The Trials of Persecution and the Wisdom of God
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
In this series we purpose considering in order some of the lessons contained in the book of Exodus. The framework of our studies is set out in the following outline.
The Trials of Persecution and the Wisdom of God, i. i to ii. 10.
Satan's Power - Pharaoh, ch. I. God' Provision - Moses, 2. 1 to 4. 28. Faith's Prospect - Canaan, 4. 29 to 11. 10.
The Triumph of Redemption and the Work of God, 12. 1 to 18. 27.
Redemption by blood - the slain lamb, ch. 12. Redemption by power - the strong hand, ch. 13. Redemption in practice - the sovereign purpose, 14. 1 to 18. 27.
The Teachings of Jehovah and the Will of God, 19. i to 40. 38. The Revelation of Divine Purpose, chs. 19-31.
The Law - A plan for living, chs. 19-24.
The Tabernacle - A pattern for worship, chs. 25-27.
The Priesthood - A priest for sacrifice, chs. 28-29.
The Service - A privilege for service, chs. 30-31. The Rebellion against Divine Command, 32. 1-6. The Rebuke of Divine Anger, 32. 7 to 33. 23. The Renewal of Divine Covenant, ch. 34. The Requirements of Divine Pattern, 35. 1 to 40. 33. The Reward for Divine Obedience, 40. 34 to 38.
Our opening paper will concentrate on some of the features of Exodus 1. 1 to 4. 28. Read this passage carefully for yourselves.
The Trials of Persecution and the Wisdom of God
Satan's Poiser - Pharaoh, ch. i. While in Goshen, Israel had been a subject race, prosperous and peaceful. Gen. 47. 27, but in Egypt they were now slaves, burdened and beaten, Exod. 1. 11. The wiles of Pharaoh had planned their destruction, 1. 10, but the wisdom of God purposed their deliverance, 1. 12. The more they were afflicted, the more they spread abroad. Pharaoh's idea of dealing wisely, 1. 10, did not count God in his calculations. The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, for He makes even the wrath of man to praise Him.
Because the midwives feared God, "he made them houses", 1. 2i, illustrating the divine principle that "them that honour me I will honour, 1 Sam. 2. 30. It is not persecution but patronage that the Christian has most to fear.
God's Provision - Moses, 2. 1 to 4. 28. Though God could have delivered Israei unaided and directly, He chose to do it through a man, Moses. The divine training of this servant of God is many sided. Firstly, there is
The River Experience - Preserved. Pharaoh's command "Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river", 1. 22, was the devil's attempt to frustrate the purpose of God. Moses' preservation began with the faith of his parents, Heb. 11. 23. They were not afraid of the king's commandment, for faith dispelled their fear. It was not his mother but his sister who stood afar off "to know what would be done to him", Exod. 2. 4 R.v. This surely is evidence of the calm and rest of his mother's faith. It was not fate but faith that brought the daughter of Pharaoh to the river bank that day.
The Palace Experience - Prepared. Those who will serve in public must be trained in private, and although, in due course, Moses was to renounce the privileges of Egypt's court, he was to remain there for forty years, being instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, being mighty in his words and works, Acts 7. 22. Forty years in the splendour of the court as a royal son to be followed by forty years in the serenity of the wilderness as a roving shepherd; these were the necessary exercises in the preparation of God's chosen leader.
Two incidents indicate that as yet Moses was not ready for the task ahead, Exod. 2.11-15. The words "he looked this way and that way" indicate that he feared man's wrath and hoped for man's favour. Here was zeal without knowledge, for God's servant must regard neither fear nor favour.
The Holy Spirit's comment "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter", Heb. 11. 24, proves that, as yet, the counsel of his heart and the conduct of his hand were not in harmony. The Lord Jesus Christ, God's perfect Servant, never sought human applause nor kept silent to avoid human censure. Heart and hand were always in perfect agreement.
Moses did not remain in Pharaoh's palace to exert his influence on behalf of his brethren but relinquished his position to suffer with them. He refused position, pleasures, and prospects, for the reproach of Christ, Heb. n. 24-27.
The Desert Experience - Persuaded. "Now Moses was keeping the flock . . . And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him", Exod. 3. 1-2 r.v. In the ordinary pursuit of duties and the solitude of His presence, God reveals His will. As with Elijah at Cherith, Ezekiel at Chebar, Paul in Arabia, and John at Patmos, so for Moses there was a time of instruction and revelation, a contact with reality, and a true sense of values.
When God called, Moses was ready but reluctant; he followed "Here am I", 3.4, with "Who am I", 3.11. The bush burning but not consumed indicated God's love for His people, persecuted but not destroyed; it also pointed to His holiness and hatred of evil, 3. 5. The dialogue between God and Moses should be carefully pondered. "Moses said unto God, Who am I . . .", 3. n, to which "God said unto Moses,
I AM THAT I AM", 3. 14. It is Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou art, That, that alone, can be my soul's true rest; Thy love, not mine, bids fear and doubt depart, And stills the tempest of my tossing breast.
For Moses' part we see him pleading a lack of fitness for the mission. "Who am I, that I should go", 3. n. It is not "I" but "1 am" that counts, not what I am able to do, but what God is about to do. God says "I am come down to deliver them . . . and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land . . .", 3. 8. Paul, conscious of his own weakness tells us, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us", 2 Cor. 4. 7. When Moses exclaimed, "Who am I, that I should go", was it an expression of humility or perhaps a suggestion that had he been someone else he could have done without God? It is well to remember at all times the promise "Certainly I will be with thee", Exod. 3. 12, and that in our weakness, frailty and failure, it is God's fitness to perform the task that counts.
Moses also pleads a lack of knowledge for the message. He asks "when . . . they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, 1 am that i am", 3. 13-14. In the days of Malachi, when king had failed, priest was corrupt and prophet was silent, then "they that feared the Lord spake often one to another . . . and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name", literally, for those who had taken an inventory of the wealth of His name, Mai. 3. 16. All that He had revealed Himself to be was both the resource and the delight of His people. The preciousness of the Jehovah titles as they find their illustration and expansion in Psalm 23 would lead His people to know Him and His power in their service:
Jehovah-Rohi - The Lord my shepherd, guide and ruler. Jehovah-Shalom - The Lord my peace. Jehovah-Ropheca - The Lord my health. Jehovah-Tsidkenu - The Lord my righteousness. Jehovah-Shammah - The Lord my companion. Jehovah-Nissi - The Lord my banner, victory. Jehovah-Jireh - The Lord my provision.
Moses pleads a lack of authority for the means. "And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me", and the Lord said to him "What is that in thine hand? And he said,
A rod", Exod. 4.1-2. God takes up the weakest instruments to accomplish His mightiest ends; a rod, an ox goad, a ram's horn, a pitcher, a sling, some ointment, barley loaves and two small fishes, are some which come to mind.
Note here three signs - a poisonous serpent, dreaded leprosy, and water from the river of Egypt. Perhaps no two things were more dreaded in the east than the sting of the serpent or the loathsomeness of leprosy; an enemy without and within. But God gives the victory over the devil, that old serpent, over the flesh and over the world.
Not yet persuaded, Moses continues to plead lack of ability for the method. "O my Lord, I am not eloquent", that is, I am not a man of words, and the Lord said, "Who hath made man's mouth?", 4. 10-11. Moses need was not fluency but faith; not excellency of speech or language but the unction and power of the Spirit. One has said, "Be sure to get thy message from the King". For the New Testament counterpart of these things, read again 1 Corinthians 1. 18, 27, 29. To the world the message preached is foolishness and the messengers are weak, despised, but it is ever God's method to ensure "that no flesh should glory in his presence".
Finally, Moses displays lack of faith in seeking a man. "And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is there not Aaron thy brother the Levite? I know that he can speak well", Exod. 4. 14 R.v. How remarkable that this man, upon whom Moses wished to lean, was later to make the golden calf and cause him much anxiety and sorrow, 32. 21.
The Inn Experience - Perplexed. "And it came to pass on the way at the lodging place, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him", 4. 24 r.v. This was a strange experience as Moses and his family returned to Egypt to speak before Pharaoh. It may have been in the form of a serious illness to remind him of a lack of obedience in the matter of the circumcision of his young son. We are taught that God can fully use only those who are obedient servants in the furtherance of His purposes. For Moses this experience was the final death to self.