loves to be kept up by liars, but will not yield when they fail.
7. Treble hardening comes on the wicked by treble judgments.
8. God’s word faileth not which He hath spoken of the sin and judgment of wicked persecutors (Exodus 8:19). ( G. Hughes, B. D.)
The plague of lice; or, an enforced recognition of a Supreme Power in the dire retributions of human life
I. That men are slow to recognize the Supreme Power in the retributions of life.
1. Because they have not right views of the character of God.
2. Because they have not a due consciousness of sin and its demerit.
II. That wicked men are made by continuous retributions ultimately to recognize the Supreme Power against them. “Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God.” God sometimes plagues men until they acknowledge Him. The events of life are charged with retributions which cannot be hidden by the art of the sorcerer.
III. That when wicked men are made to acknowledge the Supreme Power in the retributions of life they may nevertheless continue in open opposition to it. “And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.” Lessons:
1. That the retributions of life are designed to lead men to the performance of moral duty.
2. That there are many deceptions calculated to blind men to the hand of God in the events of life.
3. That wicked men are not able to contend with God, and are at times brought to acknowledge His supremacy. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Dangerous dust in the air is circulated by the elevated railways in New York. A member of the staff of The Scientific American hung a magnet under the track of the elevated road, and when a few minutes later he took it down it was coated with minute particulars of iron dust. This dust, he said, is the cause of many severe cases of eye troubles. The swift passing trains grind off showers of iron particles, which often fall or are blown into the eyes of pedestrians. The microscope shows, that the particles are of innumerable shapes, and they usually have jagged fringes, and many of them have barbs like a fish hook. When lodged in the eye they cannot be attracted therefrom with a magnet, but a gouge-shaped instrument the size of a sewing needle had been devised for the purpose. This peculiarity of the dust resembles that of moral evil It is in the air, and when once it finds a lodgment in the human heart it cannot be withdrawn without difficulty and suffering. This is the of finger God--“Like Phidias, who in his image carved his own name, there is God engraven upon every creature.” Not in characters of human writing is it written, but in the character of the work. Phidias needed not to have written the word phidias in so many letters, for the master’s hand had a cunning of its own which none could counterfeit. An instructed person had only to look at a statue and say at once, “Phidias did this, for no other hand could have chiselled such a countenance”; and believers have only to look either at creation, providence, or the Divine Word, and they will Cry instinctively, “This is the finger of God.” Yet, alas, man has great powers of wilful blindness, and these are aided by the powers of darkness, so that, being both blind and in the dark, man is unable to see his God, though His presence is as clear as that of the sun in the heavens. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The limit of false religion
Human religions can go to a certain point in good works, especially if they have borrowed their systems and copied their charities from the teachings of Christ, which most of them have done. But beyond a certain point they cannot go. It has been observed that the magicians could not bring living things out of the dust of the ground, as Moses did. And a false religion cannot bring life out of death, as the gospel does. Morality and certain good works it can conjure up; but spiritual life it cannot produce. Atheism, in the form of scientific materialism, may point to some notable and heroic disciple, such as Professor Clifford, who died without fear, steadfast in his faith that death was the end of him; but it cannot enable a man to die as Stephen and Paul died. It is not unworthy of our passing thought that the scientific magicians of our day, who are saying, “Who is the Lord?” have tried very hard to generate a living thing out of the dust; but they have as utterly and signally failed as the magicians did in the days of Moses. We may confidently keep a good courage in these days, when the scientific and religious magicians are trying to discredit the Word of God with their enchantments. Be sore that if the conflict is pushed far enough they will come to signal grief. In the end God will give glorious victory to those who stand by His truth, and who continue to cast their rods down in the face of an unbelieving world. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Swarms of flies.
The plague of flies; or, an exceptional method of the Divine administration in the affairs of this life
I. It is a general rule of the Divine administration that the good and sad shall alike participate in the painful dispensations of this probationary life.
1. Because both are guilty of sin.
2. Because both need correction and improvement.
3. Because life is a probation and a discipline.
II. It is an exceptional method of the divine administration to exempt the good from the trials and retributions of this life. “And I will put a division between My people and thy people.”
1. Thus we see that there are times in this life when moral character gives exemption from severe retribution. This is the honour God places upon true moral goodness. In this way He occasionally shows His approval of it. Piety shields the house. It will protect a nation from the plague of God.
2. Thus we see that there are times in this life when God manifests to men His care for the good.
3. Thus we see that there are times in this life when God gives men a prophecy of the social equity in the world to come. Then Egypt will be ever separate from Goshen in character, as in retribution and reward. Heaven will adjust the moral relations of the universe.
1. That continued sin must be visited by continued retribution.
2. That the providence of God is over the good to save them from pain.
3. That the wicked must see the worth of goodness. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
God’s retributive resources
I once knew a good woman who had three children, and the youngest was her pet. And it died, and said she, “Now God has done all that He can do.” But a little after another was burnt to death, and then she said, “I see God can do more yet.” Soon after the other fell into a boiler of water, and was scalded to death. Says she, “God can do more yet.” Afterwards her husband died, and then she said, “Now God has done all things well.” If she had said this before, she would have had her husband and two children alive; but God must bring His work to pass. He afflicts us for our good. (Matthew Wilks.)
Flies in Egypt
Egypt has always suffered more or less severely in hot weather from the various sorts of flies which arise from the marshy lands. “The most numerous and troublesome among the insects which infest these countries,” says Sonnini, “are flies, which cruelly torment both men and animals. It is impossible to form a just idea of their obstinate perseverance when they wish to fasten upon any particular part of the body, as when they are driven away they return and settle again in the same moment, and their pertinacity tires out the most patient sufferer. They particularly delight in fastening upon the corners of the eyes and the edges of the eyelids, to which tender parts they are attracted by a slight humidity.” Mr. Lane says--“In spring, summer, and autumn, flies are so abundant as to be extremely annoying during the daytime, and mosquitoes are troublesome at night, unless a curtain be made use of to keep them away, and often in the day.” Herodotus also makes mention of the flies of Egypt, and describes the nets with which the inhabitants protected themselves against them. In winter, however, these insects are rarely troublesome, and Pharaoh may have thought that the threat of such a plague was but little likely to be fulfilled. For the same reason the miraculous character of the visitation, when it came, was the more readily acknowledged. (T. S. Millington.)
At sea, when the enemy’s ship is sighted in full flight, a gun loaded with powder only is fired by the pursuer to bring the fugitive to. When this fails, the cannon is charged with a ball, but is designedly fired so as not to strike the vessel, in the hope of inducing it to furl the sails. But when this attempt has failed, then the captain of the pursuer orders the gun to be fired straight at the ship attempting to escape. It may be that many shots have taken effect in her rigging and hull before she ceases her flight. Such, too, is the forbearance of God. The first miracle of Moses was harmless--the second came nearer home, in expectation of the stubborn despot’s compliance.
Various kinds of flies in this plague
The flies of this plague were evidently of a formidable kind, and very grievous. The Psalmist says--“He sent flies among them, which devoured them” (Psalms 78:45). There is a kind of beetle common in Egypt which is very destructive, inflicting painful bites, and consuming all sorts of materials. The mosquito also, which is a terrible nuisance in all hot climates, and especially in the vicinity of rivers, answers to this description; and the house-fly, which swarms in Egypt, carries corruption, and not unfrequently infectious disease, wherever it alights. It is probable, however, that the flies of this plague were of various kinds, including the above and many others, for David says again “He spake the word, and there came all manner of flies,” or “divers sorts of flies” (Psalms 105:31). The marginal reading gives a similar description, “a mixture of noisome beasts.” There is no reason, therefore, for supposing that the plague was limited to any one species; on the contrary, as the flies were everywhere, upon the people and in their houses, on the ground and in the air, and in all the land of Egypt, it appears almost certain that they were of different habits, and therefore of different species. There were flies that devoured, and flies that stung; flies that corrupted, and flies that hovered whirring in the air; flies upon men, inflaming their eyelids and blinding them, and flies upon the cattle; there were beetles that crawled upon the ground, and perhaps also bees, and wasps, and hornets, pursuing the people fiercely. It is doubtful whether some kind of flies were not among the sacred insects of the Egyptians. Some of them have been preserved, perhaps accidentally, in the mummy cloths, and some few, among which are the house-fly, the wasp, and the butterfly, are represented in paintings on the monuments and walls. To make the miracle more evident, these pests, while vexing the Egyptians almost beyond endurance, giving them no rest either by night or day, were not suffered to approach the Israelites. “In the land of Goshen were no flies.” (T. S. Millington.)
It is not meet so to do.
The impossibility of compromise in a religious life
I. That there can be no compromise in Christian morality. “And Moses said, It is not meet to do so.”
1. Because they do not like to give up their sins.
2. Because they will not summon resolution enough to break the force of old and continued habit.
II. That there can be no compromise in Christian worship. “We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as He shall command us.” It is not enough to worship God; we must worship Him in the manner He has made known. Men should not place themselves in temptation by going to unhallowed sanctuaries.
1. Christian worship must not he compromised by idolatry.
2. Christian worship must not be compromised by levity. Prayer must be the dominant impulse of the soul.
III. That the servants of God must reject all attempts at religious compromise.
1. Because religious compromise brings contempt upon the Christian life.
2. Because religious compromise brings contempt upon Christian worship. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
It is not meet so to do
I. The impossibility of maintaining a secret or hidden Christian life. The life of Christ in the soul will come out in real manifestation and in public recognition of God. In the first place, the very initial demand of Christ upon His disciples is to confess Him before men, and to take up the cross and come after Him daily. There is no such thing as a private and concealed faith allowed or alluded to in the Scriptures. Christianity is no secret organization, but a life that openly and boldly declares itself. Besides, the very fact that Christianity is a life in the soul makes it impossible to keep it a secret. A tree might just as well say, “Can I not be a real living tree without giving forth buds and leaves in the springtime?” or a rose, “Can I not be a rose without bursting into leaf, and in due time sending forth my flowers in their sweetness to rejoice the eye and delight the smell of man?” A prominent fruit merchant in one of our New England cities was converted at one of our meetings, and he determined to keep the fact secret. He was ashamed to confess Christ before his companions, among whom he had been a very profane and godless man. His special and besetting sin was an awful habit of the wildest profanity, which used to burst out of his mouth at the least provocation to his quick and passionate temper. Some of his employes told me that when he came to the warehouse, where his fruit was sorted and stored after being received from the ships, he would swear and curse at such a rate that they all dreaded his coming. And especially was this so if a cargo of oranges or bananas turned out badly. The next morning after he had decided to give himself to Christ he went down to his receiving store. A large cargo of oranges had been received the day before, and the men were engaged in opening and sorting them. They were dreading his appearance, well knowing that the condition the fruit was in would excite his wrath to the uttermost. Well, he came in, and without a word he looked over the oranges. To the astonishment of his men, he said to them pleasantly, “Well, boys, this is rather a bad lot, to be sure. Just sort them over, and make the best of them. I suppose it can’t be helped.” Now, that man did not exactly confess Christ in so many words, but the absence of certain expressions from his conversation, and the presence of a new spirit, revealed the fact that he had seen Jesus. At once the men came to the conclusion as to what had happened. They were not wrong. One of them told me the occurrence the next day. That night I related this incident. I did not know the man by sight, and was not sure that he was present; but at the close of the meeting the merchant sprang to his feet and confessed that he was the man; and he there and then publicly confessed Jesus Christ as his Saviour. You see he could not hide the fact from those round about him, nor could he keep from confessing it.
II. A man cannot be a Christian and worship God in the land without offending the world. A gentleman in Boston was converted at one of Mr. Moody’s meetings. He purposed keeping it a secret. He belonged to a wealthy and aristocratic family and circle, among whom it was fashionable to sneer at evangelical religion, and at that time especially at Mr. Moody and the great work going on in that city. Shortly afterwards this gentleman was guest at a large dinner-party. In course of the dinner, the tabernacle meetings and Mr. Moody came up for discussion and ridicule. From bad they went to worse, and began to sneer at Jesus and His cross. By and by, when he could bear it no longer, he arose in his place, trembling with embarrassment, yet courageous in purpose, and said, addressing his host: “I do not wish to seem rude; but I cannot be true to myself or to my God, and let this conversation go on any longer. I beg to say that Mr. Moody, though I am personally unknown to him, is my friend; and in that same old ‘tabernacle’ which is the object of your ridicule, and in one of those meetings which you hold in such contempt, he was the means of awakening me to a true knowledge of my condition before God, and of leading me to Christ, whom I believe to be the very Son of God--and through the merits of His blood I am trusting for forgiveness and eternal life. I cannot let the conversation go on without at least confessing so much. And not wishing to disturb the freedom of your party, or restrain you by my presence, I beg leave of my kind host to retire from this table.”
III. “We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness.” Israel could not worship God in the land, because God had commanded them to go out of the land. “Three days’ journey into the wilderness.” Where is that? Surely it must teach us that the Christian’s place is in resurrection with the Lord. From the cross to the resurrection was three days. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1). (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Not very far away-
Alas, how many who have named the name of Christ have never gone very far away from the “former things.” In the world they are not known as Christians, and are only known as Christians in the church by the fact that their names are on the church roll or parish register as having been baptized and confirmed. It must be apparent to any thoughtful person that any half-and-half position with reference to Christ and His salvation is not only an inconsistent, but a very unhappy, one.
I. “Not very far away” is inconsistent with the first law of Christian life, which demands that we shall break with this world. “For our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). “The whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5:19); and to abide in the world is to take up quarters on Satan’s ground. Besides, the very object that Moses had in going down to Egypt was to bring the people up out of that land into a good land and large. How could they ever reach Canaan if they consented not to go “very far away”? And how shall we be separated from this present evil world if we, as confessors of Christ, insist on lingering about the borders of the old life?
II. “Not very far away” is entirely incompatible with a happy Christian life. In the times of the old border wars between the Scots and the English, the people living in the border counties had a most wretched time of it. First the Scots would come pouring down into the northern counties of England, and devastate and destroy there; and then the English would invade the southern counties of Scotland, and desolation and death would be their portion. So it is with the border-Christians. The Word of God catches them in the world, and pricks and cuts without healing; and if they are only a little way in the kingdom they are thoroughly exposed to the temptations and buffetings of Satan. With the back to the world and face to Christ, ever marching forward, is the only way of peace and happiness.
III. “Not very far away” is a dangerous place to be in. I once heard of a little girl who fell out of bed during the night. The mother heard the child’s fall and cry, and ran to her little one. After she had picked her up and somewhat pacified her, she asked the little girl, “How did you come to fall out, my dear?” The child replied, “Oh, I suppose I went to sleep too near to the edge of the bed where I fell out,” and then, quickly correcting her statement, said, “No, I mean I went to sleep too near to the place where I got in.” That was the real truth of it. There are a great many persons who profess conversion; but they do not get very far into the kingdom; and then they go to sleep, and when they fall out the real reason is that they did not get far enough in. “Not far away” is a most dangerous compromise to consent to.
IV. “Not very far away” is a position from which God can choose no workers. I am very free to say that God can make little or no use of a worldly half-and-half Christian. In the first place, the world has no confidence in a Christian who is hand-and-glove with it, while at the same time professing to have found something infinitely better, and to have been saved from the world. In the second place, a half-and-half Christian cannot do with “all his might” what God would give him to do. Consecration and service go necessarily together; and no consecrated life can be maintained on the edge of the world or on the edge of the Church. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
Exhortation to the newly awakened
The old life--so far as that old life is associated with old companions and with practices which are evil--must be abandoned. It does not mean that you arc to turn hermit or nun; but in spirit and practice you belong to another commonwealth. But the Christian in the world is to be as distinct from it as the Gulf Stream is from the ocean through which it flows. Christian and Great-Heart passed through Vanity Fair, but they were not citizens of that place. You are not to turn your back in pharisaical self-righteousness upon your did friends; but henceforth you can only have to do with them on the basis of your out-and-out loyalty to Christ. If you can go with them and take Christ with you to their feasts and pleasures, then go; but if the condition of your going is that you leave your Master behind you, then of course you are not to go: you cannot. Be true to the Master, and your worldly associates will spare you any pains on the point. They will adjust themselves to you, or, rather, from you, until the moment comes when they want a true friend, a guide and helper in some spiritual crisis, and they will come to you, passing by those Christians (?) who are “serving God in the land.” (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Exodus 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26