The First Main Division
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
The first main division in this series of studies on Exodus is found at the end of chapter u (for the complete outline see the July-August issue). The title proposed for this section of the book was "The Trials of Persecution and the Wisdom of God". In our previous paper we considered the first two sub-sections of this under the headings "Satan's Power", ch. i, and God's Provision", 2. 1 to 4. 28. We are now to complete this main division of the book by dealing with:
Faith's Prospect - Canaan, 4. 29 to 11. 10. God's plan for His people was not only to bring them out of Egypt, but to bring them into Canaan, 3. 8, 17. In the activity of God, the words "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" may seem strange, until we remember that here we have the first cause and the final result of God's work: the actions of Pharaoh were but the link between. The sun that melts the wax also hardens the clay, for the fault is not in the sun but in the material. Note:
God's Plan Received, 4. 31. "And the people believed: and . . . they bowed their heads and worshipped". How this contrasts with the previous words of Moses, "they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice". It was not in Moses that their faith must rest but in God; Moses was but an instrument in God's hand, and recognizing this produced a sense of humility and worship, and a recognition of the impotence of man and the omnipotence of God.
God's Plan Rebuffed, 5. 21. There were to be trials and testings, doubts and disappointments, bondage and burdens, and perhaps worst of all for Moses, misinterpretation and misunderstanding on the part of his own kinsfolk. By such means God often prepares and strengthens His people for future victory. How different is chapter 6 for here is:
God's Plan Revealed, 6. 1-2. God says, "Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh . . . I am the Lord (Jehovah)". Note here God's person, "I am"; God's power, "I have", 6. 4, 5; God's promise, "I will", 6.1,6,7,8; and God's purpose. Even in Egypt's bondage, God counts His people, 6. I4ff, for the secret of success in God's plan lies in the link between Jehovah and His people. "Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness", 5. 1.
Chapters 7 to 11 describe:
The Patience of God and the Plagues of Egypt.
"Pharaoh's heart is hardened" - this recurring phrase or its equivalent reveals the three main forces at work:
1. The Plagues and Direct Conflict. The plagues were given not only as a judgment upon man's wickedness and defiance of God, but to exalt the character and name of Jehovah, in contrast to the idol gods of Egypt. Thus, the river of Egypt, the main object of Egyptian worship, was turned into blood. Jehovah was alive, their god was dead. Frogs, sacred to the Egyptians and objects of worship, became objects of disgust. The Egyptians, who were scrupulously particular in cleanliness, found them even "upon thy bed", 8. 3. Lice, produced from the dust, which the magicians were unable to do, forced them to say "this is the ringer of God", 8. 19. Flies, possibly a species of beetle, an emblem of Ra, the sun god, and sacred to the Egyptians. Murrain, a plague on the cattle, perhaps not uncommon in the land of Egypt, but miraculous because of the time and place of the occurrence. Boils, the first record of God's judicial hardening of Pharaoh's heart, 9. 12; "He (God) will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever", Psa. 103. 9. Hail; God was to touch property and persons; here He touches "the heart", 9. 14; Moses' prayer could open the heavens but not the stubborn heart of Pharaoh, for "he sinned yet more", 9. 34. Locusts; perhaps the most frightening of God's judgments, Joel 1. 6-7, but revealing the utter obduracy of Pharaoh. Many nations have been destroyed because of the stubbornness of their rulers. Darkness; "which may be felt", blotting out their sun god. This came upon them unannounced with no time for repentance.
2. The Magicians and Deceitful Counterfeit. "The magicians did in like manner". Whenever and wherever God is at work, Satan has his imitators. For the New Testament counterpart and commentary, read 2 Timothy 3. 1-9. Here are those who "having a form of godliness" deny the power thereof. There is more to fear from Satan's flattery than from his "battery"; from inward corruption than from outward conflict.
Four attitudes to the truth are indicated in 2 Timothy, as being in evidence in the last days:
Phygellus and Hermogenes who turned from the truth, 1. 15-16;
Hymenaeus and Philetus who corrupted the truth, 2. 17; Jannes and Jambres who imitated the truth, 3. 8; Demas and Alexander who forsook and resisted the truth, 4. 10, 14, 15.
Beware of imitators who are self-loving, world-seeking and pleasure-loving.
3. Pharaoh and Dishonest Compromise. In how many ways Pharaoh sought to deflect God's people from doing His will:
i. "Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land", 8. 25. This would involve the sacrifice of animals sacred to the Egyptians, and cause the people to do that which was directly contrary to God's clear command to take a three days' journey into the wilderness. God requires absolute separation from the world, effected by means of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world", Gal. 6. 14.
ii. I will let you go ... only "ye shall not go very far away", Exod 8. 28. Pharaoh's next suggestion was that they could be "borderline" people. The New Testament challenge for the Christian is to "sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord", 1 Pet. 3. 15 R.V., for the Lord Jesus gave Himself "for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world", see Gal. 1. 3-5.
iii. "Not so: go now ye that are men", see Exod. 10. io-ii. Pharaoh was well aware that the men would not remain apart from their families and little ones. Satan cares little for grown men, so long as he can hold the children. Have you felt the challenge to work among children? Have you a concern to win the little ones for Christ?
iv. "Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed", 10. 24. It is still true that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also", Matt. 6. 21. Moses' final and resolute reply was, "there shall not an hoof be left behind", Exod. 10. 26. God demands a full surrender to His will.
Despite all this, still God would speak. "Yet . . . one plague more", 11. 1. This is a startling and solemn expression. Here is a last opportunity for repentance, an irrevocable decision to make, a matter of life and death. The message would be spelt out, that "ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel". Here is a warning to any still resisting the overtures of God's mercy and grace.