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DEPRESSION OF MOSES, AND CONFIRMATION OF HIS MISSION.
The expostulation of Moses did not offend God. God gave him, in reply to it, a most gracious series of promises and assurances, well calculated to calm his fears, assuage his griefs, and comfort his heart; and he confirmed the whole to him by his name JEHOVAH, "the Only Existent," and therefore" the Eternal and Immutable." This name he had previously revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai, as his peculiar name, and the one by which he would choose to be called (Exodus 3:13-15). He had also told him to proclaim this name to the people. This command is now repeated (Exodus 6:6) very solemnly; and with it are coupled the promises above alluded to.
1. That God would certainly bring the Israelites out of Egypt, despite the unwillingness of Pharaoh (Exodus 6:1 and Exodus 6:6),
2. That he would do this "with a stretched-out arm," and by means of "great judgments" (Exodus 6:6);
3. That he would keep the covenant which he had made with the patriarchs to give their descendants the laud of Canaan (Exodus 6:4) and would assuredly "bring in" the Israelites to that land, and "give it them for an heritage" (Exodus 6:8).
Now shalt thou see. There was encouragement in the very word "now." Moses' complaint was, that God delayed his coming, would not show himself, was "slack concerning his promise." In reply he is told that there is to be no longer any delay—the work is just about to commence. "Now shalt thou see." With a strong hand shall he let them go. The "strong hand" is not Pharaoh's, but God's. "By means of my strong hand" (or "overpowering might") "laid upon him shall he be induced to let them go," and similarly with the other clause. Drive them out. This phrase well expresses the final anxiety of Pharaoh to be rid of the Israelites. (See Exodus 12:31, Exodus 12:22.)
And God spake. The promise of the first verse was, apparently, given first, and was quite distinct from all the others—perhaps separated from them by an interval of hours, or days. It was especially addressed to Moses. The rest was in the main (Exodus 6:6-8) a message to the people. I am the Lord. Or, "I am JEHOVAH." Compare Exodus 3:15, and note ad loc.
I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty. See Genesis 17:1 for the revelation of this name to Abraham, and Genesis 35:11 for its repetition to Jacob. We do not find the full name used by God in any appearance to Isaac; but IsaActs himself uses it in Genesis 28:3. By my name Jehovah was I not known unto them. The explanation of this passage is by no means easy. God himself, according to Genesis 15:7, revealed himself to Abraham as Jehovah before declaring his name to be El-Shaddai (God Almighty); and again revealed himself to Jacob as Jehovah-Elohim (Genesis 38:13). Abraham named the place where he had been about to sacrifice Isaac, "Jehovah-jireh" (Genesis 22:14). That Moses regarded the name as known even earlier, appears from Genesis 4:1. It was probably as old as language. The apparent meaning of the present passage cannot therefore be its true meaning. No writer would so contradict himself. Perhaps the true sense is, "I was known to them as a Being of might and power, not as mere absolute (and so eternal and immutable) existence." This meaning of the word, though its etymological and original meaning, may have been unknown to the patriarchs, who were not etymologists. It was first distinctly declared to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 3:14, Exodus 3:15).
I have established my covenant with them. Compare Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:8; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 28:13. The land of Canaan, in a narrow acceptation, reached "from Sidon unto Gaza" (Genesis 10:19); in a wider sense it included the whole tract between "the river of Egypt (Wady-el-Arish) and the great river, the river Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18). It was this larger tract which was promised by God to Abraham. The land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. Literally, "the land of their sojourns wherein they sojourned." (So Kalisch.) It was by permission of the lords of the soil—the Canaaaites, Perizzites, Hittites, and others, that Abraham and his descendants dwelt in Canaan to the time of Jacob's descent into Egypt. (See Genesis 12:6; Genesis 13:7; Genesis 23:7; Genesis 27:46, etc.)
I have also heard the groaning. Compare Exodus 2:24 and Exodus 3:9. The repetition is in consequence of Moses' expostulation (Exodus 5:22, Exodus 5:23), and is to assure the Israelites that God has not forgotten them, but will sustain them under their afflictions, and will shortly deliver them.
Say unto the children of Israel. God felt for the disappointment which the people had suffered in finding no alleviation of their toils, but the reverse, after their hopes had been raised high by the words of Moses (Exodus 4:31). He therefore sent them an inspiriting and gracious message. "They should be rid of their bondage; they should be brought out; they should be redeemed and delivered by his mighty arm and miraculous intervention. He, Jehovah, had said it." Faith would lay hold on this assurance and cling to it, even though God still delayed his coming, and did not precipitate matters. A stretched-out arm. Arms are stretched out by men to help and save. An outstretched arm in the Egyptian writing meant "action." The phrase, elsewhere so common, is here used for the first time. (Compare, however, Exodus 3:20.) It was significant of active, energetic help. Great judgments. These had been previously hinted at (Exodus 3:20 and Exodus 4:22) but had not been previously called "judgments." Compare Genesis 15:14 : "Also that nation whom they serve will I judge." The plagues of Egypt were not merely "wonders," but punishments inflicted on a proud and cruel nation by a Judge.
Exodus 6:7, Exodus 6:8
The promises are continued, heaped one upon another.
1. God will take them for his own people.
2. He will be, in a special sense, their God.
3. They shall clearly know that it is he who brings them forth out of Egypt.
4. They shall be brought into the promised land.
5. The land shall be made over to them, and become their own inheritance.
The Israelites were formally taken to be God's people at Sinai (Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6); where, at the same time, he became (specially but not exclusively) their God (Exodus 20:1; Exodus 29:45, Exodus 29:40). They had evidence that it was he who brought them forth in the pillar of fire and of a cloud (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20, etc.). They were brought into the promised land by Joshua (Joshua 4:1), and given the full possession of it by him and his successors—the various judges and kings, until at last, under David and Solomon, they held the entire tract that had been promised to Abraham (see 1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26).
The land which I did swear to give it to Abraham etc. See Genesis 22:16-18; Genesis 26:3, etc. The only formal oath is recorded in Genesis 22:16; but an oath is perhaps implied in every covenant between God and man. God's faithfulness is pledged to the performance of the terms of the covenant on his part. I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord. Rather, "I will give it you for an heritage, I the Lord" (or "I Jehovah," or "I the Eternal One"). "You have the pledge of my Eternity and Immutability that it shall be yours."
God's condescension to a weak faith.
As the Lord Jesus condescended to Thomas, and bade him "reach hither his finger and behold his hands, and reach hither his hand and thrust it into his side," so that he might be no longer "faithless, but believing"(John 20:27), so Jehovah now declared to Moses that, if he could not walk by faith, sight should be vouchsafed to him. "Now shalt thou see," etc. Human infirmity is so greet, man's faith is so weak, the best are so liable to accesses of distrust and despondency, that, if God were extreme to mark what is in this way done amiss, few indeed would be those who could "abide it." Therefore, in his mercy, he condescends. Well for man could he breathe continually the higher, rarer, atmosphere of faith. But, if he cannot, yet has Godward aspirations, so that he takes his distrust and his despondency to God, as Moses did, God will in no wise cast him out. He will not "break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." He will accept the imperfect service that is still service, and allow his servant to work in a lower sphere. Henceforth the faith of Moses was not much tried—he had soon sight to walk by. When once the series of plagues began, he could no longer ask, "Why is it that thou hast sent me?" He could see that the end was being advanced—the deliverance being extorted from the king—and that the day of final triumph was fast coming.
Exodus 6:2, Exodus 6:3
God's names and their importance.
With men a name is simply a "mark of difference"—a mode of distinguishing one individual from another; and the particular name that a man bears is, generally speaking, a matter of the very slightest importance. But with God the case is otherwise. The names of God have always been among all men significant names. If their signification is clear, or generally known, then men's views of the Supreme Being are vitally affected by the names under which they know him. Persons whose only name for God is Dyaus or Tien—"the heaven"—are not likely to be strongly apprehensive of the personality and spirituality of the Creator. If God is known as Ammon, the main idea of him will be, that he is a riddle and a mystery; if as Shaddai, that he is powerful; if as Mazda, that he is wise or bounteous. When monotheism is firmly established, it is well that God should be known by many names, as El, Elohim, Adonai, Eliun, Shaddai, Jehovah, because then his many and various attributes are better apprehended. If, however, God is to be known by one name only, or by one special name, while there is none more pure or lofty than Jehovah—"the Self-Existent "—there is none more tender and loving than our own English name, God—i.e. "the Good."
God a keeper of covenants.
God is declared in Scripture to be one who "keepeth covenant and mercy, yea, to a thousand generations" (Deuteronomy 7:9). He is ever faithful. He cannot lie. He is not a man that he should repent. The bow which he set in the cloud, when he covenanted with Noah that the waters should no more become a flood to destroy all flesh, is still there, and the promise of which it was the sign has been kept—there has come no repetition of the Flood, no second destruction of mankind by water. God has kept the covenant which he made with Israel at Sinai—first, on the side of promise, in giving them all the good things which he said he would give them; and then, on the side of threatening, in bringing upon them all the calamities which he said he would bring. With Christians, too, God enters into covenant at their baptism, promising them protection, spiritual aid, and eternal life in heaven, on their maintaining faith and repentance. This covenant, like his others, he will assuredly keep. Let them be but true to him, and they need have no fear but that he will be true to them. The Promised Land will be theirs—he will give it to them for an heritage—he, Jehovah!
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
A Divine commentary on a Divine name.
The antiquity of the name Jehovah, setting aside direct testimonies to its occurrence in earlier scriptures, is sufficiently proved by its etymology (from havah, an old—and, in the days of Moses, obsolete—form of the verb "to be"), and from its presence (in composition) in pre-Mosaic proper names (e.g. Exodus 6:20). It is absurd to press this passage in proof of the ignorance of the patriarchs of this name of God, when one observes—
1. That the context plainly relates to a commentary which God was about to give on this name in deeds.
2. That the name is not here announced, but is presupposed as known—"My name Jehovah."
3. That in Exodus 3:14-16, where it is announced, it is expressly referred to as a name of older date—God styling himself repeatedly, "Jehovah God of your fathers." The knowledge of God by this name in the present passage has obvious reference to a knowledge derived from manifestation of the attributes implied in the meaning of the name.
I. "JEHOVAH" IN CONTRAST WITH "EL-SHADDAI" (Exodus 3:3).
1. El-Shaddai means, as translated, "God Almighty." It denotes in God the simple attribute of power—All-Mightiness—power exerted chiefly in the region of the natural life.
2. Jehovah, on the other hand, has a deeper and wider, an infinitely fuller and richer meaning. It denotes God as possessed of the perfections of the Absolute—self-identical and changeless because self-existent and eternal. God's eternally what he is (Exodus 3:14)—the Being who is and remains one with himself in all he thinks, purposes, and does. This implies, together with immutability, the attribute of self-determining freedom, and that unlimited rule (dominion, sovereignty) in the worlds of matter and mind, which is of the essence of the conception of the Absolute. Hence such passages as these:—"I am Jehovah, I change not" (Malachi 3:6); "Whatsoever Jehovah pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and in all. deep places" (Psalms 130:6); "Jehovah, he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath; there is none else" (Deuteronomy 4:39). Jehovah is, moreover, the God of gracious purpose. It is this which gave the name its depth of interest to the Hebrew bondsmen, who were not likely to be greatly influenced by purely ontological conceptions. The chosen sphere for the manifestation of the attributes denoted by these names of God was that marked out by the promises of the Covenant. El-Shaddai, e.g; while declaring the possession by God of the attribute of power in general, had immediate reference to the manifestations of power which God would give in the birth of Isaac, and in the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham of a numerous posterity (Genesis 16:1-7). It was power working in the interests of grace, in subserviency to love. The same is true of the name Jehovah. A view of God in his bare absoluteness would awaken only a speculative interest; but it is different when this self-existent, eternal Being is seen entering into history, and revealing himself as the God of compassionating love. Grace and mercy are felt to be no longer foreign to the meaning of the name, but to be as much a part of it as changelessness and freedom. This, accordingly, was what the name told to Israel; not simply that there was an Absolute, or even that he who had entered into covenant with the Fathers, and was now about to undertake their deliverance, was this absolute God; but rather, that it was in the work of their salvation that his perfections as Absolute were to be surprisingly and surpassingly exhibited. Their redemption was to be a chosen field for the manifestation of his Jehovah attributes. There would be given in it a discovery and demonstration of these surpassing everything that had hitherto been known. And was not this glorious comfort to a nation lying in darkness and the shadow of death!
II. THE HISTORICAL EXHIBITION OF THIS CONTRAST.
1. God revealed as El-Shaddai (Exodus 3:3). God was made known as El-Shaddai in the birth of IsaActs (Romans 4:17-22), in the care exercised over the patriarchs in their wanderings (Genesis 28:15), in the provision made for their temporal necessities (Genesis 45:5-9), in the increase and preservation of the chosen race in Egypt (Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:12, Exodus 1:20; Exodus 3:2). This name, however, was inadequate to express the richer aspects and relations of the Divine character brought to light in the Exodus, and in the subsequent experiences of the people.
2. The transition from El-Shaddai to Jehovah. Exodus 3:4-6 narrate the steps by which the way was prepared for the new and higher manifestation. The preparation involved—
(1) The establishment of a covenant of promise (Exodus 3:4). If God is revealed as Jehovah when seen acting with unbounded freedom in fulfilment of a purpose, then it was necessary, in order that the freedom and sovereignty of the worker might be rendered completely manifest, that the purpose should be previously declared. Only on the basis of a previously declared purpose could the Jehovah attributes be conspicuously and conclusively displayed. (See interesting remarks on this in Bruce's 'Chief End of Revelation' Revelation 4:1-11.)
(2) The development of a crisis in the situation of Israel (Exodus 3:5). This crisis was marked on the human side by the sufferings of Israel reaching a pitch of intensity which imperatively called for a Divine interposition; and on the Divine side, by God arousing himself, and determining himself to interfere on their behalf (Exodus 2:23-25). We have already seen that the bondage was not without Divine permission. We have traced it in—
(1) A punishment for sins,
(2) A trial of faith, and
(3) A moral preparation.
We have now to view in it a situation providentially prepared with the design of affording the tidiest possible scope for the display of the truth, grace, power, and all-embracing sovereignty of the great Being who was revealing himself in Israel's history.
3. God revealed as Jehovah (Exodus 3:6-9). This revelation would embrace—
(1) The deliverance of the people from the bondage and misery of Egypt, and this with great accompaniments of power and judgment (Exodus 3:6).
(2) Their adoption by God as a people to himself (Exodus 3:7).
(3) Their final settlement in Canaan, in fulfilment of promise (Exodus 3:8). By such deeds would God make it manifest that he was indeed Jehovah, their God. He would display his might; would demonstrate his supremacy as Moral Ruler; would magnify his covenant-keeping faithfulness; would reveal himself as the Living Personal God, working freely in history in pursuance of gracious purposes, and, in spite of all human opposition, bringing them to pass.
1. How wonderful to contemplate God in the majesty of his perfections as the Great I Am—the absolute and unconditioned Being! But what language will express the condescension and grace displayed in the stooping down of this absolute Being to enter into covenant engagements with man, even to the extent of binding himself with oaths to fulfil the promises given by his own free goodness.
2. The manifestation of the Jehovah attributes in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt has its higher counterpart in the discovery of them since made in the redemption of men from sin and Satan through Christ. Christ redeems us from sin's burden and from Satan's tyranny. He does this in virtue of the "stretched-out arm" and "mighty judgments" with which, while on earth, he overcame the Prince of the power of this world; himself also enduring the judgment of God in being "made sin for us," "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." By this atonement and victory, in the might of which he has now ascended on high, leading captivity captive, we, being reconciled to God, are formed into a people for his praise, and he becomes our God; the same power that redeemed us working in us to deliver us from sin in our members, and to prepare us for a heavenly inheritance; to which, as the goal of all God's leading of us, the promises immovably point forward (Romans 8:1, Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 1:12-15; Colossians 2:15; 1Pe 2:3-10; 1 Peter 2:9, 1 Peter 2:10).—J.O.
A rich promise.
The promise is as rich as it is wonderful, and as wonderful as it is rich—"I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God." It includes—
1. The highest honour. Who speaks? The absolute God. To whom? A nation of bondsmen. Yet he says—"I will take you," etc. And he did it, even as he still takes sinners in Christ into union and fellowship with himself—adopting them as sons, admitting them to covenant, making them heirs, etc.
2. The highest privilege. All promise and all blessing, for time and for eternity, are wrapped up in this single but most comprehensive word—"I will be to you a God."
3. The most indissoluble of relations. It lasts through time, and extends into eternity, enduring as long as God and the soul and Christ endure, and that is for ever (cf. Matthew 22:31, Matthew 22:32).—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
God encourages Moses in his despondency.
We have here—
I. MOSES QUESTIONING THE PROCEDURE OF JEHOVAH. Observe—
1. Moses in all his perplexity still acts upon the firm assurance that there is a Jehovah to resort to. "He returned unto the Lord." Neither the reproaches of the people nor his own disappointment made him at all to doubt that he was dealing with a glorious, awful, and Divine existence outside of himself. It seems just as much a matter of course for Moses to meet with Jehovah, as it had been for the Israelite officers to meet with Moses. This is one good result of all the discussion (for hardly any other term will sufficiently indicate it) which Moses has had with Jehovah concerning his own fitness. Every time God spoke he stood out before the mind of his servant more distinctly and impressively as a real existence. The troubled heart of Moses leads him here into a set of very ignorant questions; but these were a small evil compared with what might have happened, viz. a lapse into utter atheism.
2. Moses, like the Israelite officers makes the mistake of going by first consequences. He does not rebuke the officers for wrong expectations and hasty conclusions. By his language in approaching God, he admits to the full that these officers have reason for their reproaches. They have appealed to Jehovah as against Moses; Moses in turn can only appeal to Jehovah, not against them, but—to justify himself. How easy it is for a man, even though fully persuaded of God's existence, to have utterly erroneous thoughts of his purposes and of his ways of working. Evidently it will need a gradual process—and not without temporary retrogressions—in order to lift Moses above such conceptions of deity as he had gained in Egypt and Midian, and by all his acquaintance with current idolatries. It is easier to remember the name I AM than to understand the thing signified by the name.
3. In particular, Moses blundered in thinking of deliverance, not as a process, but as an act—something to be achieved by a miracle as instantaneous and complete as those which he had wrought before Israel. One of the most pernicious misapprehensions of the Gospel is that which looks on salvation as an instantaneous thing—which speaks of the saved, instead of using the more exact description, "those who are being saved" (Romans 5:10; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:9). First of all, we put our shallow, unspiritual notions into the Word of God, and then turn round in amazement, because his actions do not correspond with our ideas of what they should be.
4. We see from this utterance of Moses, how a man may make the first step towards freedom and Divine fulfilments of gracious purposes to him, and yet not know it. Moses having gone to Pharaoh, had met with nothing but rebuff; and was further compelled to see his brethren treated more cruelly than ever. He thinks nothing has been done, because he can see nothing, but he is utterly mistaken. The Israelites, had they only known it, were nearer salvation—a great deal nearer—than when they first believed. "Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people?" says Moses to Jehovah. Wherefore? indeed!—only we should ever ask all-important questions in their proper order. First, "Is it so?" and then, "Why is it so?" It was not true that Jehovah was evilly entreating the people. The liberating work was really begum, even though Moses could see no sign of it. When, from the point of view given by the catastrophe of the Red Sea, we look back on this first interview, then we see that it was also the first step in a solemn gradation—for Moses and Israel, the first step upwards; and just as surely for Pharaoh, the first step downwards.
II. GOD GIVES AN ANSWER FULL OF ENCOURAGEMENT.
1. Notice the absence of anything in the shape of rebuke. These words of Moses had a very offensive and dishonouring sound, but we do not read that Jehovah's anger was kindled against Moses (Exodus 4:14), or that he sought to kill him (Exodus 4:24). When there is a want of due and prompt submission to the commandments of God, especially when they are plain and decisive ones, then God begins to threaten. But when the thing lacking is a want of understanding as to God's way, then he patiently extends sympathy, and endeavours to give light and truth. A commander severely punishes a subordinate when he neglects plain orders at a critical juncture; but he would be very unreasonable if he expected him all at once to appreciate the plan of a campaign. Moses would have been very differently treated, if, after the reproaches of the officers, be had shown a spirit of disobedience towards Jehovah.
2. As to the substance of God's reply, what can be said that he has not said already; save that he puts the old truths and promises more emphatically, more comprehensively than ever? The first appeal to Moses is, to rest as far as he can in an undisturbed sense of the power of God. That power belongs to Jehovah is the one thing which Moses has seen most clearly, felt most deeply; and God began by assuring him that he will yet be convinced how strong the Divine hand is. The strong man, violently and wastefully laying hold of Jehovah's possessions, will be utterly subdued by a far stronger than himself. The next point to be noticed is that though, as we have said, there was no expressed rebuke, yet there are elements in this reply of God, out of which Moses, reflecting on what was expressed, could construct a rebuke for himself. Moses is not showing a faith equal to that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and yet they were without the revelation of this name JEHOVAH. Moses, who had been told more of the Divine nature than Abraham was told, ought to have believed not less readily and steadily than Abraham. Rest if you can, Moses, in all the comforts that flow from a due consideration of this great and exhaustless Name! Then God goes on to speak of his own faithfulness, of the covenant which was constantly in the Divine mind. Was it for Moses to speak as if God was unmindful of that covenant; he to speak, who but lately had shown his own want of regard to the human side of it, and been in deadly pork[ because of his uncircumcised son! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is Jehovah, the great I Am. If, then, he made a covenant with all its promises yesterday, be sure that to-day he is doing something to carry that covenant out. If, yesterday, he expressed compassion for the oppressed, and wrath with the oppressor, be sure that he has not relapsed into cold indifference to-day. These capricious sympathies are reserved for men and women who will weep over the mimic and exaggerated sorrows of the stage, and then go home to harden their hearts against the terrible sorrows of real life. When we read over the words of Moses here, and compare them with the words of God, we see how contracted were the views of Moses, and how gloriously enlarged were the views of God. Moses is thinking simply of deliverance—how to get the present generation from under the yoke of the oppressor; but God has in his mind a great plan, of which the deliverance from Pharaoh is but one stage in the development, and that a very brief stage. To the completion of this plan the liberation of Israel was necessary, and therefore this liberation would assuredly be achieved. Moses, so to speak, was low down in a hollow; he could get no proper view of the distances; he could not get a due impression of all this tract of time, from God's first appearing to Abraham down to the securing of the inheritance; and therefore he may well be excused if he speaks hastily. But God looks down from his throne in eternity. The whole stretch of the work lies before him, and thus beholding it, he can but reiterate his promises, exhibit the great features of his plan, and counsel Moses and Israel to do the one thing needful, i.e. continue obediently waiting upon him in the generation in which they live. Let us do what God tells us, being perfectly sure that he sees what we cannot see, and that, because he is the God who cannot lie, he sets all things before us just as they are.
3. Another thing is to be considered here, which, though omitted from Jehovah's answer to Moses, ought not to be neglected by us. For typical purposes, the welfare and future of Israel is the great thing spoken of; Pharaoh is looked at simply as the cruel adversary and oppressor of Israel. Hence just those things are stated which most effectively show his complete downfall. But we must remember that the things which are stated at any particular time are only a small part of what are in the mind of God. He states not all the considerations which inspire his acts, but only such as it may be well for us to know. Pharaoh had to be dealt with as a man, even though the record is' emphatically constructed so as to set him forth merely as a type. It would have been manifestly unjust to bring upon him sudden and terrible destruction of all his power, without an appearance of appeal to his voluntary action.—Y.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
The message to afflicted Israel.
I. THE WORD TO THE LEADER: Exodus 6:2-5. The message must be from faith to faith. The heart of God's servant must first be revived ere he can impart strength to the people.
1. He is reminded of God's faithfulness: "I am Jehovah." We cannot grasp this truth without deliverance from fear.
2. The darkness will only make God's glory shine out the more resplendently. Their present sufferings will mark a new era in God's revelation of himself. Known before as the Almighty, he will now reveal himself as Jehovah, "the faithful One," who remembers and fulfils his promises.
3. Having grasped the truth regarding God's faithfulness he is led back to the promises by which the Lord has bound himself.
4. The assurance of present sympathy and speedy deliverance. He has heard their groaning and called to remembrance his pledged word. To dwell in these truths is to possess light and power. God's word will then be a joy to our hearts, and will be in our lips consolation and strength for the fainting ones around us.
II. THE WORD TO THE PEOPLE: Exodus 6:6-8.
1. It is shut in between the reiterated assurance, "I am Jehovah," Exodus 6:6-9. For them, too, the truth to rest in is God's faithfulness.
2. The deliverance will be accompanied by the revelation of God's terribleness (Exodus 6:6). Israel never forgot those days, and never will.
3. God will wed them to himself. He does not deliver us and then leave us: "I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God."
4. He will fulfil all the promises and give them the land for a heritage. This is the Gospel message: Our bonds will be broken—God will bind us to himself and give us his people's heritage. Have we received it? Is it a living hope, an abiding joy to us?—U.
HOMILIES BY G. A. GOODHART
The Lord thy God is one God.
God appeared to the fathers of the race under one name; to their successors under another. Name is more than title; it is the character, or aspect of character, denoted by the title. Jehovah would seem to have been a title of God before the time of Moses; but to him, and to the Israelites through him, was first revealed that aspect of the Divine character which explained and justified the title. Notice—
I. ONE MAY KNOW GOD WITHOUT KNOWING ALL ABOUT HIM. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob certainly knew God. They believed in him as an Almighty Ruler—one who was ruling them, and who would fulfil his promise to them. His power and his trustworthiness were the characteristics they most relied on. Their faith centred in his name El-Shaddai, and as a living practical faith it tended to secure the righteousness for which—as seed for fruit—it was reckoned. [Illustration:—Certain medicines, in earlier years, were trusted and used successfully to produce certain effects; yet other uses remained unknown until long afterwards.] God was trusted by the patriarchs to the extent of their then knowledge, though they knew nothing of other characteristics which were to be afterwards revealed.
II. WE MAY KNOW GOD UNDER DIFFERENT ASPECTS, AND YET KNOW THE SAME GOD. No doubt the revelation of a new name, the fixing of the attention upon a new aspect of the Divine character, must have been, at first, somewhat startling to those who held by the old traditions. Those taught to believe in El-Shaddai may have held the new believers in Jehovah unorthodox. Yet both, in so far as their belief was genuine, knew and trusted the same God. Jehovah was El-Shaddai only viewed from a new standpoint. There was no contradiction between the two names—one God owned both.
III. WE MAY EXPECT AS THE OLD ORDER CHANGES TO VIEW GOD UNDER OTHER THAN THE OLD CONDITIONS. The new revelation resulted from new conditions. The old order having changed, a new standpoint was necessitated, whence God must be viewed under a new aspect. [Illustration:—The properties of a medicine are discovered little by little, as new diseases cause it to be applied in different ways.] New conditions must result in new discoveries as to the "properties" of God.
Application:—God is one; Truth is one; yet God and Truth are many-sided—we see them differently according to the position which we occupy. Some people are in a great hurry to denounce all novelty as heresy; but novelty may mean nothing more than a new point of view, whereas heresy results from distorted vision; it sees wrongly, through personal idiosyncrasy, that which, from the same standpoint, is seen clearly by the clear-eyed. We do well to suspect ourselves when our conclusions differ from those of others. We may test such conclusions in two ways:—
1. What are the conditions under which they have been arrived at? If the conditions have changed, we may expect the conclusions to be different.
2. Do they contradict old beliefs? If so, they should be suspected—or, Do they merely embrace them within a wider faith? If so, they may sufficiently justify themselves. We may expect new revelations, but we must not hurriedly accept novelties. New names will be made known, but they are never really inconsistent with the old.—G.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. The Israelites, who had expected a speedy deliverance, and found themselves only the more down-trodden for Moses' interference, were too much dispirited to be cheered even by the gracious promises and assurances which Moses was commissioned to give. They had no longer any trust in one who they thought had deceived them. He was a dreamer, a visionary, if no worse. They did not intend hearkening to him any more. "Anguish of spirit" possessed their souls, and "cruel bondage" claimed their bodies, day after day. They had not even the time, had they had the will, to hearken.
Anguish of spirit. Literally, "shortness." Compare Job 21:4. Their spirit was shortened—they had lost all heart, as we say, so cruel had been their disappointment. The contrast between their feelings now, and when Moses first addressed them (Exodus 4:31), is strong, but "fully accounted for by the change of circumstances". (Cook). Cruel bondage. Bondage, i.e; far more oppressive and continuous than. it had been (Exodus 5:9-14). The Samaritan version adds: "And they said to him, Let us alone, and let us serve the Egyptians; for it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than die in a wilderness," an addition which receives some support from Exodus 14:12.
Spiritual deadness produced by extreme physical need.
It is the worst result of long-continued oppression that it brings its victims into a state of apathy. Servile insurrections are rare—servile wars all but unknown. Slavery so crushes men, so brutalises, so deadens them, that they lose all heart, all spirit, all hope, almost all feeling. Defenders of slavery call the proper objects of the "institution" live machines; and "live machines" is exactly what it tends to make them. What is to stir a mass so sluggish and inert that it vegetates rather than lives? Not the name of God (Exodus 6:3). It falls on closed ears—it has no meaning to them, conveys no idea, arouses no thought. Not the mention of a covenant (Exodus 6:4, Exodus 6:5). They cannot realise so complex a notion—cannot understand what the word means. Not promises (Exodus 6:6-8). A promise has no power unless embraced by faith; and the down-trodden have no faith, either in themselves or in others. So the most stirring appeals are made in vain—the brightest hopes and prospects presented to no purpose. And as with oppression, so with all extreme depression and destitution. Hopeless poverty, constant battle with the wolf at the door, continual striving to keep off starvation from themselves, their wives, and children, reduces a population to a condition in which it becomes dead to spiritual things, and not only appears to be, but is, unimpressible. It is so occupied with the cares of this life that it has no thought for another. It has bid farewell to hope, and with hope to fear. It is reckless. The preacher can do nothing with it until he has changed the physical conditions of its existence. He must first address himself to the people's physical wants. Let these be provided for, let the struggle for existence slacken, let hope dawn on the despairing souls, and all will at once be different. As the unbound earth opens to receive seed at the genial breath of spring, so these torpid souls may be brought to take in the seed of life, by having their bodies warmed and clothed and cared for.
HOMILIES BY H. T. ROBJOHNS
Exodus 6:11, Exodus 6:13
The new commission.
And Moses spoke so, etc.: Exodus 6:9.
I. THE AUDACITY OF FAITH. Describe the treatment of Moses and Aaron. They acted under Divine direction, did their very best, but just because everything did not go well instantly, and that through the frowardness and waywardness of others, the people turned upon them, and upbraided them as accessories to their slavery. [See Matthew Henry for some valuable practical notes on this and other parts of this passage from Exodus 5:22-13.] Moses felt this keenly, and in a moral sense retreated upon his base—that is, upon God. Compare Hezekiah and the letter. Alone with God, Moses complained. Moses is very bold—tells God to his face that he has not delivered Israel at all; that he has brought evil upon the nation, already oppressed to the border of despair; and challenges the Eternal as to his own commission. All this is high tragedy in the realms of spiritual life, and may well demand consideration. Consider—
1. The audacity of Moses. See Exodus 5:22, Exodus 5:23. Is this the language of enquiry or entreaty? Not at all. Of impetuosity, of remonstrance; it borders on the irreverent; the tone is angry, and nearly rebellious. [Note—Such a speech as this would never have been put into the mouth of Moses by any later writer—sure mark this, that we have the history under the hand of Moses.] Such expressions are not uncommon with Old Testament saints. See especially Jeremiah 20:7, et seq. We learn that believers do not stand related to God as stones lying under a cast-iron canopy of destiny. They are quivering sensibilities in the presence of the Father of spirits. What they feel, they may say; better to say it. And if an earthly parent will make allowances for an angry, misapprehending child, shall not our Father in heaven? "Let us therefore come boldly," etc.
2. The error of Moses. God was all the time working in the direction of salvation for the people and of extraordinary eminence for Moses; but he thought everything looked the other way. A similar error may be ours.
3. The accomplishment of the Divine purpose in Moses. To draw him away from all secondary causes, to dependence on and communion with God.
II. THE CONDESCENDING FORBEARANCE OF GOD. In answer to the cry of Moses, God made five announcements of the very first importance. They were made with distinctness, formality, and solemnity. Note—Them may have been an interval of months between the cry and these announcements. Note also, that this is not a second account of the revelation of the Burning Bush. The true explanation of the likeness between the two revelations is, that Moses having fallen into a desponding state of mind, God recalled to him first principles. So now, one cure at least for discouragement is to fall back on elemental Gospel truths. God announced—
1. His resolve: Jeremiah 20:1, see Hebrew; and expound the true meaning. Pharaoh would be forced, not only to "send" Israel out, but to "drive" them out.
2. His name. First, God gave again his proper name, "Jehovah;" and then we have a positive and a negative declaration—
(1) Positive. To the fathers God had been known as El-Shaddai—God all-sufficient—that is, to and for them in their moving tents.
(2) Negative. This may not mean that "Jehovah" had never fallen on their ear; but this, that all in that name had not dawned on their intelligence. God's revelation of himself is always gradual. So it is in the gradual unfolding of the successive Bible economies. And so it is still. Modern science cannot give us a different idea of God; but an enlarged idea, and one vastly illuminated. Dr. Chalmers when delivering his "Astronomical Discourses' had a grander idea of God than John Milton. Geology tells us of the aeons through which he works. Microscopical revelations tell of the infinitude of his condescensions. As Diderot said: "Elargissez Dieu"—Enlarge your idea of God.
3. His covenant: verse 4.
4. His sympathy: verse 5. With new sorrows.
5. His salvation: verses 6, 7, 8. It is impossible to read these verses without noting the parallel with a still greater salvation. God promised—
(1) Deliverance. Note the "burden-bearing" (see the Hebrews) of sin—its essential servitude—the redemption price—the power, the outstretched arm, with which salvation is wrought—the judgment on powers of darkness, Colossians 2:15.
(3) The land of rest. These blessings for us, as for them, on the condition of implicit trust.
III. THE DEAFENING POWER OF SORROW: Colossians 2:9. The contrast now and Exodus 4:31. "On a former occasion the people were comparatively at ease, accustomed to their lot, sufficiently afflicted to long for deliverance, and sufficiently free in spirit to hope for it." Now!—Exodus 4:9. Observe the Hebrews, "shortness of breath," i.e. such as comes with anguish; or may not the meaning be, "shortness of spirit," as we say "shortness of temper"? This verse is against the theory that Israel, by sheer force of religious enthusiasm, emancipated itself. For them, as for us, no salvation save in Jehovah their God. Sorrow may shut out comfort. How many mistakenly stay away from the sanctuary because of their grief!
IV. THE PERSISTENCE OF THE DELIVERING GOD. In this extremity of woe, God appears. The demand once was for a three days' absence; now God uncovers all his purpose. Exodus 4:11 is the ultimatum of God. This new commission overwhelms Moses with a deeper sense of incompetence. He pleads—
1. The aversion of his own people. Effective homiletic use may here be made of the fact, that much of the strength of ministers, which might be used against the enemies of God, is used in dealing with the frowardness.of his professed friends.
2. His own infirmity. There may be here a sense of moral unfitness—"uncircumcised lips"—and a latent reference to the disobedience, Exodus 4:24-26. God did not allow these pleas; but put the two leaders forward once more into the position of responsibility, peril, and honour (Exodus 4:13).—R.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The pains of the lower life shutting out the blessings of the higher one.
They hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage." Notice that this reason, and not some other, is stated for the indifference of Israel to the glorious words which Moses was commanded to repeat to them. We might fairly have expected some other reason to be stated; as, for instance, "We have been deceived once, and are not again to be put off with fair words;" or, "This array of promises is very grand and imposing, but there is nothing in them." But they are emphatically represented as not even attending to what Moses had to say. Their minds were effectually closed by preoccupation with something else. They were so much harassed in body and mind as to lack not only the inclination, but even the ability, to give Moses a proper hearing. And so Pharaoh's policy had this effect at least, that it prevented the people, for a while, from considering things belonging to their highest welfare. Only we must bear in mind that as the liberating advance of God was not in the least hindered by the cruelty of Pharaoh, so neither was it hindered by the negligence of Israel. A Pharaoh could not hinder, so the people could neither help nor hinder. When they were yet without strength, utterly without strength, in due time God intervened to deliver them.
I. There is thus suggested to us how we should keep in mind ONE GREAT CAUSE OF HINDRANCE TO THE GOSPEL. A message like that of the Gospel of Christ finds great difficulty in its way from preoccupation of any kind, seeing that the mind of man cannot properly entertain two great topics of thought at the same time. Some one thing must hold a first place in thought; and when the heart is occupied with the presence of worldly cares, whatever form they take, then it must be peculiarly hard for the Gospel to find a foothold. God, when he seeks love and service from us, looks to find his rivals in ambition, in pleasure, in fiches; and we are used to hear frequent warnings against these rivals. But what rival is more dangerous than (say) poverty, that cleaving, biting, pinching spirit, which, when once it gets hold of a man, never lets him forget that it is near. What chance is there then to bring out of the heart a deep conviction of sin and spiritual need? The difficulties of getting the natural man to attend to spiritual concerns are immensely increased by poverty as well as by riches. If, upon some considerations, it is seen to be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, upon other considerations it is seen to be equally hard for the poor. The poor have the Gospel presented to them, but alas! it is often hard work to persuade them that it is a Gospel. Go to them, and how are you often met? It may be that your very exemption from a life-long struggle for daily bread blinds you to their peculiar difficulties. You are not able to see that grim wolf which is incessantly at the door, and never out of their thoughts. What wonder if at first—and indeed habitually—the poor should think that there is little or nothing in religion! Often they show their feeling very plainly by bitter and savage words. They want a gospel; but not your gospel. They do not care for a gospel which, while it makes large offers, makes also large demands. They do not care to be asked for self-denial, self-respect, contentment, and patient submission to hard conditions which cannot be easily or immediately altered. They want a gospel which will give, and give just what they choose to ask. The privations, the struggles, the agonies of the poor reduce them often nearer to the spirit of wild beasts than of human beings. Give them what indulges their appetites, and they will welcome you. Minister to the cravings of the flesh, and they will wait as long as you are disposed to supply. But proclaim unpalatable truths, and you might as well -speak in a wilderness. We might pursue a similar line of thought in considering the anguish of spirit and cruel bondage of heathendom. The missionary often has to speak to those whose minds are oppressed with terrible visions of deities who can only be propitiated by laborious and agonising penances. Read what is said concerning the life-long austerities of some Hindoo devotees, and then consider whether you have not in them a bondage of spirit which may only too effectually shut out even the most attractive truths of the Gospel. We might speak also of the cruel bondage of worldly conventions; the incessant and weary struggle to keep up social position—a struggle which, however ridiculous it may be made to look, is, in the eyes of multitudes, a great necessity. And if a man feels a thing a necessity, then you must, at least in your first approaches to him, treat it as a necessity. And last, but not least, there is the anguish and bondage of disease, physical pain, perhaps approaching death. The sick send, or are supposed to send, for ministers of religion, but how plain it is in the great bulk of instances that such resorts are utterly ineffectual to bring the sick person to God! There may be an appearance of repentance, a pretence of understanding the way of salvation; but when we know that the actual motive is the fear of death, and not the bitter consciousness of sin, then we cannot but distrust all the action following upon the motive. When a human being, in youth, in health, and with the prospect. of a long life, professes to be smitten with convictions of sin, and begins to seek for a Saviour, we know where we are in considering his position. His apparent motive has everything in the circumstances to approve itself as a real one. But when the appearance of interest in Divine things only comes consequent on the alarms of a dangerous, perhaps a fatal illness, then we suspect that the cry for salvation is a selfish and ignorant one; and how can we be sure that it will be anything but a vain one? A courteous pretence of listening to the message of God when there is no real apprehension of it is practically the same thing as not listening at all.
II. NOTE THE OBJECTION WHICH IS BROUGHT AGAINST THE GOSPEL FROM ITS INABILITY TO DEAL IMMEDIATELY WITH ALL THIS ANGUISH AND BONDAGE OF MEN. There is a plausible argument—one very frequently urged, and alas! very easily deceiving—that the Gospel of Christ does nothing immediately for the social improvement of the world. What is more common than the cry, when some hideous blot and ulcer of society is suddenly revealed, "Here we stand, having only got so far, after more than eighteen centuries of Christianity!" And in hearing talk of this kind, which is sometimes sincere, but oftener is mere cant, we have not so much to reply to others as to enlighten and reassure ourselves. How easily it might have been said with respect to these Israelites, "God is no deliverer, else he would at once take these people—this living, suffering generation—out of all their pains." What God might have done we cannot tell; we only know what he actually did. The light of the whole transaction shows that Jehovah was unquestionably a deliverer; that however a single generation might suffer, the whole nation was in due time, and at the best time, fully redeemed. And in like manner, by the consideration of ultimate results as well as present experiences, we gain the assurance that God is truly the deliverer of men from all spiritual bondage, all spiritual pain. Our frequent folly as defenders of the faith is in saying more than there is any need to say. Let us keep within safe, practical, provable assertions, and these will give an answer enough for the present need. The Gospel of Christ, we know, does something, immediately, for every one who, in response to its great invitation, believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Real belief in him will at once irradiate the meanest hovel, the most squalid circumstances, with a light which may most truly be described as
The light that never was on sea or land.
No combination of favourable social surroundings will ever bring that light; nothing will bring it but the soul's own free and intelligent admission of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. His presence thus obtained gives joy in the midst of the bitterest anguish, liberty in the midst of the most grinding bondage. The more that people believe in Christ, the more we shall have of his effectual presence in the world; and the more we have of his effectual presence, the nearer we shall come to that perpetual summer when the ice that now wraps so many human hearts will be utterly and lastingly melted away. Social reformers who are not also humble Christians, with all their pretensions and all their zeal, are' only touching secondary causes; relieving symptoms without cutting at the root of disease. No human being ever did or ever will get clear of anguish and bondage except by submitting to Christ. And no one ever submitted to Christ without having the certain assurance given, that in due time all sorrow and sighing would for ever flee away.—Y.
The Israelites having shown themselves, for the time, unimpressible, God commands Moses to make his next effort upon the Pharaoh. He is to enter into his presence once more, and demand, without circumlocution or obscurity, that the Israelites be allowed to quit the land (Exodus 6:11). Moses, however, demurs. He had done God's will with respect to the people readily and at once, expecting that, as he had persuaded them before, so he would a second time. But he had been disappointed; the people had refused to listen to him. Immediately all his original self-distrust and diffidence recurred—even the old form of diffidence, distrust of his ability to persuade men (Exodus 4:10). How shall he expect to persuade Pharaoh, who had already rejected him (Exodus 5:2-5), when he bad just failed with his own countrymen, who previously had "believed" his report (Exodus 4:31)?
Out of his land. Note the advance in the demand. No longer is there any limitation to a three days' journey, as at first (Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:3). The children of Israel are to be let go altogether "out of the land." So generally, if God lays a light burthen upon us and we refuse it, we may expect him to exchange our light burthen for a heavier one. We had better accept the first cross he offers.
Uncircumcised lips, i.e. "lips inefficient for the purpose for which lips are given;" as "uncircumcised ears" are ears that cannot hearken (Jeremiah 6:10), and an "uncircumcised heart" a heart that cannot understand (Jeremiah 9:26). The meaning is the same as in Exodus 4:10, where Moses says that he is "slow of speech and of a slow tongue." Nothing can be determined from the expression as to the exact cause of the imperfection of which complaint is made.
The servant of God must labour unceasingly.
Scarcely has Moses made one attempt at service and failed than God requires of him another service. "Go in, speak unto Pharaoh." In the career of God's servants there is "no rest, no pause." Failure here must be redeemed by effort there. And in this unceasing continuance of service one thing is especially remarkable. After failure, not a lighter but a heavier duty is commonly imposed on men. If they prove unable to convince their kindred, they are given a mission to strangers; if they fail with men of low degree, they are appointed to preach to princes. God will have them redeem failure by fresh effort. God knows the causes of their failure, and introduces them to new spheres, where those causes will not operate, or operate less. A man who has failed in a humble sphere not unfrequently succeeds in a higher one. The servant of God must not care greatly about the sphere to which he is called, but seek to do his best in each while he remains in it. He will thus—
1. Be always labouring for God;
2. Be always exercising and so improving his own mental and spiritual gifts; and
3. Be of far more benefit to others than if he sat idle half his time waiting for such a call as seemed to him altogether fitting and suitable. "The time is short." We must "work while it is day—the night cometh when no man can work."
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Exodus 6:9-14, Exodus 6:28-30
Shaken faith, and an unshaken purpose.
In these verses we have—
I. A PAINFUL RESULT OF AFFLICTIVE PROVIDENCE. The children of Israel, hard-driven by their taskmasters, and sunk in misery, were so stupefied with sorrow, as to have no longer any heart for their cheering tidings brought to them by Moses. Their despair had its ground in unbelief. They judged Moses a deceiver. They had trusted him before, and they reflected that the only outcome of it had been this unprecedented aggravation of their wretchedness. His fine promises must now go for what they were worth; they were past deriving comfort from them! Yet observe how in all this—
1. They wronged God. God had not deserted them as they thought. He was on the very eve of fulfilling every promise he had made them. We see the error in their case; it would be well if we could always see it as clearly in our own.
2. Made their trials harder. For if trials are hard enough to bear even with faith in the goodness and help of God, how much harder are they to bear without it!
3. Shut themselves out from Divinely-sent consolation. Their despondency led them. to refuse the very message which would have given them relief. How often is the same thing witnessed under severe affliction! There is a kind of perversity in grief, which leads it to "refuse to be comforted." God is mistrusted. The heart abandons itself to its despair. It sinks in gloom and wretchedness. It turns the very truth of God into a lie, and refuses Scripture and Gospel consolations. Unhappy condition! And as foolish as unhappy—for God is never nearer to the suffering spirit, never more ready to hear its cry, probably never nearer bringing it deliverance, than just when it is thus shutting out his consolations, and refusing him its confidence.
II. TYPICAL DISCOURAGEMENTS IN SPIRITUAL SERVICE (Exodus 6:9, Exodus 6:13, Exodus 6:30). Moses was sorely discouraged—
1. At the unbelieving despair of the people. He could make no impression on them. They seemed hardened in their misery. So swallowed up were they in their grief, so crushed with sorrow, that their minds seemed to have lost all elasticity, all power of responding to the gladdest of tidings. This is a difficulty one has often to contend with in spiritual work—the spiritless, despairing condition induced by long experience of misfortune. The city missionary, e.g; has frequently to encounter it in going among the dwellings of the very poor. His heart sickens as he realises how little chance his Gospel has of finding acceptance in homes where all the surroundings are wretched, and where from year's end to year's end, there is being carried on the same heartless, monotonous "struggle for existence." But this insensibility to religion induced by suffering is not peculiar to the poor. Far from it. You will find it wherever men are sore beset with trouble, and have no firm, rooted faith in God to support them under it. Absorbed in "the sorrow of the world," they have no ear for spiritual comfort, and almost spurn it as a mockery.
2. At the prospect of having to go again before Pharaoh. Having failed with the people, how should he hope to prevail with Pharaoh, emboldened as that monarch would be with the success of a previous refusal? The element of discouragement here is the depressing sense of failure. Moses had failed in the part of the work which seemed easiest, and in which on the former occasion he had succeeded; how, then, should he look for success in the more difficult part of it, where previously he had sustained defeat? Observe carefully that on this point Moses' plea was not admitted.
(1) We are bad judges of what is failure. What Moses counted-defeats were not defeats at all, but at most delays. The history of missions furnishes striking illustrations of the danger of too hastily concluding that a work has failed because no immediate fruits are visible. Nothing has been more common in missionary experience (South Seas, Madagascar, Tinnivelly, the Kohls, etc.) than times of extraordinary fruitfulness following upon long periods of seeming failure—ten, twenty, thirty years often passing without a single convert. These were seasons of trial of faith, and had the missions been abandoned, as timid counsellors advised, the whole blessing would have been lost.
(2) It is the doing of our duty we arc held responsible for, not the failure or success which may attend it. That remains with God. The lesson is that in spiritual work there must be no talk of abandonment; no putting of the hand to the plough and then looking back; no flinging away of our weapons because the outlook is discouraging. Our part is to labour on, believing that "in due season we shall reap if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9).
3. By the revived sense of personal deficiencies. "How then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips!" Moses had Aaron, it was true, to speak for him, but there was a certain clumsiness in this method of two men going in, the one to speak for the other, and Moses felt his deficiency only the more keenly on account of it. He seems to have despaired of having any influence with Pharaoh, who would look on him with contempt. Moses forgot that in work of this kind no man "goeth a warfare any time at his own charges" (1 Corinthians 9:7), and that, if God sent him, God would qualify and support him, would give him strength for every duty he had to perform (cf. Exodus 7:1-7).
III. GOD'S UNSHAKEN PURPOSE ASSERTING ITSELF IN THE MIDST OF HUMAN UNBELIEF AND INFIRMITY (Exodus 6:11, Exodus 6:13, Exodus 6:29). This is a most remarkable feature in the narrative—how, high and clear above all notes of doubt and hesitancy on the side of man, and at the very time when things are wearing their most untoward aspect, God expresses himself with perfect decision as to the deliverance of the people. Hope in the hearts of the people seemed extinct; even the faith of a Moses was staggering at the obstacles to be encountered. These fears and tremblings, however, are all on the human side; he who names himself Jehovah is raised infinitely above them, and has clearly in his view not only the certainty of his purpose being fulfilled, but all the steps by which the fulfilment is to be brought about. How should this give us confidence when we are trembling for the cause of Truth! We cannot see the end from the beginning, but Jehovah can, and we can stay ourselves on his knowledge of what is dark to us. It is enough for us to know that no contingency can arise which he is not aware of and has not prepared himself to cope with; that no opposition can erect itself against his counsel, which it is not within his power to overthrow. The counsel of the Lord stands for ever—the one stable fact in the midst of earthly vicissitude and change, of all ebb and flow of human hopes and fears. That surely is enough to lean upon, in the dark and troubled hours of our own and of the world's existence.
IV. FRESH EVIDENCE OF THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF THE DELIVERANCE, Allusion has already been made to the theory that the Exodus had its origin, not in a supernatural interposition of God, but in some gigantic spiritual movement springing up among the people themselves. The facts in this chapter, if anything of the character of history belongs to them, conclusively dispose of that theory. So far from the people of Israel being in a state of hopeful enthusiasm, ready to make great efforts for their own deliverance, they appear as utterly crushed and broken-spirited—totally "without strength." There was doubtless a profound purpose in God's permitting them to be brought into this condition.
1. It made more manifest the fact that their deliverance did not originate with themselves. And
2. It furnishes a striking image of Gospel truth. We too were "without strength" when, "in due time, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). There was the want of will as well as of power to do anything of ourselves. God has interposed, and done all for us.—J.O.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The uncircumcised lips.
I. "UNCIRCUMCISED LIPS." Enquire what the significance of this strange expression mail be, as coming from Moses. It can hardly have been a current proverbial phrase adopted for the occasion by Moses, as a still more forcible statement of what he had said before on his felt inability as a speaker. There is no reason to suppose that up to this time there was any such feeling among the Israelites as would originate the expression "uncircumcised lips." They had, indeed, in one instance professed themselves very tenacious of the outward form (Genesis 34:15), but a general appreciation of the inward and spiritual meaning of this form was not to be expected. Hence we may take these words of Moses as giving a fresh, original and emphatic expression of how deeply Moses felt himself lacking in qualification for this serious enterprise. And evidently also, Moses was doing more than give a forcible variation of the old tale. The new expression goes deeper in its significance than "slow of speech and slow of tongue." It indicates that Moses had been pondering, as indeed he had reason to ponder, the meaning of circumcision. Circumcision was a separating sign, the sign of a peculiar destiny and inheritance, of peculiar duties and privileges. But so far it seemed only to have produced outward separation without inward differences, differences of feeling and disposition. Moses could not see that circumcision had done anything to give him ability for his peculiar task. His way of speaking may therefore be taken as a sign of advance in his appreciation of what was necessary to do Jehovah's work. Hitherto his great concern had been because of natural defects in mere organs of action. He had not thought so much of what was lacking in the life that lay behind the organs, and acted through them. But now we gain some hint that Moses sees what is really wanted. The thing wanted is not simply to be lifted up to the level of men who have all natural qualifications for effective speech, but to be lifted altogether above the ordinary level. Though Moses was "slow of speech, and of a slow tongue," others were not; but they were all of "uncircumcised lips." Moses, we may take it, has now got beyond the personal reluctance which actuated him in his pleas at Horeb. The avengers of the slain Egyptian no longer frown upon him from the horizon of memory. But now comes in this new plea, urged in a worthier spirit, and with a mournful consciousness of its permanent force. It is a plea which is not a mere excuse, but possesses more of the dignity of a reason.
II. JEHOVAH IN HIS REPLY MAKES NO DIRECT REFERENCE TO THIS CIRCUMCISION OF THE LIPS. When Moses aforetime had spoken of his vocal defects, God at once reminded him that defects of this sort were beyond human responsibility, and he also indicated the clear provision through Aaron for the supply of them. Here, indeed, he again takes the opportunity of repeating to Moses that so far as vocal defects are concerned, Aaron will amply compensate for them. But as to the lips being uncircumcised, while this is indeed true, it is a state of things which does not bear upon the present need. Suppose the lips are circumcised—that is, suppose that Moses in his words is brought into full sympathy with the purposes of God—it will make no difference in the immediate results. Pharaoh's heart is being hardened; his ears are being closed. It matters not with what purity, simplicity, devotion, and faithfulness we speak, if we speak to that which is insensible. Let us by all means blame ourselves for the faulty way in which we speak and live the message of God, but our faults do not account for the indifference and the rejections of other men. These faults bring us under censure for our unfaithfulness, but they do not excuse the unbeliever for his neglect. If but one clear word concerning Jesus be spoken—spoken only once—it is enough to fix responsibility on the auditor. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." If ever being on earth spoke with circumcised lips, it was Jesus himself, yet how idly fell all his solemn, weighty, truthful words upon the ear of Pharisee and Sadducee. Moses will have blame enough by-and-by, first, cruel and undeserved blame from Israel; and next, the censure and penalty from Jehovah for the lapse at Meribah. At present, though he is speaking of an unquestionable defect, he is speaking of it in a premature and inapplicable way. He must indeed know the circumcision of the lip and of all other natural faculties; for this is consequent on the circumcision of the heart. But the great object of all this circumcision is not to secure his acceptance with Pharaoh or with any other sinful or rebellious man. It is rather to secure his acceptance with God, and especially his full enjoyment of all that comes through tiffs acceptance.
III. JEHOVAH POINTS OUT THE WAY IN WHICH PHARAOH SHALL BE EFFECTUALLY BROUGHT TO SUBMISSION.
1. In the sight of Pharoh, Moses is to become a God. In effect Pharaoh has said that Jehovah is no God, and in his heart he thinks Moses a presumptuous impostor. Pharaoh is therefore in a state of mind in which it is impossible to reveal Jehovah to him, but Moses in his own person shall set forth—shall incarnate, so to speak—all that Pharaoh can understand or needs to understand of the Divine Fewer. Tie shall be compelled to respect the ever-increasing power of Moses. He may hate it, he may make some attempts to resist it, but at the same time the very force of circumstances will bear it in on his mind as a tremendous reality. He shall see how all these successive devastations of his land are connected in some inscrutable way with the presence of Moses and the waving of his red. Whatever the blindness of his heart so that seeing he does not perceive, he will be obliged to perceive that the strength of Moses does not lie in any visible, terrestrial forces. With all Iris obduracy, Pharaoh has a certain sense of awe before Moses, and doubtless this is the reason why no attempt is made to treat the person of Moses with violence.
2. Notice the way in which God here applies the method of mediation. Moses was not a mediator as from Pharaoh upwards to Jehovah, but he was a mediator from Jehovah downwards to Pharaoh. God thus seizes upon the disposition among the ignorant to venerate inscrutable power. Pharaoh will not listen to Moses speaking, but when the signs begin, and especially when they advance far beyond anything which his own magicians can simulate, he is ready to look on Moses as having something of a Divine nature. God looked for the impressible part in Pharaoh's mind and found it here. The way in which Pharaoh evidently came to regard Moses (God's word in Exodus 7:1 being the voucher for the feeling) is illustrated by the attitude towards Paul and Barnabas of the Lystrans (Acts 14:8-13) and towards Paul of the Melitans (Acts 28:6).
3. Notice how God lays emphasis on Pharaoh's continued indifference to any verbal message. "Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you." The thoughts of Moses are to be turned away more and more from his own lips or from any other faculty. He is to see that the great antagonists in this contest—even though he is made as a God to Pharaoh—are Jehovah and Pharaoh themselves. It is necessary that Pharaoh should have ample opportunity to show the extent of his passive strength, how long and how stiffly he can resist the constraints of Divine omnipotence. Goal stoops to a patient struggle with this obdurate monarch that he may thereby present, to all who read the Scriptures, an illustration of the complete way in which his power deals with the most stubborn assertions of human power. The Israelites, even with all their sufferings, had as yet seen only a part of what Pharaoh could do. They had seen him in cruel action; they had also to see him in stolid endurance. So Moses had seen signs of Divine power; but he had yet to see that power itself in extensive and awful operation. On the one hand Pharaoh is to be revealed, bringing out all his resources again and again, until at last they are swallowed in the catastrophe of the Red Sea. Then, he is done with, but the operations of Divine power are only as it were beginning. It is a great matter that we should thus see the powers arrayed against God, working at the utmost of their strength; that we may feel how immeasurably the power of God transcends them.—Y.
HOMILIES BY J. URQUHART
The contagion of despair.
I. ISRAEL'S REJECTION OF THE PROFFERED CONSOLATION. They hearkened not "for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage."
1. The sympathy of the Word of God. Their case stated not only fairly but with infinite compassion.
2. Israel's folly. Their anguish is permitted to stand between them and God their only helper—their sickness between them and the great Physician; multitudes will not hear because they have no sense of need, and multitudes again because their need is so very great. Israel in their folly typical:
(1) The poor'' the lapsed masses."
(2) Those passing through heavy trial.
(3) The bereaved.
(4) Those battling despairingly with besetting sin.
How often have these no ear for the rich consolations of the promises of God!
II. THE WEAKNESS OF MOSES.
1. Failure among his own people crushes utterly hope of success among strangers and foes. If Israel will not hear, who have everything to gain, will Pharaoh, who has everything to lose?
2. The old sense of his insufficiency again overpowers him. Deaf ears, unmoved hearts, unconsecrated lives in the Church, paralyse the preacher in his appeals to those that are without.—U
At this point the narrative is interrupted The author, or the final compiler—perhaps Joshua—thought it desirable to insert here a genealogical section, taking up the fatuity history of Israel from the point at which it was left in Exodus 1:5, where the sons of Jacob were enumerated. The whole political system of Israel was based upon the tribal relation; and it was of the last importance, politically, to hand down the divisions and subdivisions of families. The lists here given, probably prepared by Moses in a separate document, had to be inserted somewhere. The present seemed a fitting place. The narrative had reached a turning-point. All the preliminaries were over—the action of the Exodus itself was about to begin. A dramatist would have made Acts 1:0 end and Acts 2:0 commence. A poet would have begun a new canto. In the imperfect bibliography of the time, it was thought best to make a division by a parenthetic insertion.
Seems to belong to what follows rather than to what precedes. There is no emphasis on the words and to Aaron, as if God, having found Moses singly to be irre-sponsive, had now given a charge to both the brothers conjointly (Rashi). Rather the verse is a concise summary of chs. 3-5; prefixed to the genealogy when it was a separate document, and preserved when the compiler placed the document in the text
These be the heads of their fathers' houses. By "fathers' houses" are meant families (see 1 Chronicles 4:38; 1Ch 5:13; 1 Chronicles 7:40; 1 Chronicles 9:9, etc.); and "the heads of fathers' houses" are simply the acknowledged chiefs and founders of families. The main families of the tribe of Reuben were those of Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carrel, actual sons of the patriarch (See Genesis 46:9; and compare 1 Chronicles 5:3.)
The sons of Simeon. The list corresponds exactly, both in the names and in the order, with that given in Genesis 46:10, but differs considerably from 1 Chronicles 4:24, and Numbers 26:12. In both the latter places Jemuel appears as Nemuel, and Zohar as Zerah, while Obad is omitted. In 1 Chronicles 4:24, Jachin appears as Jarib. It would seem that the family of Obad died out and disappeared soon after the Israelites quitted Egypt. The family of Shaul, on the other hand, increased and multiplied (1 Chronicles 4:25-27).
The sons of Levi. The same three sons are given in Genesis 46:11; Numbers 3:17; and 1 Chronicles 6:2. According to their generations. This phrase is introduced because the writer does not here stop at the sons, but proceeds on to the grandsons, great-grandsons, and other descendants. (See 1 Chronicles 6:17-25.) He is concerned especially in this place with the descent of Moses, and therefore with the genealogy of the tribe of Levi, and has only inserted any account of the families descended from Reuben and Simeon, that he might not seem to disregard the claims of primogeniture. The years of the life of Levi. These began about forty or fifty years before the descent into Egypt, which took place after the birth of all his three sons, as appears front Genesis 46:8-11. The length of Levi's life is recorded, not from any chronological considerations, but to show God's blessing upon the family of Moses, which gave such length of days to so many of his ancestors.
The sons of Gershon. The line of Gershon, as the eldest, is taken first. Moses and Aaron are descended from the second son. Shimi is called "Shimei" in 1 Chronicles 6:17; but there is no difference in the original.
The sons of Kohath. The same names are given in 1 Chronicles 6:2 and 1 Chronicles 6:15. The years of the life of Kohath. Kohath, who was probably about twenty at the time of the descent into Egypt, must have considerably outlived Joseph, who died about seventy years after the descent. His eldest son, Amram, is not likely to have been born much later than his father's thirtieth year. (See Genesis 11:12-24.) Amram would thus have been contemporary with Joseph for above fifty years.
The sons of Merari. The same names occur in 1 Chronicles 6:19 and 1 Chronicles 23:21, Mahali, by a difference of pointing, becoming Mahli. The Mahlites and Mushites were among the most important of the Levitical families (Numbers 3:33; Numbers 26:58).
Amram. That this Amram is the "man of the house of Levi" mentioned in Exodus 2:1, cannot be doubted; but it is scarcely possible that he should be the Amram of Exodus 2:18, the actual son of Kohath and contemporary of Joseph. He is probably a descendant of the sixth or seventh generation, who bore the same name, and was the head of the Amramite house. That house, at the time of the Exodus, numbered above two thousand males (Numbers 3:27, Numbers 3:28). See the excellent remarks of Keil and Delitzsch, 'Biblical Commentary,' vol. 1. p. 470, E. T.; and compare Kurtz, 'History of Old Covenant,' vol. 2. p. 144, and Cook, in 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 1. p. 274. Jochebed his father's sister. Marriages with aunts and nieces have been common in many countries, and are not forbidden by any natural instinct. They first became unlawful by the positive command recorded in Le Exodus 18:12. The name Jochebed is the earliest known compounded with Jah, or Jehovah. It means "the glory of Jehovah." She bare him Aaron and Moses. Aaron is placed first, as being older than Moses (Exodus 7:7). Miriam is omitted, since the object of the writer is confined to tracing descent in the male line.
The sons of Izhar. Korah is mentioned as a "son (descendant) of Izhar" in Numbers 16:1 and 1 Chronicles 6:38. The other "sons" are not elsewhere mentioned. Zithri in this verse should be Zichri.
The sons of Uzziel. Mishael and Elzaphan are again mentioned as "sons of Uzziel" in Le Exodus 10:4. They were employed by Moses to carry the bodies of Nadab and Abihu out of the camp. Elzaphan, called Elizaphan, is mentioned as head of the Ko-hathites in Numbers 3:30.
Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab. Amminadah had not been previously mentioned. He was a descendant of Judah, through Pharez and Hezron, and held a place in the line of our Lord's ancestry. (See 1 Chronicles 2:3-10. Matthew 1:5.) Naashon was at this time "prince of the tribe of Judah" (Number Exodus 2:3). Nadab and Abihu. On their fate, see Le Exodus 10:1, Exodus 10:2. Eleazar became high-priest upon the death of Aaron (Numbers 20:23-28). His death is related in Joshua 24:33.
The sons of Korah. All Korah's sons were not cut off with him (Numbers 26:11). Three at least survived, and became the heads of "families of the Korhites."
Eleazar … took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife. Putiel is not elsewhere mentioned. The name is thought to be half Egyptian (compare Poti-phar) and to mean "dedicated to God." She bare him Phinehas. This Phinehas became high priest on the death of Eleazar (Judges 20:28). The heads of the fathom i.e. "the patriarchal chiefs."
Exodus 6:26, Exodus 6:27
The genealogy being concluded as a separate document, its author appends a notice that the Aaron and Moses mentioned in it (Exodus 6:20) are the very Aaron and Moses who received the Divine command to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, and who appeared before Pharaoh, and "spoke to him" on their behalf. As the heading of the document was kept upon its insertion into the narrative of the Exodus (see the comment on Exodus 6:13), so its concluding sentences were kept, though (according to modem ideas) superfluous.
According to their armies. The term "armies" had not been previously used of the Israelitish people; but it occurs in Exodus 7:4, which was probably in the mind of the writer who drew up the genealogy
The historical character of real revelation.
Among the religions of the world which are based on the contents of a written volume, none has such an historical character as the religion of Christians. Most nations have evolved their religion out of their internal consciousness, and have then, after a certain lapse of time, thrown into a narrative form the supposed revelations made to this or that individual secretly, and by him committed to writing. These revelations—to give them the name—are not connected with any series of events, are not, properly speaking, historical at all, but belong to the domain of thought, contemplation, philosophy. It is quite otherwise with the religion of the Bible. Both in the Old Testament and in the New our attention is directed primarily and mainly to a series of facts. Religion is not put before us in an abstract, but in a concrete form. The Bible represents to us "God in history." We learn the nature and the will of God from his dealings with nations and individuals at definite times and in definite places. It is a necessary consequence of such a mode of inculcating religious truth, that very dry and mundane details must from time to time be obtruded upon the reader, in order that the narrative may be clear, and that he may understand the circumstances of time and place with which each writer in his turn has to deal. In this way genealogies come in. History cannot be understood without them. We want to know who the individuals are who are introduced afresh at each new stage in the narrative, and in what relation they stand to those other individuals with whom the narrative is concerned before and after. Genealogies convey this knowledge. Many think them uninteresting; but they are not so to any thoughtful person. For
(1) they raise the salutary thought of the rapid flight of time and the speedy passing away of one generation after another, Οἵη περ φυλλῶν γενέη τοίηδε καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
(2) They show us how good men and bad, great men and little, are intermixed in the world, arise under the same conditions, seem produced by the same circumstances; and thus they force us to see what a vast power the human will has in shaping human character, and even in determining the course of earthly events. Hence they remind us of our responsibilities.
(3) They hold up to us warnings and examples—warnings in the names to which there is attached the savour of evil deeds never to be forgotten so long as the world endures—Nadabs, Abihus, Korahs; examples in those, familiar to us as household words, which we no sooner hear or see than there rush to our thought a crowd of glorious and heroic actions. Being dead, these men still speak to us—theirs is a death "full of immortality."
The remainder of this chapter is scarcely more than a recapitulation. The author, or compiler, having interposed his genealogical section, has to take up the narrative from Exodus 6:12, where he broke off, and does so by almost repeating the words of Exodus 6:10-12. The only important addition is the insertion of the words—"I am the Lord" (Exodus 6:29), and the only important variation, the substitution of "Speak thou unto Pharaoh all that I say unto thee' (ibid.), for "Speak unto Pharaoh … that he let the children of Israel go out of his land" (Exodus 6:11).
I am the Lord. It is not improbable that every revelation made to Moses was authenticated by these initial words—which have the force of that initial phrase, so constant in the later prophets—"Thus saith the Lord."
All that I say unto thee. To the general command thus expressed, was probably appended the particular injunction of Exodus 6:11, not here repeated—Speak thou unto Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land." The sacred historians continually abbreviate
HOMILIES BY J. ORR
Exodus 6:14 Exodus 6:28
The genealogy of Moses and Aaron.
Beside its direct interest as setting in an exact light the descent and relationship of the two principal figures in the succeeding history—Moses, the Lawgiver of Israel, and Aaron, the head of the priesthood—this genealogical register presents us with several points deserving of attention. We are taught by it—
I. TO RECOGNISE THE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY IS THE SELECTION OF ITS INSTRUMENTS.
1. The men selected—Moses and Aaron (Exodus 6:26, Exodus 6:27). Selection, as implying the previous or foreseen existence of variously qualified objects from which the selection is made is scarcely the fitting term to express the fact we have in view, viz. the preparing and raising up at this particular time and place, and from this particular stock, of a man of the special mould of Moses, with an eye to the accomplishment by him of a certain work. The appearance of great men at particular junctures of history is assuredly not to be attributed to chance. It is a shallow view of the Divine election which regards it as simply availing itself of happy varieties of character spontaneously presenting themselves in the course of natural development; as a workman might choose from a set of ready-made tools those best suited for his purpose. Election, if one may so speak, presides at the making of its object (Isaac, Jacob, David, etc.) as well as uses it when made (see Lange's 'Dogmatics'). The question is not simply how, a man of Moses' gifts and qualifications being given, God should use him in the way he did, but rather, how a man of this spiritual build came at that precise juncture to be there at all—broke out at that point in the genealogical tree and not at another. This is the true problem, and the solution can only be found in the Divine arrangements.
2. The sovereignty of the selection. We cannot but be struck by the almost studious departure in this list from the lines of descent which would imply natural pre-eminence.
(1) Moses is not descended from Reuben and Simeon, the eldest sons of Jacob (Exodus 6:14, Exodus 6:15). The only purpose, apparently, served by the introduction of these two names in the genealogy is to show that Moses did not spring from them.
(2) Neither did he spring from Judah or Joseph—the sons of Jacob who fell heirs to the birthright forfeited by the sin of Reuben (1 Chronicles 5:1, 1 Chronicles 5:2). The genealogy stops, as having attained its end, before it gets their length.
(3) He sprang from Levi—a tribe originally united with Simeon under a curse (Genesis 49:7)—yet not from the oldest branch of it, but from Kohath, the second son (Exodus 6:16-19).
(4) Moses himself was not the eldest son of Amram, but stood by descent in a secondary relation to Aaron, who was afterwards to occupy so secondary a position in relation to him. What are we taught by these facts, if not the lesson so strongly emphasised in Romans 9:1-33; that mere natural advantages constitute no ground of pre-eminence in the kingdom of God; that the spiritual everywhere rules and controls the natural. Examples may be drawn from every part of Scripture history. Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau; Ephraim, not Manasseh; David, not his elder brothers; etc. The Jehovah attributes of freedom and sovereignty, to which this chapter introduces us, find not their least conspicuous illustration in this section of it.
II. TO TRACE, NOTWITHSTANDING, IN THE EXERCISE OF THE DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY, VARIOUS SPIRITUAL LAWS. The sovereignty of God is degraded whenever it is viewed as mere arbitrariness or caprice, as a liberty of indifference, or as anything else than the perfectly free and self-determined action of an all-wise, all-holy, all-good Will, working at every moment for the accomplishment of wise and good ends. Studied in this light, it will be recognised that it has not only
(1) its inherent laws of operation, but
(2) its self-imposed limitations.
Partial glimpses of some of these laws are here afforded us.
1. The natural, while subordinate to the spiritual, is taken as the basis of it. There is to he recognised a congruity between the instrument and the use to which it is to be put; between the man, in respect of his physical, mental, and moral endowments, and the work for which he is designed. Election works in the natural sphere prior to its being revealed in the spiritual. Moses, for example, was, on his natural side, the product of a long line of causes operating through successive generations for the production of just such a man as he was. He was a descendant of Levi, as truly as any other. Inherited organisation was a fact of quite as capital importance in his case as in the case of any of his contemporaries. It had as much to do with the kind and quality of his manhood. Compare also Patti, separated from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15), and essentially the same man after his conversion as before it. The mould in which he was cast by nature was that which specially fitted him for the work he had to do as an apostle.
2. The purpose of God is wrought out not fatalistically, but in harmony with the laws of human freedom, and through man's moral self-determinations. This principle also receives striking illustration in the names of this list. The derivation of Moses from Levi, and not from Reuben or Simeon, has a connection with facts in the moral history of the respective tribes. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, the progenitors, were all three originally of so wicked a disposition as virtually to undergo their father's curse. Reuben lost the birthright, and Simeon and Levi were denied an inheritance with their brethren (Genesis 49:3-8). The descendants of the two former followed closely in the footsteps of their ancestors, and consequently never recovered themselves. It was different with the tribe of Levi, which by earnest piety and zeal seems to have risen to the rank of moral leadership even in Egypt, and was honoured to give birth to Moses and Aaron. And greater honour still was in reserve for it; for while in its letter "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel"—the curse was not repealed, an entirely new turn was given to it by the election of the tribe to the priesthood and service of the sanctuary. The curse was changed into a blessing. Had Reuben and Simeon followed in Levi's footsteps, who can doubt but that mercy would have been shown to them also?
3. Election flows by preference in the lines of pious descent. Moses and Aaron were the children of pious parents. The names of Moses' father—Amram, "the kindred of the lofty one"—and of his mother—she "whose glory is Jehovah" (verse 20), testify to the piety of his ancestry. The instruction he received from them in early life, and during the visits he paid to their home, would not be without an important influence upon his character, and he had the benefit of their unceasing prayers. Aaron had even greater home advantages, in being with his parents till character was fully formed. This also is an important fact in its bearing on God's election of them to special service. The faith and prayers of parents have an important influence on the salvation of their children. By far the larger number of pious men and women in the world have come from pious homes. (See numerous illustrations of this in Dr. Norman MacLeod's 'Home School.') The Church historian, Neander, has noticed in how many cases "pious mothers" had to do with the planting of the seeds of Christianity in the souls of those who afterwards produced great effects as teachers of the Church. He instances Nonna, the mother of Gregory of Nazianzum; Arethusa of Antioch, the mother of Chrysostom; the mother of Theodoret; and Monica, the mother of Augustine. (See the whole passage in 'Church History,' vol. 3. sect. 2, 1.)
III. THAT HONOR IN GOD'S SIGHT IS DETERMINED BY SPIRITUAL CONSIDERATIONS,
1. As regards position. The true centre point of honour in this genealogy is verse 20—that which includes the names of Moses and Aaron. It was the spiritual greatness of these men which secured for them this honour.
2. As regards rise and fall, Reuben was "the firstborn of Israel" (verse 14), but he lost through sin the prerogatives of birth. He is eclipsed by Levi, who, through piety, rose from a degraded position to one of honour. Korah, whose name, from considerations of relationship, is honourably prominent in this select list (verses 21-24), subsequently destroyed himself by his rebellion (Numbers 16:1-50.). His posterity, however (another illustration of the same law), rose to high spiritual honour in the minstrelsy of the temple.
3. As regards relationship. The families of the tribe of Levi, grouped around the names of Moses and Aaron, some in nearer, some in more distant relations, draw honour from the association. The chief prominence is given to the Kohathites, as most nearly related to the sons of Amram. This distinction was subsequently confirmed by the appointment of this family to the charge of the sacred Ark, and of the vessels of the sanctuary (Numbers 4:4-16). Relationship with the good thus confers honour, and secures privilege. The highest of all examples of this is the honour and privilege conferred through relationship to Christ.—J.O.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Exodus 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19